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Connect the World

Ukraine Russia Separatists Reinforcing Positions with Sniper, Heavy Weapons; Epic Flooding in South Sudan Displaces Hundreds of Thousands; Whistleblower: Fewer than 5 Percent of Afghans who Applied to UK Scheme for Evaluation were Helped; Ukraine's Defense Minister: "Bloody Massacre" if Russia Invades; Biden, Putin Hold Meeting Over Escalating Ukraine Tensions; Calls Grow for Shift Away from Five-Day Workweek. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 07, 2021 - 11:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Hello! I'm Lynda Kinkade in for Becky Anderson. Welcome to "Connect the World". At this very hour, the U.S.

President and the Russian Leader are holding talks. The stakes are huge. Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden are about to enter their second hour of that

crucial video call over Ukraine. The leaders exchanged pleasantries when the meeting started last hour. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Good to see you again. Unfortunately, last time we didn't get to see one another at the G-20. I

hope next time we meet we do it in person.


KINKADE: Well, these images are coming from Russian television. Mr. Putin speaking from his residence in Sochi, Mr. Biden is in the White House

Situation Room. Well, the meeting comes as Russia has amassed nearly 100,000 troops along the border. U.S. intelligence believes that number

could swell to 175,000 ahead of a possible invasion next month.

President Putin says he's not planning to invade Ukraine. Well, White House Correspondent John Harwood is watching developments from Washington our

Frederik Pleitgen once again joining us from Berlin. John, I'll start with you. We're just seeing the first images of this crucial video meeting

between the U.S. President and the Russian Leader. What do you make of them? What do you make of what we've seen so far and just what is at stake?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks to me like the Russians are trying to take control the narrative by releasing pictures

having Joe Biden pleasantly greet Vladimir Putin, of course, not getting any of the tough words, we'll get those in the readout later.

The White House had declined to allow cameras in to take images of the start of the meeting. But the stakes are very high, because as you

indicated, Russia is in position to have maybe 175,000 troops by next month. They're encircling Ukraine on three sides.

Of course, they've committed aggression against Ukraine and against other neighbors. In the last several years, President Bush couldn't stop it when

they invaded Georgia. President Obama couldn't stop it when they took Crimea in 2014. And Joe Biden is trying to deter Vladimir Putin with the

threat of very severe economic sanctions.

But before you get there, he's also trying to provide some sort of diplomatic off ramp for Vladimir Putin some way to without promising as

Putin wants that Ukraine would never be admitted to NATO, maybe reassure Putin that NATO is not seeking to destabilize the Soviet Union, just as

Vladimir Putin is now trying to destabilize Ukraine.

So it's a very tense situation. And we'll see when we get to read out from the White House what, whether anything tangible has come from this


KINKADE: All right. John, if you can stand by, for me, I want to get the perspective in Europe, from Frederik Pleitgen there. If indeed an invasion

is in the works just how prepared is Russia? And how strong is Ukraine right now? How much support does it expect from the U.S.?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Russia definitely has formidable armed forces. And I think John was

just talking about it a little bit, that the U.S. estimates and Ukraine certainly also believes as well, there's around 95,000 troops in the

vicinity of the border with Ukraine.

Some of them are still, you know, a couple of 100 kilometers away, but certainly in the vicinity of Ukraine, and from certain several directions,

you look at, for instance, Crimea, you look at in the north, towards Ukraine, as well.

So it is certainly a formidable force that's already there and one that could potentially grow very quickly. And the Russian Armed Forces, you

know, in the past couple of years, have definitely gotten a lot more stronger, have definitely got a lot more firepower. And they've really

updated a lot of their weapon systems as well.

So in any case, a Russian force that close to the border of Ukraine is definitely something that has a lot of firepower has a lot of fighting

power, and certainly could potentially be very dangerous. The Ukrainians, for their part, though, have been upgrading their armed forces as well.

And of course, the Ukrainian army, but also in the years since, since the annexation of Crimea, certainly has gotten a lot more professional as well,

and certainly has a lot more veterans in it, and certainly has a lot more volunteers in it and is as well, a pretty formidable force.

And you know, I was in Ukraine about two weeks ago, and we saw some of their naval forces. And they too, are in the midst of a big upgrade, and

they're accelerating that upgrade, because they say obviously, the situation in that area can get very dangerous.

Now, Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, he visited Ukrainian forces yesterday. And he also said that he believes that his country would

be prepared if there was an escalation. And of course the Ukrainians have been saying and are saying it's definitely not something that they are

looking for. They want to avoid it.

