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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Who's the Next British Prime Minister; Interview with Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 23, 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 coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): On today's program, amidst the utter political and economic chaos in the United Kingdom --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Economic credibility, gone.

ZAKARIA: Liz Truss resigns, becoming the shortest tenured prime minister in that country's long and storied history.

LIZ TRUSS, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.

ZAKARIA: What happens now? I will ask "The Economist" editor in chief Zanny Minton Beddoes.

Then, next week, Benjamin Netanyahu might get a third stint as Israel's prime minister. Today, you'll hear from him about Iran's nuclear program, Israel's relations with its neighbors, Bibi's own relations with Vladimir Putin.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I wouldn't call it a love affair, but I would call it a question of interest.

ZAKARIA: And more. Also, the protests in Iran have now been going on for more than a month and show no signs of slowing. I'll get the big picture from Robin Wright of "The New Yorker" who calls this the world's first women-led counterrevolution.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." In late 1992, I started my first full-time job as managing editor of "Foreign Affairs." I remember sorting through manuscript after manuscript, arguing that Japan was going to take over the world. That claim was not unusual at the time. A big best seller of the year was Michael Crichton's novel "Rising Sun." A call to arms for economic war with Tokyo.

In 1991, the book "The Coming War with Japan" predicted inevitable and major military conflict. During the 1992 presidential primaries, one of the pithiest campaign slogans came from Democratic Senator Paul Tsongas. The Cold War is over, he would say, Japan won.

What is striking about these words is that they all came well after the crash of the Japanese stock market, which fell from its peak in December 1989. We now mark 1990 as the year that Japan's giddy growth era ended. But at the time, people assumed this was just a temporary interruption. They saw the data, but then returned to their old thinking.

Could we be seeing something similar happen with China these days? It seems clear that China's growth is stalling. The country that since 1978 has grown at an average of over 9 percent annually is projected to grow about 3 percent this year. Some think tanks have postponed their projections for when the country's economy would overtake the United States to become the world's largest economy, to 2030 or even later.

Some experts are even suggesting that this might never happen, which is striking given that China's population is over four times larger than America's.

There are many reasons for this new bearish mood about China. Its crazy COVID policy, real estate bubbles, debt, and perhaps most consequential for the long term, a demographic collapse. China's fertility rate is now lower than Japan's. But above all looms the change of course away from the market, undertaken by the Chinese government in the last 10 years.

China grew at a stunning pace since 1978 because it embraced markets and trade. But Xi Jinping has moved the country to a very different model, one that views the state as the primary engine of the economy, identifying industries, providing funding, and controlling the participants. And growth has stalled.

But if we can see that China is actually weaker than we had thought a few years ago, has that led us to change our conclusions accordingly? No. Just as it is becoming clear that Xi's embrace of the state and has made in China industrial policy is not working, Washington has been visibly implementing its own version of Chinese-style industrial policy.


The situation is reminiscent of the late 1980s when Americans spoke enviously of Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, a ministry that was in fact in the process of making a series of expensive bets on future industries that flopped. China doesn't just face economic challenges Xi's foreign policy has mostly been a failure. His expansionism, bluster and repression have produced quantifiable results.

Unfavorable views of China have skyrocketed in recent years to all- time or near all-time highs in several countries according to a Pew survey. From Australia to Spain, countries that will once favorably inclined have shifted away from Beijing. China's foreign overtures have been duds from the expensive and messy Belt and Road Initiative, to its effort to woo Eastern Europe. The latter project, China's 16 Plus One Group, is fizzling due to countries' disappointed expectations and Beijing's relations with Moscow.

And yet, in a move reminiscent of America's crazed efforts to counter Soviet influence anywhere and everywhere, even if that meant allying with dictators in remote countries in Africa, Washington has been frantically wooing Palao, a population of around 18,000 and other tiny Pacific islands to free them from Beijing's embrace.

