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Russia-Ukraine Standoff; International Efforts Underway to Aid Tonga Victims; War in Yemen; Goldman Sachs Predicts $100 Barrel Oil; U.K. Partygate Scandal Intensifies; Pyongyang Flexes Muscle with String of Weapons Tests. Aired 10-10:40a ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 10:00   ET




LARRY MADOWO, CNN HOST (voice-over): Germany and Russia meet as tensions soar in Ukraine, with Germany promising a strong will to respond if Russia

escalates any further.

Tonga declares a state of emergency after Saturday's volcanic eruption and tsunami. While the damage is significant, most people are safe.

And Saudi-led airstrikes hit back two days following Monday's attack in Abu Dhabi. Women and children are said to be among the dead.


MADOWO: I'm Larry Madowo at CNN Center in Atlanta. Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

We want to start with the activity aimed at defusing the Russia-Ukraine standoff, amid new signs Russia is preparing to invade. Russia commanders

are recruiting and training occupation forces in Donbas. The accusation coming as the top Russian and German diplomats met in Moscow.

Germany's foreign minister says it's difficult not to see Russian troops massed along the Ukrainian border as anything but a threat. A Russian

counterpart accuses NATO of a double standard, by moving in its own troops while demanding Russian forces stand down.

CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is tracking the latest developments in Moscow.

Fred, Ukraine appears still to be convinced that a Russian invasion is imminent.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: The risk of a conflict is real. NATO allies call our shot to deescalate any further aggression will come

with a high cost for Moscow.


MADOWO: So Fred, NATO and European nations like Germany, want a deescalation of tensions but are there any real signs of that happening

even after today's meetings?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I would say, right now, there's no signs of that happening whatsoever. I think that's

one of the reasons why you saw the German foreign minister, after that meeting with Sergey Lavrov, with some strong words, especially if you

compare it to what others were saying in the past.

The big leverage Germany has in this, why they're such an important player, is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that runs between Germany and Russia. Right

new, that pipeline is essentially finished. But there's no gas flowing through it yet.

One of the things the German foreign minister said is that, of course, if there is any further escalation from the Russian side, that will have an

effect on that pipeline. She also said that Germany is very much keen or will help protect the values-based order of Europe, as she put it, even if

it means strong economic consequences for Germany.

If there is a conflict, if the pipeline does not have any gas flowing through it, it would mean big economic consequences, not just for Germany

but other European countries. So you can see the Germans firmly in the corner of the United States as far as that is concerned.

It's really interesting to see because secretary of state Blinken is traveling to Kiev tomorrow. But he will also travel to Berlin after that as


Now as far as the Russians are concerned -- and this goes back to the question of de-escalation -- we heard Lavrov today saying, it's the

Russians who feel they are threatened. They are not threatening anyone.

But what we are seeing on the ground -- and also hearing from the Russian side as well -- certainly seems to paint a picture of the Russians really

moving a lot of forces into that wider region as well.

The Russians are saying themselves that they have sniper drills that are ongoing in their southern military district near Ukraine. And one of the

things that happened today is that the Russians started moving troops into Belarus.

They both say they are going to have large scale military maneuvers that are going to happen in Belarus at the beginning of February. And we know

the southern border of Belarus is the northern border of Ukraine.


PLEITGEN: So the Ukrainians say they are feeling increasingly encircled.

MADOWO: You talked about this, the U.S. secretary of state traveling to Ukraine and Germany this week. And the State Department is telling us he

also did have a conversation with Sergey Lavrov.

Did anything come out of that?

PLEITGEN: He did; not clear whether or not any headway was made in that conversation but it is very important for the U.S. and Russia to remain in

close consultations. That's really something the Russian side has been pushing for as well.

They said they were the ones who wanted those security talks with the United States. They believe it's very important for Russia and the United

States to talk directly as much possible.

Essentially what we've heard so far -- we've only heard the American readout of the phone conversation; we're waiting to get the Russian readout

of how they felt this conversation went down.

