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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview With Zelenskyy's Top Aide Andriy Yermak; Interview With Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu About Russia's War In Ukraine; Could Switching To Clean Energy Lead To A New Dependence On China? Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 01, 2022 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the program, can Russia be weakened enough in Ukraine to force it to retreat in defeat? Can Kyiv actually emerge victorious? British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said maybe not, but on Thursday President Biden asked Congress for $33 billion in additional aid to Ukraine. A dramatic increase.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to contribute arms, funding, ammunition and economic support to make their courage and sacrifice have purpose.

ZAKARIA: I will ask Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's top aide, Andriy Yermak, if Ukraine is getting what it needs to win.

Then looking east. Will Putin's invasion inspire China to attack Taiwan? That is the big question, I put it to Taiwan's foreign minister in a fascinating exclusive interview.


ZAKARIA: But, first, here's "My Take." At first glance the war in Ukraine would seem to confirm President Biden's oft expressed view that the world today is marked by a contest between democracies and autocracies. After all, autocratic Russia is waging a savage assault on Democratic Ukraine and the latter enjoys the staunch support of Western democracies. On closer examination, however, that framework turns out to be neither accurate nor helpful as a guide for American foreign policy.

It's true that many of the world's democracies have lined up to support Ukraine but the world's largest populous democracy, India, has neither condemned the Russian aggression nor promised to abide by the sanctions against Moscow. And it's it not just India, Asia's second largest democracy Indonesia has been reserved in its stance on Russia. The largest successful democracy on the African continent, South Africa, has also refused to condemn Russia and has even blamed NATO expansion for provoking Russia's invasion.

The two largest democracies in Latin America, Brazil and Mexico, have mostly remained neutral and abstained from voting to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. Iraq, the Arab world's only functioning democracy, voted to abstain on the resolution condemning Russia. Assessed by populations, a majority of the people who live in democracies have chosen in this great ideological struggle to sit on the fence.

At one level this might seem a simple case of national interests trumping idealism. Many of these countries have economic interests that would suffer were they to cut ties with Moscow. India, for example, gets most of its advance weaponry from Russia. South Africa and Brazil have trade relations with the Russian that while not crucial at all are significant. Yet the idea of a grand ideological crusade against autocracies leaves most developing countries very nervous.

Many of them have strong economic ties to China and are closely allied to other autocracies in their neighborhoods. A much better way to frame the division in the world is between countries that believe in a rules-based international order and those that don't.

Russia has revealed itself to be the world's leading rogue state, intent on attacking the heart of this order, the norm that borders do not get changed by force. Moscow is seeking a return to the realm of pure power politics, one in which Thucydides' phrase, the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

If the West were to rally the world against this effort, it would find it had many allies. As former British foreign secretary David Miliband said to me, a division based on the rules-based order is much more inclusive than one based on democracies versus autocracies. A country like Singapore, for example, which is not a full-fledged liberal democracy, is nonetheless staunchly supportive of international norms and values.

At the beginning of the Russian invasion, it decided for the first time in over 40 years to enforce international sanctions even though they had not been imposed by the U.N. Security Council due to the fear of a Russian veto.


Countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are unlikely to join an appeal to battle autocracies since they are themselves absolute monarchies, but a call to uphold an open international system might well have more traction. For India or Indonesia, this framing could force them to think harder about the consequences of allowing Russia's aggression to stand. If countries can get away with military incursions and the annexations of their neighbor's lands, New Delhi will have a weaker case against potential Chinese move in its borderlands with India.

As Kenya's ambassador to the U.N. pointed out shortly before the invasion, African countries have chosen to accept colonial borders precisely because they understand the chaos that would be unleashed if countries try to redraw them along purely cultural or ethnic lines. Such a framing also places much greater pressure on China, which is arguably the greatest beneficiary of the rules-based international order.

