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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview with Secretary of State Antony Blinken; Interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired July 23, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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: Today, a special program from Aspen, Colorado. First I sit down with the Secretary of State Antony Blinken. I ask him about America's standing in the world and its biggest challenges abroad. Russia.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: In terms of what Russia sought to achieve, they've already failed. They've already lost.
ZAKARIA: And China. And then an exclusive interview with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. We talk about the counter offensive. Is it as slow going as it seems? And why? And what does Kyiv need from the West to speed it up?
ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." When I speak to people about right-wing populism these days I notice that many tend to believe that it's old news. Populist leaders captured the world's attention in 2016 with the Brexit referendum and then later that year with Donald Trump's election victory.
Now, seven years later, many seem to feel it's past its prime. Trump was defeated in 2020 and is under indictment. Brexit has been a messy failure and majority of Britons now regret that it passed.
But while it's true that some populist heroes and causes have been battered, the core appeal of these movements persist and has actually gained ground in recent months. Consider Spain, which was one of those countries long considered immune to right-wing populism because like Germany Spain once suffered under a right-wing autocracy.
The conservative party Vox founded a decade ago was long seen as too extreme to make real inroads in the political system. Today, it is the country's third largest party. In May it doubled its vote share in regional and local elections, and now governs in many places. In this weekend's elections, it is likely to continue to make gains. In Germany itself, the alternative for Germany, AFD, once seen as
taboo, has won back-to-back local locations in the country's east. Nationwide it is now polling in second place, roughly tied with the social Democrats, Germany's main leftist party.
In Italy, the birthplace of fascism, Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy Party has been serving as prime minister since October. While she has moderated her stance in many ways, she continues to praise the Movimento Sociale Italiano, a now defunct fascist organization to which she once belonged.
Sweden and Finland have both seen the rise of far-right parties that are gaining strength and political power. The Dutch political system now has several populist parties, some brand-new, and the tensions produced by their rise recently led to the resignation of that country's longest serving prime minister, Marc Rutte.
In France, some polls show Marine Le Pen winning the next presidential election.
Why is this happening? Well Europe is going through tough times. Russia's war on Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have impacted Europe more severely than virtually any other part of the world. The continent has been forced to abandon its addiction to cheap Russian energy and find alternatives usually more costly. The rest of its trade with Russia has also collapsed. Meanwhile cheap energy, new subsidies and a better regulatory environment are making some European companies think about moving their factories to America.
But it's not really about economics. Spain's economy is healthy, the country grew at 5.5 percent last year and its inflation rate is among the lowest in the Eurozone. But that growth is varied and there are places in Spain like Aragon, Spain's Ohio, where de-industrialization has left people feeling dispossessed.
Regions like Aragon exist all over Europe and they add to a sense of despair and frustration with the country's establishment and the E.U.'s elites. The Ukraine war has also led many in the E.U. to worry about the price that they are paying for a conflict that they think doesn't directly threaten them, especially since that is what many populist leaders tell them.
If I had to point to one issue, however, it is the one that has always been at the heart of the rise of modern far-right populism. Immigration. Everywhere you look, you see the fears of uncontrolled immigration have produced political rewards for the so-called anti- globalists.
COVID destabilized many developing countries in the southern hemisphere which then exacerbated poverty and violence as those countries struggle. The Ukraine war has caused a once in a lifetime movement out of that country on one side of the world while the government's brutal crackdown in Venezuela has led to another one of similar magnitude on the other side of the earth. Climate change adds to this toxic brew. When you put it all together, you end up with a historic movement of people across the world.
Global leaders are struggling to solve the problem. The Biden administration has taken several measures to address the crisis at the border and as a result the flow of migrants into the U.S. in recent months has slowed considerably. It's working with other governments in the hemisphere to tackle some of the issues that are driving out migration.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is trying to forge a new asylum policy that would move illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda or elsewhere for evaluation. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Greece has pledged to extend an existing wall between his country and Turkey by more than 100 kilometers over the next few years to tamp down illegal border crossings.
But I worry that as the pressures from migration increase, the rhetoric from the right will get louder and noisier. Donald Trump is well aware that hostility to immigration was his ticket to the White House in 2016. And at some point, as the demagogues raise their rhetoric and scare more people, the center will not hold.
Go to CNN.com/Fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
My first guest today is America's diplomat in chief, Antony Blinken. The biggest crisis during his tenure as secretary of state has of course been Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Blinken has been deeply involved in holding allies together and maintaining close contact with the Ukrainians. We met on the sidelines of the Aspen Security Forum on Friday.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Secretary, pleasure to have you on.
