Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

Russia Demands Surrender Of Mariupol; Sweden And Finland Edge Closer To Joining NATO; What Motivates Putin; Surviving COVID-19 Lockdown In Shanghai. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 17, 2022 - 10:00   ET




Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world, I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the show, Russia threatens to send nuclear weapons to its western borders, not to deal with Ukraine, but rather Finland and Sweden, who may soon ask for NATO membership. What happens if they do? I will talk to Sweden's former prime minister Carl Bildt.

And, understanding the breadth of Putin's clamp down inside Russia, including this week's jailing of another prominent Putin critic. I will be joined by Bill Browder who was once the largest foreign investor in Russia.

Then, China under lockdown as COVID comes back to the country where it originated with a vengeance. 25 million people in Shanghai alone are under very strict measures. I'll check in with one of them, CNN's David Culver.


ZAKARIA: But first, here is "My Take." Ukraine's brave and brilliant response to Russia's attack is rightly being celebrated across the world. But it might be obscuring a growing danger. While the assault on Kyiv and the surrounding region has failed, Moscow's strategy in the south and east of Ukraine could well succeed. If it does, Russia will have turned Ukraine into an economically crippled rump state, landlocked and threatened on three sides by Russian military power, always vulnerable to another incursion from Moscow.

It will take much more military assistance from the West to ensure that this catastrophic outcome does not come to pass. As Can Kasapoglua, a military scholar and strategist, presciently pointed out in the first few weeks of the war in an essay for the Hudson Institute, there are two distinct wars taking place in Ukraine, one in the north and one in the south, and the latter has been radically more successful for Moscow than the one in the north. Russia has been able to move forces and supplies out of its bases in

Crimea and capture the cities of Melitopol and Kherson while surrounding the city of Mariupol. The latter is now encircled and invaded by Russian troops and Ukrainian forces trapped in there cannot be resupplied. Ukraine's access to the Sea of Azov has been blocked and as Kasapoglua points out Russian forces now have a contiguous land corridor from Crimea deep into Donbas. They are also trying to move west from Kherson to Odessa.

Odessa is the prize. As the main port from which Ukraine trades with the world, it is the most important city for Ukraine economically. It's also a city replete with symbolic significance. It was here in 1905 that a mutiny on the Battleship Potemkin made famous by Sergey Eisenstein's classic movie marked the beginning of the troubles of czarist Russia.

Were Odessa to fall Ukraine would be practically landlocked and the Black Sea would essentially become a Russian lake, which would almost certainly tempt Moscow to then extend its military power into Moldova, which has its own breakaway region filled with many Russian speakers, Transnistria.

Putin could present this outcome as a grand victory, liberating Russian speakers, gaining crucial cities and ports, and turning Ukraine into a nonviable vasal state. This must not happen and the Ukrainians are fighting ferociously to prevent it. In Ukraine's east the Russians are trying to advance from Kherson through the city of Mykolaiv but they are being stymied by the extraordinary courage of the city's inhabitants who have reportedly blown up the bridge that connects the city to Odessa and blocked the railway tracks.

This week Ukrainian forces were able to deploy then never before used Neptune missiles and sink the Russian missile cruiser Moskva. Still it's important to remember that before the invasion Russia had a 10 to 1 advantage in defense spending over Ukraine and Putin seems determined to press on no matter the costs.

So what can the United States and the West do? Much more of everything they are already doing. Ukraine needs more arms, especially those that give it massive asymmetrical fighting power. General Mark Hertling who has been farsighted in diagnosing Russia's weaknesses and Ukraine's strengths explained to me that Ukraine needs more equipment that allows it to maneuver quickly around Russia's rigid forces.


That means helicopters, armed Humvees, multiple launch rocket systems, drones of every kind. Turkish drones have proved to be an amazingly effective weapon in this conflict. General Hertling urges that Ukraine be given more of those as well as American kamikaze drones and intelligence drones.

The Russian Navy which has been massing in the Black Sea continues to pose a great danger to Odessa, threatening to either lay siege to it or launch an amphibious landing behind Ukrainian lines. Despite the success of the Neptune missile, Ukraine does not have the capacity to stop the Russian Navy.

