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Russia's War On Ukraine; Germany To Send IRIS-T Air Defense System To Ukraine; Lockdown Loosened In Shanghai; Italian Activists Against Foggia Mafia; Russian Foreign Minister Meets Gulf Counterparts; Uvalde Funerals; All Of NATO Committed To Ukraine. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired June 01, 2022 - 10:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It only takes a few moments to give an appreciation of how tough it is out here. They've been coming across number fire, gunfire,

missiles. You can see just how intense it is here. They can kidnap, they can kill, they can torture. But we can't give support. Our citizens don't

want to live in Russia. I know it. Melitopol belongs to Ukraine.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST (voice-over): Displays of defiance in Russian occupied areas of Ukraine.



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a T-72 Russian tank, absolutely devastated, of course, by some kind of antitank


ANDERSON (voice-over): Ukrainians get to see and even touch Russian weapons terrorizing them.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to win because Ukraine is a country of freedom. Ukraine is not going to -- is never going to give up.

ANDERSON (voice-over): This is more than a football game for Ukraine, hoping to show the world it will not go down without a fight.



ANDERSON: Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD, out of London this week, where the time is 2 pm. I'm Becky Anderson.

"The U.S. adding fuel to the fire," a direct quote from the Kremlin spokesperson today after U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to send

advanced rocket systems to Ukraine. A lot more on that in a few minutes.

We start this hour with Russia moving closer to capturing a key Ukrainian city in the Donbas. Ukraine's military chief in the Luhansk region says

Russian forces now control 70 percent of Sievierodonetsk. They've consolidated the city center there.

Video geolocated by CNN shows Russian troops patrolling near that city center. Winning total control of Sievierodonetsk can clear a path for

Russia to recapture the rest of Luhansk, which is in the eastern Donbas.

It would also serve as a symbolic victory for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Luhansk military chief warning up to 15,000 residents who remain

in the city to stay in shelters after what he says is a Russian strike on a nitric acid tank at a chemical plant.

Russian-backed separatists accused Ukrainian forces of attacking that. Melissa Bell connecting us today from Zaporizhzhya in southeastern Ukraine.

This regional governor suggesting some Ukrainian troops have retreated from Sievierodonetsk. Give us an assessment, if you can, of what we understand

is happening.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The communications are getting quite bad here. Here in Zaporizhzhya, what we've seen is a number of those southern

regions now in Russian control with communications cut off.

But to your question about what's happening all along now, this line that divides Russian controlled Ukraine from the part of Ukraine and I'm

standing in here in Zaporizhzhya, we've seen those Russian advances taking much of the town of Sievierodonetsk.

Of course, we understand that's a town that is now falling. One of the important things to remember is when you look at the other end of that line

that I mentioned, to the south of where I'm standing, it is the town of Kherson that is the focus of Ukraine's counteroffensive.

There, it is the westernmost points of those parts of the country now in Russian control. That is why Ukrainian forces are focusing their manpower,

their firepower, down on that part of Kherson.

I realize communications have been cut for the time being. Here, in the town of Zaporizhzhya, we are 60 kilometers or so from where the shelling

has been happening overnight.

The communications have been patchy over the course of the last few days. We just spoke to an official here about the fact that it is three out of

five districts in the greater Zaporizhzhya region, 3 of 5 in which are in Russian control hands, where the communications have been entirely cut off.

That's what's making it very hard for the regional center to coordinate any of its kind of activity over in those parts of the city and the region that

it can no longer speak to.


ANDERSON: I know you have a story today of Ukrainian resistance. Just explain.

I'm not sure that Melissa can hear us.


BELL: -- around Kherson beyond the fight that continues on the part of Ukrainian forces for the town of Sievierodonetsk to the north of that line

that I mentioned. There is, of course, that important part of the story, which is the resistance that is coming from inside those Russian controlled

parts of Ukraine.


BELL (voice-over): An explosion in the Southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, blamed by Moscow on Ukrainian resisters.


BELL (voice-over): And on Sunday, "Melitopol is Ukraine," chanted in the heart of a town that's been in Russian hands for nearly three months.

Yellow ribbons more defiantly displayed than elsewhere in Russian-held Southern Ukraine.


BELL (voice-over): From Crimea to Kherson, symbols of silent resistance.