They believe obviously, that it would be devastating, as they've told CNN, not just for Ukraine, but of course also for Russia in fact the Ukrainian

Defense Minister told CNN that Russians would end up in coffins as well.


PLEITGEN: But that it could potentially destabilize all of Europe and I do think that that's something that European countries do understand, as well.

And one of the things that we really saw today, Lynda, which I think is really important to point out, is the way that that President Biden has

gone about this. Certainly it does appear to have strengthened his hand in the meeting that he's in with Vladimir Putin right now, because he did go

to the U.S.'s NATO allies before he consulted with them.

He got them on board. We heard from the designated German Chancellor Olaf Scholz today saying that he was very impressed by the way the President

Biden is handling it and getting the allies on board and sharing intelligence as well.

And he also spoke to the Ukrainians beforehand. So it certainly seems as the U.S. is really trying to rally its allies here before then going into

that meeting with Vladimir Putin where the U.S. obviously needs a very strong hand, Lynda.

KINKADE: It certainly doesn't indeed. Good to get your analysis Frederik Pleitgen for us in Berlin and John Harwood at the White House. We will stay

on this story. Thanks very much, gentlemen.

Well, I do want to talk more about this Biden Putin call with a Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer also served at U.S. Embassy is at

Warsaw, Moscow and London. He's a Research Fellow at Stanford University joins me via Skype from California. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: Sir, you wrote an interesting article, titled "What Biden should say to Putin". The key question, of course, is does Putin intend to invade

Ukraine or is he bluffing?

PIFER: No, I think that's the big question. But perhaps Putin has not yet decided. And therefore, I think this phone call that's taking place now

between President Biden and President Putin is a very important opportunity for the American President, to make sure that Putin understands the very

real and very heavy costs that would ensue if Russia does take military action against Ukraine.

KINKADE: And talk to us about what those costs could entail. What sort of tools are at U.S. President Biden's disposal?

PIFER: Sure. One would be political isolation of Mr. Putin. He would have pariah status; another would be much heavier economic sanctions on Russia

than been applied in the past. For example, the Nord Stream II Pipeline, I believe, would come under sanction if the Germans did not simply set it


Three, there would be requests from the Baltic States and Poland for more NATO military power and infrastructure on their territory. And my guess is

that NATO would respond in a positive way to that. A fourth cost would be there would be more military assistance flowing from NATO countries, to

Ukraine to provide them equipment in arms to resist.

But the big cost here really comes from Ukraine. And that is, while the Russian army is larger and better equipped, Ukrainian military today is far

better than it was in 2014. And it will exactly price if the Russian military comes in. And I think Mr. Putin asked, ask himself, how popular

will good Russian soldiers be at home?

KINKADE: And we know that the U.S. President Biden spoke with his allies in Europe yesterday ahead of this video call. Do you think there would come a

point where we would see U.S. or European troops on the ground?

PIFER: I don't think you're going to see NATO forces in Ukraine fighting for Ukraine. I think that's a line that NATO is probably not prepared to

cross. But I do believe there would be significant assistance flowing to Ukraine in terms of arms and equipment.

And I think also, it was very important for President Biden to have that conversation with the German, French, Italian and British leaders, because

that puts him in a position now where he's speaking to Putin, not really just as the American President, but he's speaking with the voice of NATO

behind him.

KINKADE: Exactly. We heard from the Ukraine Defense Minister in an interview that my colleague Matthew Chance did, who seemed to be very calm

about the situation. He said he didn't believe that Russia would indeed invade Ukraine is certainly not with the troops there at this point in


From a Ukraine perspective, you said that they have - they're in a much better position than they were when we saw Crimea, the invasion of Crimea,

and when that was seven years ago?

PIFER: Yes, exactly. I mean, first of all, the Ukrainian military is twice the size that it was in 2014. And in 2014, they said they had only about

6000 troops that were combat ready. Today, Ukraine has tens of thousands of troops that have actually thought along the line of contact against Russian

and Russian proxy forces.

So they have experienced. And I think one of the things that the Russians need to worry about if the Russians were to occupy a size a portion of

Ukrainian territory they may will face a guerrilla conflict.


PIFER: Normally Ukrainians taking up arms against a Russian presence and one thing that the Russians are to think about is the experience of

Afghanistan, both for the United States and for the Soviet Union in 1979. Getting into Afghanistan was very easy. Getting out was much more


And I go back to a conversation I had with the Ukrainian six or seven years ago, and he said, yes, the Russian military might reach Kiev in two weeks'

time. But he added that have a really difficult time leaving.

