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Putin Says He's "Ready To Negotiate" Over Ukraine; Beijing Set To End Quarantine For Inbound Travelers; How Restaurant Industry May Be Permanently Changed By Pandemic. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 27, 2022 - 05:30   ET





Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a state T.V. interview at the Kremlin that he's ready to negotiate with, quote, "everyone involved." Putin delivered those words amid relentless attacks on Ukraine.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us now from London. So, Clare, what is -- what is the reality, and what is the reception here?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Whitney, this is calculated rhetoric. If you look closely at what Putin is saying, he says we are ready to negotiate with, quote, "everyone involved" in this process -- a clear reference to the fact that Ukraine -- that Russia, rather, continues to suggest that it is fighting not just Ukraine but the West and NATO as a whole.

He continued and said he wants to talk about acceptable solutions. Obviously, that means acceptable to Russia, and we know that Russia's solutions are not acceptable to Ukraine. And he says it isn't us that's refusing to negotiate, it's the other side. And that Russia has, in his words, tried to find a peaceful solution to everything since 2014. Now, of course, if that were true, this war would not have started in the process.

And this comes, of course, as we had an ultimatum from the Russian foreign minister in an interview this week, saying that if Ukraine doesn't comply with Russia's proposals when it comes to the annexed regions in Ukraine, then the Russian army would take it into their own hands.

So, in a sense, nothing has changed. Russia does not want to give any ground when it comes to the territories that it has taken over. Ukraine wants to return to its 1991 borders which, of course, includes Crimea. Those are red lines for both sides.

So, of course, the question why say it now? Why say you're willing to negotiate when you're not? I think perhaps you can't rule out that Putin is trying to say that he wants talks to try to nudge Ukraine's Western allies, perhaps, into pushing Ukraine to give up some ground to make a compromise to try to end this war. But it doesn't look like that is happening at the moment -- Whitney.

WILD: Clare Sebastian, thank you.

Let's bring in CNN's global affairs analyst, Kim Dozier. She's an international affairs fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations.

So, Kim, my first question to you is it doesn't sound like much of a negotiation. Give me what I want and I'll stop hammering you is not a negotiation.

Do you think that this ultimatum is going to do what Clare said, which is push Western allies to convince Ukraine to give Russia basically some if not all of what they want?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS (via Webex by Cisco): Not yet. I think Clare is right that this is a lot of theatrics by Putin to posture both to his people and to the international community that look, I'm willing to have peace talks. It's just Ukraine that's stopping them.


And the Ukrainian foreign minister answered his rhetoric in an interview with the AP on Monday where he said we do want peace negotiations. They should be handled by the U.N. and they should only happen with Russia's inclusion if Russia agrees to war crimes tribunals.

And this is something that Ukraine's prime minister -- Ukraine's President Zelenskyy has said before when he relayed a 10-point plan that are Ukraine's demands for peace. It includes, as you mentioned, restoring Ukraine's territorial integrity. That's getting back Crimea and all of the other lands more recently seized by Russian troops.

So we are left with a non-starter on both sides, but this is playing to the gallery.

Putin also wants to start building on any potential opposition within Europe to this ongoing war because right now, Europeans are paying high prices for gas, et cetera. So, from his point of view, this is the thin end of the wedge so that anyone who might favor him will be saying look -- look at his comments. He's willing to talk peace. What's wrong with the Ukrainians?

WILD: Do you think that this peace summit he's been talking about -- or, excuse me, Ukraine has been talking about -- Ukraine has been saying they want to have a peace summit in February. Do you think that that's actually going to happen?

DOZIER: Well, the U.N. office hasn't responded to this idea yet. It is fraught with political landmines because Ukraine is saying that Russia would not be able to attend and that Russia also needs to be expelled from the U.N. Security Council -- something that, according to the U.N. charter -- really, there's no method for doing that that I am aware of.

And so, again -- look, they're engaged in a tough fight where both sides are going through their ammunition literally faster than they can make it. Faster than some of the people trying to supply both sides can make it. And they've got a tough fight that's stretching on. It will likely stretch on well into next year with neither side showing signs of backing down.

The Ukrainian people are furious over the attacks on their energy grid meant to make civilians suffer, from their perspective. And so, with will not lessening on either side and -- well, peace talks become something that they pay lip service to. But I don't think we're going to see any progress on that anytime soon.

WILD: This remains a very dynamic situation. So what does the drone strike yesterday tell you about the stage of the war, and does this put Ukraine in a better negotiating position?

DOZIER: Well, the drone strike -- previously, Ukraine has been very careful not to strike inside Russian territory. And now Ukraine hasn't admitted that its drones were behind this strike on a Russian air base. It's Russian officials who say they shot down the Ukrainian drone and that the debris killed at least three Russian soldiers.

