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Top U.S. Defense Officials Speak at Ukraine Defense Contact Group Meeting in Brussels; First Convoy Enters Syria from Newly Opened Route; Behind the Scenes at Vermeer Retrospective. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired February 14, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And we will keep working with our Ukrainian partners to ensure that all of the equipment that we're
providing continues to reach the brave troops on the front lines.
Now a year ago, Putin assumed that Ukraine was an easy target. Putin assumed that Kyiv would easily fall. And Putin assumed that the world would
stand by. But the Kremlin was wrong on every count.
Over the past year, Ukrainian soldiers have fought valiantly for their country. Ukraine's people have shown deep courage in the face of Russian
cruelty. And countries of goodwill have rallied to defend an open order of rules and rights.
Together we seek a world where disputes are resolved peacefully, where sovereignty is respected, where borders are honored and where civilians are
protected. Those are the values of this contact group.
We stand united in our support for Ukraine's fight for freedom. And we will stand together, united and resolute, for as long as it takes.
With that, let me turn it over to General Milley.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS: Thank you, Secretary Austin. And thank you for your leadership, leading this ninth successive
contact group. This is an incredible level of effort by many, many countries. And it wouldn't be happening without the leadership of Secretary
Good morning, everyone, and let me start by giving my condolences to the people of Turkiye and Syria with the tragic loss of life and suffering that
has occurred because of the recent earthquake.
Also suffering are the Ukrainian people. We are approaching the one-year anniversary of Russia's illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, the
sovereign nation of Ukraine. And I want to thank the ministers of defense and the chiefs of defense that are here today, representing 54 countries,
that continue to participate in this group.
The actions of those leaders over the last year have contributed substantially with real effect on the battlefield. They collectively have
demonstrated unwavering commitment to the defense of Ukraine.
And a special thank you to the Ukrainian minister of defense, Reznikov, and his deputy Chad Joimwaysiv (ph), who continue to display exceptional
And my friend, General Zaluzhnyi, who is on the battlefield every day, leading his country's defense.
Ten days from now is the one-year anniversary when Russia brutally, illegally and in a completely unprovoked way, invaded the sovereign nation
of Ukraine. As the secretary just pointed out, Putin thought he could defeat Ukraine quickly, fracture the NATO alliance and act with impunity.
He was wrong. Ukraine remains free. They remain independent. NATO and its coalition has never been stronger and Russia is now a global pariah. And
the world remains inspired by Ukrainian bravery and resilience.
In short, Russia has lost. They've lost strategically, operationally and tactically. And they are paying an enormous price on the battlefield. But
until Putin ends his war of choice, the international community will continue to support Ukraine with the equipment and capabilities it needs to
Through this group, we are collectively supporting Ukraine's ability to defend its territory, protect its citizens and liberate their occupied
areas. In the face of a barbaric Russian invasion, Ukrainians remain resilient.
The nation of Ukraine's united for one single purpose: to expel the Russian forces from their territory and to defend themselves. For Ukraine,
this is not a war of aggression, it is a war of defense.
For Russia, it is a war of aggression. The Russian military has paid tremendous costs in their war of aggression and now they have resorted to
sending conscripts and prisoners to imminent death.
In recent months, the group gathered here today pledged to provide significant quantities of battlefield capabilities -- tanks, air defense
and munitions; 11 countries have pledged tanks; 22 have pledged infantry fighting vehicles; 16 pledged artillery munitions.
MILLEY: And nine more pledged air defense artillery. The group is focused, focused on delivering the capabilities committed and efficiently providing
the training, the spare parts, the sustainment, logistics necessary for the full employment of these systems.
Training, maintaining and sustaining Ukraine's (sic) remains key for Ukraine to prevail. Throughout this war, Ukraine has shown incredible
resourcefulness and how they integrate varied capabilities to adapt the changing dynamics of this battlefield.
Ukrainians have combined unbreakable will with innovative tactics and empowered their leaders to liberate their own country.