KINKADE: According to satellite images, were saying there's some 100,000 troops Russian troops on the border right now. And U.S. intelligence

suggests that that could expand or some 175,000 troops out next month. Russia claims this is purely for defensive purposes. What do you make of

that claim?

PIFER: I think that the Russian statements have no credibility. Look, the Ukrainian military understands. And the Ukrainian government understands

they can't take back - by force, they understand that at the end of the day, they would likely lose a war with the Russians.

So they're not trying to start anything. You know, this is I think, Russian posturing. Maybe it's bluff. Maybe it's simply designed to see if Kiev will

make some concessions based on the threat of force. But I look at the cost. And I think this would be a very expensive operation for Russia would have

very painful costs.

But I'm also not sure that Vladimir Putin applies that same logic, and therefore it makes sense for President Biden today to be spilling out those

costs to make sure that Putin has a clear understanding. And also President Biden can offer maybe a more engaged American diplomacy, both to try and

resolve the conflict in Don Boss.

But perhaps to address some of the broader European security questions that the Russians expressed concern about. Those conversations won't be easy.

But it might be a way to begin to de-escalate some of the tensions that we now see.

KINKADE: Which I think everyone is hoping will happen. Stephen Pifer, Former Ambassador to Ukraine, thanks so much.

PIFER: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, U.S. and NATO are providing tens of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, and in a few minutes, you'll see our exclusive

interview with Ukraine's Defense Minister who says with the West backing, Russia will not find victory in Ukraine.

Well, still to come South Sudan's flooding disaster imagine your life underwater life this your home, your community, it's submerged? We're going

to bring you a special report from the flood zone. And then the Olympic executives may face some pretty tough questions about the fate of Chinese

Tennis Star Peng Shuai. We'll have more than ahead.


KINKADE: The world's newest nation is drying up and drowning at the same time. What's being described as biblical flooding in South Sudan is

displacing huge numbers of people? The devastation triggered by the worsening climate crisis.


KINKADE: And the UN says there's deluge is the worst in 60 years. Keep in mind that South Sudan was one of many places in the world struggling with

the twin problem of drought, followed by extreme rainfall, which together create prime conditions the devastating floods. Well CNN's Clarissa Ward is

on the ground in South Sudan with more on this developing humanitarian crisis.

And you've been seeing this firsthand Clarissa. It certainly is devastating these record breaking floods?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is devastating. And what's extraordinary about this, Lynda is that these

floods hit back during the summer and all these months later, there are still parts of South Sudan where people are literally up to their necks in


Those waters in unity stay particularly are simply not receding. Disease is spreading. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their

homes and the real fear is what happens when the next rainy season hits? That's coming up just in a few months in may take a look.


WARD (voice over): Just four months ago, this was a bustling town of 11,000 people. Then the floods came biblical in scale, leaving it submerged

underwater and largely cut off. As we arrive in - there are few signs of light. Just some belonging stashed in the tree tops, the only protection

from the waters that have inundated much of South Sudan.

WARD (on camera): So this entire town has been flooded since August and the waters are still getting higher and higher even though the rainy season is

now over.

WARD (voice over): A group of women catch sight of us and want to talk.

WARD (on camera): Hi, where are your homes? Have your homes been destroyed?

WARD (voice over): They survived years of vicious civil war here. But these floods may pose the greatest threat yet. They tell us their crops have been

completely destroyed.

WARD (on camera): So what are you living on right now? What are you surviving on? Lilies - the lilies the water lilies? Are people getting sick

from the dirty water?

WARD (voice over): Many people have waterborne diseases - explains. The wells were all covered so we have to drink this water.

Well, South Sudan is no stranger to seasonal flooding. Unity State hasn't been hit like this since the early 1960s. Scientists say the floods have

become much more intense and unpredictable in recent years, in part because of global warming.

WARD (on camera): James? Hi James!

WARD (voice over): James - is one of hundreds of thousands who have been displaced. He agrees to show us what's left of his family home.

WARD (on camera): Oh my God! That's your motorcycle.

WARD (voice over): Nothing is left except for his children's drawings on the walls. Since the conflict erupted, we've never had a rest he tells us.

We've been constantly running displaced. Our children have had no relief from the dangers.