BELL (voice-over): But Melitopol's noisily resisted from the start. After the early chants of its people was silenced and when the town's mayor was

kidnapped by Russian forces in early March, some locals turned to armed resistance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very dangerous situation.

BELL (voice-over): Now in Ukrainian government-held Zaporizhzhya, Ivan Fedorov says Melitopol will never give up.

IVAN FEDEROV, EXILED MELITOPOL MAYOR: They can kidnap. They can kill. They can make some tortures. But we can't give (ph) support. Because our

citizens don't want to live in Russia. I know it. Melitopol will return to Ukraine.

BELL (voice-over): Melitopol fell quickly. And even as Russian forces pulled back to the South and East of the country, remained on the wrong

side of a line that has hardened.

MYKOLA KRASNY, UKRAINIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE (through translator): Russia is using hybrid methods of occupation. That means the Russian

federation is trying to identify and destroy centers of resistance; Ukrainian partisans. Such people are offered uncovered and will sometimes

disappear in Russian prisons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Idea of the yellow ribbon was --

BELL (voice-over): Which is why the yellow ribbon movement has become key, according to its spokesman in Kyiv.

He tells me, "The ribbons allow people to pass on the message that Ukraine is present here, that there is no other South than under the Ukrainian


BELL: Here in Zaporizhzhya, there's also a sense that that line between Russian-controlled Ukraine and the rest of the country is hardening, even

as it continues to move forward. We can hear, here, the regular sound of outgoing artillery fire. But we can also see an emerging refugee crisis.

Hundreds of families, living in their cars as they try to get back to their homes. Now in Russian-controlled cities.


BELL: Those images you just saw, some of those Ukrainians who find themselves here in Zaporizhzhya and the frustration in that camp now, of

internally displaced people, was really tangible, a lot of anger there. They feel they've not been allowed to get back to those Russian controlled


We've been speaking to officials earlier this morning and they say look, part of the problem in setting up the proper camps that we need to help

these people with the humanitarian aid they need is that the communications that I mentioned a moment ago that have been cut off between what is a

regional center here and the parts of the greater Zaporizhzhya than they no longer have communication with is making it very hard for them.

ANDERSON: Melissa, on the ground in Southeastern Ukraine, thank you.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukrainians are losing up to 100 soldiers a day in this war. Russia also suffering losses both of manpower and

equipment. Some of the hardware is now part of what is a unique display. CNN's Matthew Chance is in Kyiv.


CHANCE: Well, this looks like the aftermath of a ferocious battle. But it's in fact, an exhibition that's been assembled here in the center of the

Ukrainian capital, using real Russian military hardware that has been destroyed on the outskirts of the city.

Obviously, this is a -- it's a T-72. Russian tank, absolutely devastated, of course, by some kind of anti- tank weapon.

We walk across here, some missiles on the floor, the casings have been put on a show, an anti-aircraft gun here with its -- with its turret that

people can come and look at it.


CHANCE: It's all here for the benefit of the people of Kyiv to show them the weaponry that has been essentially threatening their lives over the

course of the fourth -- of the last four months.

I spoke to one visitor here and you can see there are lots of people here taking photographs, showing their children you know what the Russians have

been throwing at them over the course of the past several months.

One guy told me he said, look, it's the first time we've actually seen this stuff up close. Because even though it's been very, you know, on average

television screens, not everybody has had the chance to come this close to this kind of Russian armor.

And he said it's important because seeing this Russian weaponry destroyed in this way, makes us believe that we can win. I thought that was a really

poignant remark by just one of the visitors we spoke to here, looking at this destroyed armor in the center of the Ukrainian capital -- Matthew

Chance, CNN in Kyiv.


ANDERSON: While we are talking military hardware, a closer look for you now at the more powerful weaponry the U.S. is sending to Ukraine.

In "The New York Times" op-ed, Mr. Biden announced, "We will provide Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable

them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine."

These new weapons can launch rockets about 80 kilometers. While that is less that the maximum range of the system, it's far more powerful than

anything Ukraine has in its arsenal to date.