But we could be seeing the fallout of the meeting between Zelenskyy and Biden in the capital here before Christmas, in that the White House had been leery of these kind of strikes inside Russia, worried that Ukraine might want to go too far.

But Ukraine may have been able to convince -- Zelenskyy to Biden -- look, we know what we're doing. We're doing to do surgical strikes. And the only way to stop the bombing on our infrastructure grid is to stop the planes where they're taking off from places like the Engels Air Base inside Russia.

WILD: Kim Dozier, CNN global affairs analyst, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

DOZIER: Thanks, Whitney.

WILD: Some quick headlines from around the world now.

At least 17 people have died and more than 90 were injured in Japan after heavy snow -- more than two feet along the western coast that stranded vehicles on roadways and delayed rescue services.

A former Communist rebel chief in Nepal is now its prime minister for a third time. Pushpa Kamal Dahal takes office after last month's election returned a hung Parliament. He will split a 5-year term with the main opposition party.

Ukrainian soccer star Ali Daei says his wife and daughter were on a plane to Dubai and they were forced to turn back to Iran. Daei has been a vocal supporter of the recent protests against the regime.

China is getting ready to go full-throttle and end its COVID quarantine for foreign visitors. And that's -- that story coming up next, as well as rebuilding the appetite for restaurant dining. The industry is still struggling after the pandemic, so what's it going to take to get people back into seats? That, next.



WILD: China is doubling down on plans to ease COVID restrictions as case numbers surge. Beijing's top health authority says starting January 8, travelers to China will no longer be required to quarantine. They will still have to test negative for the virus, though. And restrictions for air capacity and numbers of flights will also be lifted.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us live from Hong Kong. So, Kristie, this is a major step after three years of isolation policies. So, why now, and what is the thinking?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Whitney, this announcement is very welcomed news for scores of people across China waiting for nearly three years for a chance to travel abroad and to finally see loved ones overseas.

You know, look, starting January 8, China will lift all quarantine requirements for international arrivals. Now, travelers still must take a COVID test before arriving in China, but no longer need to submit their results to a Chinese consulate or a Chinese embassy to get a code.

But a lot remains unclear. We don't know how many flights will be allowed to enter the country. We don't know how easily Chinese nationals will be able to travel abroad.

But still, the excitement is there. In fact, according to -- this is a popular Chinese online travel booking website -- within half an hour of the release of this new policy, searches for popular overseas travel destinations jumped to a 3-year high. Let's bring up the graphic for you. The top 10 search destinations include Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

But look, the outbreak inside China remains very, very serious. The country is seeing a surge of infection. Medical workers struggling to cope.

And as China reopens to the world, already you have countries like Japan and India announcing today that they will require travelers from China to have proof of a negative COVID test on arrival. Also, in Italy, officials in the Lombardy region have requested a PCR test for all arrivals from China, effective immediately.

Whitney, back to you.

WILD: Kristie Lu Stout, thank you. Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," he admits he embellished his resume but says he's not a fraud. Congressman-elect George Santos breaking his silence.


And next, right here, restaurants might never be the same after the pandemic. How the industry changed, possibly for years to come -- possibly forever -- next.


WILD: Your favorite restaurant might have survived the pandemic but chances are it's probably just not the same. There's new hours, there's new staff, there's new prices. There's probably a new menu.

The National Restaurant Association says restaurants still have 16 fewer dine-in customers compared to before the pandemic. Takeout, though, has surged by about the same amount. So how and what people order is also evolving.

So let's bring in Laura Reiley. She's the business of food reporter at The Washington Post.

Laura, your story is so interesting. And you say in your story that the restaurant industry has changed because diners have changed. So is it -- is it their habits? Is it their tastes? What's changing?

LAURA REILEY, BUSINESS OF FOOD REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via Webex by Cisco): All of the above. So, clearly, where we want to eat has really changed. So if dine-in is down 16 percent and delivery and takeout and drive-thru are up about that much, we want to eat in our pajamas. We don't want to have our shoes on while we eat, and that may be a permanent change.

And so, restaurants -- even kind of the mega fast-food chain -- are experimenting -- prototyping these delivery and drive-thru-only restaurants -- no dining room at all. And so, we're seeing a lot more of that.


And that big loser in that equation is the independent mom and pops -- those that can't really do a delivery app or a mobile app loyalty program. It's too expensive. They don't have the infrastructure. So we're going to see a real winnowing in that independent category.

WILD: Why are those independent -- you know, independent restaurants not able to use some of the more popular delivery apps like an Uber Eats or a Grubhub? What is the relationship between those smaller restaurants and the bigger delivery apps?

REILEY: Well, those -- DoorDash, Grubhub, et cetera -- take a really big piece of the pie. And in a restaurant -- in an industry where the profit margin pre-pandemic was only maybe eight percent on a good day, if you have a company like that taking 20-30 percent off the top, you really can't make a profit that way.