BLINKEN: Great to be with you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Tell us what you can sense of what is going on in the counter offensive that Ukraine is attempting with Russia. So far the reports seem to be it is very slow and very tough going.
BLINKEN: Well, first, Fareed, put this in perspective. In terms of what Russia sought to achieve, what Putin sought to achieve, they've already failed. They've already lost. The objective was to erase Ukraine from the map, to eliminate its independence, its sovereignty, to assume it into Russia. That failed a long time ago.
Now Ukraine is in a battle to get back more of the land that Russia seized from it. It's already taken back about 50 percent of what was initially seized. Now they're in a very hard fight to take back more.
These are still relatively early days of the counter offensive. It is tough. The Russians have put in place strong defenses. But I'm convinced that with the equipment and support they receive now from more than 50 countries, with the training that their forces have gotten, and many of the forces who've gotten that training not yet been put fully into this fight, and maybe more than anything else, with the fact that unlike the Russians, the Ukrainians are fighting for their land. For their future. For their country. For their freedom.
I think that is the decisive element and that's going to play out. But it will not play out over the next week or two. We're still looking I think at several months.
ZAKARIA: So if you look at what the Ukrainians are up against, these with mine fields, then trenches, then Russian artillery, one of the reasons that is proving so difficult is that they have no air power. If the U.S. Army were to do this, the United States would have massive air power, lots of bombing, clear the way, make it possible for the troops to then move forward.
Why not give the Ukrainians the F-16s that they are asking for because that will make this counter offensive much more effective?
BLINKEN: Fareed, at every step along the way, in fact going back before the Russian aggression when we saw this storm rising and we made sure going back to Labor Day before the war, Christmas before the war, that they started to get in their hands the equipment they would need if the Russians went forward. Javelins, Stingers. They have that on hand, they were able to repel the attack against Kyiv. They were able to save their country from being taken entirely by Russia.
Every step along the way ever since, we've worked to try to get them what they need when they need it. But it's not just the equipment itself. It's the training. It's the maintenance. It's the ability to use it in combined arms operations. All of that takes time. If a decision were made to actually move forward on the F-16s tomorrow, it would be months and months before they were actually operational.
ZAKARIA: But then why not make the decision so that they could get them?
BLINKEN: So this is what we're working on now because as I said, it's not enough to give them F-16s, they've got to be trained. The training program is moving forward with a number of countries. All of that, that's happening. But I'm not a military expert. I think you've heard Chairman Milley, Lloyd Austin, the secretary of Defense, speak to this. We believe that what they have and what they've been trained on is what they need to be effective including dealing with the Russian mines. But it is hard going.
ZAKARIA: But they feel differently. When I talk to Ukrainians they say there's a pattern here. Every time we ask for something, we're first told you can't have it, you're not yet ready for it, you don't have the training for it, and then through HIMARs through cluster bombs, eventually we get it, but we get it late and why not have given it to us earlier if you're trying to make a difference on the battlefield?
BLINKEN: So if I were in the shoes of our Ukrainian friends and partners, I'd probably be saying exactly the same thing. And President Zelenskyy has been extraordinary as a leader and in trying to galvanize the international community along with us to provide them what they need. But the other thing is this, there are 50 some odd countries in this coalition in support of Ukraine. Lloyd Austin has been leading this process on the military side. And different countries do different things at different times, and it all complements each other. So, for example, we have certain munitions that we provided to the Ukrainians including the HIMARs.
Other countries have provided some munitions that have a longer range because as the Russians move back their command and control, as they move back some of their supply depots, out of range in some cases of what we've given them, the munitions that countries have provided, as part of an organized coalition, are allowing the Ukrainians to hit them. They've had some significant success.
So our military leaders are using their best expertise possible to help determine what it is that can be most effective for the Ukrainians, how quickly can it be deployed, how effectively can they use it. That will continue and the process on the F-16s is moving.
ZAKARIA: Which means they will get F-16s?
BLINKEN: Well, look, I believe that they will and the important focus is on making sure that when they do, they're properly trained, they're able to maintain the planes and use them in a smart way.
ZAKARIA: Do you think it could be part of the Russian strategy to try to wait for the election of 2024, hope that Donald Trump comes into the White House, and they could cut a deal with him?