The basic argument for a hyper hawkish policy toward China has been that China was rising fearsomely, and that is what made it so dangerous. Prepare yourself for a new argument. China is declining precipitously, and that is why it is so dangerous. So even if the facts are the opposite of what was previously asserted, the conclusion somehow remains the same.

In fact, while declining powers do sometimes pose a threat, the general and obvious rule remains that, as countries grow rich and powerful, they try to expand their political and military reach. Moscow, in the 1990s, when its economy was collapsing, allowed Ukraine to become independent. Putin, flush from a decade of high energy prices, invaded Ukraine.

Scholars have tracked China foreign policy and found that it turns inward in periods of weakness and stress.

Now let me be clear. China, with all its limitations, still presents a powerful challenge for the United States. The most serious long-term one by far. But right-sizing this threat and understanding it correctly is crucial to formulating the best strategy to tackle it. Instead, Washington's conventional wisdom is still filled with exaggerated fears and fantasies of an enemy that is 10 feet tall.

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

When British Prime Minister Liz Truss came out of 10 Downing Street on Thursday and announced she was resigning, she did ensure her tenure would go down in history as the shortest ever. She had been in office just 45 days. Truss promised a successor would be chosen by the end of this week, but it, in the meantime, raises questions.

First and foremost, who will that person be? And can he or she pull the U.K. out of this great political and economic chaos?

Joining me now is Zanny Minton Beddoes, the editor-in-chief of "The Economist."

Zanny, first let's count the votes. You need 100 votes or expressions of support to be a contender for the Tory Party's prime ministerial -- you know, the internal election. Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Indian Brit or British of Indian origin, has it. Boris Johnson is trying to make a comeback. Can he make it?

ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ECONOMIST: Well, Fareed, great to join you from this laughingstock country that we are right now. You're right, Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor and the man who lost to Liz Truss in the leadership contest in the summer has well over 100 MP votes in the bag. So he is definitely in the running. And the deadline is 2:00 p.m. on Monday. That's 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Boris Johnson supporters claim that he has a hundred, but actually publicly declared he's only got about 60. Well-informed Web sites suggest that he may have 75, including people who have not yet publicly declared, but he's certainly still a number short with now 24 hours to go.


And if he does get a hundred, then we will have a contest which is then goes to the Conservative Party members. Those same people who put Liz Truss in Downing Street over the summer. And I think the most likely is that Sunak -- Johnson doesn't make it and Sunak has this in the bag. But if Boris Johnson makes it through, then the trouble is that he is popular with the party members, and he may well then -- you know, we're going to have an absolutely chaotic next few days if that happens.

He does not command enough support amongst MPs to form a stable government. So if Boris Johnson makes it through, I'm afraid the soap opera continues. If Rishi Sunak is the next prime minister, hopefully, this extraordinary soap opera is replaced by a stable, sensible government.

ZAKARIA: And to me, it's so extraordinary that it's happening in the Tory Party, which is, you know, the oldest political party in the world. One of the most disciplined political parties. And is it all fundamentally a kind of hangover from Brexit? But it does seem as though Britain's relationship with Europe has just cracked the Conservative Party.

BEDDOES: That is a definitely one of the underlying causes. Now the proximate cause for all of this is that Liz Truss turned out not just to be as you said the shortest lived prime minister in British history. She was also clearly one of the most incompetent or if not the most incompetent. And she came in with a package of sort of warmed over Reaganism where she was going to use tax cuts and deregulation to kick start British growth. And weak British growth has been a problem.

But the way she did it and the fact that she brought an even more tax cuts than she promised. She fired her chief financial civil servant, she said she wasn't going to look at any of the technocrat reviews of how much she was spending. That meant that she lost the confidence of the market as you'll remember. The pound tumbled, gilt yield soared, and that loss of confidence over the financial markets in the Conservative Party, in the British government, was the kind of proximate cause.

But behind that, I think there are two things which you're right are related to Brexit. One is economically. Britain is a riskier place since it left the European Union because its economy has been hit, and the fact that we had COVID and the pandemic sort of masked that. But there is no doubt that the British economy is in less good shape that it would have been if we hadn't left the European Union.