Now he is forced to flee once again. The journey to the promise of dry land is long and arduous. The lucky ones traveled by boat most swim or wait

moving slowly but purposefully through the muddy waters. Some push makeshift floats piled high with family members and possessions.

We come across a group of women whose raft is stuck in the mud. The men of the family have gone to try to save their lifestyle. He tells us they left

their destroyed home four days ago.

WARD (on camera): Have you been pushing this raft for four days?

WARD (voice over): Yes, they tell us along the way they say their food ran out.

WARD (on camera): How old is your baby?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five to six months.

WARD (on camera): Five to six months? Are you worried about your children?

WARD (voice over): Yes, I'm worried she says that's why we keep moving. They still have several miles to push before they reach this narrow strip

of dry land. According to UNICEF, some 6000 people have now settled here completely dependent on aid to survive.

KUEIGWONG: They don't have latrine. They don't have enough food for them to eat.

WARD (on camera): So they don't have bathrooms. They don't have food.


WARD (on camera): And there are more people arriving every day.


KUEIGWONG: People are continuing being displaced and that continue coming.

WARD (on camera): You're obviously doing everything you can, but is it enough?

KUEIGWONG: This is not enough. And that is reason why we are calling for donor communities to ensure that, you know, children get to schools,

children get health care. They get - services way to mention that you know, we prevent them to die.

WARD (voice over): As the fatted stagnant waters continue to rise, so do diseases like diarrhea and hepatitis E malnutrition in children is now at

its highest level since 2013. Those who make it all the way to the state capitol bend to find little sanctuary.

Some of the main roads have been turned into waterways, cars replaced by canoes. Just a mile further, the ghostly remains of what was once a

commercial hub.

WARD (on camera): This used to be the central shopping area in town as you can see, completely destroyed.

WARD (voice over): According to authorities 90 percent of Unity State has been impacted by these floods. Here the effects of climate change aren't a

hypothetical problem in the future, but rather a real disaster in the present.

KUEIGWONG: We are fighting to block this water not to reach here.

WARD (voice over): Minister Lam Tungwar concedes local authorities were completely unprepared and are now unable to cope with the scale of the


KUEIGWONG: We don't have insufficient for survival.

WARD (on camera): How much longer can you cope with the situation as it stands?

KUEIGWONG: Realistically, I can tell you that frankly, we don't know. But we are just worried about the next rain because we are told the water

behind me will not go now. They will not resist right now, or dry up. It's going to take a while - deep water.

WARD (voice over): They don't have long. The next rains are expected in May. And if the current waters don't recede, the fear is that this area

will be wiped off the map. Dikes are being built to try to hold back the encroaching waters. But the handfuls of diggers are no match for the vast


Breaches are common, leaving many with no choice but to take matters into their own hands, hastily improvising protection for their endangered homes,

as the waters quietly continue to rise.


WARD: Lynda, it's important for our viewers to understand here that when we talk about climate change, South Sudan, the world's youngest country, there

are just 125 miles or 200 kilometers of paved roads in this country. So it is not contributing even a fraction of global emissions.

And yet we see over the course particularly of the last few years and most acutely in Unity State this year that it is bearing a very, very heavy part

of the brunt of the effects of climate change. And the U.N. has said before that Africa is disproportionately affected by climate change.

So the question becomes, how on earth can the global community support a country like South Sudan, which does not have the infrastructure does not

have the equipment and is looking at a compound effect things getting worse and worse with future floods, Lynda?

KINKADE: Yes, exactly, some really compels reporting there from you and the team. Clarissa Ward, thank you very much. Well, with the Omicron variant

spreading winter closing in on much of the world experts are laying out some of the do's and don'ts.

The World Health Organization chief in Europe says doubling the number of people wearing masks indoors could save more than 160,000 lives. But he

warns mandating vaccines should be the absolute last resort.

The W.H.O says right now the Delta variant is a more pressing concern. Well, let's get you up to speed on some other stories that are on our radar

right now. Indonesian President Joko Widodo to the devastation caused by a powerful volcanic eruption, - started raining down hot ash and Moto nearby

villages Saturday.

Rescue crews are still digging through thick layers of debris for possible survivors. The death toll has risen to 34. A whistleblower in the UK claims

a slow response by the British government put Afghan lives in danger when the Taliban took over Kabul.

An ex Darfur the UK's Foreign Office says in written testimony that only 5 percent of Afghans who requested the UK's help evacuating what actually

helped. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is strongly denying one particular claim that vital resources were used to evacuate animals instead of people

calling it nonsense.