BLINKEN: Well, again, everything we put in motion. And that many other countries are taking a lead role in. That will happen irrespective of what happens in any given election in any one of our countries. There is now a long-term program in place that will make sure that Ukrainians --
ZAKARIA: That the U.S. is providing 75 percent of the --
BLINKEN: Actually if you look at the burden sharing on this between the United States, Europe and other partners, Japan, and others is actually quite remarkable. Other countries have stepped up in ways that we haven't seen before. On the security side, we're the number one provider but others have done a lot. But if you look as well on the economic side, the ability to make sure that Ukraine has direct budgetary support.
More is actually coming from Europe and others than from us. Humanitarian assistance. The refugees who've been housed throughout Europe and are able to work, send their kids to school, all of that collectively has been a remarkable demonstration of countries coming together and assuming their responsibilities.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, when we come back, I asked Secretary Blinken about the other big challenge facing the United States, China.
ZAKARIA: Last month, Secretary of State Blinken went to Beijing for meetings with Chinese leaders including Xi Jinping himself. The State Department said the two sides had candid, substantive, and constructive discussions which is a way of saying there were no diplomatic breakthroughs. So what is the state of the U.S.-China relationship?
More now of my interview with Antony Blinken.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Secretary, when I travel around the world, particularly when I talk to Asian diplomats, I get a message about U.S.-China relations which is they're wondering where this is going. Whether there is now a kind of ongoing ratchet effect or tit-for-tat, the United States puts certain kinds of restrictions on China, China will then respond? Or is there a possible stable equilibrium that we are arriving at?
In other words, as one Asian diplomat said to me, what I'm trying to understand from the Americans is, are they done or is this just going to continue and continue?
BLINKEN: Well, Fareed, let say two things. First, we are working to put some stability into the relationship, to put a floor under the relationship, to make sure that the competition that we're in doesn't veer into conflict, which would not be in our interest, their interest or anyone else's.
And that starts with strengthening our lines of communication. Talking, engaging, working through as best we can. Our profound differences and at least being clear about these so they're not misunderstanding, of intent and at the same time looking to see if there are areas where we can cooperate.
There is a clear demand signal that I'm hearing around the world, everywhere I go, that each of us, the United States and China will responsibly manage this relationship because of course that has an impact not just on us but on countries around the world. That's exactly what we're doing and I think China has heard that as well.
So I had hours of conversation with my Chinese counterparts when I was in Beijing. Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, was there, did the same thing. John Kerry was just there. Jake Sullivan has been engaged, and all of this is a process is trying to at least put some stability into this and to see if we could be very clear both about our differences and where we could cooperate.
Now we've been very clear and I was very clear with my Chinese counterparts, we will continue to do and say things that China will not like just as they're going to continue to do and say we won't like. The test for us is whether we could manage our way through that. To make sure that we sustain these lines of communication, that we continue to talk, and that we work on, as I said, both dealing with the differences and seeing if we could cooperate.
That's the way we're approaching it. I think it's the responsible thing to do.
ZAKARIA: I mean, you're talking but there is no evidence on climate, on nuclear arms or on defense --
BLINKEN: It starts with talking. We weren't doing a lot of talking before. Now we are. We have different groups that are engaged or about to engage on discreet issues that are problems in the relationship, where I believe we can, I think, get to a resolution. At the same time, there are a number of areas where it's clearly in our interest to see if we could find ways to cooperate. We're starting to talk about that.
Now, these are early days. The proof will be in the results. But my own sense is there is a recognition that if we're each going to play the game of holding each other to sort of, you know, clearing the field, erasing the board before we do anything, we're never going to get anywhere. And the demand signal on them to engage responsibly is strong, is clear, is loud from around the world.
ZAKARIA: One of the most sensitive issues of course is the military side, nuclear weapons, Taiwan. It seems it's going to be very difficult to do this because there is not going to be much engagement with China's defense minister since he's currently under sanctions. Henry Kissinger met with him. Why not lift the sanctions so that you can straightforward military-to-military talks to try alleviate some of these tensions?
BLINKEN: Look, as a practical matter, those sanctions don't prevent us the minister from engaging or us engaging with him. So there is no practical impediment. It is a political decision in effect for China to decide whether or not he should be engaged.