But what the U.S. is saying is that Blinken said deescalation is very important. He also made another firm commitment to the territorial

integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and said this is something the U.S. has been saying throughout this process, that there are not going to be any

sort of decisions about the security of Europe that will be made without Europeans at the table.

Obviously, the Ukrainians, when it comes to them, Europe, the Europeans, you also want to have their say as well. So that phone call, very important

right now for the secretary of state, for the foreign ministers, to be speaking to one another, as they try to find a way toward deescalation.

MADOWO: Fred Pleitgen from Moscow, thank you.

We're also getting the first glimpses of the severe damage in Tonga. Entire communities in the Pacific island chain covered in volcanic ash.

You can see what it looked like before Saturday's eruption and tsunami; then right after. The prime minister says at least three people have died

in Tonga. And while there have not been reports of mass casualties we still don't know what's happening on much of the Pacific island chain, especially

the remote islands.


TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): A first look at the damage, surveillance planes from Australia and New Zealand take to the skies to try

to assess just how bad the damage is in Tonga after an underwater volcano erupted over the weekend, triggering tsunami warnings.

Throughout the Pacific, with some waves reaching as far as Peru and the United States.

JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: We know water is an immediate need.

SATER (voice-over): Countries like New Zealand, Australia and China say they are standing by to send aid. But the scale of the devastation in Tonga

is still unknown. Scientists say Saturday's eruption could be the worst volcanic eruption the Pacific has experienced in decades.

Just a day before, a volcano belted out an ominous warning of what was to come, shooting ash and smoke some 20 kilometers into the air. But it was

the ferocity of the next day's eruption that unleashed waves of water around the world.

In Tonga, the swells at times reached heights of more than a meter high. No mass casualties have been reported so far. One British woman is reported


But the full impact of the volcanic blast is yet to be seen, since the country has been largely cut off from the outside world. The government

says phone networks are working again.

But international communication is limited because of damage to an undersea cable, which could take more than a week to repair. That's making it hard

for some aid agencies to plan their next move.

ALEXANDER MATHEOU, ASIA PACIFIC DIRECTOR, IFRC: We're roughly thinking up to 80,000 people could be affected.

But how many of them are seriously affected?

We don't know.

SATER (voice-over): Over the weekend, large waves also hit the coast of Fiji, some 800 kilometers away.

Tsunami warnings and advisories were issued in parts of New Zealand, Japan, Canada and the west coast of the U.S. Coastal cities in Peru were inundated

with knee-deep water, trapping people on the streets. Police say two people died due to the abnormally high waves.

A force of nature felt for thousands of kilometers. Officials say they hope they'll soon get a better picture of what happened in Tonga, where not even

the volcanic island itself was spared. Satellite imagery shows it has now largely sunk into the sea -- Tom Sater, CNN.


MADOWO: New Zealand and Australia and others are also deploying to help. For more on those efforts, I'm joined by Paula Hancocks live in Melbourne,


Paula, what can you tell us about what Tonga needs now and how Australia, New Zealand and other countries are helping?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, we know New Zealand has sent two Royal Navy ships to the area. But they believe it could take three

days to get there. Australia is in a similar situation. They have sent a ship to go help, laden with humanitarian goods. But it will take time to

get there.


HANCOCKS: So the urgent job for Tonga at this point is to try and clear the runway at the airport. We could see from satellite imagery there was

ash on the runway itself. It was partially blocked. And we understand the military there is working to try and clear that, knowing that that is the

fastest way in order to get aid in.

So they are hoping to clear the runway as soon as possible. Now we've also heard from an official statement from Tonga itself, that there are concerns

about some of the outlying islands. They mentioned one island, Mango Island, where it's a population of just 50 people.

But they say that all houses have been destroyed on that particular island and there are other islands, many, that they haven't even been able to

access at this point. So the emergency is really for water, clean drinking water.