KINKADE: Four people, a dad and four others wounded in the southeastern Rockies city of Basra, a rock security media cell says a motorcycle

carrying explosives that fired to two vehicles. Police officials are still on the scene investigating the cause of that explosion.

Well, as Russia flexes its military muscle along the border with Ukraine, the Ukrainian defense minister is warning Russia of a bloody massacre if it


That CNN exclusive is next. Plus we talk with a former U.S. government Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman about the chances Russia will invade and

the Biden Administration's next move.


KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade; you're watching "Connect the World", good to have you with us. U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian

President Vladimir Putin are holding a critical video conference meeting this hour.

On top of the agenda the escalating tensions in Ukraine. Mr. Biden is expected to tell Mr. Putin that Russia will face crippling economic

sanctions if it invades Ukraine.

Tensions behind Europe have the possibility of another Russian Ukraine conflict, or tens of thousands of Russian troops amassing along the

Ukrainian border. Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance joins us live from Odessa in southern Ukraine and, Matthew; you've got suddenly

an interesting perspective.

They're having interviewed the very new defense minister in Ukraine. What does he make of the situation?


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think like many Ukrainian officials, they're adopting a wait and see policy

to see, you know what the stance of the U.S. President, President Biden is going to be. We know for certain that Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader,

is going to be sitting down in that meeting.

The meeting is already underway now by the way. It's been underway for the past 90 minutes or so is going to be confronting President Biden with his

demands, which is made public already, which is that he wants a legally binding agreement to stop NATO, the Western military alliance from

expanding any further eastwards towards Russia's borders.

It's a big national security threat in Russia as at least they perceive it as being one. And he also wants a commitment that NATO military

infrastructure like missile systems and things like that will be deployed to Ukraine, so that even if it's not a member of NATO, it doesn't become

some kind of forward operating base for NATO countries.

The Challenge for pressure to President Biden is to work out what his response is going to be, how does he, you know, you know, allay the Russian

fears, without, you know, selling out his allies here in Ukraine.

So it's a very difficult diplomatic balance that President Biden has to strike. The perspective here in Ukraine is very much urging President

Biden. And this is what the defense minister told me when I sat down with exclusive interview with him, urging President Biden to stand strong to not

to give in or trying to appease the Russians simply because that strategy the defense minister said would not work.

He also warned that if the Russians decided to invade, there would be very messy consequences. Take a listen.


OLEKSIY REZNIKOV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: You seen that this is empty plates.

CHANCE (on camera): Yes.

REZNIKOV: And I hope that they will empty forever. Just under these guys.

CHANCE (on camera): This is the guys that have already lost their lives. This could soon be filled.

REZNIKOV: This is the real threat Ukraine now faces.

CHANCE (voice over): More soldiers dying in battles with Russia. Something that country's new defense minister appointed just a month ago, tells me

he's struggling with it.

REZNIKOV: In Russia, they will have also the same faces over - Russians will die or what.

CHANCE (voice over): Across the border the Kremlin calls these its regular winter drills. Ukraine says there are now about 95,000 Russian troops

within striking distance. U.S. Intel indicates that will rise through 175,000. But even that the defense minister tells me is an under estimate.

REZNIKOV: 175 it's not enough to go to Ukraine.

CHANCE (on camera): You think Russia will need more for 175?

REZNIKOV: Yes, sure.

CHANCE (voice over): How much more is unclear? But these latest satellite images from Russia suggest Moscow is now engaged in an unprecedented build

up near the Ukrainian frontier enough to mount an overwhelming invasion alarmingly the U.S. and NATO, although Ukrainian officials seem calm at

what looks like an imminent threat.

REZNIKOV: I would say that the different means that we are not in fear mode.

CHANCE (on camera): But you're not fearful of a Russian invasion. Is that because you don't believe the intelligence?

REZNIKOV: No, no, no.

CHANCE (on camera): Do you believe Russia is going to be --

REZNIKOV: We believe to our Intel, we believe to all facts that was fixed by United States Intel and et cetera. But this is not the last decision.

CHANCE (on camera): Do you believe Russia will invade?

REZNIKOV: I'll not believe that, I will not believe that Russia will have a victory in Ukraine. It's a different because it will be a really bloody

massacre. And Russian guys also will come back in the core coffins. Yes.

CHANCE (voice over): --belief in Ukraine that Russia which denies plans to invade can with the help of the United States and its allies still be

deterred. This is the defense minister inducting two new coastal patrol boats from the U.S. into the Ukrainian Navy, part of a much broader

military modernization program.