And secondly, politically as you say, Brexit still hangs over the Tory Party, a party that is tired after four years in government that is still driven by debates about whether Brexit means that Britain has the ability to become a kind of buccaneering and deregulated Singapore on Thames which was sort of the Liz Truss view, or whether it's actually a means to allowing a clamp down on immigration and a much more sort of Little England be which many others in the Tory Party have.

And so the Tory Party is completely factionally (INAUDIBLE). It's the oldest political party in the world. It used to be absolutely brilliant --

ZAKARIA: I've lost audio. Zanny, is part of all this also that we're in a kind of new age? We're in an age where interest rates matter. You know, Reaganism and Thatcherism could work when you're in a world of declining interest rates. Deficits sort of didn't matter because you were borrowing at almost zero. What the market seems to be saying and maybe we all need to be listening.

BEDDOES: Yes, I'm back.

ZAKARIA: Interest rates do matter now. You can't just cut taxes willy- nilly and assume the deficits don't matter. Interest rates are going to be high. And servicing this debt is going to be expensive.

BEDDOES: Absolutely. We are in a world where interest rates matter. We're in a world where inflation is way high and central banks are trying to get the inflation down. So the microenvironment is very different. But it's also true that Britain would never really do a warmed over Reaganism. Because Ronald Reagan, who was able to massively increase deficits, had the dollar, and the dollar surged. Britain has a smaller, open economy that does not have a dollar, and so is a much riskier bet and relies much more on financial market confidence.

ZAKARIA: Your cover this week is brilliant. It's called "Britaly," and the idea is of course Britain as Italy. And I suppose, you know, what one thinks of when one thinks of Italian politics is chaos and constantly changing governments. Britain has now had, what, four prime ministers in five years.

Does all this -- I mean, it's a very funny way to think of it, but does it damage Britain's credibility and influence in the world?

BEDDOES: Absolutely. Well, first of all, I'm delighted you find the cover funny. I'm afraid that many of our Italian readers and many people in Italy did not. It caused a storm of anger and protests. We were trying to, as we do, trying to use humor to shine a spotlight on comparisons that I think are very real. Italy has long had dramatic political instability. It has been under the thumb of the bond market and had chronically low growth.

[10:15:04] And actually if you look at the U.K. now, it has many of the same things. We've had the same number of prime ministers as Italy since 2015. We're also under the thumb of the bond markets, even though we have our own central bank and own currency. But perhaps most worryingly, our productivity has slumped. It's still better than Italy's, but it is has slumped, and we have very slow growth.

And one thing that Liz Truss was right on is that Britain needs to get its growth rate higher. It needs the reforms that make the economy grow because we can't support our social spending, our National Health Service, all the things that Britons like without faster growth. But we are at the moment unable to produce a coherent set of policies and have politicians who are serious, steadfast and have the caliber to get that done.

ZAKARIA: As always, Zanny, thank you. Great insights. It's always a pleasure.

BEDDOES: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Boris Johnson isn't the only former prime minister who may get another chance at the top job. Next up, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu on his path to power.



ZAKARIA: Next Tuesday, Israel will hold its fifth election in four years. The unstable coalition that ousted Benjamin Netanyahu last year led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid collapsed in June. With the upcoming vote, Netanyahu, already the longest serving prime minister in Israel's history, has another shot at power. In his time out of power, Netanyahu wrote a just-published memoir called "Bibi: My Story." He joins me from Jerusalem.

Welcome, sir.

NETANYAHU: Good to be with you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about, you know, one of the central achievements in your time in office, and that is the Abraham Accords and the more broad the rapprochement with the moderate Arabs.

For a long time, people believed in the Middle East that unless you could get anything done on the Palestinian issue, the Israeli- Palestinian issue, you could not make peace with the Arabs. Actually, what you did was reverse that. You and the Gulf States in a sense.