Mr. Biden says the goal is not to encourage or enable Ukraine to strike beyond its borders and prolong the war. He also writes that the U.S. will

continue working with allies like the E.U. on more sanctions. But Ukraine's president had harsh words for the European Union's delay in imposing more

sanctions. Have a listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have agreed on the necessity to increase sanctions. It's more than 50 days since

the fifth package of sanctions. This is unacceptable for us.


ANDERSON: Right, let's get you Col. Cedric Leighton from Washington for a military perspective on all of this.

That is what is important here. President Zelenskyy has been calling now for some time for this more powerful weaponry. Explain to me the nature of

what the U.S. is now prepared to send and what that means.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: So Becky, it's good to be with you.

The basic idea behind these systems is that they are designed to provide a much longer range capability than what the Ukrainians have.

What does that mean?

That means they're going to be able to target Russian artillery batteries directly. The Russians have the advantage in that their systems are longer

range systems. They can range anywhere from 60-100 kilometers; in some cases, even greater than that.

The Ukrainians will be able to, with the HIMARS system and systems that are similar to that, is they will be able to target the batteries themselves.

So if the Russians have a battery that is 40 or 50 kilometers away, that will then be able to be struck by the Ukrainians. They can do so directly

with the help of radars and ranging systems that they have on board the HIMARS system.

ANDERSON: Germany also promising more weapons to Ukraine. This is Chancellor Scholz.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): In the coming weeks, we will supply further weapons. For example, the German government has

recently decided that we will supply the IRIS-T system, the most modern air defense system that Germany has. This will enable Ukraine to protect an

entire city from Russian air attacks.


ANDERSON: Feels like a 180 by the Germans, shifting their position on military aid completely, correct?

LEIGHTON: Yes. It's very interesting. The chancellor's remarks and the idea of supplying this IRIS system, which he points out is something that

could potentially protect an entire Ukrainian city, that gives Ukrainians a tremendous defensive capability.

In that sense, it's in line with some of the other pronouncements that the chancellor and other members of the German government have made.

Now on the other hand, the Germans have gotten themselves into a bit of a quandary. They don't want to prolong the war. But they also want to defend

Ukraine. They want to make sure they can provide the types of weaponry that have been criticized not only by President Zelenskyy but also by members of

the German opposition for not delivering weapons in a quick and timely matter.


LEIGHTON: This is something I think that the German government is responding to. They're providing the kinds of weapons that will provide the

Ukrainians with a good capability to target Russian air (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: OK, they can use it in the very short term.

Is this stuff basically delivered and in use within days?

At this point, we are more than three months in. It is not like the West didn't expect the Russians to be heavily focused on the region that they

are now slowly but surely securing. I know there is more effort on Kyiv into the West. It's been some time now that they have signposted what they

are doing.

Is this new (INAUDIBLE) promises of weapons sufficient?

And will the Ukrainians get them quickly enough for them to be effective in this conflict?

LEIGHTON: This is something that is my greatest concern. The IRIS system won't be delivered for several months, even if it is approved by the German

Bundestag. That is a great concern.

The other thing is, from the U.S., the weapons systems are getting there quicker. But it's still taking a long time. They won't really be able to

affect the outcome in the Donbas at least in the short term.

This is something that is very difficult for the Ukrainians to sustain this level of fighting without these kinds of weapons coming in as quickly as

possible. There's a lot that has been done. But there's much more that needs to be done if the West continues to be serious about defending


ANDERSON: It's a pleasure, sir, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Still ahead, winning and losing should be clear-cut.

What if you want both sides to win?

We'll be live in Glasgow looking for answers.

And paying the price for saying no, taking a stand against organized crime in Italy.




ANDERSON: Welcome back.

Shanghai, China, slowly coming back to life. The government there finally loosening COVID-19 restrictions that had residents imprisoned in their

homes for over two months. People are talking about the joy and relief and the noise of the streets but there is also bitterness and anger over having

been put through the world's strictest lockdown.

CNN's Selina Wang has the story for you.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sprinting with shopping bags, residents racing to get out. After more than two months of a brutal,

citywide lockdown, Shanghai is finally cracking open the seal.


WANG (voice-over): The city's main train station, packed with people trying to escape.