There's an expectation that the water supplies would have been damaged and potentially contaminated. So clean water is the first thing that they will

need. And then after that, there is the issue of shelter and then, of course, there is the issue of trying to restore the communication lines to

the outside world -- Larry.

MADOWO: Paula Hancocks, watching what's happening in neighboring Tonga from Melbourne, thank you.


MADOWO: Joining me now is Anaseini Ulakai, a Tongan youth activist. She has been away from Tonga due to COVID border restrictions but is trying to

get back and joins us live from Sydney.

Thank you so much for talking with us. Your parents are both in Tonga and are front line workers there. You've been using social media beautifully to

share information that you're receiving from family and friends.

What are they telling you about the situation there?


For myself, I haven't had the opportunity to talk to my parents directly. As you mentioned, we have been working since the warning was in force and

during the events and until now.

But I am comforted by trickling messages from their colleagues, who are also helping to exchange messages between us who are abroad and our

families back in Tonga.

MADOWO: And what are they telling you from the information that you're gathering?

You say a lot of them use Facebook to try and communicate to the outside world and we know the government has confirmed communications are down

because of damage to fiberoptic cables, which I imagine is complicating people just being able to communicate and tell their family and friends

they're safe.

ULAKAI: Yes, so what we have been receiving at the moment, just messages from our families, especially with our families here abroad in New Zealand

and Australia, who are very much anxious and worried about those in Tonga, just messages about how they are, whether they're safe or whether they were


Because we have received information that a lot of the settlements along the western areas were wiped out during the events.

So the messages that we have been receiving include information about what our families have been up to and what we have been receiving is that our

families are now busy with mainly just trying to remove ashes from our homes.

And also today, we have had 1,000 of people coming to the airport, because we understood that air forces were meant to come to Tonga. But they weren't

able to land because the airport was covered in ash and also deposits from the events that occurred during the weekend.

So just being able to unite as a nation and clean up our infrastructure, just to allow help to come into the nation, is a wonderful thing to watch

at the moment.

MADOWO: I understand that you're trying to get back into the country as soon as flights reopen because airports are currently undergoing cleanup.

But why are you trying to get back so urgently?

ULAKAI: I came to Australia with my brother for further studies and we were due to return home last year. But because we still have the border

closures, especially with Tonga not allowing a majority of the aircrafts to land at the moment. I think you are aware that we are still COVID three so

-- COVID free, sorry.

So I think, at the moment, they haven't even confirmed any repatriation flights. But my main concern is to return home and to help, especially

during this time. With myself, my parents, I think obviously working.


ULAKAI: So I think I need to get home to help, to see whether our home had been affected and, you know, I think it's the same with every one of us who

are students, that are stuck here. We just want to go home and help our families, really.

MADOWO: I can imagine being so far from family, especially at a time of such tragedy.

What are you most concerned about your home country, knowing the extent of the devastation that's been described?

And you're familiar with this country. You grew up there.

What are you most worried about?

ULAKAI: I think, apart from the need for necessities such as water, I think it's just the fact that, from my experience, after being in Tonga

during cyclones, is mainly reconstructing the, you know, the land and also being able to restore communications, starting again in terms of businesses

that have been affected, especially for Tonga, when tourism is one of our main source of income.

And being able to see a lot of resorts in Tonga being wiped out, I think the nation will have to undergo a lot of, you know, recovering, in terms of

being able to start again.

And even though we have been bearing the brunt of the climate crisis in terms of experiencing tropical cyclones for years, we still manage to

recover and continue, although these events have hindered our progression in terms of development.

MADOWO: Anaseini, you are a brilliant activist and thank you so much for coming on to talk to us about the situation back home. I hope you can

reconnect with your family and get back into the country as soon as possible. Thank you.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, rising tensions and more misery in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition hits back after the latest attack by Houthi rebels.

We're live from the region.

Plus, those tensions in the Gulf are adding to fears about oil prices. We'll look at how high they could go.




