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U.S.-Russia Tensions Rising to Cold War-Era Levels; Russian Mercenaries Accused of Mass Murder of Women and Children in Central African Republic; U.S., E.U. Form Joint Council to Combat Beijing; Biden Arrives in Geneva ahead of Putin Meeting; Aired 10-11a ET
Aired June 15, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not looking for conflict with Russia but that we will respond if Russia continues its
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECKY ANDERSON, CNNI HOST (voice-over): In just minutes, the American president will land in Switzerland ahead of what is his high-stakes meeting
with Russia's leader tomorrow.
An extremely controversial march in Jerusalem will go ahead soon, a big test for Israel's new government.
And America monitoring what's being described as an imminent radiological threat at a nuclear plant in China.
ANDERSON: It's 10:00 am in D.C., 4:00 pm in Geneva, 5:00 in Moscow, bang on 6:00 pm here in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. Hello and welcome to
CONNECT THE WORLD.
Tonight, we are tracking two significant summits that are pitching the world in a new ideological direction, with the West, at least, aligning
against both Russia and China in a sentiment that, quite frankly, feels like a burgeoning cold war.
Just days before summer officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere, there's a decidedly diplomatic chill in the air. In the European centers of
power, leaders meeting the American president ahead of Joe Biden's much- anticipated sit-down with his Russian counterpart in Geneva.
He will arrive in Geneva just minutes from now. In Brussels, a short time ago, concern over Russia and China tempered by a sense of relief in
Brussels that Mr. Biden is now representing the U.S. instead of his predecessor. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES MICHEL, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Mr. President, (INAUDIBLE). We are so pleased to welcome you in Brussels. You are back in Brussels. And
America is back on the global scene.
It's great news. It's great news for our allies. It's also great news for the world. And we are really delighted to work with you together, to tackle
together some important global challenges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: The president of the council hardly able to hold back his enthusiasm there.
An aide to Vladimir Putin laid out details about Mr. Putin's meeting with President Biden. No joint news conference is planned, as Jeff Zeleny now
reports. That is one of several major differences between tomorrow's meeting and the last time Russia's president sat down with a U.S. leader.
BIDEN: He's bright. He's tough. And I have found that he is a -- as they say, when you used to play ball, a worthy adversary.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden sizing up Russian president Vladimir Putin before their
high-stakes summit in Switzerland tomorrow.
BIDEN: I'm going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses. And if he chooses not to cooperate
and acts in a way that he has in the past, relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond.
ZELENY (voice-over): Stopping in Brussels for a day-long meeting with NATO allies, where Russian aggression was a critical subject of talks, Biden
said he does not seek a confrontation with Putin when they come face to face in Geneva.
BIDEN: I shared with our allies that I'll convey to -- what I'll convey to President Putin, that I'm not looking for conflict with Russia but that we
will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities.
ZELENY (voice-over): Tensions between the two countries are rising and nearing a boiling point not seen since the Cold War. From a rise in
cyberattacks to election meddling and more, the possibility of finding any common ground is very much an open question.
BIDEN: We should decide where it's in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world to cooperate and see if we can do that. And the areas where we
don't agree, make it clear what the red lines are.
ZELENY (voice-over): I asked Biden about Putin dismissing his reference to the Russian leader as a killer.
ZELENY: In a weekend interview, Vladimir Putin laughed at the suggestion that you had called him a killer.
Is that still your belief, sir, that he is a killer?
BIDEN: I'm laughing, too.
BIDEN: But look, when I was asked that question on air, I answered it honestly. But it's not much of a -- I don't think it matters a whole lot in
terms of this next meeting we're about to have.
ZELENY (voice-over): The president has prepared for weeks in anticipation of Wednesday's meeting, practicing to fight some of Putin's tactics,
raising questions about what's happening in the U.S. rather than talking about Russia's own bad acts. And Biden has asked his NATO allies for their
input ahead of the meeting.
BIDEN: Every world leader here as a member of NATO that spoke today -- and most of them mentioned it -- thanked me for meeting with Putin now.
ZELENY (voice-over): Despite seeking Putin's cooperation, Biden emphasized, it's up to the Russian leader to decide whether he wants to end
his bad practices, to rebuild the broken relationship.
