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Inside The Closely Guarded Diplomatic Effort To Talk To Saudis & UAE About Oil Production; Biden: U.S. Banning Russian Vodka, Caviar, Diamonds; More Than 2.5 Million Refugees Flee War-Ravaged Ukraine. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 11, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: You can hear explosions in the background. And these heartbreaking images of children and families in a bomb shelter in Mariupol, the mayor of that city accusing Russia of genocide. Mariupol now entering day six without humanitarian aid.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister sharing this video of sick orphans being evacuated from a town north of the capital city of Kyiv, and the Russian President Vladimir Putin seen in public today, you see him right there trying to shrug off his global isolation, as he met with one of his few remaining allies, the leader of Belarus. Putin says Russia and Belarus, get this, will quote, benefit from Western sanctions.

And a look here, an important look at NATO's eyes in the skies. CNN's Natasha Bertrand flew with the NATO surveillance mission Thursday over Poland. That flight revealing Russia is using Belarus as a launch point for many of its air operations in Ukraine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do see activity coming from Belarus going into the Ukraine, but we cannot distinguish whether it is a Russian aircraft or a Belarusian aircraft. But sometimes there are some certain periods on a day which are not on a regular basis where we do have a lot of activity getting in, like a larger package with 10 to perhaps 20 aircraft coming in from the Belarusian space into Ukraine.


KING: Some important new CNN reporting now on White House efforts to increase global oil production. It includes sensitive negotiations with Saudi Arabia and with the United Arab Emirates. CNN's Phil Mattingly is part of this reporting, joins us now live with the details. Phil, take us inside.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, we have seen the results of intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts in unifying the West when it comes to sanctions, when it comes to diplomacy and the approach in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But there's another element of this that is increasingly important, particularly if you just look at gas prices here in the United States. And that's the effort very quiet, very intensive diplomatic effort to try and increase or secure increases in global oil supply.

Now as the U.S. over the course of the last several months has worked on this front, there are really two countries that they focused in on, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There's a problem there and that the relationship with those two countries on a bilateral basis is extraordinarily tense and frosty over the course of the last several months obviously with Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince's association with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the wall, or "The Washington Post" journalist, the UAE significant frustration over the U.S. approach to Yemen and Iranian backed attacks on Abu Dhabi.

However, over the course of the last several weeks, I'm told officials have made a very clear effort to address those issues to get into negotiations to try and drive progress in that relationship. In the end that might result in Saudi Arabia and the UAE signing off on production increases. If you pull up the largest producers in the world, you see Russia is a huge player in this market. Right next to them, Saudi Arabia, a few more spots down the UAE, both have excess capacity. Both are countries that the U.S. is eyeing.

Some signs of progress that the UAE Ambassador just a couple of days ago said that they were open to more production. Saudi Arabia has not said anything of that sort yet, but U.S. officials are optimistic given the intensive nature of their talks over the course of the last several weeks, John.

KING: Important new reporting. Phil Mattingly appreciate it very much. Thank you.


Coming up for us, more on President Biden's latest punishment for Putin, it includes taking away trade status and it includes banning Russian vodka, caviar, and diamonds.


KING: We bring you a dramatic important development out of Ukraine just now, Volnovakha in eastern Ukraine, southeastern Ukraine has now fallen according to officials to Russian forces, the city have been surrounded since the start of the invasion more than two weeks ago, a fierce defense there finally giving way to Russian bombardment and a siege by Russian line troops from the so called Donetsk People's Republic. That's what Vladimir Putin calls it.

Volnovakha is strategically significant, if you look at the bottom right of your map there. It's a town halfway between Donetsk and Mariupol, the Russians trying to extend their control of the land in southeastern Ukraine, all the way across the port cities. Ultimately they hope to reach Odessa. We will keep an eye on the developments on the battlefield.

Back here in Washington, President Biden today outlining new sanctions against Russia and talking plainly about the precarious stakes here, more punishment almost by the day for Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Today's new actions include a ban on Russian seafood and alcohol, vodka and caviar and steps to strip Russia of global trade preferences. But there's also a very careful effort to keep the fighting within Ukraine's borders.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to hit Putin harder because the United States and our closest allies and partners are acting in unison. Totality of our sanctions, now export controls is crushing Russian economy. We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine. Direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, POLITICO's Laura Barron-Lopez, and Olivier Knox from the Washington Post. It's that last part Olivier. The President is trying every day to say we'll get tougher, we'll get tougher, we'll get tougher, but direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III. The question is how do you get tougher on Putin every day and bring as much of the world as you can along with you without crossing that line?

OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure, and to a degree collapsing the Russian economy will make Putin evermore desperate. The staff announced today, vodka carriers, cute, that's fine. But denying Russia the benefits of being in the World Trade Organization which is how Russia's economy got integrated with the West, the reason that McDonald's was in Russia, the reason that Starbucks was in Russia is that we integrated them into West. We're, I guess disintegrating is a bad term there. But we're basically reversing that process. And at some point, Putin has shown no sign that it's going to slow his military onslaught. But at some point, you know, you cross a line there. But you're right, that one of the reason we didn't send the jets didn't sign off on the Polish plan to send the jets, was the idea that, you know, 30 or to 70 jets leaving a NATO base flying into contested airspace, had very strong military risks.


KING: To your point about the dramatic changes, I came to Washington just as the Berlin Wall was coming down the year before it came down, we had the quote unquote, peace dividend, right? The world was going to benefit from the wall coming down, all these beautiful democracies sprouting up and they did, and the world did. But then the West got, as I use the term overly romantic thinking if we invite Vladimir Putin into the club, he will change his behavior. What is so striking is you're right the companies are pulling out, the President today saying no more most favored nation status.