ZAKARIA: But would you engage with somebody if you were --
BLINKEN: It's something that even each system, each country has to decide for itself. We've made it very clear that we think it's a responsibility to have these military-to-military contacts, to have this dialogue, especially to avoid any miscalculations, any misperceptions of what we're each doing. So we'll see where China comes out on this. It's --
ZAKARIA: But the U.S. is not going to lift sanctions on --
BLINKEN: All I could tell you is that we believe that this part of the conversation is important. It would be good to resume it. China has to decide whether it's prepared to do that.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about Iran. President Biden campaigned saying we'd be back in the Iran deal. You did not do that. You tried to search for longer, better deal. It's gone nowhere. At this point, Iran is days away from some estimates away from the capacity to enrich which puts it on a path to weaponized -- the potential to weaponize.
You used to criticize Donald Trump for leaving Iran that close. Isn't it a fair criticism of you and your administration? You haven't managed to do anything to shorten that.
BLINKEN: Fareed, first, it was a terrible mistake to pull out of that agreement. Because we had Iran's nuclear program in a box. It's now, you're absolutely right, gotten out of that box.
ZAKARIA: But then why not just have gone back into it?
BLINKEN: That's exactly what we sought to do and we worked, engaged intensely, not just us, our European partners, the U.K., Germany and France, and actually China and Russia as well, to see if we could get back in to mutual compliance with the JCPOA, the nuclear deal.
ZAKARIA: But to be fair, you asked for new conditions.
BLINKEN: Actually no. We fundamentally -- of course, there have been some developments and some changes since the time we got out of the deal and the time we were trying to get back in it. But fundamentally, what we tried to do is to get back into the existing agreement with some modest modifications.
An agreement was on table. Iran either couldn't or wouldn't say yes. We're not about to take any deal. Of course it has to meet our security objectives. It has to meet our interests. So we made a very good faith effort to get back into compliance with them. They couldn't or wouldn't do it.
We're now in a place where we're not talking about a nuclear agreement. We are very clearly making it known to them that they need to take actions to de-escalate, not escalate the tensions that exist in our relationship across a whole variety of fronts. We'll look to see if they do that. Maybe we'll have an environment where we can get back into a conversation about their nuclear program.
Right now we're not in it. But, of course, we're not standing around doing nothing. We are continuing to work out to develop, to flesh out every possible options for dealing with the problem. If it asserts itself, keep in mind of course that the fissile material, which is what the deal was designed around, is one critical piece. Weaponization actually having an explosive device is another.
To the best of our judgment and that of many others, they have not pursued that work in a number of years. If they were to restart that part of the program, too, and these two thing came together, then it would become an even more urgent problem. But we are working across a whole series of lines of effort to push back on them, to make sure we have a strong deterrent, to make sure we have the appropriate pressure. And then to see if we get back to an opportunity where we can work on
a nuclear deal. We continue to believe strongly that diplomacy is the best way to resolve this problem. That compared to all the other options, it's the one that can produce the most sustainable effective result, but that doesn't mean that the other options aren't there and if necessary we won't resort to them.
ZAKARIA: Meanwhile, are you trying to restrain Prime Minister Netanyahu from launching some kind of military intervention?
BLINKEN: We're in very close contact and coordination with Israel just as we are actually with a number of other countries that are deeply concerned about Iran's nuclear program as well as its many other destabilizing activities in the region. Countries have to make their own decisions about their national interests, their national security. We obviously share views. Share information. Seek to work together. But fundamentally, Israel will make its decisions about its national security.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Secretary, pleasure to have you on.
BLINKEN: Thanks. Great to be with you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the international man of the moment. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. We'll be back after this break with my exclusive interview from the Aspen Security Forum.
ZAKARIA: We went to Colorado this week for the annual Aspen Security Forum, a gathering of top officials, academics, think tankers and others in the world of foreign policy and national security. I had the opportunity to talk to Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, from the stage there. I first wanted to get his assessment of his nation's counteroffensive.
ZAKARIA: Thank you so much for doing this, Mr. President. We know you have many, many things to deal with and we appreciate you taking time out of your schedule.
We've known each other for a while and so I think I will begin with a very frank question, which is on everyone's mind. The Ukrainian counteroffensive seems to be going more slowly and is -- has many more difficulties than people might have anticipated. Can you tell us from your perspective why you think these difficulties are -- why do you face these difficulties and what do you need to try to overcome them?
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Thank you for the question really a very relevant one. I would just like to draw your attention to the change of rhetoric worldwide and I'm glad to hear that now we're discussing the counteroffensive in Ukraine. Ukraine is not backtracking but progressively liberates its territories which is very important.