NATO should consider doing something similar to what it did during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. It should enforce an embargo around those waters, preventing Russian troops from entering to attack Ukraine's cities or resupplying Russian forces. NATO ships would operate from international waters, issuing any approaching ships notice to mariners that NATO forces are active in the area and warnings not to enter.

Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied commander of NATO, supports the actions the Biden administration has taken, but urges a more aggressive response from the West on all fronts. Give Ukraine fighter planes and air defense systems, he tweeted, help it with cyberattacks and give it anti-ship missiles to sink Russian ships in the Black Sea.

The United States has appropriated about $16 billion in aid to Ukraine. Meanwhile, the world is expected to pay about $320 billion to Russia this year for its energy. Economic sanctions will not force Putin to end the war as long as long as this gaping loophole exists. The only pressure that will force Putin to the negotiating table is military defeat in the south. Putin's plan A failed, but we cannot let his plan B succeed.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

Let's get this latest state of play in Mariupol and the rest of the world from CNN's Matt Rivers who joins us now from Lviv.

Matt, what are you hearing about Mariupol where the Russian forces are moving in?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fareed, so as of about four hours ago a deadline that an -- for an ultimatum that was given by the Russians for all remaining Ukrainian resistance fighters in the city of Mariupol to lay down their arms and surrender has passed. That was about four hours ago and the Ukrainians said they would not be respecting that ultimatum. They said that they would be ignoring it instead and continuing the defense of their city.

The Russians have since acknowledged that the Ukrainians have ignored that ultimatum and said that they vowed to, quote, "eliminate any Ukrainian resistance" that remains in the city should they decide to keep on fighting.

And what all of that means, Fareed, is that the siege of the city of Mariupol which has gone on for weeks now to devastating effect in that city, not only for the Ukrainian fighters in that situation, but also for the hundreds of thousands of civilians that live in that city will likely continue at this point and, Fareed, I should note there are about 100,000 citizens that Ukraine says still need to be evacuated from Mariupol, not one evacuation corridor was agreed to between the Russians and the Ukrainians, which means throughout the day on Sunday all of those tens of thousands of people remain trapped and they can't leave. ZAKARIA: Matt, the pictures we've seen are devastating and it feels

like the civilians casualties are probably a lot higher than people realize. Possibly in the tens of thousands. What are you hearing, very quickly, about resupply? Are there arms getting through to the Ukrainians?

RIVERS: No. The simple answer is no. We've heard a little bit here and there about maybe some arms being able to trickle in, but what we've heard from the defenders that remain in that city is that they have not only gotten new ammunition but also fresh food, fresh water, the kinds of things that they would need to sustain a fight for a long time and yet they have managed to hold on this far. We'll see how things go in the coming days, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Matt Rivers, pleasure to have you on. Stay safe. Terrific reporting.

Next on GPS, another sign that Putin didn't think all this through. Long neutral Finland and Sweden both may be on the brink of asking for NATO membership despite Russian threats. We will explore what a geopolitical sea change this would all be when we come back with the former prime minister of Sweden.



ZAKARIA: After decades on the periphery of NATO and the edge of Russia, Sweden and Finland are reconsidering full membership in the alliance. Polls in both countries show citizens are increasingly in favor of such a move. Finland is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks and Sweden's ruling party has started to debate the matter internally. For its part Russia on Thursday threatened to surround its neighbors with naval forces, nuclear weapons and more if they exceed to the Western alliance.

Carl Bildt was Sweden's prime minister from 1991 to 1994 and he was foreign minister during Russia's last invasion of Ukraine.


Carl, welcome on the program again. Let me ask you, is this for real? Because we have heard about these kind of talks before, but is it your sense that in all likelihood Finland and Sweden will, in fact, apply for NATO membership?