ZELENY: Do you believe if he does agree to cooperate, then what kind of challenge do you find yourself in?
How would you ever trust him?
BIDEN: I am hoping that President Putin concludes that there is some interest in terms of his own interests in changing the perception the world
has of him, in terms of whether or not he'll engage in behavior that's more consistent with what is considered to be appropriate behavior for a head of
ANDERSON: I want to start there on that summit with Russia, what to expect from it and a look at what the West, at least, sees as Russia's wider
negative behavior. Let's take a look at some of the issues on the table.
Alleged Russian hacking, prisoner swaps, Moscow's support of autocrats and the treatment of jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny. Frederik Pleitgen is
in Geneva, connecting us to what is this very big meeting happening in that city tomorrow.
And Jeff Zeleny, Fred, scoring out what Washington is likely to take in and what it hopes it will take away from this face-to-face.
Is it clear what Moscow's priorities are at this point?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think that, Becky, if you look at Moscow's reaction to this Vladimir Putin's
reaction to this, I think he's also trying to be, at this point in time, make this meeting as constructive as possible.
I think it was really interesting in the past couple of days how you've seen both President Biden and the Russian president tone down their
rhetoric a little bit. You had a little bit of that in Jeff's report, with President Putin laughing off those remarks about President Biden calling
him a killer.
And then yesterday, President Biden saying that President Putin is what he called a worthy adversary. So they're setting the tone to get rid of all
the emotional language and try to get down to business.
The Russians, what they've been saying is interesting this morning. A senior aide to the Kremlin said with this meeting, they agreed to the
agenda pretty quickly but it's not clear whether there's going to be a final communique or anything else in writing that could be agreed on.
But they still think that this meeting is absolutely worth it if it puts the relations at least marginally back on track. And that, for the Kremlin,
certainly means better lines of communication, more predictability and more stability in the relations as well.
The Kremlin very much like the White House also, also believes there are going to be topics where the two leaders probably agree on quite a
significant amount of things. For instance, in Afghanistan, both sides don't want to see Afghanistan descend into any chaos. Arms control. Also
there's a lot of things they can talk about where there's at least agreement in certain points.
There's other areas, though, that are very controversial like, for instance, the whole cyber sphere. When you're talking about Russian hacking
attacks, disinformation; when you are talking about possibly extraditing cyber criminals, something the U.S. has been talking about for a while.
The Russians are saying, talk about those issues. Not going to make very much progress but at least it's something there's grounds to talk.
And then other issues where it's hard to see any headway being made. One of those is going to be Ukraine, where the Russians have had a very hard line,
as we've talked about so much on the show.
And then also, of course, the treatment of Alexei Navalny as well, where so far we've seen the hard line the Kremlin has been taking toward him. One of
the interesting things I picked up this morning from the Kremlin is they're now acknowledging they do believe that the U.S. is going to bring that
topic up and that it will be a topic at the summit tomorrow, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, that's fascinating. The Russian president, of course, going through numerous U.S. presidents in his time as president, then prime
minister and now as president once again.
His last one-on-one, face-to-face meeting was, of course, with Donald Trump back in Helsinki a couple of years ago.
I just wonder, to help our viewers out here, how would you describe the state of relations right now?
You know, we can listen to the rhetoric back and forth.
ANDERSON: But when you strip out the sort of -- the headlines here, where is this relationship today between the U.S. and Russia?
PLEITGEN: It's certainly at a really low point between these two countries. The U.S. has obviously levied sanctions on Russia over a variety
of things. The Russians for their part also, obviously, believing that the U.S. and NATO are sort of infringing on what Russia sees as its sphere of
Right now, there isn't really very much the two leaders can agree on. There's two things about this.
On the one hand, you obviously have that relationship that president Trump believed that he had with Vladimir Putin. And Vladimir Putin just recently
in an interview said he still believes that president Trump is a very talented individual.
But one thing you do see about the Russians right now is that the relations are not good at all. But they do believe that there's a new professionalism
now that's in the White House. They do believe at least it can become clear where there are issues the two sides can agree on.
For instance, they can agree to possibly cooperate on climate change, the combat against COVID-19, those kind of issues where at least some inroads
can be made but then also clearly define what issues they can't at all agree on. It seems as though right now, Ukraine, for instance, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating. Fred, always a pleasure. Thank you so much. Fred Pleitgen with his insight and analysis in Geneva ahead of that meeting
between the two presidents Wednesday.