What do you think changed? Was it that the Palestinian issue has just declined in importance for Arabs? Because there was a time, you know, certainly when you go back to Nasser and people like that, where it was the central issue. Or is it that the rise of Iran has given Israel and Saudi Arabia and the UAE a common enemy?

NETANYAHU: Well, I think it's both the rise of Iran and frankly the rise of Israel. I devoted a good chunk of my life, and all my adult life to enhancing Israel's military power, which could only be enhanced by freeing up its economy. So we have economic power. And the combination of the two gave us the third power, which is diplomatic power.

When Israel became the leading -- perhaps a leading if not the leading innovation nation that produced thousands of start-ups, produced cybersecurity, produced unmatchable intelligence against terrorism, we became interesting to other countries in five continents, but also in the Middle East. And when I frankly led the opposition to Iran's arming itself with nuclear weapons, that created a common interest with many of the Arab countries.

So the rise of the Iranian threat on the one side and the rise of Israeli power on the other side, combined to, I think, to create the interest in the Gulf States who now view Israel not as their enemy, but as their indispensable ally to confront a common threat, Iran, and also to better the lives of their citizens with Israeli innovation and technology.

ZAKARIA: What do you think it will take for Saudi Arabia to join in that normalization process? You obviously tried to get it, and the report saw that they want some movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. What will it take to get Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel?

NETANYAHU: Well, the first thing you have to recognize is that Saudi Arabia only has begun an incremental process of normalization because in 2018, well before the Abraham Accords in 2020, the Saudis opened their -- the Saudi air space to hundreds of thousands of Israelis who could fly to the Gulf States and now beyond the Gulf States. That was a deliberate decision.

Also, to be honest, and I don't think I'm revealing here something you don't know, but I'll say it any way. There's no way that the accords with the Gulf States would have happened without the approval of Saudi Arabia. So Saudi Arabia is inching its way towards normalization. I think that's enroute. That will be certainly be my chief goal, diplomatic goal if I'm re-elected, as I hope I will be in a few weeks.

I think they have to have the confidence that Israel is continuing the policy of standing up to Iranian aggression, which threatens them, not as much, but not much less than it threatens us. And I think they will be assured of that if I'm re-elected.

ZAKARIA: You don't think they will require any movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

NETANYAHU: Perhaps. But I think that they recognize, too, that if you give the Palestinians a veto, we're not going to have peace.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the Iran deal.


You were very influential in getting Donald Trump to pull out of the Iran deal. At the time, and the IAEA and even Israeli intelligence, everyone believes that Iran was adhering to the deal and was about a year and a half away from the capacity to make a nuclear weapon. Now that the deal has been scrapped, most intelligence estimates say that Iran is one month away from the capacity to make a nuclear weapon.

How does that enhance the security of Israel to be in a situation where Iran has no constraints on its -- on what it's doing, and has ramped up its -- all of the pathways to a nuclear bomb?

NETANYAHU: Well, I describe in my book, Fareed, a raid on Iran's street nuclear archives that I authorized the Mossad to carry out. And if you saw -- did you ever see the movie "Argo?"


NETANYAHU: I saw that -- this was "Argo" on steroids. I mean, our men pilfered from locked safes half a ton of materials, disks, documents, and were being chased by Iranian security. They got it out, they got themselves out, and when we looked at this material, we could see that Iran was lying, that it wasn't keeping to the agreement. In fact, we then went to the IAEA with three sites, three nuclear sites that they hadn't declared.

So Iran was cheating. The deal wasn't protecting in any way. And yes, with a deal or without a deal, Iran would go forward to develop nuclear weapons. The only thing that stops a rogue regime from developing nuclear weapons, and I say this very specifically in my book, is the combination of crippling sanctions and a credible military option.

All the agreement does, Fareed, is give Iran an international seal of approval to become a threshold nuclear state. Everybody understands it. The deal is not going to stop Iran. It's not going to prevent a nuclear arsenal. It's going to facilitate it with international approval. You can't avoid the fact that you have to confront Iran.