CARL BILDT, FORMER SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: Yes, it is for real. February 24th changed the security situation in Europe in a very profound way and that has led to various deep reconsideration in primarily Finland, I mean, it started in Finland to be quite honest, starting with the Finns to have security in the DNA in other ways that Swedes have and now in Sweden. And you will see a process in both of the countries during the next few weeks that will lead to a formal application before the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June. That's what's up, I would say. ZAKARIA: Finland is, as you say, the most -- it's the most exposed,

it's in some ways the most unlikely because Finland has maintained neutrality, you know, even during the height of the Cold War. They fought a bloody war with the Soviet Union during World War II, maintained their independence even though they lost, I don't know, 10 percent, 15 percent of their territory. What do you think -- what is it about the situation now that has -- that has so transformed Finland's views?

BILDT: That is fairly obvious that we have a regime in the Kremlin, in Moscow that behaves in ways that are sort of very different from what we had first hoped for, but then also anticipated. The fact that they have gone for a full-scale invasion, really full-scale invasion, against a neighbor with explicit purpose of more or less getting rid of that neighbor. That's sort of slightly upsetting to put it very mildly.

And that had led the security elites of Finland, and they have such, to -- we can see the NATO option. They've had a NATO option for a long time, but now they are reconsidering it. That has led also to the same discussion in Sweden and I think both forces are very firmly moving in the same direction. It is a sea change, needless to say, but it will come.

ZAKARIA: And you've been on all sides of these kinds of things, so give us a sense of how do you think NATO will react and will Russia's threats matter?

BILDT: There will be Russian threats, we actually all saw it the other day with Dmitry Medvedev saying they were going to move nuclear weapons close to our country. As a matter of fact, that's already done. I mean, they have nuclear weapons in the Kaliningrad area and missiles that can hit us. They've been deployed in there since years. They have up on the Kola Peninsula, that's close to the border of Norway and Finland, probably the greatest concentration of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world.

So what he threatened with has actually already happened. So I don't think that will have any impact. As for NATO, that's for the NATO countries to decide, there are 30 of them that have to say yes. United states being the most important, but I think the indications so far, and I think rightly so, is that NATO will see this as strengthening the security and the democratic credentials of NATO in a period when NATO would be more needed than ever for the security of Europe.

ZAKARIA: And correct me if I'm wrong, Carl, but what this could do is orient Europe and give Europe a strategic orientation so that European countries realize that when they spend money on defense it's not just make work programs or for kind of notional territorial defense, you know, who is going to attack Belgium, but really to secure the eastern border of Europe, the Baltic countries, countries that have been so far thought difficult to defend.

Now if the entire orientation is to forward deploy east, you have a Europe that actually becomes more secure, correct? BILDT: I think that would be the case and as you indicate this is part

of a wider pattern of changes that we will see. We see increases in defense spending, Sweden, Denmark, take that in northern Europe now moved up to 2 percent, they're moving up to 2 percent where the others already are. You see Denmark having a referendum to lift some of the restrictions on E.U. security cooperation they've had.

You'll see a stronger NATO. I think you'll see also a stronger E.U. on security issues. NATO being the military alliance for territorial defense, E.U. having a somewhat broader array of instruments being security lines. I think you'll see NATO and E.U. working more closely together. And I think we'll see a more balanced relationship across the Atlantic.


So with all of the tragedy and all of the challenges that we face, with a more dangerous Russia in the years ahead, I think we might see a strengthening of our west in Europe as a result of this, apart from the fact that I think it's necessary.

ZAKARIA: Before I let you go I have to ask you one question which is the one place where there does seem to be -- I don't know if a weak link is the right way to describe it but there seems to be some problem is Germany. The Germans tried to send their president Frank- Walter Steinmeier to Ukraine, the Ukrainians I think somewhat foolishly rejected that offer. Now the Germans seem to be upset, Chancellor Scholz has publicly criticized the Ukrainians.

Is there a danger that the Germans will not follow through on what seemed like a very robust transformation in German foreign policy?

BILDT: I agree with you. I think it was foolish of the Ukrainians. We work together with Steinmeier when were foreign ministers, and we might have some sort of divergence, you always have that discussing different issues, but at the end of the day he's always been a robust supporter of our approach on Russia and support to Ukraine. So I think it was somewhat unfair. I hope they will repair that particular damage.