And we will have extensive special coverage of that extraordinary summit Wednesday. So do stay with us here on CNN.
So Putin-Biden, Washington and Moscow, a tale two of cities in their own right but also a tale of two perspectives. On Russia's side, what it sees
as Western imperialism versus what the U.S. argues is Russian aggression and a wanton disregard for human rights, which takes us to our next story
We want to connect you to a CNN exclusive, disturbing evidence of human rights atrocities by Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic.
Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward and her team were denied entry to the country because of CNN's previous reporting on the
activities of these mercenaries.
But working with local journalists an independent investigative group called The Sentry, CNN has assembled evidence of a pattern of abuses which
one U.N. expert says may amount to war crimes.
The names of victims have been changed to protect their identities. And a warning to you that some of you may find some of the images in this report
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The aftermath of a massacre at a mosque in the city of Bambari, in the Central African Republic, at
least 12 bodies are visible on the ground, a woman and a child are among the dead.
Dozens of civilians had taken shelter in the Al-Taqwa Mosque that day after witnesses say Russian mercenaries and government troops came hunting
through rebel fighters.
Abdoulaye was inside the mosque but instead of finding sanctuary, he told CNN, they became targets.
ABDOULAYE, VICTIM OF BAMBARI MOSQUE INCIDENT (through translator): (INAUDIBLE) and the Russians asked us to take the women and the children,
out of the mosque. Six of us walked out with her hands raced.
They searched us and found nothing. We haven't even gone five meters when they started shooting us. Four people died, one jumped a wall and I was
shot in the right foot.
WARD (voice-over): That same day, Djibrilia told CNN her 15 year old son was killed by Russians, firing from a helicopter. When her husband went out
to find him, he was shot down to.
DJIBRILIA, VICTIM OF BAMBARI MOSQUE INCIDENT (through translator): My husband was buried together with my 15-year-old son. When the burial was
over, we couldn't even say a word. I was crying. My children also came next to me wailing. It was the Russians who killed my husband, leaving me with
children in pain.
WARD (voice-over): A confidential U.N. report found that abuses were carried out on both sides in Bambari but that the Russians may have
committed war crimes and it does not appear to be an isolated incident.
Over several months, CNN and the independent investigative group, The Sentry, have obtained testimony and documents implicating Russian
contractors deployed to train the Central African army in a wide range of atrocities during fighting between government and rebel forces, including
mass shootings, torture and the burning of villages.
Sorcha McLeod is on the U.N. working group on mercenaries.
WARD (voice-over): In March, it sent details of alleged abuses to the Russian and Central African Republic governments?
Grave human rights abuses, including rape, summary execution, targeted killings, torture, forced disappearances, murders and other abuses.
We are talking about war crimes here, potentially, are we not?
SORCHA MCLEOD, U.N. WORKING GROUP ON MERCENARIES: Yes, we are. We are seeing some of the most serious human rights violations and humanitarian
law violations. And we are seeing them on a widespread scale. People on the ground are absolutely terrified.
WARD (voice-over): It is a stark contrast from the story Russia tells. In this recent movie, Tourist, funded by a company associated with the Russian
mercenaries, they are lauded as heroic defenders who have liberated Central Africa.
In reality, Russia's presence in this war torn, mineral rich nation has always been controversial. Even as it has ballooned from 170 contracted
trainers in 2017 to around 2,300 now, according to a U.N. document obtained by The Sentry with more than 30 basis spread out across the country.
Thirty-nine-year-old teacher Nemory (ph) shows our camera the scars, from wounds, he says, that were inflicted by Russian mercenaries at an outpost
outside of Bambari.
"They took us to the Russian base, tied us up with rope and started to torture us. They even used a bayonet to injure my left foot deeply," he
says. "Their actions were evil and barbaric."
MCLEOD: We are seeing a pattern of behavior by these Russian private contractors. This has happened in other countries, we've seen for example
in relation to Libya. We had Russian private contractors who were involved in a variety of human rights violations and a variety of international
humanitarian law violations.