Russia, on contrast, is waging a very costly war of attrition while Ukraine is effectively leveraging their asymmetric advantages in order to defend
itself. And the most important asymmetric advantage they have is courage, resilience and tactical skill.
This war is extremely dynamic and Ukraine today is fighting while training and evolving for future operations. Ukraine will integrate recent
commitments of armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles and tanks with fires to achieve the effects of synchronized ground maneuver.
While Russia has waged this war for far too long, they will not outlast the Ukrainian people nor the group of allies and partners that met today.
The purpose for the United States and allies, as set by our political leadership, is very simple: it's to uphold rules-based international
order, an order that rejects the idea that big, strong, powerful nations can attack other smaller countries; that borders shall not change just by
the use of aggressive military force.
This is the very underlying founding principle of the United Nations at the end of World War II. Ukraine does not stand alone; 54 countries met today
to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself and the principles that guide international conduct -- and those principles will be upheld.
We will remain a unified coalition, we will continue to uphold the values of sovereignty and freedom and we will continue to support Ukraine. Thank
you and I welcome your questions.
(OFF MIKE COMMENTS)
QUESTION: Secretary Austin, you said earlier this is a crucial moment for Ukraine and that the allies need to get air defenses and munitions into
What are you seeing from Russia that makes this moment different?
And the NATO secretary general has already warned that Ukraine is burning through the munitions faster than the rate the allies can supply it.
Will you, at some, point need to ask Ukraine to do more with less?
And then, for Chairman Milley, did one of the missiles fired at the Lake Huron object miss and, if so, what happened to that missile?
And if so, does that change your risk calculus for shooting down objects over U.S. soil?
Are you starting to develop alternatives, if and when you detect the next object?
AUSTIN: So in terms of where we are -- thanks, Tara (ph).
In terms of where we are in the fight, what we've seen over the last several months is a contested battlefield. We see a lot of activity in the
Bakhmut area, which is where Russia is focusing most of its effort.
We see a lot of Russia introducing a number of new troops to the battlefield. Many of those troops are ill trained and ill equipped. And so
their casualty rate has been really high.
What Ukraine wants to do in the -- you know, at the first possible moment is to establish or create a momentum and establish conditions on the
battlefield that continue to be in its favor. And so we expect to see them conduct an offensive sometime in the spring.
And because of that, we are, all of the partners in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group have been working hard to ensure that they have the armored
capability, the fires, the sustainment to be able to be effective in creating the effects on the battlefield that they want to create. And so we
believe that there will be a window of opportunity --
AUSTIN: -- for them to exercise initiative and change or continue to create the right conditions on the battlefield there.
In terms of munitions, this has been a tough fight throughout. And we've been -- Ukraine has been at this for a year. And so they have used a lot of
artillery, ammunition. We are going to do everything we can, working with our international partners, to ensure that we give them as much ammunition
as quickly as possible.
And that we will do everything we can to sustain our efforts there as well. We are working to -- with the Ukrainian soldiers and various places
throughout Europe to emphasize additional training on maneuver.
So that as they place more emphasis on maneuver and shaping the battlefield with fires and then maneuvering, there is a good chance that they will
require less artillery munitions. But that is left to be seen.
So we're going to do everything we can to make sure they have what they need to be successful. And that is what we continue to emphasize here in
the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. And we think the training will pay additional dividends as well.
MILLEY: So, Tara (ph), on the balloon shot, yes; first shot missed on the fourth balloon. So we're talking about the balloon that was downed over
The first balloon, the Chinese spy balloon, that went down over the Atlantic on the South Carolina coast, that was -- that shot hit.
The second one, over Alaska, on the north coast of Alaska, that's one hit.
The third one in -- that landed in the Yukon, that one hit.
On the fourth one over Lake Huron, first shot missed; second shot hit. So the most important thing for the American military is to protect the
American people. So we evaluate the risk. We evaluate the risk of the balloons themselves.