Ukraine is trying to carry out with support from the west angering Moscow, Ukraine's growing ties with NATO. And Kremlin demands for NATO expansion to

be curbed, is set to dominate President Biden's video call with Vladimir Putin of Russia on Tuesday, a crucial online meeting that could determine

Ukraine's fate. The U.S. president the defense minister tells me should double down on support for Ukraine.


REZNIKOV: If I can advise President Biden, I would like to ask him to very understandable articulate Mr. Putin that no red lines from Kremlin side

could be here. Redline is here in Ukraine and civilized world will react without any hesitation.

We don't need the American or Canadian soldiers here to fighting for Ukraine, we will fight by ourselves. But we need modernization of weaponry;

we need electronic warfare and et cetera et cetera.

CHANCE (on camera): The problem with America and NATO and others stepping up their help, their assistance for Ukraine is that it could potentially

provoke the Kremlin even further to be poking the bear and force them to you to invade. Is that a concern for you? Do you think that's realistic?

REZNIKOV: The idea doesn't provoke Russian will not work. Because Georgia, Salisbury Crimea.

CHANCE (on camera): So you think confrontation with Russia is the only way to stop Russia's malign activity around the world?

REZNIKOV: It could be not on the confrontation, it could be their various it should be strength, strong position. We are a partner of Ukraine. We

will help them in all kinds of ways.

CHANCE (on camera): And the Kremlin will hear that and he will understand that and it will stop.

REZNIKOV: I'm sure.

CHANCE (voice over): --a high stakes gamble, with no guarantee such a hard line from the White House to the Kremlin will do anything to force Russia



CHANCE: Well, Lynda, that video call is still very much underway. As I say it's been underway now for more than 90 minutes. We still got no indication

about you know what the outcome is going to be.

But I can tell you, it's been very closely watched in Russia, in the United States. But most of all here in Ukraine, because the outcome of this call

may determine whether the very real military tensions being felt on the borders of this country are further ratcheted up, or whether they're de-

escalating Lynda, back to you.

KINKADE: Yes. Let's hope for that de-escalation, Matthew Chance for us, great to get the perspective from Ukraine. Thank you. Well, I want to stay

on this story and welcome retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

Now, he was the top U.S. Ukraine expert at the National Security Council and his testimony about Donald Trump's phone call with the President of

Ukraine led to Trump's first impeachment. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So certainly, politically, this is a huge week for U.S. President Biden and this court today is certainly a lot at stake. I think we might

have lost him. Alright, we'll try. I'm just going to try to connect again with retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. Do we have you?

VINDMAN: Yes, I'm here. I'm here.

KINKADE: OK, so just take us through what's at stake with this core that is currently underway right now between the President of the United States and


VINDMAN: Yes, is part, a decision by Vladimir Putin.

KINKADE: Yes, we're having some connection difficulties. We're going to take a break. Still to come in the show Beijing - hit back again the Biden

Administration over its latest move on China's human rights record, plus the International Olympic Committee getting ready to hold a series of news

conferences, while they will likely be facing some tough questions about the fate of Tennis star Peng Shuai.



KINKADE: Well, right now the leaders of Russia and the United States are holding crucial video meeting as tensions over Ukraine escalate. We have

reconnected with Lieutenant Colonel Vindman to discuss this further. And Lieutenant Colonel, just explain what's at stake today.

VINDMAN: Sure, this is a very important phone call. I think a lot of Putin's calculus on what he's prepared to do in Ukraine could originate

from what he senses from President Biden. What I mean by that is he's committed an enormous amount of force around Ukraine's border.

He's now trying to see if he both if he really has an opportunity to destabilize Ukraine realizes that the operation he started back in 2014, to

make Ukraine a failed state and then keep Ukraine in a sphere of influence.

And depending on what he hears from President Biden, he'll perceive that he has the leeway to move forward. What I think he's more than likely to hear

is that the U.S. continues to support Ukraine, and will levy significant costs on Russia's actions and try to dissuade Vladimir Putin from taking

this action.

It very well may not be enough. Russia is prepared to bear enormous cost for this military operation.

The question is whether it's going to be too high, whether they will have a lot of blood spilled on their hands, and whether those visuals of massive

military largest military operation in Europe since World War II, whether that's something that they're prepared to bear. And that's what's at stake

at the moment.