The change in Germany is very big, no doubt about that, and big changes don't happen in one week. It takes time to digest what has been happening, but I do see this change coming in German policy. It's not going to be radical one day from another, but it's coming. It is very substantial increases in defense spending that are coming there and clearly getting rid of Russian gas, it's going to take some time.

It's a very big thing, Nord Stream and all of that industry. So while some would like to see all of the change come in a week's time, I think it's going to take somewhat longer time, but it will come. And what Germany does now is of course going to be very important for the overall stance both of NATO and of the European Union.

ZAKARIA: Carl Bildt, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you.

BILDT: Thank you. ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, can economic sanctions really weaken Vladimir

Putin? I will ask Bill Browder who was once the largest foreign investor in Russia.



ZAKARIA: Vladimir Putin's crackdown on dissension shows no signs of letting up. This week we saw the arrest of Vladimir Kara-Muza, an outspoken critic of Putin and his war on Ukraine. On Monday he appeared on CNN Plus and called Putin's government a regime of murderers. That same day he was detained and sentenced to 15 days in jail.

My next guest is no stranger to Putin's heavy-handed tactics. Bill Browder was once the largest foreign investor in Russia, then Putin turned on him. He is the author of a new book "Freezing Order."

Bill, you've been watching Putin for many, many years and you in a sense called the shift early. I want to ask you if you think Putin has changed, because if you looked at the invasion of Georgia, it was limited, it was clever, it simply took the nibble away the Russian- speaking parts. This seems full frontal reckless, as Carl Bildt was saying, it has changed Finnish foreign policy after 70 years of neutrality. Do you think Putin changed?

BILL BROWDER, FOUNDER AND CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: I think Putin has always been the same man. What he's doing right now is responding to things that he sees as threats to his own security, his threats to his own personnel safety. He is a dictator. He's been around for 22 years. He's stolen enormous amounts of money. The Russian people are angry with him, and he has watched dictators in other neighboring countries in Kazakhstan and Belarus -- in Kazakhstan the dictator was overthrown, in Belarus almost overthrown only with the help of Putin stayed in power.

And he saw the writing on the wall. And so what I see Putin doing right now is this is a wag the dog scenario. He's basically starting a war to distract the Russian people away from his own failings towards a foreign enemy because he is afraid of losing power and if he loses power he ends up going to jail and probably dying.

And so he's not -- I mean, yes, it's all crazy, this full-frontal invasion, but he's just responding to his own fears and that's what this is all about.

ZAKARIA: And in the past every time he's done one of these foreign interventions it has -- you know.

BROWDER: It's uncanny. If you look at the chart, Georgia, his approval ratings go up, Crimea, his approval ratings go up, and now the same thing here. It's just -- it's almost like mechanical. He starts a war and he gets higher approval ratings.

ZAKARIA: Do you think, though, that means -- your theory of the case is that underneath it all there is a lot of discontent in Russia.

BROWDER: Well, how could there not be? I mean, basically all the -- so I estimate that since Putin took power until now he and the 1,000 people around him have stolen a trillion dollars from the Russian state. A trillion. And that money should have been spent on health care, education, roads, public services, and instead it went to yachts, villas, private jets. And how can anyone be happy with the situation like that?

ZAKARIA: When I had Mikhail Khodorkovsky on the program, once Russia's richest businessman, he said that he worried that while Putin for the first, let's say, decade was busy stealing money and appropriating -- syphoning off funds, he's now worried that it's even worse than that, that Putin is no longer interested in material gain.


What he is interested in, he has these visions of being the next Peter the Great or Ivan the Terrible. He wants to leave a kind of grand mark on Russian history as having saved the Russian-speaking people. Do you see that?

BROWDER: Well, he's definitely not interested in money because look at what's happened to his money, it's being frozen all over the world. So there's something else going on. But I don't think -- you know, if you take that analysis, that would say that he's got some national interest. He's interested in the greatness of Russia, but how can anyone be interested in the greatness of Russia if they've stolen all the money from the people and hollowed it out completely and absolutely?

And so I would say this is more about a desperate little man who is afraid of being killed. That's really what it comes down to. He is just a small little man who is worried about the people rising up against him.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that the economic sanctions are the right way to go? What should be done? How do you put real pressure on Putin?