It is this open framework that has allowed China to rise peacefully in a stable, prosperous Asia. And Beijing has often spoken out forcefully against violations of country's sovereignty. It is this aspect of Chinese hypocrisy that would be worth highlighting and emphasizing.

Of course, for this strategy to work, the West and the United States in particular, must itself adhere to a rules-based international system more zealously. American actions, particularly the Iraq war, often prompt accusations of Western hypocrisy. The Biden administration has called for war crimes investigations against Russia but it is itself not a member of the International Criminal Court. America rails against China's violation of the Law of the Seas Treaty in the South China Seas while it is itself not a signatory to that treaty.

If Washington wants the world to support a rules-based international order, it must get better at practicing what it preaches.

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

My first guest today, Andriy Yermak, is often referred to as the second most powerful politician in Ukraine. The most powerful, of course, being President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Yermak runs Zelenskyy's presidential office and is also very close to the president personally, having been his business partner for years before the two entered politics. Yermak has been deeply involved in international negotiations, is in frequent communication with President Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and other top Western officials.

After a week that saw the U.N. secretary-general and the U.S. secretaries of State and Defense visit Kyiv, I wanted to hear from him.

Welcome to the program, Andriy.


ZAKARIA: Andriy, as we watch recent military developments, we're trying to understand where things stand. In the first phase of the war in the north, Ukraine heroically repelled the Russian attempt to take over Kyiv but now Russian forces in the south do seem to be expanding their control of the Donbas.

What is the state of play, and will Ukraine be able to get back these territories that Russia is expanding into?

YERMAK: Of course, Fareed, it's our goal in this war and our military force is now a great army, of course, all of our territory which is temporarily occupied. You are right that now the biggest battle is concentrated in the southeast of Ukraine and especially in Donbas, and of course all the world now know the name of our city Mariupol in which it's still very difficult, I can say catastrophic situation. It's practically destroyed, more than 90 percent. But, of course, we plan and we want, and I'm sure we are back all of our territories.

ZAKARIA: Do you believe that the aid that President Biden is proposing now, the $33 billion, is that going to be a turning point? It is a much larger sum than he has ever asked for before, and people are making comparisons to America's assistance to Britain in 1940 when Britain stood all alone. Do you feel this is a game-changer?


YERMAK: First of all, we adhere very strongly that the United States sure and believe in Ukrainian victory in this war. The second, it's really changed the level of our relationship. I can say, and it was the dream, it was the goal of President Zelenskyy and all our team that our relationship started finally be like a real people partnership. And today we can surely say, yes, it's happened.

And I say that we are very appreciative because we know definitely that today mostly American citizens, America's people, care about what happened in my country and really this strong support, it's very important for us and this very deep and very strong arguments for our weakness. And I'm sure it will be victory not just for Ukraine, it will be victory and United States, our mutual victory.

Victory of all democracy world because, you know, today for us, it's the life of our people, it's the life of our children, it's the life of our civilians, it's the life of our soldiers. But we, our great nation, show for all the world that we win and we are sure about that.

ZAKARIA: You know, Andriy, there are a lot of people in America and other Western countries, too, but let's focus on America because there is this big bill before Congress for $33 billion of aid. There are a lot of people who say, why should the United States spend so much money on something that is happening so far away from America's borders? Congressmen have raised this issue. What is your message to people as to why your struggle is one America should care about?

YERMAK: After the 24th of February, I think all the world, all the free world, democracy world understand, it could happen in any places in the world. And now Ukraine defends not just our country, we defend real democracy.

ZAKARIA: Stay with us, when we come back, I'm going to ask Andriy Yermak if Ukraine is willing to make concessions to get to a negotiated end to this war.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with Andriy Yermak, he is Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's top aide, often referred to as the second most powerful politician in Ukraine. Andriy, there have been some negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

Is it your impression in those meetings, are the Russians negotiating seriously?