ZAKARIA: So let me just say for the record, the IAEA and U.S. intelligence both do believe that Iran was adhering to the deal. But my question to you, if you become prime minister, the dilemma you presented is one you will face. Iran will be one month away from a nuclear weapon. And -- the possibility of making a nuclear weapon. Are you comfortable allowing that short fuse to exist, or will you use military means to do something about it?

NETANYAHU: First of all, I think it takes a lot longer to produce a nuclear weapon, but I won't get into that, because there are many components involved. But I will say this, I will do, Fareed, whatever I need to do to prevent Iran, which calls for the annihilation of Israel, to develop the weapons to threaten us. But they also threaten you, the United States, because Iran calls us the small Satan. They call American the great Satan.

They chant "death to Israel, death to America." Now do you want this regime to have the means to deliver with ballistic intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear tipped missiles, to any city in the United States? Of course not. It's not Holland that's getting nuclear weapons. It's the ayatollahs, for God's sake. We have to take common action to prevent this from happening, because if Iran gets a nuclear arsenal, the problem of staving off Iran's aggression, Iran's terrorism and Iran's actual threats to our societies, would be much more difficult. I'm committed to prevent that from happening.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I will ask Bibi Netanyahu about what one Israeli columnist called the strange love affair between Vladimir Putin and Bibi Netanyahu. Does he regret it now?



ZAKARIA: And we are back with the former prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Let me ask you about another relationship of yours during the period you were prime minister. It's what Yossi Melman, the Israeli journalist, calls the strange love affair between Bibi and Putin. You met with Vladimir Putin, phone conversations, you went to the opera, the ballet with him. A lot of people feel that international statesmen coddled Putin rather than creating kind of a tough stand of deterrence that would have made him understand the cost of his kind of actions. In retrospect, what do you think of this friendship?

NETANYAHU: First of all, I wouldn't call it a love affair, but I would call it a question of interest. The national leaders have a responsibility for the security of their country. The Russian and Israeli air forces are literally flying next to each other over the skies of Syria. I was committed to preventing Iran from creating another Lebanon front in Syria.

So we took hundreds and hundreds of air sorties against their attempts to implant themselves militarily in Syria. That got us into a potential clash with the Russian air force that is also flying over the skies of Syria. So I made it a point to -- and we almost did, by the way, I also write that in my book, we nearly clashed several times.


And starting a war between Russia and Israel, I didn't think was a good idea. So I made every effort to coordinate with the -- with Putin and the Russian military, the sorties, so we wouldn't bump into each other, and we achieved that goal. And that, I think, is a matter of national interest.

As far as Russia is concerned, I think you have to be -- look, I think the Ukrainian thing could spiral out of control. I think it's tragic. The wanton bombing of civilians is horrible. But, I think, you now face another issue, and that is that it could spiral out of control to what they call a tactical -- the use of tactical nuclear weapons. I don't think materially it matters if it's tactical or strategic. The world has not crossed that threshold for 77 years, and I think it requires very firm and prudent stewardship to prevent that from happening, because as horrible as the tragedies are today in Ukraine, you could face a much bigger tragedy if this is not prevented. ZAKARIA: I was in Kyiv about a month ago, and I talked to President Zelenskyy and pretty much all the senior officials there. And one theme that came through very clearly was their disappointment with Israel. They felt that Israel had not really supported them as they would have liked in word and deed.

They have asked for -- Israel has this amazing Iron Dome defense. They asked for some help there. And they feel that Israel has maintained a kind of -- you know, a kind of -- has been fudging, is not willing to really support them in what is their life and death struggle. And, you know, President Zelenskyy, who is, you know, of Jewish descent, I think it was particularly painful.

NETANYAHU: Well, I think Israel has supported Ukraine, first of all, in humanitarian terms. It's taken into a tiny country -- Israel is a small country. It has taken an inordinate amount of Jewish and non- Jewish Ukrainian refugees, number one. Number two, we've sent field hospitals and other humanitarian supplies.