MADOWO: Yemen's Houthi rebels now say 12 people were killed in Monday's airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. The strikes hit targets in the

rebel-held capital. Women and children are said to be among the dead.

Families and neighbors are looking for anyone who may be trapped in the piles of concrete. The strike was apparently in retaliation for a Houthi

drone attack on the UAE. That drone attack has raised tensions in the Gulf. CNN's senior international correspondent Sam Kiley joins us now.


MADOWO: Sam, the situation with the Houthi rebels appears to be escalating quite fast and that airstrike seems to have been particularly devastating.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's probably biggest series of airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition in

perhaps a year.

There had been a significant reduction in the amount of airstrikes, particularly conducted against the Yemeni capital, also the headquarters of

the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Now there are reports out of the Houthis for 12 civilian dead, among them women and children. There are likely other dead, too, because they're not

telling any military figures.

And most of these airstrikes were conducted against military targets. We haven't been able to get our local journalists access to any of those

locations. So the focus has been on this tragic civilian loss of life, because it came in retaliation for the killing of three civilians

yesterday, one Pakistani and two Indian nationals, here in the capital of Abu Dhabi.

And the first loss of life they've had on the soil of the United Arab Emirates over the Yemeni conflict ever. And a very serious level of

escalation seen as a consequence of that.

I suspect that the Emirates will probably want to draw a line under the whole process of this incident for two reasons. The first is that they're

refocusing their foreign policy away from the belligerence they've shown in the past in terms of getting involved in the Yemeni civil war, the Libyan

civil war and elsewhere and toward a much more softly, softly approach to diplomacy and a rapprochement with Iran.

Of course, it's Iran that's been supplying a lot of the high-tech weaponry likely used in the latest attacks against Abu Dhabi -- Larry.

MADOWO: Sam Kiley in Abu Dhabi, thank you.

As tensions rise in the Gulf, so do concerns about oil. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company says it is working to make sure supplies are not

disrupted after the Houthi attack on one of its sites. Nevertheless, oil prices today hit their highest level since 2014.

Take a look at that. That's where they stand right now. Prices were already on the way up before that attack and some analysts predict they could go so

much higher. CNN's Matt Egan is following these ups and downs in the oil market.

It's mostly ups these days, Matt.

He's with us now from New York to break it all down for us.

Let's talk about this seven-year high of oil prices and where we go from here.

Do analysts think demand for oil is going to increase but supply might remain tight for the foreseeable future?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: Yes, Larry, there is growing confidence on the demand side as this pandemic drags on. People are

consuming more energy. It hasn't been a straight line. There have been ups and downs, of course, with Omicron. But demand is continuing to improve.

It's supply where there's more questions. You know, we know that OPEC and its allies have been reluctant to really ramp up oil production. There's

even doubts about how much firepower some OPEC nations have to add more supply.

Then you throw in these geopolitical concerns. This attack on the UAE by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, this is certainly getting attention in recent

days. The analysts say that the actual damage to the oil facilities, the impact to supply, may not be that significant.

But just the fact that they're -- this attack happened is drawing attention to all of these geopolitical concerns, all these tensions in the Middle

East and raising worries that supply could be threatened going forward.

And then there's the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, one analyst telling me that, if Russia goes ahead and invades Ukraine, then all bets

are off in terms of energy prices.

Now you put all this together and that's why prices are up. You see there, U.S. crude topping $85 a barrel for the first time since October, making an

enormous recovery from the negative prices back in April 2020; Brent crude above $88 a barrel for the first time since 2014.

There is some debate over how long this is going to last. Some experts expect prices are going to cool off as supply catches up with demand.

Others think this is just the beginning. We know inflation is a huge problem around the world, especially in the United States. These higher

energy prices are only going to add pressure to inflation.

MADOWO: Let's talk about those others who think otherwise. Goldman Sachs analysts expecting Brent oil prices could go past $100 a barrel.

Why is that?