WARD (voice-over): But for the victims of these alleged crimes, there is little hope for justice. Private military contractors are technically
illegal in Russia and so don't officially exist. And many locals live in fear of repercussions from a shadowy and unaccountable force -- Clarissa
ANDERSON: We should point out the Russian government denies the allegations to the U.N. working group, insisting Russian contractors in the
Central African Republic are unarmed and do not take part in hostilities.
The CAR government also denied the allegations but said an inquiry would establish the facts. No one responded to CNN's request for comment from the
company running the mercenaries.
From Russia and the legacy of the first Cold War to the challenges of the second one, notably China. In its communique, NATO warning of the military
challenge posed by Beijing.
In response, China slamming NATO's, quote, "Cold War mentality and pique (ph) politics," as Beijing calls them. The president of the European
Commission is laying out the ideological differences between China and the West in black and white. Just listen to what Ursula von der Leyen said a
short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: It comes to the system itself. It comes to human rights and human dignity. We are systemic
rivals, without any question. And it was very clear in G7 that we have to speak up on that, that we have to call on that and be very clear that this
is the main issue that clearly divides us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: The U.S. and the E.U. have now formed a joint council on trade and technology to counter China. As Melissa Bell reports from Brussels,
it's a major shift in diplomatic terms following the Trump era. Have a listen.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, if the NATO discussions here in Brussels focused on Monday much more on how to define China with regard to
NATO in terms of its military and security strengths, will in the end a compromise being found between European allies and the United States that
in the end defined Russia as an adversary, China as a challenge, the bilateral meetings between E.U. leaders and Joe Biden here in Brussels
today were much more about looking beyond the military, beyond the security and at what other ways there might be to counter the growing importance and
strategic rise of China.
BELL: Hence the announcement of a new council that will combine the United States, the European Union on questions of trade and technology. The two
represent, after all, 40 percent of the world's GDP.
The idea is that through the council they hope he'll make progress in order to represent economically through trade, through advances in technology, a
real counterweight to China as it has emerged these last few years.
It was also a very important, symbolic reminder of the very important transatlantic ties that really hadn't been brought into question until the
arrival at the White House of Donald Trump. Joe Biden reminding everyone earlier today here in Brussels that it was in America's interest that the
United States should be close to its European allies.
Music to the ears of Europeans. Also his statements in these last few days on the importance of promoting democracy, of countering autocracy and
ensuring that the world order and the architecture of the global order was respected, that alliances were made to count and that promises made between
allies were made to be kept. Becky?
ANDERSON: Thank you, Melissa.
I want to connect you to all sides here. Let's get some perspective from our David Culver, who is in Shanghai for you today.
David, I want our viewers to hear the words of the president of the European Council. That's the body that defines overall political direction
and priorities of the E.U. He was talking to me last week about trade and data protection. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL: We need to make sure that our fundamental values, privacy, for example -- our own data would be used. This must be respected and it means
that -- China will try to push us to accept this moment what I don't want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: What's China's response, David?
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We hear it over and over, that they are now labeling this as a Cold War mentality. That is a slander
and what is so fascinating here, as you and I have been talking the last year-plus about the deteriorating U.S.-China relations.
In the past, during the Trump administration, they were easily able to challenge it directly to president Trump himself, to say that this is a
Trump ideology and they were able to counter it with what we saw the rise of wolf warrior diplomacy as it's been called here.
They are having to rethink their approach and certainly they're labeling this as the U.S. instigating, if you will. That's what we heard from the
foreign ministry today, saying this is the U.S. utilizing the U.N. bloc to win them over.
But it's alarming for officials in Beijing. They are looking at this as an approach that is a coalition. It's not just one country. It's not just one
administration now. Biden is winning over some of these other nations so as to convince them to build this coalition and to put more and more pressure
It's not just pressure encountering the military aspects, though, that in and of itself is incredibly concerning. Just today we saw the highest
number of aircraft, fighters, bombers, go into Taiwan's air defense zone, 28.
That was higher than a number that was an all-time record in April. Clearly aligned with what the talks are going on right now in Europe. So it's a
concerning thing for Beijing as they're monitoring this, wondering how much pressure they'll face and how they're able to get out of this, Becky.