But, number three, I don't argue with you, this is the decision of the current Israeli government. If I get into power, I will look into this question. I think it's a very delicate question given the issues that I raised but I think it's a valid one. If I get elected, I'll look into it.

ZAKARIA: Bibi Netanyahu, pleasure to have you on.

NETANYAHU: Thank you, Fareed. Good to be with you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, women are leading the charge for change in Iran. My next guest says we are witnessing the first women-led counter- revolution. That story when we come back.



ZAKARIA: Women burning their hijabs, cutting their hair and chanting "women, life, liberty." It's all in protest over Iran's regime, now in power for more than 40 years. The spark, of course, was the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died after being detained by the morality police of the Islamic republic. And five weeks after the protest began, it seems the regime is in for a protracted fight.

The veteran Middle East reporter Robin Wright said in "The New Yorker" that we are witnessing the world's first counter-revolution led by women. And I'm pleased to have Robin joining me today. She's also the author of "The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran." Robin, explain first why you call this a counter-revolution and not a revolution.

ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, NEW YORKER: Well, at the moment, it's still just a rejection of the system, of the Islamic republic. We're not at the point that these kids have an idea, an ideology, something that they're offering as an alternative. So far, this is largely kind of flash mobs. People gathering on a campus, gathering on street corners where they light a bonfire and throw their hijabs, their head scarves. We are seeing, you know, a rebellion against the Islamic republic. So we're not yet at a revolution. This is at an early stage.

Who knows what it will lead to? But we have seen many protests in Iran over the last five years, and none of them have quite gotten to the point that they were a practical, tangible threat to the regime.

ZAKARIA: And that means -- it sounds like from what you're saying this does not seem to have the kind of organization, the ideology, the staying power to pose a real threat to the regime.

WRIGHT: The regime claims that 41 percent of those arrested are under the age of 20. This is not the kind of critical mass as you know so well that brings together the elite of society, where people are willing -- who were important jobs to defect from the system whether it's the military or the bazaar or the oil workers. They're tokens of that so far but nothing -- there's no body to it yet.

ZAKARIA: You know, it's interesting. I think one of the things this symbolizes in sense all the things you were describing, you need a leader. You need an alternative leader. Even, for example in Venezuela, but almost succeeded you had that opposition leader. In Iran, I mean, is it fair to say alas like -- you know, as they used to say about Saddam Hussein, all the potential opposition leaders are either dead or in jail?

WRIGHT: Or in exile. Yes, I think that's true. And in 2009, the protest, the Green Movement protest rallied around the two losing presidential candidates.


There was a sense that there was an alternative to President Ahmadinejad who -- there were claims was reelected fraudulently. Today, we don't see the -- an organization, a leader, a manifesto, an idea. These are people very diverse political and social positions who have come together because they want private freedoms. They want personal freedoms. They're not yet giving us an alternative vision.

ZAKARIA: It seemed as though there was, within the regime, a certain amount of dissent and a kind of breaking off, as you say. There were people who were running for president and one of them had been a former prime minister. So these were leading figures of the regime. And, of course, Rouhani and Zarif, the previous administration were trying to be reform minded. What do you think killed reform and brought this hard line government into power right now?

WRIGHT: Well, I think the U.S. policies in some way has contributed to that. I think the regime --

ZAKARIA: The Trump pulling out of the Iran deal?

WRIGHT: Yes, absolutely. And, I think, one of the other things is with the sense that there is a transition looming in Iran, that the supreme leader is 83, he's reportedly ailing again, he suffered from prostate cancer in 2014, that there is a sense that very -- in the very near future, the next two, three years, that there will be a transition from the current supreme leader to a new system. And they're trying to build, to fortify the system so it won't collapse then. And I think these protests have underscored to them how vulnerable they may be not necessarily now but down the road.

ZAKARIA: What should we be looking at when we look at Iran over the next few weeks?