But actually getting out of here is a treacherous journey. The city says it will fully resume transportation today but earlier, people have been seen

trekking miles across highways, dragging their luggage or strapping it to bikes, even journeys of dozens of miles or more, not swaying their


The train station parking lot has become a campsite, some leaving days earlier than their departure time, terrified they could be locked down

again if they stay at home. The masses outside the train station, a stark contrast to the rest of Shanghai, hundreds of thousands still remained

locked in but even the lucky ones allowed out face a laundry list of restrictions. There are check points everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is definitely not freedom.

WANG: This Shanghai resident and her son who wish to remain anonymous for fear of persecution from authorities were finally allowed out after more

than 80 days. Her only solace is seeing her son outside and smiling for the first time in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My child now has depression because of the lockdown. He started waking up at night and crying and shouting and saying there were

people wearing masks in his bedroom and he stopped eating.

WANG: That harsh reality, miles away from what the government wants to show. Watch this state T.V. reporter pull the microphone and camera away

during a live interview, when the resident starts to complain about the lockdown. She says I've never lived through anything like this, being

locked inside your home and not allowed to go out, what a big joke.

Officials say the city will start returning to normal in June but residents are doubtful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this does feel like endless, endless nightmare.

WANG: Her freedom lasted less than a week, one COVID case found near her so she's back to lockdown. For over two months, Shanghai had its freedom

taken away, residents imprisoned at home or forced into quarantine centers like these. No one knows when this nightmare will fully end -- Selina Wang,

CNN, Beijing.


ANDERSON: Let's get you up to speed on some of the other stories on our radar right now.

And 11 people are dead and 21 people are missing after hurricane Agatha hit southern Mexico. Residents are being urged to remain vigilant as heavy rain

continues to inundate the area.

Only remnants of the storm left but they could potentially trigger a new tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico. In northeastern Brazil,

officials say flooding and landslides triggered by torrential rain have now killed more than 100 people.

Rescue teams are still finding victims after floodwaters tore through neighborhood. Less than a dozen are reported missing and over 6,000 have

been displaced.

The U.K. has announced the date for the first flight to Rwanda, after people arrived in Britain illegally. It's scheduled for June 14th. This is

a controversial plan, saying some people seeking asylum in the U.K. will be relocated to the East African country for their cases to be processed.

The scheme is being criticized, not least by the archbishop of Canterbury.

Imagine your home in a place where saying no could cost you your life. Residents and activists in a southern Italian province are doing exactly

that, saying no and taking a stand against organized crime after police say the local mafia attacked nearly a dozen businesses earlier this year. CNN's

Ben Wedeman brings us the story.



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "I've always stayed away from here because it makes me bitter," businessman Lazaro Dauria (ph)

tells me.

Two years ago, three of his trucks and other equipment were torched after he said no to mafia bosses here in the southern Italian province of Foggia,

who demanded more than $200,000 a year in pizzo, slang for protection money.

Dauria now has around the clock police protection. He says paying pizzo is still the rule in Foggia. But change is afoot.

The population is beginning to understand that they shouldn't pay, says Dauria. The mafia, however, is fighting back. Police suspect the mafia was

behind 11 arson and bomb attacks in January on businesses, including Anna Apile's (ph) flower stand outside the main cemetery in the provincial

capital also called Foggia.

She and her sons have since repaired the damage.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): "No one ever asked us to pay anything," Anna insists. The Foggia mafia is really a collection of often warring crime

families living off extortion, drugs and arms smuggling.

One of the characteristics of the Foggia mafia is its extreme violence, says police chief, Paulo Cirna (ph). There have been eight mafia wars in

the city of Foggia.

In recent years, the authorities have woken up to the growing threat of organized crime in this relatively poor underdeveloped part of the country.

Yet their efforts are often stymied by omerta, the southern Italian law of silence.

Fear and family loyalty ensure many residents see nothing and say nothing, when the authorities come calling.

In Foggia's main outdoor market, our questions about the mafia are dismissed.

No, we don't know about those things, she tells me. There is no mafia, says this man.

But cracks are starting to show in the wall of silence, thanks to a brave few. Daniela Marconi is the leader of Libra, an anti mafia group. Her

father was shot at point blank range 26 years ago, an official with the finance ministry. He was investigating dubious business activities. His

killer has never been found.

The more active she has become, the more ominous the threats against her.