BROWDER: Well, sanctions are like medicine. It depends on when you administer the medicine to a disease, whether you stop the disease or whether it goes full force. If we had done some sanctions, even a small portion of these sanctions, early before he invaded, just like 5 percent of them, so he could see that there was a -- that we could all lock arms with our allies and do something, he might have had a different calculus.

Once he's made the decision to invade, there is no changing his mind. He is a guy who never compromises, never shows weakness, never backs down. The purpose of sanctions now are very simple, to completely and absolutely starve him of the financial resources to execute this war.

ZAKARIA: But the problem is the oil and natural gas revenues keep flowing.

BROWDER: Yes. ZAKARIA: I mean, you're a practical businessman. Realistically, you

know, Europe can't shut itself off from Russian energy so what should they do?

BROWDER: You're exactly right. So the war costs a billion dollars a day to execute, Germany, Italy, Austria send a billion dollars a day to Russia, to Putin, to buy bullets to kill Ukrainians. And so it's a real problem. They have to stop -- I mean, you know, are they going to stop 100 percent of that? No, but I think that it's possible and feasible to pare it down quite a bit.

And there's one other thing which people don't talk about a lot which is the oil price. Saudi Arabia could turn on the taps and pump a million or two million barrels a day extra oil and the oil price would go down 30 percent. We have leverage over Saudi Arabia, we should be using it now, and if they don't back down or if they don't cooperate on this whole thing they should be considered part of the problem as well.

ZAKARIA: Tell us about Kara-Muza, the newly in jail -- in jail dissident. You met with him, he is a friend of yours and you urged him not to go to Russia.

BROWDER: I was with him two and a half weeks ago in London. We were having dinner and I said where are you going next? I wanted to invite him to my book party in Washington and he said I'm going to Russia but I'll be at your book party. And I said you can't be serious, you can't be going to Russia. He said, no, I have to go. I'm an opposition politician, I'm asking the Russian people to stand up to Vladimir Putin.

What message would it send if I'm too scared to go to my own country? And he went and he got arrested. And I should point out that they've tried to kill him twice with poison. He survived two assassination attempts. He is now in the custody of the people who tried to kill him.

ZAKARIA: What does it say about, you know, Russian dissidents -- I mean, I'm struck by how brave these people are. I mean, they keep -- there are attempted poisoning of Navalny, they've tried to poison, they tried to poison the president of Ukraine when he was a candidate. This was about 10, 15 years ago. They've tried successfully poisoned many dissidents but there still is a vibrant dissident community in Russia. Will it stay? Will it make a difference?

BROWDER: Well, all it takes is -- we don't know how this whole thing is going to play itself out, but what Alexei Navalny who is in jail, and now Kara-Muza is in jail, their calculation is that at some point Putin is going to misstep, the whole country is going to rise up, there's going to be chaos and then there is going to be a need for a new leader.

Then I can imagine if that were to happen, and it's happening in a lot of other countries, you know, Navalny will be the president and Kara- Muza will be the prime minister. ZAKARIA: Bill Browder, always a pleasure, the book is "Freezing

Order," the last one was number one "New York Times" best seller. Best of luck on this one.

Next, 25 million people are in COVID lockdown in Shanghai alone, perhaps hundreds of millions of people across China. I will talk to CNN's David Culver who is locked down in Shanghai himself when we come back.



ZAKARIA: After initially trying to stop the coronavirus in its tracks, most of the world eventually accepted there was no way to fully contain the virus, except for China, which has stuck to a zero COVID strategy all this time. It has reported impressive results for two years, but that strategy is finally breaking down.

Some 400 million people are now under full or partial lockdown according to the Japanese bank Nomura including more than 25 million people in China's largest city Shanghai. That city has seen a backlash as people struggle with the lack of food and basic necessities.

Joining me from that lockdown in Shanghai in CNN's David Culver.

David, can you explain -- describe for us what this lockdown looks like and just remind people we are talking about China's richest most cosmopolitan, most international city, a city when you go to sort of dazzling skyscrapers and affluence.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it was at one time so vibrant, Fareed, and has now come to a halt. It's really quite shocking to see.