Are they a kinetic threat or not, yes/no?
Are they an intelligence threat?
Are they a threat to civil aviation?
All of those things we go through very, very carefully. We determine what the debris field is likely to be with one of these platforms, landing on
the Earth's surface or the water.
So we go through great lengths to make sure that the airspace is clear and the backdrop is clear, to the max effective range of the missile. An in
this case, the missiles -- or the l landed harmlessly in the water of Lake Huron. We tracked it all the way down. and we made sure the airspace was
clear of any commercial, civilian or recreational traffic.
We do the same thing for the maritime space. So we are very, very deliberate in our planning. NORTHCOM does that, along with the pilots
themselves. So we are very, very careful to make sure that those shots are, in fact, safe.
And that is the guidance from the president: shoot it down but make sure we minimize collateral damage and we preserve the safety of the American
QUESTION: Just a quick clarifier, are you confirming the other three objects were also balloons like the first one?
MILLEY: I will just use the word object. That is what everyone's using. We'll see. We're not -- not recovered yet, as you know, number two, three
and four, not recovered yet. Number one, we are recovering. And we are getting a lot of stuff off that.
But two, three and four, not yet recovered. Very, very difficult terrain. The second one, off the coast of Alaska, is up -- that is up in some
really, really difficult terrain in the Arctic Circle with very, very low temperatures, in the minus 40s.
The second one is in the Canadian Rockies, in the Yukon. Very difficult to get that one.
And the third one is in Lake Huron at probably a couple hundred feet depth. So we'll get them eventually. But it's going to take some time to recover
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Dmytro.
QUESTION: Thank you for the floor.
(Speaking foreign language).
To Mr. Secretary, was the question of the plane supplies, I mean, combat (ph) jet supplies to Ukraine was discussed or not?
And what kind of security circumstances should be created inside Ukraine to deploy a new type of aircraft, of such kind?
Does it mean that it's possible, after the integrated air defense system is created?
And to General Milley, if I may, what is your risk assessment for the supply routes of the delivery of Western equipment and ammunition to
Ukraine and how it could be made more secure (ph)?
AUSTIN: So on the issue of aircraft, I don't have any announcements to make on aircraft today. We're going to continue to work with Ukraine to
address Ukraine's most pressing needs.
Again, they are contemplating an offensive in the spring and that is just weeks away. And so we have a lot to get done. So if you think about the
numbers of systems that we're bringing together --
AUSTIN: -- Bradleys, Strykers, mortars (ph), CD-90s, 113s, artillery -- and the list goes on and on. So it's a monumental task to bring all those
systems together, get the troops trained on those platforms to make sure we have sustainment for that -- for all of those systems and get those systems
into the fight.
So that is really the focus of our conversation today.
MILLEY: So Dmytro, lines of communication in warfare and combat are always subject to enemy attack; no different here. In the lines of communication
that stretch through the Western portions of Ukraine are subject to Russian attack, attack from thee air, attack from artillery, attack from special
operations forces, etc.
So the key to ensure that these supplies get through, maintain good operational security, vary your times, don't set patterns, take different
routes and make sure you disperse your force so you have small penny packets as opposed to one large massive convoy.
The security from the Polish border or any other border, Romanian border, anywhere, that security is a part of the security plan for the Ukrainian
armed forces. They pick the stuff up and they do that. They practice all the good tactics, techniques and procedures that I just described.
I would say it's not without risk but it's moderate and it's been successful so far to get through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Felicia Schwartz, "Financial Times."
QUESTION: Thank you.
First for Secretary Austin, we have heard from Western officials that Russia's air force is well intact and that the Russians are preparing to
launch an air campaign as its land forces are depleted.
Where is Russia amassing aircraft ahead of the offensive?
How soon could this begin?
Has this hastened the need to provide air defense to Ukraine?
And has enough assistance been provided so that Ukraine is ready to defend against it?
And then for Chairman Milley, does Russia have the right equipment to pose a threat to Ukrainians and break through in the Donbas?