We did have plans to start it in spring. But we didn't because, frankly, we had not enough munitions and armaments and not enough brigades properly trained in these weapons, still, more that the training missions were held outside Ukraine but still we started and this is important. And because we started it a bit later on it can be said and it will be shared truth understood by all of the experts that it provided Russia with time to mine all of our land and build several lines of defense.
And so, definitely they had a bit more time than they needed. Because of that they built more of those lines and really they had a lot of mines in our fields. Because of that, a slower pace of our counteroffensive actions. We didn't want to lose our people, our personnel. And our service men didn't want to lose equipment because of that.
Yes, I do understand that it is always better to see victory come sooner. This is what we also want. But the question is the price of this freedom -- of this victory. So, let us not throw people under tanks, literally. Let us plan our counteroffensive as our analysts, our intelligence suggests.
And some our residential areas have been liberated already so I do believe in our victory.
ZAKARIA: President Zelenskyy, I wonder what you can tell us about what is going on in the Russian army. Your troops are encountering them. And I'm wondering, given what we saw happen in Russia over last few weeks, do you notice that the Wagner forces are not confronting you on the battlefield? Or are they back?
Is there a change in Russian morale? Are you noticing something about the Russian army as a consequence of the Prigozhin attempted mutiny?
ZELENSKYY (through translator): I think we can understand what is happening to the strength of the Russian army or the lack of a motivation when we see what is happening to the Russian society, and something like that has been happening on the battlefield. They're demotivated.
You could see that Putin lost the strength of the vertical of his power and the steps made by Prigozhin clearly attest to that. The same is happening in the army in Russia with their citizens. They don't have freedom. And because of that, they are demotivated to the most -- they don't see victories in civil life, in military activities, and even those who support this policy of war and aggression of President Putin, I think this percentage is going down.
We did analyze the steps by Prigozhin. We talked about that with partners. And I would say that 40 -- maybe 45 percent of Russian Federation's regions in principle supported their steps and the rhetoric of Prigozhin. In spite of him being a representative of terrorist or even the leader of terrorist itself, you can still see that even in that, there is a split in the society. There is no unity in the Russian army and this is why we need to act.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Ukraine claimed responsibility for a fresh attack on a bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland that is very important to Russia's execution of this war. I'll ask President Zelenskyy about that when we come back.
ZAKARIA: It's been a week full of news out of Russia and Ukraine. On Monday, Russia announced that it would pull out of a grain deal that allowed Ukraine to export its main crops to much of the world. It came hours after a series of explosions hit the Kerch Bridge, linking Russia to Crimea. Russia denied the decision was related to the attack.
It is the only connector between the two so it is a crucial piece of infrastructure for Russia. Ukraine took responsibility for the attack. Afterward, Russia bombarded major Ukrainian cities along the Black Sea. More now of my interview with President Zelenskyy.
ZAKARIA: Is it a short-term objective of yours to destroy that bridge completely? And do you believe that you will be able to reclaim all of Crimea as part of this counteroffensive?
ZELENSKYY (through translator): The objective is to reclaim the whole of the Crimea because it is our sovereign territory. This is not just a logistical route. This is the route used to feed the war with ammunition and this has been done on a daily basis, and it militarizes the Crimean Peninsula.
For us, this is understandably an enemy facility built outside the law, outside the international laws and all applicable norms so understandably this is our objective. And any objective, any target that is bringing war, not peace, has to be neutralized.
ZAKARIA: In retaliation, it seems, the Russians have pulled out of the grain agreement. They are bombing granaries in Odesa. It is becoming much harder to send and sell Ukrainian agricultural products on world markets. Is there any solution? Have you found any way to get Ukrainian grain out now that the Russians have pulled out of the grain deal?
ZELENSKYY (through translator): First of all, I think it would be a mistake to compare those two situations. These were artificially tied information about the Russian Federation. Let me explain it to you.
From the beginning of the signing of these agreements Russia -- Putin constantly, regularly blocked the corridor. There were vessels idling at sea. There were queues -- long queues. Some would last for two, three weeks. Up to 30 vessels, sitting there, unable to either enter or exit our ports.
Russia did everything to slow down the process and artificially dump the prices on the world grain markets, much in the same vein as they did with energy sources. So, nothing new for us here. Later on, they took this situation around the Crimean bridge using it just as an example.
Just believe me, if you follow their public messages, you will clearly see it has been a scheduled approach. If not the Crimean bridge, they would find another example, another reason to do it. This is well in the meaning of them. In spite of that, we do look for ways or we talk to the U.N. secretary general Antonio Guterres.