YERMAK: I can say that the Ukrainian position is absolutely clear in the principle, in the beginning. Not Ukraine started this war. Not Ukraine occupied somebody's territories. Ukraine never be aggressive. Ukraine never going with aggression to the Russia. It means that for us it's most important, it's our independence, it's our sovereignty and territorial integrity. And this is for what we are fighting, we are fighting for our land, and for the freedom.

And of course, I think that then it will be real progress and will be real progress for us. It's the decisions that this war will be stopped and then our territory will be de-occupied and Russians will go out from our territory. This is the main goal for us, for Ukraine, in these negotiations.

ZAKARIA: It seems clear that this war is going to have to end in some kind of negotiation. That there is not going to be a total victory either by the Russians or really by Ukraine. So is Ukraine willing to make some adjustments, accommodations, concessions, call them what you will, to Russian demands such as no NATO membership, or recognize Crimea, or recognize Donetsk and Luhansk.? Is Ukraine willing to move on some of these issues?

YERMAK: For us there is three very principal things for which we not really for us (INAUDIBLE) is not acceptable.


It's our independence, it's our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Of course, we want maybe more than somebody else to stop this war, our people want to stop this war. But for us it's important that Ukraine will be win this war. I hope that we can find the way out of this situation, but once again, today our people continue the fighting, and we will be fighting up to all of the full power of victory. And full our victory, once again, it's back to control of all our territories. That's all.

ZAKARIA: Let me finally ask you, Andriy, about your personal situation. For a long time you and President Zelenskyy were sharing a room, an underground bunker. You had not seen your families. Has any of that changed now that the situation in Kyiv is somewhat better? Have you been able to see your family?

YERMAK: Yes, you're right, we are here all these days beginning early morning of the 24th of February. We are all the days here. Yes, we have the opportunity to meet shortly with our families, but continue to be here, continue to work, continue to fight because the war is not ending. And our people are in most difficult situations. Our soldiers cannot stop fighting, not stop in the night, not stop in the morning.

And now obligations, and obligations of all people, all of the power and the politics of Ukraine, it's our obligation. We have to be in our place and continue to do our best and to do everything important that to be -- to come to be closer to our victory, to support our people. We have to be examples to all of the world, and I'm absolutely sure that this will be solved.

ZAKARIA: Andriy Yermak, pleasure to have you on. Stay safe, of course. And we hope to hear more from you in the future.

YERMAK: Thank you, Fareed. Thank you very much.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the foreign minister of Taiwan on the grave concern that China might be inspired by Russia and attack Taiwan.

Also tonight on CNN, Stanley Tucci is back. New episodes, new discoveries, and more food. The new season of "SEARCHING FOR ITALY" premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. on CNN.



ZAKARIA: As Russian troops were invading Ukraine in late February, many eyes shifted to the east, to China. They were watching to see whether or not Beijing would be inspired by Moscow's actions and attack Taiwan. In recent years, China's been increasingly belligerent towards Taiwan in both rhetoric and actions. China, of course, still views Taiwan as part of its territory, even though the island has been separately governed for some 70 years.

I had an exclusive interview with Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. We talked about fears of a Chinese invasion and much more.


ZAKARIA: Mr. Foreign Minister, pleasure to have you on.


ZAKARIA: So first I have to ask you, as you're watching this war in Ukraine, like all of us, but you're looking at it as the foreign minister of Taiwan. What lessons are you drawing?

WU: In fact, we've been watching this very carefully and we are trying to draw as many lessons as possible. The first thing is that there's some similarities in between the two, Ukraine and Taiwan. Ukraine is on the frontline against Russia's outward expansion. Russia claims Ukraine and Russia used force against Ukraine for its historical glory.

And if you look at China, China also claims Taiwan, and China is so much more powerful than Taiwan. And China says that it will not execute the use of force against Taiwan and has been conducting military exercises around Taiwan. So this is some similarity in between the two.

But we are also trying to look at the Russian actions, which is not advancing in a very smooth way for the Russian perspective.