I received anonymous letters, Marconi says, some really nasty in which the tone was always, mind your own business, change cities, go live somewhere


Some mafia bosses have been put behind bars, but that might not be enough, warns Foggia's chief magistrate Ludovico Vaccaro.

"Unfortunately, prison is very porous," he tells me. There's a lot of osmosis between inside and outside. Prison doesn't insure an interruption

of criminal activity.

Someone shot a bullet through the window of one of Alessandro Zito's businesses, after he refused to pay pizzo. He left Foggia with his family,

fearing for their lives.

On this day, he's back in town a member of a newly-grouped of businessman, who have had enough of extortion.

"Civil society is changing," he says because people are tired, because the situation is no longer livable.

In the evening, we join the police on patrol. After January's spate of attacks, checkpoints have become a frequent sight. The fight against the

mafia here has only just begun -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Foggia, southern Italy.


ANDERSON: The U.S. hoping to give Ukraine a boost on the battlefield. More about that as America's top diplomat meets with the head of NATO.

And a difficult match for Scotland's national team, a must-win situation. But sympathy may not be on their side when they face Ukraine tonight in






ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in London. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. More on the fighting in Eastern Ukraine, where local officials say they've

managed to fend off several Russian attacks. The Donbas region seeing more shelling; in some cases it's going on around the clock. Russia is

consolidating these gains in the key city of Sievierodonetsk, which it now mostly controls.

The chemical explosion adding to tensions there. Military officials on both sides of the conflict blaming each other for that blast. Shelling also

reported in several areas outside of the Donbas.

As Russia pounds Eastern Ukraine, U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg are talking up the matter in Washington.

They are expected to come out and speak shortly. Their meeting comes as the U.S. prepares to send more advanced rocket systems to Ukraine.

NATO member Germany says it's also working on a weapons deal for the Ukrainian. CNN's Alex Marquardt is following today's developments in


Joe Biden has announced that he will be sending more arms to Ukraine. Germany's chancellor doing the same. We spoke to Col. Cedric Leighton about

what these promises entail.

What will Blinken and Stoltenberg be discussing in the light of what we know about what Ukrainians should expect from both Germany and the U.S.?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You're right. The question about weaponry is going to be front and center in these


Secretary general Stoltenberg is here in Washington, D.C., for several days to meet with counterparts across the Biden administration, Including

Secretary Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Of course, their conversations could run across several different subjects. But Ukraine will, of course, be top of mind, showing that the NATO unity

stands, in the words of President Biden in that op-ed last night, is stronger than ever as the war in Ukraine grinds on.

But the U.S., in these past few days, has made a decision to significantly escalate the type of weaponry that they are sending to Ukraine. That is

going to be, likely, a reflection of where they think this fight stands.

This fight in the eastern part of Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces are holding on, as you just noted, the Russian forces are consolidating their

positions. They are pushing westward, deeper into the Donbas region. Therefore, Ukraine does need, they've been pleading for advanced rocket


And now the Biden administration is agreeing to give to Ukraine but with a rather large caveat, essentially saying we will give you the systems but

without the longest range weapons, given the Ukrainian munitions that can reach around 80 kilometers.

So enough to target Russian positions in the eastern parts of the country but not reach so far as to go inside Russia.

Becky, another major topic of conversation between these two gentlemen will be the question of the food crisis and how to get more than 22 million tons

of food products, including grain and corn, out of Ukraine to essentially feed much of the rest of the world.

So lots to discuss in this fight that is really going, as they will likely acknowledge, going to grind on for quite some time.

ANDERSON: I can member when it was, you were on the ground. But it seems some time ago. It must seem a lot longer for Ukrainians who are living

through this. We are now three months and a couple of weeks into what is described as a grinding war.

Thank you.

A day after visiting Bahrain, Russia's foreign minister traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet his Gulf counterparts ahead of the OPEC+ meeting.


ANDERSON: Sergey Lavrov's visit also coming a day after the E.U.'s decision to ban most Russian oil imports and amid reports some oil

producers are exploring the idea of suspending Russia from the OPEC+ production deal.

It is not clear how other OPEC+ nations would respond to that or even who these members are at this point.


ANDERSON: Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, the shifting explanations coming out of Texas on last week's devastating school shooting there. What

the school police chief is saying now about his role in the investigation.