EGAN: They're pointing to robust demands. They say there's a surprisingly large deficit between supply and demand. They also talked about some

diminished firepower from OPEC and its allies.


EGAN: Goldman Sachs sees oil inventories in advanced economies falling to the lowest level since 2000. They expect that to happen by this summer.

That's why they're calling for Brent to hit $100 a barrel by the third quarter. That is up from its previous call of just $80 a barrel. They see

Brent hitting $105 next year.

As you can see, prices at the pump in the United States have been edging higher. They're up more than a dollar from a year ago, up by a penny from

last week. And this call from Goldman Sachs, if it bears out, would only raise gas prices higher.

What's interesting is that Goldman is not saying the world is running out of oil; they say there's a lot of oil, specifically shale oil, in the

United States. But they're saying it's just going take a higher price to incentivize drilling to get that oil out of the ground.

And they're saying that's because investors are very reluctant to sink money into fossil fuels right now during the energy transition. This is all

showing how this transition away from fossil fuels is not going to be easy.

MADOWO: It's complicated but I guess lots of people think it should be done. Matt Egan, thank you.

Just ahead, Boris Johnson has something to say to one of his fiercest critics, who claims the British prime minister lied to Parliament.

And North Korea sending a message to the world with its latest launch.

What's behind the current flurry of activity?

We'll tell you.




MADOWO: Welcome back. I'm Larry Madowo and you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Boris Johnson says nobody warned him that a Downing Street drinks event was against COVID lockdown rules. The British prime minister is responding

after his former top aide says the PM lied to Parliament about the lockdown party in May of last year.

Dominic Cummings said he would quote, "swear under oath if necessary." Cummings himself is no stranger to controversy regarding COVID and critics

say he has a vendetta against the prime minister. A short time ago on CNN, the leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats spoke out on the scandal and told

us why he thinks Johnson should resign.


ED DAVEY, LEADER, BRITISH LIBERAL DEMOCRATS: There cannot be a situation where there's one rule for the leaders, the people at the very top, and

another rule for the rest of us.



MADOWO: Salma Abdelaziz is in London for us.

Salma, Dominic Cummings has an ax to grind, those who don't like him say.

But the situation is still looking increasingly bleak for Johnson, right?

Are his apologies reassuring or even convincing to the British public?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think "convincing" is the key question, right. Here, the allegation is not just that prime minister

Johnson is lying to the country but he's lying badly. He's taking us for fools.

Let's break down the May 20th incident of 2020, the one that Dominic Cummings, his former top aide, says that the prime minister not only knew

it broke COVID-19 rules but woefully ignored advice from his staff to cancel it.

Cummings saying he's willing to go and testify to this along with other eyewitnesses because he is that certain. But this incident is in question

because it is the one and only incident in a string of allegations stretching over the course of two years of multiple parties at Downing


This is the one and only incident that Johnson has admitted to being in attendance with a caveat. He said he believes it was a work event except

there was an email sent out to over 100 staffers, inviting them to come to this event and to bring their own booze, exclamation point. The prime

minister says he had no knowledge of this.



BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: (INAUDIBLE) categorically that nobody told me and nobody said that this was something that was against the rules,

it was a breach of the COVID rules, that we were doing something that wasn't a work event because, frankly, I don't think, I can't imagine why on

Earth it would have gone ahead or why it would have been allowed to go ahead.


ABDELAZIZ: Now this is not the only incident that's being looked at. There's an investigation underway into allegations of partying, that

stretched from the first lockdown in 2020, all the way into the spring of last year. I'm talking about bring your own booze parties, Christmas

parties, garden parties.

The list goes on and on. Frankly, there's a pattern of behavior that's emerging here. It appears to show a government that was woefully, brazenly

breaking COVID rules, an administration that simply doesn't respect the top office in the land.

And all of this might cost the prime minister his job.