Now I'm coming to you from inside my home. I had for the past few weeks while still in lockdown was using my terrace to do at least some outside live reporting and have some fresh air. No longer are we allowed to use our outside patio. My door has once again been taped with a seal on it. They don't want people even opening their windows. They're trying to once again confine folks to their homes.

And this was after last week they had given folks the idea that maybe there would be some sense of freedom and they would be easing restrictions a bit. Well, here we are, back to square one. So this is, to be candid, like no other lockdown, I've covered Wuhan and many in between right here in China. And for a month there have been various levels of lockdown here that we've been living through and it's getting tough.

And it's been very challenging. Getting food and basic necessities, that has been increasingly difficult. I've been fortunate, but some in the city are living off little to no food. Shouting, we are starving, we are starving, and, Fareed, you point out this is in Shanghai, of all places. It seems folks here are increasingly more concerned with these lockdown measures that are draconian, that are harsh, than they are with even getting the virus, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Is there a sense -- I mean, if you have had the opportunity to talk to some of these people or to see stuff on social media, do people think this is a legitimate public health strategy, maybe a little too extreme, or is it, you know, a kind of communist party that is just reacting to save face and to maintain control?

CULVER: This feels out of control, Fareed, both the virus and the management of this outbreak, and with each passing day you begin to question what exactly is happening here? I mean, the cases are spreading, this is Omicron. The West well knows that it's highly transmissible and it's spreading within locked down communities.

I mean, if I get it the only time I'm close to other people and this goes for most of the folks in this city is when we're with our neighbors for the many mandatory government COVID tests and the occasional government distribution.

That's the only time we're coming together. So if after about a month's time we've been isolated outside of those instances, well, more and more folks are raising concerns that it's actually these lockdown measures that are causing the spread. And there's increasing skepticism of the numbers, Fareed. This is something that we remember going back to Wuhan.

Officially right now with the nearly 300,000 or so cases that the government is reporting here in Shanghai, only 13 people are listed as critically ill or severe illness, and yet our reporting and talking to folks as you pointed out through social media in particular, that's been a way that we've been able to connect even going back to Wuhan with people who are living in the midst of this along with us, well, they're sharing that this recent outbreak has taken the lives of their loved ones, died directly from COVID according to the doctors that these people have been dealing with.

And so the official count, though, when you look at total deaths right now, Fareed, the official government count is zero. So things are not adding up.

ZAKARIA: Now, it would seem that the solution to this, at least one solution, would be to use the vaccine that works, the MRNA vaccine, which the Chinese do not -- have not locally developed, so they would have to license a Western vaccine.

CULVER: Right.

ZAKARIA: And this part, one thing you know the Chinese government would be able to do is to vaccinate the entire country within, you know, I don't know, a month, two months, but they seem resolutely opposed to that. Explain that.

CULVER: And it seems politics and perhaps ego, it's pushing out science and any carefully calculated strategy at this point. Initially when you look at the approach here and even with the vaccinations there was a lot of trust, people were really willing to go along with these extreme measures. I remember right after Wuhan having left there everyone was in it with this feeling of solidarity. They wanted to try to make the country safer as they saw it, the virus being the biggest threat and they worked together to do that. There was this social acceptance.

And so vaccinations while, you know, they say they're officially at roughly 90 percent of people being fully vaccinated, the real concern is of course those who are 80 years or older, that number falls to about 50 percent. But what you're starting to then see on the streets here are protests and that's, as you know, a rare sight in China. And I think we have a video of one instance in particular of folks who are being taken into custody by police who are in hazmat suits because they're being forced out of their homes.

Now these are not positive cases I need to point out. They are being pulled out of their homes because their houses are being turned into quarantine centers. And so when folks are taken to quarantine facilities they're also dealing with really poorly constructed infrastructure, unsanitary conditions.


And it seems online people are starting to get creative with their backlash, and not only are we seeing, you know, the in-person protests, Fareed, but we're starting to see that for a brief period of time they're able to post ways and certain hashtags that are very clever and they're able to get through the censors which we know is a heavily monitored internet here and they're using that satire to criticize the government. And they're also calling out the perceived hypocrisy of state media which has portrayed this as orderly and controlled, everything is going mostly smooth.