And therefore we try to see what we can learn from Ukraine in defending ourselves. There are two things, of course. The first is asymmetric capability. You know, look at the Ukrainians. They use small personal weapons to go against a large enemy. And I think that is something that we can learn from. In fact, we have been preparing for that, but we need to make more investment in this regard.

And the second area that we can learn from Ukraine is civil defense. You know, look at the Ukrainian people. All the males are having the determination to defend the country. They want to serve in the military. They want to go to the war zones to fight against Russia. And that kind of spirit is enviable for the Taiwanese people. And therefore, it's not just the Taiwanese government that has learned the lesson; it's also the Taiwanese people.

The people here in Taiwan are more determined to defend ourselves than ever before. But, of course, we have to watch out very carefully. When there's a war, we need friends and allies to support Taiwan, as in the case of Ukraine.

Look at the United States and Europe, Japan, and et cetera. They all come together to support Ukraine. And Taiwan needs that. And the problem with Taiwan is that Taiwan is not being recognized by the international community, and therefore Taiwan needs to act in order to have better relations with the like-minded countries so that they will come to Taiwan's assistance when we need it.

ZAKARIA: What do you think Beijing is -- is learning from this?

Because, at the start of this invasion, a lot of people thought maybe Beijing will view this as a green light, as an opportunity to do its own invasion, or some kind of military operation, across the Taiwan Straits.

Do you think that, watching the war in Ukraine, that Beijing is -- is more likely, or have they been --are they watching and saying, "This is more complicated than we thought?"

ZAKARIA: This is a very difficult issue for Taiwan to answer. We don't live in China, and we don't live in Beijing. We are -- we are not decision-makers of Beijing, to think for Beijing.

But if we put ourselves in the shoes of Beijing, they might learn several things. The first is possible international reactions, whether the United States is going to come to Taiwan's help. In the case of Ukraine, even though the United States has declared very early on that it's not going to get militarily involved, but at the end, you see the United States is pulling in lots of resources to Ukraine to support the Ukrainians to fight against Russia.

So I think the Chinese government must be thinking or calculating how the United States or other major countries are going to come to Taiwan's help, or whether they are going to come to Taiwan's help. If Taiwan does not have any support, I think that's going to be a green light to aggression. And the second thing, if they think that Taiwan is weak and easy to

take over, I think it's an open invitation for Beijing's aggression. But I think we have seen from Ukraine, the case of Ukraine is that, even though they seem to be weaker than Russia, but the desire to defend the country and the willingness to use personal weapons against the Russian enemy is something that they are able to defend themselves.

And therefore Beijing must think twice whether they are able to take Taiwan over and defeat Taiwan in a few days. If they are not able to take Taiwan over quickly, I think they need to pause and think twice before they act. Fortunately, the case of Ukraine and the determination of the international community to come and support Ukraine shows that the authoritarianism needs to confront the fact that the democracies are more united than ever against authoritarianism.

ZAKARIA: Since the -- the Russian invasion in Ukraine, have you heard from democracies around the world? Have you received any kind of messages of solidarity or support?

WU: In fact, there's a lot. And it started way before the war started. They know that, if there's going to be a war over Taiwan, it's going to be a disaster for the rest of the world. So we are very happy that there's a growing awareness of the international community to care about the situation Taiwan is in.

And beginning from late last year, you have seen waves of visitors come into Taiwan, especially the parliamentarians in Europe. They debated in a parliament and they adopted resolutions in support of Taiwan. And they came to Taiwan to show their support.


And it's exactly like what the American congressmen or senators have done.

So we are very happy that the fellow democracies are paying more attention to Taiwan, showing more support for Taiwan. And after the war in Ukraine, if you search on the Internet, two terms come up. One is "Ukraine." And the second is "Taiwan." Because people in the world care about Taiwan.

ZAKARIA: Most countries around the world do not have the deep and extensive ties with Russia that they do with mainland China. So do you worry that China's economic clout will mean that, you know, people -- countries are willing to sanction Russia but they may not be willing to sanction China?