KINKADE: So if you were advising U.S. President Biden ahead of this call, or even in the room, as this call takes place, what would your advice be to

him, what is going to deter the Russian president from invading Ukraine?

VINDMAN: So it's, frankly not entirely clear if there's anything that the U.S. can do certainly by itself, it's going to take a concerted effort by

the U.S. and NATO and the EU, so the entire alliance to levy sufficient costs.

I think that what should be - the two tracks that the President should be taking is pressure and engagement. On engagement track like he's doing

today, speaking to him, like he's likely to offer with regards to a format to discuss Russia's security concerns and address Russia security concerns,

not unilateral security concerns, but NATO's security concern.

So bilateral security concerns of Russia's build up that resulted in all of these kinds of recent developments and forces being placed in Eastern

Europe those need to be accounted for together.

So that's on the engagement track. On the pressure track, he should be signaling that there'll be enormous cost that could be in the form of

sanctions, but that could also be in the form of armies - that should be in the form of arming Ukraine, a sovereign independent state to defend itself

against military aggression from Russia.

Those things are not going to be just deterministic because there's probably not enough damage that the Ukrainians can do on the military

landscape. Could change Russia's calculus, but combined package of pressure and engagement might be sufficient to dissuade Vladimir Putin.

KINKADE: We certainly are watching this call closely waiting for readout from either side and we will bring that to our viewers when we get it. I

will leave it there for now. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, thanks very much for your time.

VINDMAN: Thank you.

KINKADE: Which honors making a vow it says the U.S. will in its words, pay the price for its wrongdoing after the White House announced a diplomatic

boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.


KINKADE: The Biden Administration says it's making the move to call out human rights abuses in China. But it's something short of a full boycott

like the one we saw in 1980 when the then President Jimmy Carter protested the Moscow Olympics, keeping American athletes from taking part in the


Well, also straining China's relations with the West as the ongoing concern about the well-being of tennis star Peng Shuai. The International Olympic

Committee is holding a series of meetings and will likely be grilled about the fate of the Chinese tennis player. Well, CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has



KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Three time Olympian, two times Grand Slam champion and the first Chinese tennis player male or

female to achieve world number one in doubles. After reaching the top of world tennis, Peng Shuai is rattling the very top of the Communist Party.

One month ago she accused a powerful man former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex.

STOUT (on camera): Peng made the accusation on her verified Sina Weibo social media account. In a more than 1600 word post she wrote, I know that

for someone of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli that you said you were not afraid.

But even if it's just me, like an egg hitting the stone, a moth flying into flames, courting self-destruction, I would tell the truth about us. Within

30 minutes this was taken down.

LETA HONG FINCHER, AUTHOR,"BETRAYING BIG BROTHER: THE FEMINIST AWAKENING IN CHINA": That kind of censorship of any me to post is very common.

STOUT (voice over): CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the post. Peng is unreachable, as is the 75 year old former party leader. She remains under

blanket censorship in China where there was no reporting of her allegation, even to senior state media journalist trying to argue in a Twitter post

that Peng is fine, won't say it out loud.

STOUT (on camera): Why is Beijing afraid of addressing this sexual assault allegation?

DARIA IMPIOMBATO, ICPC RESEARCHER, AUSTRALIAN STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE: The major movement is very monitored in China. And the reason is that it is

seen as a threat to the authority of the Chinese Communist Party to its moral standing, but also to all of that patriarchal structure, they're so

embedded in the system.

STOUT (voice over): In recent years, Beijing has cracked down on China's feminist movement. In 2015 five feminists were detained for their campaign

for gender equality. After international outcry they were released. Earlier this year, a friend of Mee Too activist Guangzhou Qin tells CNN Peng was

arrested on September 19.

She remains detained. And now Me Too has reached the party elite. After Peng Shuai was not seen in public for two weeks state media tempted to show

she is safe. It only added to the wave of concern.

FINCHER: I do believe that aging is actually susceptible to enormous international pressure. And we have this convergence of outrage coming from

sports celebrities outside China. We have the Olympics coming up.

STOUT (voice over): The Women's Tennis Association, the United Nations and the EU have called for full investigation into her allegations. One month

ago, Peng wrote, why did you have to come back to me, took me to your home to force me to have sex with you?

I couldn't describe how disgusted I was and how many times I asked myself, am I still a human? I feel like a walking corpse. Since she posted that

explosive allegation, Peng is posed with a cat nodded at a dinner table and a carefully edited video and smiled to the camera during the video call

with the IOC.