MADOWO: The outrage, Salma, because a lot of people were not able to go to their parents' funerals, their families' gatherings because those are the

rules that leads to all this outrage at this time. Salma Abdelaziz in London, thank you.


MADOWO: We want to get you up to speed now on some of the stories that are on our radar.

Greece is now punishing unvaccinated people older than 60 with monthly fines. Those who are not vaccinated will pay about $114. Fines stop after

people receive their first vaccine dose but start up again if they don't get a second dose.

Beijing has confirmed at least two of its new COVID cases since Monday have been linked to the first known Omicron infection in the city. Beijing has

spotted a total of four locally transmitted cases so far. The neighborhoods where those four live have been put under lockdown.

Brazil's COVID vaccination drive for younger children is now in full gear. The campaign began over the weekend and now nearly all Brazilian state

capitals are vaccinating kids aged 5 to 11, despite objections from the president Jair Bolsonaro, who said he would not vaccinate his 11-year-old


In this global fight against COVID-19, many are wondering whether we're approaching what is called the endemic phase. An endemic disease is one

that has a constant presence within a population but doesn't have an unusually high occurrence.

America's best-known infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says it's still an open question. Listen to what he told the World Economic



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: When you talk about whether or not Omicron, because it's a highly transmissible but

apparently not as pathogenic, for example, as Delta, I would hope that that's the case.

But that would only be the case if we don't get another variant that eludes the immune response to the prior variant.


MADOWO: That's Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the President of the United States.

North Korea is ramping up its missile tests. It launched two what it calls tactical guided missiles on Monday. This was Pyongyang's fourth missile

test just this year, reminding the world, the country won't be ignored. Ivan Watson takes a look at the flurry of activity.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Patriotic declarations on North Korean state television, announcements of

fresh missile launches. North Korea has launched a salvo of six ballistic missiles in less than two weeks.


WATSON (voice-over): On January 5th, what Pyongyang calls a hypersonic missile, another on January 11th, two ballistic missiles fired from a train

on January 14th and two tactical guided missiles fired early Monday morning.

Weapons tests that appear to be part of a plan laid out by North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, more than a year ago.

DUYEON KIM, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Fundamentally, Kim Jong-un has basically ordered his people to make the type of weapons that he thinks

will make North Korea become a very advanced nuclear power.

WATSON: Weapons expert say some of this month's launches didn't break any new ground. But North Korea also fired this new hypersonic missile, which

it first revealed to the public last year. And the South Korean military confirmed it flew 10 times the speed of sound.


ballistic missile at the base when it launches. Then on the top, it has a maneuverable warhead, which means it can move in a way that's unexpected.

WATSON (voice-over): This type of missile poses a new potential threat to the U.S. and its allies in Asia.

HANHAM: They're able to launch a missile in one direction and essentially turn a corner, which makes it very difficult for radar systems and

interceptors to track it.

WATSON (voice-over): The latest missile launches, a reminder of the flurry of missile tests North Korea conducted back in 2017. They sparked a war of

words between Pyongyang and then president Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Rocket man should have been handled a long time ago.


WATSON (voice-over): Eventually, Trump and Kim staged three historic face- to-face meetings and a lot of letter writing.


JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: We've had what, you know, during the Trump administration, by my count, 27 letters exchanged between Kim

Jong-un and Donald Trump. Kim Jong-un wants that kind of attention.

WATSON (voice-over): Former U.S. diplomat Joseph Yun advises the Biden administration to try harder to engage with the North Korean regime.

YUN: Otherwise, we're going to return to the bad old days of 2017, which is really a crisis atmosphere.


WATSON (voice-over): So far, Pyongyang has rejected multiple U.S. requests for talks. In the meantime, the Biden administration imposed sanctions for

the first time last week in response to North Korean missile launches, targeting North Korean and Russian nationals as well as a Russian company

accused of helping Pyongyang's weapons program.

North Korea accused Washington of gangster-like logic and launched two missiles the very same day. Clearly, the North Korea government does not

want to be ignored -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.