ANDERSON: The investigation into what happened in a terrible school shooting in Uvalde in Texas continues to produce a shifting narrative with

new questions about how it was handled by authorities.

Investigators have now saying that the back door to the school were not left propped open. It was closed by a teacher. They didn't lock it. The

Uvalde school police chief under intense scrutiny. He's now responding to reports that he has stopped cooperating with the investigation.

He tells CNN he is in touch with state investigators every day. CNN's Nick Valencia is on the scene there.

What is the latest in what is now a well and closely watched investigation?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There is a void of answers and it seems that every single day we wake up to new details that is just

muddling what happened here.

A new damaging detail about what happened in the investigation and how it's being handled, how it was handled initially at the scene. We've been

waiting to hear from Pete Arredondo, who is the head of the police school district.

He is reportedly the individual who kept law enforcement officials that were inside the school from going into the classroom where the gunman was

barricaded. In a CNN exclusive, our correspondent Shimon Prokupecz confronted Pete Arredondo outside the school district.



anything. We have people in our community here. We've got to be respectful.



ARREDONDO: We're going to be --


PROKUPECZ: -- responsible for the decision --

ARREDONDO: Right. We're going to be --


ARREDONDO: -- respectful to the family.

PROKUPECZ: I understand that --


PROKUPECZ: -- an opportunity --


PROKUPECZ: -- to the parents.

ARREDONDO: And just you know, we're going to do that eventually, obviously. And whenever this is done, the families are done grieving, we'll

do that obviously. And just so --


ARREDONDO: -- just so everybody knows, we've been in contact with (INAUDIBLE) every day, just so you all know.

PROKUPECZ: They said that you're not cooperating.

ARREDONDO: I've been on the phone with them every day.


VALENCIA: And for those families who are hoping to get answers from Arredondo, they're not going to get them at least today.

Meanwhile, the grief will be on full display, at least two funerals will be held, one for Irma Garcia, 48 years old, the beloved teacher here who

taught for 23 years and died protecting her students.

Her husband, who died just two days after she was shot and killed, her family says they believe he died from a broken heart. He will also be laid

to rest at that funeral.

Then there's a funeral for Jose Flores Jr., whose father was hopeful in the initial minutes and hours after the shooting happened at Robb Elementary

School, only go to the hospital and he says he was led into a room with a chaplain.

And at that point he realized that his son had been killed.

The grief is on full display, as I mentioned. It could be seen in nearly every face that you see here. This memorial behind me has grown by the day,

with people from throughout community, coming here to pay their respects, really with this thousand-yard stare. It is difficult to watch.


ANDERSON: Nick, thank you.

Folks, I want to get you to Washington. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is meeting with top U.S. officials. He -- and U.S. secretary of

state Antony Blinken is speaking now, let's listen in.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: -- and NATO. I join people across Europe and, indeed, around the world, being grateful to the secretary

general for his strong and steady leadership during such a consequential period for the alliance and for the world.

And we're very, very glad that he's extending his tenure through next fall.

Today's meeting was an opportunity for us to touch base on the upcoming NATO summit, which will take place in Madrid, as you know, in just a few

weeks' time. There, the alliance will adopt a new strategic concept, the first one since 2010, to make sure that we're ready to meet the challenges

of today and the challenges that we anticipate for tomorrow.

That includes everything from malicious activity occurring in cyberspace, People's Republic of China's rapid militarization, its no-limits friendship

with Russia and efforts to weaken the rules-based international order that is the foundation for peace and security around the world.

And of course the security implications of climate change, which are profound. We'll strengthen our relationships with the European Union and

with partners of the Indo Pacific. We will bolster NATO's budget and we will renew our alliances of defense and deterrence capabilities.

Of course, the treat (ph) concept will reflect what we are now dealing with and that is a new security landscape in Europe and President Putin's

decision to launch a senseless war of aggression on Ukraine, now in its fourth month.

The people of Ukraine continue to fight with extraordinary courage and skill and with military, humanitarian and financial support from the United

States and countries around the world, including virtually all of the members of NATO.

Just this morning, President Biden announced a significant new security assistance package to arm Ukraine with additional capabilities and advanced

weaponry, precisely what they need to defend themselves against the ongoing Russian aggression.