ANDERSON: David Culver is in Shanghai. Next your you'll hear from David again after Beijing responds to CNN's exclusive report on a leak at a
nuclear power plant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The levels of radiation in the environment surrounding the nuclear power plant have shown no signs of
abnormality. Safety is guaranteed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: But the French company who co-owns the plant warned otherwise.
Plus, tensions high in Israel as the controversial flag march is just about an hour away. We're live from Jerusalem just ahead.
And keeping the peace is just one of the challenges Israel's new prime minister is already facing. We'll explain when we come back.
And you will see on the right-hand side of your screen, that Air Force One is on the ground. That is President Biden arriving in Geneva ahead of what
is being described as these high-stake talks with the leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin. This is Joe Biden arriving from Brussels to Geneva. This
has been a quite considerable trip.
ANDERSON: Not a long distance when you think of Cornwall to London, London to Brussels, Brussels to Geneva. But what has been certainly talked about,
if not achieved on this, what, four, five-day trip with Joe Biden, has been really quite remarkable.
G7 over the weekend, then an audience with the queen. Then NATO Monday and now into Geneva for the bilateral meeting with President Putin on
Taking a short break. Back after this.
ANDERSON: U.S. President Joe Biden has just touched down in Air Force One in Geneva, a day before he meets with Russia's president. The delegation
meeting him in Switzerland now just approaching Air Force One as we await to see the U.S. President and his wife.
Fred Pleitgen is in Geneva connecting us to what will be, Fred, optically, at least, a very big meeting happening in that city tomorrow.
But you and I have been discussing the fact that, you know, behind the scenes, an awful lot of work to be done to recover this relationship
between Washington and Moscow, which, as you described it earlier -- and as many have, who I've spoken to in the last couple of weeks -- risking this
relationship from what is a very low ebb.
PLEITGEN: There's a lot of effort and a lot of work that's been put into making this summit happen in the first place. It wasn't a very long
timeframe since President Biden said a few months ago he wants a one on one meeting with Vladimir Putin to at least try and get the relationship back
on some more solid footing.
You can see them rolling out the red carpet here at Geneva airport. We saw Air Force One from our position here come in and land here in front of the
lovely Lake Geneva, pass the city and shortly see President Biden exiting that aircraft for that very important meeting.
And Becky, one of the things we've noticed about the meeting that's going to take place is that, at the beginning, there was a lot of talk about all
of this coming since president Trump had that meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, which many believe that, for president Trump got out of hand,
got out of control and where Vladimir Putin really got the better of president Trump.
Many commentators said after that meeting. This is shaping up to be very different. Much more business-like. It's shaping up to be much more
subdued. And the messaging that came out before the meeting.
One of the interesting things we saw happen as we see the vehicles there from the Secret Service rolling up to pick up President Biden from Air
Force One, that the meeting was -- before the meeting, you had the rhetoric, really get toned down on both sides.
PLEITGEN: You had President Biden saying he believes that Vladimir Putin is a worthy adversary. You had Vladimir Putin saying all the talk about him
being a killer is not something that concerns him at all.
Now they're ready to get down to business. We've gotten a little insight into what the format of that is going to be. There's not going to be, from
all we know, there's not going to be a one on one. There were some one on one meetings between Vladimir Putin and president Trump back in the day,
where people weren't really sure what they talked about.
In certain cases there was only a translator from the Russian side in the room. We know there's going to be one format, which is a smaller format,
also consisting of the foreign ministers of both countries, where they'll get into some of the tougher issues.
And then after that, there is going to be a meeting on wider issues with a larger group of people. For instance, also, obviously, the head of the
Middle East policy for the Russians and the head of the Ukraine policy as well. Becky?
ANDERSON: It is clear, I think, that President Biden has done an awful lot of work behind the scenes ahead of this meeting. We've heard from numerous
sources that the trips preceding this were full of sort of morning advisers, talking about where the shape of this meeting will be in Russia.
And in the afternoons, as it were, spent on G7 on the NATO summit. The West has realigned, hasn't it, in the days preceding this, in a very visible
way. We've had G7 and a NATO summit in Brussels.
As we were witnessing Air Force One touch the tarmac there in Geneva, we were remarking that, despite the fact this airplane has not traveled an
awfully long distance, the realignment of these Western allies has been enormous. Really significant.
The journey from Cornwall to Brussels and now to Geneva is a very long journey as it were, as these countries realign around this new U.S.