And separately but relatedly, is Ukraine going to get enough equipment in enough time and have a big enough force on the ground to be able to have a
AUSTIN: Thanks, Felicia.
In terms of whether or not Russia is massing its aircraft for some massive aerial attack, we don't currently see that. We do know that Russia has a
substantial number of aircraft in its inventory and a lot of capability left.
That's why we've emphasized that we need to do everything that we can to get Ukraine as much air defense capability as we possibly can. Recently,
you've seen us step up and offer Patriots; you've seen other countries come forward, with SLMT (ph) and IRIS-T.
But it's not enough and we're going to keep pushing until we get more because that threat is out there.
But again, we -- many countries have stepped up to the plate thus far. Our effort, currently, is to get these capabilities into country as quickly as
we can. And then integrate those capabilities so we have truly have an integrated air and missile defense capability.
And I will add that Ukraine has done an incredible job of intercepting a lot of the rockets and missiles that have been launched by Russia in those
recent attacks. But again, we want to make sure that they have the ability to protect themselves going forward, in the event that Russia tries to
introduce its air force into this fight.
They haven't done so thus far, because Ukraine's air defenses have been pretty gosh darn effective, as you know.
MILLEY: So Felicia, on whether or not the Russians have the capability and the equipment et cetera. to continue to attack in the Donbas, they are
attacking in the Donbas right now. Their progress is slow; it's a war of attrition; they're taking heavy casualties. Their leadership and morale is
not great. And they're struggling, mightily.
However, they do have numbers. And as you know, President Putin did a callup of several hundred thousand and those folks have been arriving on
the battlefield. So they do have numbers.
And whether or not they're successful in pressing the fight, that remains to be seen. But that fight has been going on. And it's a slow, grinding
battle of attrition in that general area.
For the Ukrainians, I don't want to project forward what the Ukrainians may or may not do. As you know from this particular conference here, we are
plussing (INAUDIBLE) with a significant amount of capabilities and with ground maneuver, artillery, et cetera. What they do with, that that will be
up to the Ukrainians in the coming weeks and months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have time for one more.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
One question to Secretary Austin about the extent of the U.S. when it comes to the delivery of the fighter jets. And President Biden said no to
delivery of F-16s also early in the conflict when Poland offered to deliver MiG-29 via Ramstein to Ukraine. I think the U.S. stopped. It
Has disposition evolved?
Do you encourage countries to do so if they want to?
Or do you assess the risk is too high?
So what is the U.S. position on other countries delivering fighter jets?
And to Chairman Milley, the Russian offensive we are seeing, what do you see so far?
Is this very serious?
Is it different from what we saw in the past?
And do you have any intelligence whether we're seeing -- whether we're going to see another attempt of the Russian forces to capture Kyiv?
AUSTIN: Thanks, Marcus. For the record, with respect to any kind of aircraft being provided by Poland, the United States never stopped Poland
from providing anything. The decision to provide something is a -- is -- that's a -- you know, the decision made, that will be a decision made by
the leadership of that country.
That's certainly not something that we can or will dictate.
In terms of whether or not we're going to provide F-16s, as I said earlier, I don't have any announcements to make. And I don't have anything to add to
what our president said earlier. So and I'll just leave it at that.
MILLEY: And Marcus, on the issue of the Russian offensive, this offensive that you're seeing ongoing right now, in the -- generally in the Bakhmut
area, you know, from Kharkiv all the way down to Kherson, the front line is quite stable even though very violent; a lot of fighting, it's relatively
Most of the dynamic movement back and forth is in -- generally in the vicinity of Bakhmut. The Ukrainians are holding, they're fighting the
defense; the Russians, primarily the Wagner group, are attacking.
But there's a -- what I would describe it as, is a really, a very significant grinding battle of attrition with very high casualties,
especially on the Russian side. There's no fancy arts of maneuver going on here. This is frontal attacks, wave attacks, lots of artillery, with
extremely high levels of casualties in that particular area.