That includes more advanced rocket systems so that they can strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine from longer distances. This is a

continuation of a strategy that began even before Russia's invasion.

We moved quickly to send Ukraine significant amounts of weapons and ammunition so that they can repel Russia's aggression and, in turn, can be

in the strongest possible position at any negotiating table that they merge (ph).

This isn't only the commitment of the United States; as I said, all NATO allies remain engaged, aligned, committed to ensuring that Ukraine can

protect its sovereignty, its democracy, its independence.

Our countries, along with other partners, imposed severe consequences on the Russian government and its enablers with unprecedented sanctions,

export controls and diplomatic pressure.

Together, we responded to the humanitarian crisis provoked by Russia's war of aggression. More than 6 million Ukrainians forced to leave their

homeland, many others displaced within Ukraine. Countries across Europe and beyond, including the U.S., have welcomed Ukrainians fleeing the violence

and countries worldwide are helping provide essential services to communities close to Ukraine that have taken on the most refugees.

President Putin hoped that his war on Ukraine would divide NATO. Instead, he's united NATO in support of Ukraine and in defense of its own members.

He's brought countries around the world together to support the fundamental principles of sovereignty and independence.

They see what's happening in Ukraine as a direct result -- excuse me -- as a direct assault on the foundation of their own peace and security. That is

why we will continue to stand with a democratic, independent, sovereign Ukraine until this terrible war is over and, for that matter, long after.

NATO will be prepared to face challenges like these with secure cyber defenses, cutting-edge technology and enhanced partnerships with countries

around the world. We'll make sure that we defend every inch of NATO territory.

The allies have reinforced by collective defense posture since the war began. We've deployed more than 20,000 additional troops to NATO's eastern

flank. Many allies are also increasing their military presence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe.

Last month Finland and Sweden, two long-standing partners in NATO, made the decision to seek NATO membership.

As President Biden has said, this decision was a victory for democracy. Finland and Sweden are seeking to join NATO, not because their leaders

forced it but because their citizens demanded it.

Any one who wonders the difference between a democracy and authoritarian state like Russia need only look at Russia, Finland and Sweden.


BLINKEN: One would lie to its people to wage war; two would listen to their people to prevent war.

The U.S. strongly supports Finland and Sweden's applications. Both countries are more than qualified to become full members of the alliance as

soon as possible.

By joining NATO, they will strengthen NATO. We look forward to quickly bringing them into the strongest defensive alliance in history. While

Finland and Sweden's applications for NATO membership are being considered, the U.S. will continue our close partnership with both countries.

We will remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, we will deter and, as necessary, confront aggression or the threat of aggression.

Jens, thank you again for making this visit to Washington at an important moment as you prepare for the summit. Very much looking forward to seeing

you next time in a few weeks in Madrid. And to even stronger and more resilient NATO that our summit will help to shape. Thank you and welcome.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Thank you so much Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, it's great to see you again. And thank you for your

strong personal engagement for our transatlantic bond at this pivotal time for our security.

And this is very much reflected in your frequent visits to Brussels. You are welcome back there again but now I really appreciate this opportunity

to meet with you here in Washington.

The United States is playing an indispensable role in our response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Let me commend the United States for your

very significant support to Ukraine, which is making a difference on the battlefield every day.

I also welcome the latest package of military assistance announced by President Biden this morning. This is a demonstration of real U.S.


The strong support provided by NATO and allies helps ensure that President Putin's brutal aggression is not rewarded and that Ukraine prevails.

At the same time, we must prevent the conflict from escalating. So we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance.

To remove any room for miscalculation in Moscow about NATO's readiness and determination to defend and protect all NATO allies.

And let me thank the United States for increasing your military presence across Europe with over 100,000 troops, backed by significant air and naval


European allies and Canada are also stepping up with more troops, higher readiness and increased defense spending. For the seventh consecutive year,

defense spending has increased. And more and more allies are meeting our guideline of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.

President Putin wanted less NATO. He is getting more NATO, more troops and more NATO members. The decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO

membership are historic. And they will strengthen our alliance.

We have to address the security concerns of all allies. And I am confident that we will find a united way forward.