So a lot of restaurant chains have been savvy enough to say OK, people want delivery but I can't make money using these third-party services. I'm going to develop my own. And the independent often just doesn't have the deep pockets to do that -- to have that front-end expense or a fleet or cars to do the delivery. So we're seeing a real shift there in who is able to do that.

WILD: And that's so hard because those are sometimes the most -- you know, the restaurants that are closest to your heart. The ones that are the coziest and feel the most personal. So that's a tough loss for diners.

How has inflation affected food prices? I mean, you just talked about how thin the margin already was prior to the pandemic. Then you've got inflation. You've got fewer diners. How is this all playing out?

REILEY: Well -- so, as we've all experienced, grocery stores -- the prices have gone up kind of about 12 percent from last year -- from a year ago. In the restaurant sphere, menu prices have only gone up 8.5 percent.

So what that really means is that restauranteurs, in order to stay competitive, have eaten some of that increased cost. They've focused on menu items that are the most profitable, that require the least labor because they've also had real increases in labor prices in restaurants, or that have longer shelf life.

And as we all know, at the beginning of the pandemic, most menus got really short in order to kind of move their high-volume items. They lopped off things left and right.

And so, we still see much shorter menus than we did pre-pandemic and you have to cover the basics, right? You know, chicken, salmon, et cetera. So some of the more esoteric or exotic, or kind of special ingredients or proteins even are not on the menu as often.

WILD: All right, Laura Reiley. Thank you so much. Such an interesting story out of right now. Diners are observing a lot of things. You've got a lot of answers for some questions they might have. Thank you so much for joining us.

REILEY: Thank you -- thanks.

WILD: Americans' spending skyrocketed this holiday season thanks to surging inflation leading to higher prices. Mastercard says U.S. retail sales jumped 7.6 percent from November first through December 24 compared to a year ago. A large part of that was just inflation, which was 5 1/2 percent in November.

Consumers prioritized dining out as restaurant sales grew more than 15 percent year-over-year. And online shopping, which increased more than 10 percent.

A post-holiday travel nightmare that just refuses to go away. The staggering number of flights already canceled today. That's ahead on "CNN THIS MORNING."



WILD: Welcome back.

The Dolphins quarterback has been placed on the NFL's concussion protocol.

Carolyn Manno joins me now with this morning's Bleacher Report. Carolyn, what's the latest?


Well, this is the second time that Tua Tagovailoa has entered the league's concussion protocol this season -- the other coming after a dangerous incident against the Bengals in week four at the end of September. He missed two games back then.

As for his current condition, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel says he's not sure when or even how Tua may have suffered a concussion Sunday against the Packers -- only that his third-year quarterback showed symptoms when he came into work yesterday.


MIKE MCDANIEL, HEAD COACH, MIAMI DOLPHINS: I care very deeply about each and every player. I take that serious. So I just -- I just want him to get healthy and have peace of mind in that regard, and that's first and foremost. And then whatever those circumstances are after, you deal with after.


MANNO: McDaniel says no decision has been made about whether Tua will play this Sunday against the Patriots. But this is bigger than just winning games and much more about the quarterback's long-term health.

Coming up in the next hour, "CNN THIS MORNING" will speak to a neuroscientist who specializes in head trauma for football players.

Elsewhere, another scary moment in last night's Colts-Chargers game. L.A. defensive back Derwin James was ejected after lowering his head and launching into Indy wide receiver Ashton Dulin in the second quarter. Both players got up pretty quickly. James clearly woozy from the impact. Dulin went immediately to the sideline and did not return to the game.

The league has worked to eliminate hits like this in recent years. Both James and Dulin are in concussion protocol right now.

And even without their 3-time Pro Bowler, L.A.'s defense was dominant, intercepting Nick Foles three times -- getting to him seven times in a 20-3 win. So the Chargers clinching their first playoff berth since 2018. And after retiring and unretiring to come back for a 23rd NFL season,

Tom Brady told sportscaster Jim Gray on his "Let's Go" podcast yesterday that he's not going to rush into any decision about his future this time around.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Well, I think next time I decide to retire, that's it's for me. So whenever that day comes we'll figure it out.

JIM GRAY, "LET'S GO" PODCAST: Do you even contemplate that at this point?

BRADY: I really don't. You know, I think what I really realized last year was you've got to be really sure to do that. And for me, it's -- a lot of people have kind of gone through a situation -- how you feel when the season ends versus two or three weeks later. So, I'm going to take my time -- whenever that time does come.


MANNO: Whitney, about 40 days went by when Tom Brady retired and then unretired. So it makes sense that he might want to take his time this time around. And, of course, the circus that went on as he was making that decision, I'm sure left a mark.

WILD: Yes. I think there might be a little more to unpack on some of those decisions, especially the last one. That was a big swing in the headlines, that's for sure.

All right, Carolyn Manno.

Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Whitney Wild. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.