And how long that will last?
It's difficult to say, actually. It's been going on for weeks. And I think it will continue to go on until the -- until the Russians culminate. I
don't think the Ukrainians will just collapse or fold. I think they will continue to fight.
So that's a battle worth, that we're paying attention to very closely and making sure the Ukrainians have the capability to continue to defend.
As far as Kyiv, I'm not going to go into what intelligence we have or don't have. I'll just say that, right now, there's always a potential threat.
There's clearly air threats, missile attack threats; Kyiv is the capital. And that was a significant objective early in the war.
So I would never discount Russian capabilities to attack Kyiv. But right, now we're not seeing any significant indicators or warnings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, that is all the time that we have available today. This concludes our press briefing.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Standing by in Warsaw, in Poland, our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.
What do you make of what we've just heard?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: One of the words we heard a lot, there Becky, was the word integrated -- integrated air
defense, integrated training. We heard the commitments that have been made specifically about providing more air defense and more ammunition.
France and Italy to provide more air defense; France and Australia to provide more 152 millimeter ammunition, rounds for artillery. The Joint
Chiefs' of Staff Mark Milley quite literally counting out the nations' different commitments: nine nations committing tanks, 22 committing
fighting vehicles, infantry vehicles; 16 committing for artillery and ammunition, nine committing for air defense.
And among those committing tanks, the Leopard 2 tanks in particular; that was Portugal, that was Poland and that was Spain, that was the Netherlands,
that was Canada, that was Denmark. So the message here, getting all these different nations together and helping to integrate everything that's going
ROBERTSON: The idea, as Lloyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense there, said, was to create and bring together eight combat brigades. So it's the
effect of this year of unity of NATO supplying military equipment.
But now to use it effectively, we heard there that they should -- that the idea of would be to give training so that Ukrainians can get this equipment
and learn fire maneuver; i.e., take a more dynamic control of the battlefield.
Direct fire, shape the battle the way that you want it. So these are the things I think that are emerging here, bringing everything together,
bringing complex training programs and agendas to achieve complex and difficult aims on the battlefield, bringing all of that together.
The idea of fighter aircraft still over the horizon but very clearly tied into bringing this integrated air defense that will protect the aircraft,
if and when they are given.
ANDERSON: Yes, because let's be clear -- and there was no confusion from the U.S. Defense Department, Nic. The Russians are getting ready for a
spring offensive. We are just shy of a year into this conflict. And it grinds on. Nic Robertson is in Warsaw, in Poland.
Thank you, Nic.
I'm going to take a very short break. You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, live tonight from Dubai. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: Welcome back I'm Becky Anderson in Dubai, you're watching a special edition of the CONNECT THE WORLD, live from the world government
summit. More and more has been going on here in the next hour.
An update on one of our top stories, voices are still being heard from the wreckage, more than eight days after a devastating earthquake in Turkiye
and Syria. Several people pulled out alive today in Turkiye, including two women in Hatay. They've been trapped for more than 200 hours.
An 18-year-old man was also among those brought to safety. Crews had to tunnel through the debris of an eight-story building to reach him. This as
the number of dead passes 37,000.
The U.N. says the first aid convoy meantime, passing into northwest Syria from newly opened routes. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had agreed to
open two new routes from Turkiye, crucial to getting supplies into opposition held areas.
ANDERSON: The World Health Organization's Mike Ryan was just in Syria. He told me that the situation in the northwest is the most dire. He says the
WHO has aid trucks ready to go. Take a listen.
DR. MICHAEL RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: In a crisis like this, access is everything. The more material you can get into the hands of front line
responders -- remembering this: the front line responders are the local, doctors the local nurses. The equipment of supplies they need is absolutely
The more access you, have the more you can get through to the places where our front line workers are working. We would hope also to be able to put
the international workers in there.