WU: That is a possibility. And we have been discussing, not only among ourselves but also with like-minded partners, to see what can be done if China launches war against Taiwan.

If you hear the discussions among the American decision-makers, they are talking about integrated deterrence these days. It's not just military but different aspects of deterrence against the Chinese aggression against Taiwan.

So this is something that has been under discussion. But I think the assumption is right, China is much more powerful economically, and therefore it is going to be much more difficult to impose economic sanctions against China.

But another factor is look at the weakness of the Chinese economy these days. You know, it's not the old China anymore, old China, two, three, four years ago, anymore. If you look at the Chinese growth rate these years, it's slowing down, slowing down significantly. And when the Chinese government faces a situation that its economy is slowing down, I think it is going to be more vulnerable to the Western economic sanctions.

ZAKARIA (voice over): Next on "GPS," I'll ask the question on everyone's mind.

(on camera): If China were to invade Taiwan, do you expect the United States to come to your rescue?

(voice over): The answer, in a moment.




ZAKARIA (on camera): We are back here on "GPS" with more of my interview with Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu, amid fears that China may invade the island.


ZAKARIA: So let me ask you, point-blank, if China were to invade Taiwan, do you expect the United States to come to your rescue?

WU: That is not a question for me to answer. But I can tell you that the people here in Taiwan are ready and prepared to defend ourselves. We are asking the United States and other governments to provide Taiwan with necessary defensive articles so that we are able to defend ourselves.

And we are discussing with the United States and other like-minded countries how we can better defend ourselves. Give us something for us to defend ourselves. And speak out in support for Taiwan so that we feel that we are not alone in fighting for ourselves.

And fortunately, I will tell you that the United States, Japan, Australia, European countries, Canada, they have been showing support for Taiwan. So this is something that we can count on. When we are engaged in conflicts, unfortunately, if we have to, with China, we can count on all these like-minded countries to speak out in support of Taiwan.

ZAKARIA: Do you feel the Biden administration, particularly in light of Ukraine, is providing you with the kind of moral and material support that you want?

WU: Yes, indeed. Before and after the war in Ukraine started on February 24th, we have been engaging in very close contact and discussions with the United States. Of course, we are answering the call of the United States and other like-minded countries how to act together with the democracies against authoritarianisms, expansionism.

And therefore we joined the condemnation, we joined the sanctions, we do whatever we can to support the Ukrainian people. And I think this has been seen. And right after the war erupted, on the 24th of February, the Biden administration sent a very powerful team to come to Taiwan and speak with us. And what they wanted to do is to reassure the Taiwanese people that U.S. support to Taiwan is rock-solid.

ZAKARIA: The president of China says Taiwan is part of china. It's in the Chinese People's Republic of China's constitution that China and Taiwan are one country. Does China have a legitimate claim with regard to unification?

WU: They can continue to say it, but they are running against the reality and the desire of the Taiwanese people. The Chinese government have been claiming lots of different things. You know, for example, they're claiming East China Sea, Taiwan, South China Sea, and parts of India, and et cetera.

But if it is not in line with the status quo, I think their claims are not only useless but can also be very dangerous. You know, if you look at the war in Ukraine, that's the Russian proclamation that Ukraine should be part of Russia. And Russia wants to rejuvenate the national glory. It's very similar to what China has been saying.

And therefore the Chinese claims can be very dangerous, especially when the Chinese government continues to say that "Taiwan is part of us, and we want to use military force against Taiwan if necessary."


So this can be a prelude to an aggression. So this is something that we need to look at very carefully and try to make a stop before it's too late. The only way to go is for the two sides to talk and see how the two sides can live in a peaceful way.

And the president, our president, has been saying in a very public way for a long time that we want to talk with China to see whether there's any difference between the two, so that we can live peacefully with each other.