PLEITGEN: I think you're right. It was a very long journey obviously in that sense but also one that really did a lot to restore a lot of
confidence of a lot of the allies that they have in NATO and in the European Union as well, a lot of the European allies.
You can really see that when we talk about this meeting about to take place. I think that there was some concern among some -- especially Eastern
allies in the run-up to that meeting. Not everybody necessarily thought it was a good idea from the beginning.
If you look at some of the things that happened in the run-up, the U.S. seemed to be giving up some of the cards it could play at such a meeting
before the meeting took place or possibly to persuade the Russians to go into the meeting, like, for instance, not sanction the Nord Stream 2
But President Biden said the leaders he spoke to at NATO have all said they believe it is a good idea for him to meet with President Putin and, to meet
with President Putin at this time, to bring that very key relationship between the United States and Russia back onto somewhat of a more solid
footing, even if it's not a better footing but just to make it more reliable and to make sure there's an open channel for messaging, to make
sure the Russians know exactly what the U.S. thinks, what the U.S. wants, what the U.S. doesn't want them to do and that the same thing happens vice
versa as well to at least get some sort of dialogue going, which is something that we really haven't seen very much in the past four years of
the Trump presidency.
I think you can really see the Russians also sort of trying to latch onto that as well, Becky.
ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen is in Geneva.
Air Force One on the tarmac at the airport. My next guest reckons it will be what she calls a no-breakthrough, no-negotiations summit because it has,
quote, "the aim of containing tensions amid mutual insistence" by the two leaders on reinforcing their country's red lines.
Raghida Dergham is a columnist for the "The National" and the founder and executive hair of Beirut Institute. What does she mean by that?
Here to answer that is Raghida herself, she joins me live from Beirut.
Just explain what it is that you meant by that.
RAGHIDA DERGHAM, BEIRUT INSTITUTE: Becky, what I meant is that there will be niceties amongst them, among both teams.
But I don't think there's any love lost between the two presidents. From what I understand is that there will be no negotiations basically because
the differences are so large and the differences are so deep that bridging these differences is going to take a lot of work maybe in the future.
So therefore, I don't think there's going to be any breakthrough.
DERGHAM: Normally we have the summits. I followed the summits since the first one between presidents Reagan and Gorbachev. And they, for example,
would have days of negotiations. These summits lasted for a long time. This would be only three hours.
Another reason that I think there will be nothing major is that my understanding, there would be no joint communique, no joint press
conference and, therefore, it is not -- not the normal summit that we are used to having, where the two presidents come and announce something,
whether it's an agreement or disagreement.
ANDERSON: You've said the reinforcement of red lines, you believe, is the main objective for tomorrow. And it will be clear in the weeks to come what
impact that might have on U.S.-Russian relations.
I just wonder whether we shouldn't open this up a little bit because you are based here in the Middle East. It is very important that we just don't
just see this meeting through the prism of Washington and Moscow but through the prism, as it were, of the rest of the world.
But let's focus in. We're in the Middle East.
So what does the impact of sort of no change, as it were, between Washington and Moscow mean for the rest of us?
DERGHAM: Well, let's see what's fixing the red lines is all about. Each of the presidents has his own agenda and priorities. So of course, let's say
human rights are the priority of President Biden. The strategic security is the priority of President Putin. They may meet on cybersecurity but agendas
are going to be so different that they may find, if there is something where they might agree, OK.
So if we want to unpack it as it happens or as it reflects on the region, the Middle East region, we notice that, in Vienna, they are having -- they
are understanding each other. They are working together on the Vienna talks to revive the JCPOA with Iran so that there will be the nuclear deal and
then not much of a difference between them.
But my understanding is that from the -- my sources tell me, in Vienna today, is that they are -- the U.S. is willing to lift certain new
sanctions. I am told it will be most likely in the oil sector. The differences are still big on the issue of lifting the sanctions, the
Now as the Iranians are insisting on their position, the difference between the U.S. and Russia is that Russia is eager to lift the military sanctions
because they have great deals in the pipeline to sell to Iran, huge arms deals that are in the pipeline to Iran.
They would discuss, I am again told, it's likely that they would discuss the security guarantees for Israel.
What would that -- where would they meet?