But for the, moment this about supplies and getting those, supplies -- and you're seeing that the White House, you're seeing these people in the front
line. They need material. And I think that this is a big development, the fact that that was a unilateral decision, didn't have to go through weeks
It has to be welcomed and it has to give us some hope that we can find solutions for the longer term because my fear also is that this may be fine
for the earthquake response. But these people have been suffering for 10 years. There are millions of people there. And they have been right on the
edge for a decade.
ANDERSON: This aid is needed immediately. And it's not just food aid, of course, at this, point; it's shelter, it's water, it's absolutely
How long will it take to get these two new routes functional?
RYAN: I can't say that. They were functional previously. So they should be relatively straightforward to make them functional. But I think there's 50
trucks crossing today at the Bab al-Hawa crossing. So there's also an absorption issue.
You have got to move that material, put it into warehouses and then further distribute it. So it's not about how many trucks come across the border,
per se; it's about how quickly you can distribute it.
ANDERSON: And that I absolutely understand. Still it is important to get as much in as possible.
RYAN: Absolutely, absolutely.
ANDERSON: I understand that Assad gave the WHO the green light, so cross line transfer of aid.
Can you just explain to our viewers what that means?
And do you have faith that he will readily facilitate that aid without obstruction?
RYAN: It's a blanket clearance; it has to allow U.N.-led convoys in and we have to have that confidence that these U.N.-led convoys, there has to be
confidence that material will be removed from those.
Because if you end up with surgical equipment being removed or other equipment, that's not good. So as far as we understand, that's a blanket
clearance to make these convoys cross.
But as of today, there has not been any crossings from Aleppo into Idlib. Some of that is because we need the approvals on the other side and that's
-- it takes two to tango in this situation. So we need both sides willing to take a step forward in the service of their own people.
This is the issue: everyone has got people who are suffering in the center of this agony for now. The rest takes care of itself. But what we need is
everyone to take a step back and realize that the people of Syria, wherever they are, are suffering today.
The greatest damage is in the northwest of Syria. These people have suffered for 10 years. They're broken psychologically. They're broken
physically. They need our, help and everyone needs to do their, piece and we need to build confidence on both sides.
ANDERSON: You've being doing this sort of work on the front lines, in emergency situations, for years now. The victims in northwest Syria, you
are talking about, have been hostages to politics for over a decade. A catastrophe, a chronic catastrophe at this point.
When you put this into context, given what you've seen around the world over the years, where does this sit?
RYAN: It has to be the single most complicated situation I've ever seen. But we look at somewhere like Yemen, like Afghanistan. There are different
complexities. Each of these situations is unique. There's a different view on this more from your reporting side. These have different drivers,
But you know what, the end result is the same: millions of people suffering, millions of people without health care, without education,
without shelter, without nutrition. Kids not being educated, loss of hope. The end point is the same. The journeys, they are very different for some
of these countries.
But in the end, it's not just about local conflict. That has been in many ways, it either happens or it's promulgated by external actors. And this is
the issue, is that these people -- I have to say it.
I mean, many people in these situations ultimately are puppets of a much larger game. Our job is to be, there to bear witness, I'm not there to play
the politics. Neither are the people who work on the front line.
And remember, sometimes the international aid workers get the credit. But people who pull the people out of the rubble, people who do the front line
operations, the Turkish, the Syrian doctors and nurses, they're the front line.
Our front line is our communities, not us coming in. We come in and we add a little, we add some supplies, we add some expertise. But the real front
lines in the battle, the humanitarian response, the epidemic response, are our communities.
RYAN: And it's those very communities who've suffered so much, they're helping themselves. Their resilience, you've seen, it they absolute -- and
you see that fierce determination, to take care of themselves.
Our workers in Aleppo are our team. Their beds were shaking, their houses were falling down. They took care of their kids, they got them to safety
and they drove straight to the warehouse and start delivering systems, putting, filling up the boots of their cars (INAUDIBLE) equipment.
Would you leave your family to go do that?
You know, would that happen in the West?