But China cannot just impose a precondition on us in saying that we have to accept that we are part of them before they want to talk to Taiwan. And I think, for practical reasons, if we say we are part of them, why do we need to negotiate anymore? And, of course, we are not part of them.

ZAKARIA: Mr. Foreign Minister, it's been a pleasure. It's been an honor talking to you.

WU: Thank you very much, Fareed. Thank you, thank you.


ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," switching to clean energy would not only help save the planet, it would also work to undermine the power of petrostates like Russia. But it could lead to a new dependence on China. How? Find out, when we come back.



ZAKARIA: Now for the last look. Russia's war on Ukraine has demonstrated that our dependence on oil and gas creates not just an environmental crisis but a security crisis. It gives money and leverage to petrostates like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Clean energy would seem to solve both problems, but clean doesn't necessarily translate into home-grown.

As Gerald Seib warns in The Wall Street Journal, Western nations could merely replace their one-time dependence on foreign oil and gas sources with a new dependence on China, and, I would add, other countries, for the critical minerals needed to produce electric vehicles and other renewable energy technologies.

The biggest components of these technologies are steel and aluminum. But those are easy to get. The concern, as one of my producers wrote for last year, is about more specialized materials, copper, cobalt, lithium, manganese and many more.

A recent study by the International Energy Agency looked at how much of those minerals are used in different electricity sources. For 1 megawatt of capacity, enough to power over 800 American homes, a natural gas plant takes about a 1,000 kilograms of minerals to construct.

For a coal plant, it's about 2,500 kilograms. For a megawatt of solar power, the fuel is free, of course, but the panels take almost 7,000 kilograms of minerals. Onshore wind takes about 10,000 kilograms; offshore, more than 15,000.

Keep in mind, the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow, so you have to build extra solar panels and wind turbines to replace a fossil fuel plant.

When it comes to transportation, the average gas-powered car contains about 35 kilograms of scarce metals, mostly copper and manganese. Electric cars not only need double of those two elements but also large quantities of lithium, nickel, cobalt and graphite, over 200 kilograms in total.

Like oil, these minerals are distributed unevenly across the globe and not always in ideal locations. Seventy percent of the world's cobalt is mined in the war-torn and corrupt Democratic Republic of Congo. The next biggest producer is Russia. China presents an even greater challenge. It extracts a majority of

the world's graphite and rare earth elements, such as neodymium, that are used for magnets inside wind turbines and electric vehicles.

And regardless of whether a particular mineral is located in China, the Chinese have bought up supplies and dominate the processing of many minerals. The minerals industry isn't as popular as renewable energy, particularly on the left. There are real environmental hazards. But if people want to protect the planet from climate change and authoritarian powers, they will have to get on board with new mineral projects. Even the ocean floor cannot be off-limits.

So far the process is very slow, according to the IAEA. Even after mineral deposits are discovered somewhere, the average time to production is over 15 years. Some of that is planning and construction, but governments can streamline the permitting process to help get these projects moving.

In the meantime, there are ways to take some pressure off new supplies. One is to recycle. The FT reports that, over the next decade, as much as 20 percent of the metals for new electric car batteries could be salvaged from spent batteries and other items like old building material and discarded electronics.

We should also invest in research to reduce our reliance on precious substances. A Boston start-up claimed a breakthrough last year in creating an iron-air battery. This would not only hold a longer charge than the standard lithium-ion battery, the materials would be a lot easier to get.


Iron and air aren't exactly hard to come by.

The West is waking up to this problem. Last year's bipartisan infrastructure bill allocated several billion dollars to the production and recycling of critical minerals in the U.S. It also moved to cut red tape from mining on federal land.

Recently, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to unlock more funds for mineral projects, though his regulators have also stood in the way of some mines. This will have to remain a priority for years and years to come. For the sake of the planet and international security, we will need to dig deep, quite literally.

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

(voice over): Don't forget, if you miss a show, go to for a link to my iTunes podcast.