WRIGHT: I think you want to see how hard the regime comes down on the girls. If they allow, you know, enough of these little protests, the flash mobs to get out there. They have cracked down on the internet, including Instagram, which is one of the few outlets remaining to post on social media. Whether they close down the universities and the schools, which is where much of the action has taken place. How far they're willing to go to punish the kids because this is the third generation.

And the first two suffered hardships. The Iran-Iraq War, the upheaval of -- after the revolution and so forth. This is the first generation, the Gen-Z born between 1997 and 2012, who feels kind of the freedom to do what they want, and not have to worry about, you know, fighting a war or, you know, post revolutionary upheaval. So watch the girls.

ZAKARIA: We will watch them and we'll have you back to tell us more.

WRIGHT: Thanks.

ZAKARIA: Robin Wright, always a pleasure.

WRIGHT: Thanks.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, as Ukraine's cities are being attacked by drones, I'll explain to you how these unmanned aerial vehicles continue to reshape modern warfare and may do even more in the future. That story when we come back.



ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a return to the dark days of old when great powers routinely tried to conquer their smaller neighbors. But this war is being fought in 2022, with new technologies that are reshaping warfare. Among the most important are drones. Now, there's been a lot of breathless coverage on drone strikes, so let me explain what drones can and cannot do.

In the first few weeks of the war, Ukrainians hailed the use of Turkish made Bayraktar drones in beating back the Russian invasion. Videos circulated of those drones pounding Russian convoys with laser guided explosives. Grateful Ukrainians named animals and babies Bayraktar. A song about the Bayraktar went viral. In recent days, Russia has grabbed headlines with a different kind of drone, Iranian made kamikaze drones. These don't fire weapons but are themselves the weapon, sent to smash into targets in Kyiv and other cities. Ukraine has used kamikaze drones against Russia as well.

But the focus on attack drones whether they fire weapons or are themselves the weapon misses the point. More than being a force on their own in this war, drones have enhanced other forms of power. They are not the heroes but trusty sidekicks.

They generally lack the firepower to take out major targets. Experts believe the big damage to Ukrainian infrastructure during the kamikaze attacks has actually been from cruise missiles. The drones helped by flooding the zone to overwhelm Ukraine's air defenses. Most were shot down, but missiles were able to slip through.

These drones are serving a psychological purpose, as well. Russia is showing that it can hit Ukrainian cities far from the front lines, and Ukraine has apparently also used drones to strike deep into Crimea. They hover and buzz overhead loudly sending the message that no one and nowhere is safe. Peter Singer of "New America" argues that they're similar to the V-1 flying bomb attacks on London in 1944, which sowed terror among the British people.

On the battlefield, more advanced drones can be used for pinpoint attacks. The U.S. has made great use of precision drone strikes in the war on terror. Its technology has gone so good that when America assassinated the al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a bustling Kabul neighborhood it is believed to have sent a kind of spinning saw to shred him to pieces while avoiding any big explosion that would hurt others.

No one else has America's capabilities but even Ukraine has been able to use a drone to drop a bomb into an open tank hatch. The most important role for drones in Ukraine, says Peter Lee of the University of Portsmouth, is not in attacking themselves but in providing surveillance and reconnaissance for heavy weaponry to take out high value targets.


Drones are eyes in the sky that tell soldiers where to aim the big guns. One example, when the Ukrainians triumphantly sank the Russian flagship Moskva drones helped them figure out the precise coordinates to target. Cruise missiles delivered the knockout blow.

But remember, drone technology is still in its infancy. Many that have been used in Ukraine are inaccurate, easily shot down or able to be jammed by electromagnetic interference. Singer argues that we won't see the real potential of drones until countries unleash swarms of hundreds or thousands of drones that are equipped with artificial intelligence. Functioning as one large, coordinated armada, they would make a truly fearsome fleet.

So while drones today are less than the buzz surrounding them, mostly playing a supporting role, in time, they could become a decisive factor in the battles of the future. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.