I mean their courage and their fortitude is incredible. We owe it to them to give them the means to save life. And I think everyone just needs to
step back and use this moment because I think it's a moment like this, of the greatest crisis, that we find a way to our humanity again.
ANDERSON: Mike Ryan, speaking to me earlier.
The WHO is one of many groups on the ground in the disaster zone. For more on how you can help, cnn.com/impact. There you'll find a list of all
organizations working on rescue and relief efforts.
To the deadly university shooting in the United States, now police say a gunman killed three students, critically wounded five others on Monday at
Michigan State University, before apparently taking his own life.
He's been identified as a 43-year-old man with no known ties to the school. Motive is still a mystery, as Americans deal with another mass shooting.
Still to come, "I no longer want to hide," simple words, which mark another milestone for gay football players. More details, in a moment.
Plus with all the sadness in the news these days, we want to share visions of beauty (INAUDIBLE) Vermeer and we go beyond what the eye can see, with a
look at how he created his masterpieces.
ANDERSON: He is known for "Girl with the Pearl Earring (sic)." That is one of the stunning pieces by Johannes Vermeer, now on exhibit in
Amsterdam. CNN got an exclusive look at the show.
Thanks to new technology, we found out how some of these masterpieces, more than 300 years old, were put together, brush by brush, stroke by stroke.
Nick Glass shows us more.
NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a glorious 90 minutes, we have the place to ourselves: Vermeer's paintings, their beauty, their size
demand intimacy and quiet.
GLASS (voice-over): And here was an opportunity to spend quality time with his most famous creation.
GLASS: This is rare. I've been an arts correspondent for something like 20 years. But to be alone with a painting like this, "Girl with a Pearl
Earring," it's extraordinary. And she's not alone.
GLASS (voice-over): The Rijksmuseum museum has pulled off an astonishing artistic coup: the greatest Vermeer show of this or any other lifetime; 28
of the 34 to 37 attributed works. Vermeer himself would never have seen so many of his paintings all together in one place.
TACO DIBBITS, DIRECTOR, RIJKSMUSEUM: It's very exciting. I've kind of had this dream of having all the paintings together. Obviously there are only
about 37 paintings by Vermeer. But having 28 here is just something we would've never thought possible.
GLASS (voice-over): "The Lacemaker," from the Louvre in Paris; "Girl with a Red Hat," from the National Gallery in Washington; "Girl Reading a Letter
at an Open Window," from the Gemaldegalerie gallery in Dresden, Germany.
GREGOR WEBER, DEPARTMENT OF FINE ARTS, RIJKSMUSEUM: Remember that I saw for the first time two paintings by Vermeer at the National Gallery in
London. And I think I fainted a little bit. There's such a glowing light in the paintings. And since then, I've been busy with Vermeer.
GLASS (voice-over): Vermeer has been under intense scrutiny in another way: in the lab, under infrared and other light. They've adapted
specialist techniques first used by NASA to map minerals on Mars and the moon. It amounts to noninvasive fine art archeology.
IGE VERSLYPE, RIJKSMUSEUM CONSERVATOR: It's as if you are looking over his shoulder and seeing what he's doing.
GLASS (voice-over): We didn't know it but Vermeer never stopped experimenting.
ANNA KREKELER, RIJKSMUSEUM CONSERVATOR: If you see the underlying paint layers, for example, the underpaint, he really put on kind of fast and
rough brushstrokes to be fine light and shadow.
For example, in the tablecloth, you have areas where he -- where there is black underpaint, like here and here, at the darkest shadows. And then on
top, where the light hits the table, he used a white underpaint.
GLASS: And behind her, on the wall ...
KREKELER: Here was a fire basket, a large element to draw your close (ph) and then here was a dark rag with ducks (ph) hanging on it.
GLASS (voice-over): We've known for a long time that Vermeer was a genius with paint and a brush. But only now are we beginning to understand how
precisely he did it -- Nick Glass, CNN, at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
ANDERSON: Absolutely remarkable stuff.