Right before this meeting with you, I had a talk with President Erdogan to discuss the crisis. We do see certain ways of getting out of it. If we succeed, if Erdogan succeeds, if he is even stronger, I think, everything will check OK.
Anyway, everyone has to remember the Black Sea is the sea of all the nations of ours. This is not the sea of the Russian Federation. There is Ukraine, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, and we are talking to all of the countries in the Black Sea region. And we have very substantial pragmatic relations, humane and legal relations. And, by the way, this is very important. We have legal relations with everyone but Russia because they think that this is their own sea.
ZAKARIA: I want to thank President Zelenskyy for appearing on this program. Next on GPS, I think it's pretty clear by now that it is not the best idea to let current versions of artificial intelligence write your term paper or your legal brief. So, why in the world would anyone consider letting it decide whether to launch a nuclear retaliation? That story when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. Imagine a world where a highly intelligent computer in command of lethal force trains its destructive sights on its own creators, humans. Yes, this is the premise of "The Terminator" franchise but some version of it may not be as farfetched as you think.
In May, Colonel Tucker Hamilton, who heads A.I. testing and operations at the U.S. Air Force, spoke at a conference and described a battle simulation in which an A.I. enabled drone was trained to destroy surface-to-air missiles sites. When the drone's human operator tried to stop an attack, the drone, seeing the operator as an impediment to its mission, killed the operator. In other words, the quintessential scenario of artificial intelligence run amok had actually happened in this war game. Later, Hamilton withdrew his comments saying he misspoke and that he was describing a hypothetical scenario. The Air Force said his remarks were taken out of context. It should be noted whatever happened, no actual human was killed.
Last month, when I interviewed Geoffrey Hinton, the so-called godfather of A.I., who left his job at Google so that he could speak out about the risks that A.I. poses, I asked him about this episode. He told me that the scenario that Hamilton outlined was very plausible.
There has been a lot of talk lately about advances in A.I. leading to a dystopian future with even some scientists like Hinton warning of its potential to lead to human extinction. That might seem farfetched but we often neglect the fact that artificial intelligence is already on the battlefield and it could have dramatic consequences.
Look at the war in Ukraine. Both sides are using drones to spot enemy targets and drop munitions which would be enhanced mightily by A.I. South Korea has long deployed robots in the demilitarized zone which can detect the enemy coming over the border and even fire. In 2020, Israel is believed to have used a remote controlled A.I. boosted machine gun to kill an Iranian nuclear physicist.
Humans still oversee these technologies but weapons will only become more autonomous in the future. In 2021, the Pentagon had at least 685 A.I. related projects under way. The U.S. Navy is working on a program that could allow thousands of drones controlled by a single human operator to be flown in a swamp, overwhelming enemy targets.
Of course, the U.S. is not alone in this work. China, Russia, Turkey are all among those developing the same technology. And Russia says it has begun to manufacture a nuclear submarine which it says can navigate ocean peaks and valleys and steer clear of missile defenses autonomously.
But most important and scary of all the developments in A.I. is its potential use in making decisions about attacks. Automated decision- making might seem tempting, writes Michael Klare of Hampshire College. Because drones and satellites have given us a proliferation of data more than a human can distill in minutes A.I. will undoubtedly be used to filter those reams of data and highlight possible decisions that a leader could take, almost like an adviser.
But A.I. could also potentially absorb all that data and react to it instantly. Ross Andersen outlines a terrifying possibility in "The Atlantic" in an article entitled "Never Give A.I. the Nuclear Codes." You know, some defense experts believe that the U.S. should consider automating the response to a nuclear attack.
In order to understand why anyone would want this, remember when the Cold War began, the primary nuclear delivery system was the bomber plane like the one that dropped bombs over Japan. The U.S. had built up enough radar stations that they would be alerted of an attack with about an hour's notice.
Then both Russia and the U.S. began using the intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, which could travel across the northern hemisphere in 30 minutes. Now the president would have a mere half hour to figure out what to do as a nuclear warhead approach the United States. Nuclear submarines cut that response time in half yet again. A new technology will cut it further.
So very soon a U.S. president could have mere minutes to decide what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. A.I. could instantly evaluate an attack and trigger a response. But should it?
Once a better military capability exists, it is usually used. It will take active leadership to exercise restraint and would also take agreements with other countries which might or might not adhere to those agreements, and that means we might want to use A.I. anyway so as not to be at a disadvantage. You can see why this is a worrying development.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.