To this end, I am in close contact with President Erdogan of Turkey and with the leaders of Finland and Sweden. And I will convene senior officials

from all three countries in Brussels in the coming days.

Today, we also discussed the important decisions we will take at the NATO summit in Madrid later this month. We will agree on NATO's next strategic

concept, strengthen our deterrence and defense and prepare for an age of increased strategic competition with authoritarian powers like Russia and


This includes working even more closely with our partners in the Asia Pacific and other like-minded partners around the world. We will also

review progress on burden sharing.

We must continue to invest in our defense and to invest in NATO because only North America and Europe, working together in a strong NATO, can keep

our 1 billion people safe in a more dangerous world.

So Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, once again thank you so much.

NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We will now turn to questions.


PRICE: We'll start with "The Wall Street Journal."

QUESTION: Welcome back, sir. Two questions for you.

With regard to the long range weapons, what can be done or is being done to minimize escalations with Russia?

Do you believe that there is an understanding in Moscow about the nuance that the U.S. is trying to achieve with regard to the weapons it does

choose to send to Ukraine?

Unrelated on President Erdogan's latest threats, are you concerned that Turkey is increasingly making a destructive ally and how can be addressed?

How does NATO as an organization work to prevent the cooperation from going south at Ukraine's expense?

And more specifically, how does Ukraine win, which seems to be a key point in this disagreement?

Thank you.

Secretary General, two questions for you as well.

Cracks are appearing in the Western front against Moscow despite the both of you stating that the alliance is very strong and we're seeing that there

is some disagreement over shipping more powerful weapons to Ukraine.

How does NATO, as an organization, work to prevent the cooperation from going south at Ukraine's expense?

More specifically, how does Ukraine win, which seems to be a key point in this disagreement?

Thank you.

BLINKEN: I'm happy to start.

First, in response to the question about escalation --


BLINKEN: -- let's start with this. It's Russia that is attacking Ukraine, not the other way around. And simply put, the best way to avoid escalation

is for Russia to stop the aggression and the war that it started. It's fully within its power to do so.

Specifically with regard to weapons systems being provided, the Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against

targets on Russian territory. There's a strong trust bond between Ukraine and United States, as well as with our allies and partners.

I'd also say that, throughout this aggression, indeed, even before, President Biden was very clear with President Putin about what the United

States would do if Russia proceeded with this aggression, including continuing to provide security systems that Ukraine needs to defend itself

against the Russian aggression.

There was no hiding the ball. We've been extremely clear about this from day one, with President Biden communicating that directly to President

Putin. So we have done exactly what we said we would do.

And it is Russia, again, that chose to launch this aggression, despite all of our efforts to prevent that with intense diplomacy over many months.

Again they started the conflict. They can end it at any time. And we will avoid any concerns about miscalculations or escalations.

With regard to the other theater that you referenced, any escalation there in Northern Syria is something that we would oppose and we support the

maintenance of the currencies for our alliance (ph). But the concern that we have is that any new offensive would undermine regional stability, such

as it is, provide the line actors with opportunities to exploit this instability for their own purpose.

We continue effectively to take the fight through partners to daish, ISIS within Syria. And we don't want to see anything that jeopardizes the

efforts that are made to continue to keep ISIS in the box that we put them in.

And let me just also, if I could, before I turn it over to Jens, I do want to say one thing about the question you addressed to the secretary general.

Here again, at every stage of this Russian aggression, before the aggression, when it started and in the months since, at virtually every

stage we've heard doubts expressed about what the alliance would do, what countries would do in terms of support for Ukraine and whether that was

actually going to happen.

We demonstrated that it would and that it has. Concerns and doubts about whether we could really deliver on what we said we would do, massive

consequences for Russia's aggression with unprecedented sanctions.

Well, we delivered on that. And I would suggest that there are always going to be stories about differences in any particular moment. But when it comes

to the strategic direction that we have taken together, as allies, as partners, both within Europe and beyond, this, at least to my experience,

has been unprecedented in its solidarity, in the common determination, both to support Ukraine with security assistance, economic assistance,

humanitarian assistance, to put extraordinarily pressure on Russia to cease its aggression and to shore up the defenses of our alliance.

And so again, I would invite you to go back and look at the questions that were raised starting last fall. They've been answered.