Now the people of Shanghai they're not ignorant and you have to wonder if given what's been this unspoken deal with the people, this prosperity and the basic necessities for all so long as the party remains in control without any dispute, well, you have to wonder if that deal is going to fall apart after all of this, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: This story is not going -- is not going to go away and we will be back.

David Culver, fascinating reporting. Thank you.

Next on GPS, why China and Russia are united in trying to counter the consensus narrative on the war in Ukraine? A very interesting story when we come back.



ZAKARIA: And now for the "Last Look." To the outside world Beijing appears engaged in a delicate dance over Russia's war in Ukraine, far from condemnation, but unwilling to offer Russia unqualified support either. But within China's carefully controlled landscape of state-run media and social networking sites, its posture is far from neutral. In recent segments on China's central television the network

highlighted the bogus Kremlin talking point that the U.S. is funding the development of biological weapons in Ukraine. Other Chinese media have seriously taken up the equally bogus idea that Russia's invasion is a special military operation designed to weed Neo-Nazis out of Ukraine.

And as Li Yuan notes in a column in the "New York Times" if you were to watch Chinese television it's unlikely you'd see coverage of international condemnation of Russia or of anti-war protests in Moscow. Contrasted with the reality of the gruesome scenes from Bucha, Russian disinformation floating into Chinese media feels abhorrent.

But none of this should surprise us. China and Russia have long cooperated on the dissemination of anti-Western propaganda. As it was Li Yuan notes, since 2015 the countries have held an annual Sino- Russia media forum with backing from top leadership. Putin once spoke of wanting to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams.

For the Chinese Communist Party the war in Ukraine offers a particularly expedient opportunity to reinforce anti-Western messaging that of course bolsters support for Xi Jinping at home. Take a new documentary called "Historical Nihilism and Soviet Collapse," that has been screened for communist party officials in recent months. As "The New York Times" reports it portrays Putin as a hero restoring Moscow to greatness.

While it was produced before the war it argues that Russia should be concerned about countries it used to control. At one point according to the "Times" the documentary's narrator opines that some of these states are forward positions for the West to contain and meddle in Russia. And the documentary underscores the decades long obsession of the Chinese Communist Party, the fall of the Soviet Union.

As the China scholar David Shambaugh once told the "Wall Street Journal" when the leadership gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night it is the Soviet collapse that haunts them. That's because as we are too apt to forget the People's Republic of China is in its political system modeled on the USSR. Since 1991 the Chinese Communist Party has produced thousands of papers and roundtable discussions on the fall of the Soviet Union.

But as James Farmer has written in "Foreign Policy," the narrative has shifted in recent years away from structural critiques of the Soviet empire toward a different culprit. The new line of argument in the party is that Soviet leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and Nikita Khrushchev simply lost their nerve to bolster the strength of the authoritarian system.

The critique centers around Glasnost, Gorbachev's policy of relaxing authoritarianism and fostering a more open political atmosphere. While the policy from the Western perspective was a moment of triumph, for the Chinese it was a fatal mistake. And the main point of Gorbachev's failure was his relaxation of the state's grip on information according to the Chinese narrative. Under Gorbachev banned books returned to shelves, people living in the Soviet Union learned the truth about Stalin's purges and criticism of the government was allowed.

The Chinese Communist Party sees this as the detrimental effect of opening up to the West, which according to Beijing's narrative, uses free flows of information to destabilize mighty communist regimes.


And it's not just the new documentary, as the "Times" reports, Chinese universities are organizing lectures tying the war in Ukraine to Russia's grievances with the West such as NATO expansion. This narrative justifies Russia's invasion as essentially provoked by the West.

So perhaps China's posture on Ukraine has less to do with its undying support for Russia and more with making common cause with Moscow to break the West's hegemony on information and thus shield the communist party from critiques, attacks and negative information.

For President Xi the main goal remains what it has always been, keeping the communist party of China firmly in power.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.