The one time fighter on the court has yet to speak out in her own words directly to the public. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


KINKADE: Well CNN has yet to receive a response from the State Council Information Office. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declined to

comment as in their words, they say this is not a diplomatic incident.

And just in the Iran nuclear talks is set to resume in Vienna on Thursday. That's according to a source of direct knowledge of the talks. Around top

nuclear negotiations made similar comments saying he has consulted with Russian officials.

While the talks stalled last week after European negotiator said Iran didn't make realistic opening proposals. Well, still ahead on the show, the

UAE Government is switching to a Monday through to Friday workweek, why they made that decision and how they're working around Friday prayers.



KINKADE: Welcome back. Well, the UAE is the first Gulf country to shift its government to a Saturday to Sunday weekend. The new workweek starts January

1 and federal employees will work Mondays to Fridays at noon before Friday prayers start making it a four and a half day workweek.

Well, the workweek is currently Sunday through Thursday. But the new one will make it easier to do business with the Western world. They had the

country's federal authority, the government Human Resources had this to say.



these companies and the UAE economy to integrate into the world economy and to have the stock markets in the banking sector improve their operations

and have a larger volume of integration.

But I believe this change and reform that we have introduced in the UAE has as well positive decisions on our social and productivity indices.


KINKADE: Well, joining me now is Nancy Gleason. She is an Associate Professor of Practice of Political Science at NYU Abu Dhabi. She teaches

the signature course industrial revolutions and the future of work. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So, you've been arguing for a shorter workweek than the standard nine to five Monday through Friday and the UAE's decision to fit its

workweek with that of the Western World might be motivated by business. But do you think it could also provide people with a little bit more work life


GLEASON: Absolutely, this is a great opportunity for people to expand their leisure activities to increase their productivity and work but also their

health and well-being.

KINKADE: And in terms of what we're seeing businesses around the world. I mean, due to the pandemic we saw and we are still seeing a lot of people

working from home.

And those returning to the office are often doing it in a hybrid sort of a fashion where they're still spending some time working from home. Do you

think the standard working week is under threat?

GLEASON: I do, I don't know that it should, threat is the right word. But I think it's time for a change in COVID-19 has been a catalyst for that

change. And I'm really pleased to see the UAE being the first country in the world to have a non-traditional five day workweek and to decrease those

hours while anticipating productivity to increase as a result.

They've also announced that there will be flexibility on work from home schemes and the actual hours that your workers perform, giving the private

sector some flexibility on the implementation of these new standards.

So when and how we work has changed because of COVID and these rules that are being put in place here in the UAE enable us to pivot and be flexible

in the state of the new work from home ways of doing thing.


KINKADE: And is always a concern that sees that a shorter workweek might lead to less productivity. But we have seen various examples around the

world in Spain, a trial there and also in Japan, a trial with Microsoft employees that even though they shortened the week, productivity actually


GLEASON: That's right. And particularly the trial with Microsoft in Japan showed a 40 percent increase in productivity going down to a four day

workweek. And Spain's first is the first national trial. It's currently underway with 200 companies, and that's sponsored by the government.

So you increase the number of jobs and employees you do not create a compressed workweek. And what we've seen when you do that is that

productivity increases because wellness is increasing.

KINKADE: Alright, Nancy Gleason, we'll see if other companies move in this direction. Thanks for your time.

GLEASON: Thanks so much.

KINKADE: We want to take you to Milan, Italy now, where the city celebrated its annual tradition of lining a large Christmas tree in the Piazza del

Duomo, take a look.

Well, this year's tree has 80,000 LED lights along with hundreds of red and silver Christmas poles and dozens of boys. Well once the holiday season is

over wood from the tree will be repurposed and 10 new trees will be planted to replace this one.

And when it comes to your tide decorating for one gem and a couple more is more. They are the German world record holders for having the most

decorated Christmas trees in one place a total of 444 and no two trees are the same.

Some of the themes include stone troopers and superheroes, and more than 10,000 Christmas balls and 300 strings of light are used in the display.

With a couple starts putting up the trees months ahead of time just to have them ready for the first Sunday in December.

Well, Spain sunny Canary Islands have pretty incredible nativity scenes sculpted out of sand. This is part of the annual event to mark the

beginning of the Christmas season. More than 10 people reportedly took part in building these scenes and they say they're going to stay protected by a

huge wall of sand until January, some talented people there.

Well thanks so much for watching "Connect the World". I am Lynda Kinkade. Stick around; "One World" with my colleague Zain Asher is next.