They would meet on that.
But can Russia deliver Iran by giving security guarantees?
The word is guarantees. I don't think so. I think Iran is going to play hard to get on that. The Russians can influence the Iranians to get
assurances rather than guarantees. But again, I'm told that maybe the U.S. under Biden, they might want to reinforce the American forces' presence in
That is a big no-no for the Russians, as you know, Becky. They want to have Syria on their own. This is the sort of thing. But I don't think this is
going to be, again, the prominent issue. China will be in the room -- the elephant in the room.
I'm told the U.S. would rather see the relationship between China and Russia not grow bigger and not become more militarized; whereas, you know,
the Russians say, well, let's beg to differ for now because this is a strategic relationship and they're not going to give up that card right
ANDERSON: Yes, let's be quite clear, as Raghida is just laying out here. The issues that the West sees as prescient, those of human rights, Ukraine
and Navalny, these are all prescient issues for this man, Joe Biden, who is now coming off Air Force One.
He has arrived in Geneva. This is about as important as it gets, isn't it, for this -- the new U.S. president. We're more than 100 days in now, of
course, to this administration. The focus for the first 100 days was domestic.
ANDERSON: It was on ensuring that the U.S. population got vaccinated. It was that President Biden wanted to see the pandemic dealt with in America.
And now we know that, going forward, we are into what is, as it were, era 2.0.
And here's the man that has the foreign file well and truly front and center at present, meeting the delegation in Geneva. This, of course, ahead
of a face-to-face meeting with President Biden there in Geneva tomorrow.
The U.S. President hot off the plane from Brussels. Literally just stepped off that plane. Brussels was the site of the NATO summit, of course, where
we saw the Western allies realigning after such a tempestuous time during the Donald Trump administration. And, of course, before that, G7 in
My guest, Raghida Dergham, is pointing out that not only are these Western issues important when we consider the relationship between the U.S. and
Russia but also perhaps where Moscow can do Washington a favor.
The Russians sitting at the table for those Vienna talks, the Russians with a good relationship with China; there is much, perhaps not, top of the
agenda. But there is a lot that President Biden and president Vladimir Putin can discuss when it comes to issues, which aren't as clearly front
and center as those for NATO and the E.U.
Apologies, Raghida. I've still got you with us. Iranians go to the polls on Friday to vote for a new president. This is being called a selection rather
than an election by many.
DERGHAM: That's true.
ANDERSON: I guess we should step back and try and unpack where we are at given what is going on as we speak now with these Vienna talks behind the
What do you make of what we might see happen on Friday in Tehran and going forward?
DERGHAM: Well, in Tehran, it's going to be, as you correctly said, this election is very clear. It's not going to be beautified. It's not going to
be cosmetic. The Revolutionary Guards are in charge. The moderates have been ousted, in effect.
So you would ask, why is the West going ahead and just begging Iran to agree to renew the JCPOA knowing that path of this regime with its own
people would remain the same, that their intention is to go on playing havoc with the rest of the region, especially the Arabic and Arab geography
in terms of having the paramilitary forces in Iraq, Hezbollah in Iran and without any tools to pressure them if they don't do the right thing?
Why are the Western companies (sic) so eager to do that?
I don't know. In particular, when Russia and China are entrenched with the Iranians, on a geopolitical level because, don't forget, the pact that was
signed between China and Iran and don't forget the very important, if you will, that basically a strategic alliance on the ground that's taking place
between the Russians and Iranians in Syria, for example.
So yes, it's -- the photo shoot is very nice in Vienna. So it is also in Geneva, where President Biden and President Putin meet. But the differences
are really not amongst these countries over this -- basically these issues where they sit.
In Vienna, they agree. They agree on Iran. And that's probably what, you know, sort of upsets the Arab region to say, what is this love story,
endless love story without an accountability?
What's going on?
But, hey, if it leads to Iran curbing its style in terms of exporting its revolution and paramilitary forces, that's fine. Everybody wants a bit of
peace in this part of the world but let's pray (ph) --
DERGHAM: -- I don't think the Iranian regime will change course after the new elections. I think we'll see more of the same.
ANDERSON: OK. That is Friday. Raghida, it is always a pleasure. Thank you very much indeed for joining us. We're going to have to take a quick break.
Back after this.