Raising the prospect of chemical weapons in this, listen here, this is the Vice President of the United States and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations saying they believe Vladimir Putin is committing war crimes.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are clear that any intentional attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime, period.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: They constitute war crimes. They are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified by any -- in any way whatsoever.


KING: It is interesting, sometimes, you know, different leaders choose different language. And the Vice President seems to be being a little bit more cautious of saying we're watching this. And here's the definition. And we're keeping a good eye on it. The Ambassador seems to be saying everything I've seen tells me it's already happened, you know, I don't need more proof.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the Vice President just the day before had not answered that question that way about the issue of war crimes. But the reality is, this is all playing out in front of the entire world, we all see what is happening. It's very clear, you can't, you know, there's no point in denying what people are seeing and hearing with their own eyes. And so you're seeing the language moving forward. Also, as Putin's aggression gets more, more intense, and that is raising pressure on this administration to answer the question, what now.

Putin is not holding back. He continues to use some of the most inhumane means to bombard Ukraine, and including targeting civilians. And the administration seems to be running out of options to stop that from happening. Now they are escalating their rhetoric. But I think the world is looking to see what next into his actions.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The administration, to Abby's point and also to Olivier's, is that the administration has been very cautious, right, in terms of drawing any kind of red line. And they are often repeating Biden's point, which is that I am not going to put troops on the ground there. Because this week, the White House was asked repeatedly, if there is a chemical's attack, will you send troops into Ukraine, and they said our position has not changed in that. And also, we're not drawing any red lines, because they want to be very careful about escalating this with Russia.

KING: And yet, again, the security infrastructure of Europe is being rewritten, redrawn before our eyes. And we are having conversations that no one's had to have in this town for 20 plus years, in the sense that listen to Vice President Harris today, if you think about the legacy of the Iraq War, in the Afghanistan war, if you're in the U.S. military deployments to Germany, or deployments on training missions in NATO countries, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, those were viewed as good trips, those were viewed as a places where you go do very important work, but you're in a safe place and beautiful European cities. Now listen to the Vice President knighted states talking to troops saying your mission may have changed.


HARRIS: In this moment of Russian aggression and Putin's war, we take seriously our commitment to defend if necessary every inch of NATO territory.


KING: Those words have been spoken for a long time. We take our commitment seriously. But they have not been spoken with a Russian army on the march in a country that in Ukraine that borders NATO.

KNOX: Right people are complaining that Vladimir Putin is determined right with his nuclear weapons. So if you want an example of our deterrence towards Putin, it's this. He has not expanded the conflict into NATO countries. You know, there was some loose talk early on in this war, that he might try to make a move and, you know, either cross airspace, do something provocative. He has not. You talked about compensation we've never had before. The Germans have certainly haven't had this conversation in decades, that you turned by Germany suddenly being much more assertive, vowing to increase defense spending all of that that was an astounding transformation. We -- that's not something we've seen in our lifetimes.

PHILLIP: And I don't think it's because I mean, I think that what you're seeing with Europe is that they're realizing that what the Vice President said there and what the President has been saying about NATO is not enough for ever, that Putin may not be deterred over the long run and that's why they have to the complacency that has been on the continent of Europe is no longer sufficient and you're seeing them act to change that.


KING: And you also see this new aid package, let me put up quickly, U.S. aid for Ukraine. Yes, there's some, you know, bipartisan quibbling over sanctions should have been more quick, do this, do that, there is fighting over you should have done the MiGs. But there is also almost unanimous bipartisan agreement that let's do all we can to help Ukraine as quickly as possible.

BARRON-LOPEZ: There is I mean, on the Hill, you know, there's been increased pressure from Congress, with Biden to really just fortify and help Ukraine in this crisis.

KING: We'll watch that one as it plays out as well.

Up next for us, the sad part, the incredibly sad part of the story, the latest on the Ukraine refugee crisis, the count, now past 2.5 million people.



KING: President Biden at a House Democratic retreat talking about Russia and Ukraine. Let's listen for a minute.


BIDEN: -- World War III but we have a sacred obligation on NATO territory, a sacred obligation Article Five, and we will not, although we will not fight a Third World War in Ukraine. Putin's war against Ukraine was never be a victory. Democrats are rising to meet the moment relying -- rally in the world in the sight of peace and security. We're showing the strength and will never falter. But, look, the idea, the idea that we're going to send in offensive equipment and had planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, just understand and don't kid yourself no matter what you all say? That's called World War III. OK? Let's get it straight here, guys. That old expression, don't kid a kidder. Now I like to speak to our broader purpose here today to remind everybody where we were a year ago, where we've gotten since --


KING: That's the President speaking at a House Democratic retreat in Philadelphia promising, promising to keep America and the Allies united against Russia. But you heard at the end, they're saying it's also very important that U.S. troops, U.S. boots not hit the ground in Ukraine because of how that would escalate things, we'll continue to listen to the President.

Now, though, back to the crisis overseas, more than 2.5 million people, more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine. You see some of the pathways there on the map. To help put that into context. Russia's war has made more people refugees than there are residents in Houston. That's America's fourth largest city. CNN's Miguel Marquez doing heroic work for us, he's about an hour south of Bucharest now, the Romanian capital and he joins us live along I'm told, Miguel, with a Ukrainian student.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are in a house of Romania -- Romanian house that are taking in Ukrainians. They have 31 here right now, three more coming tonight in all over the last two weeks. They've taken care of about 61 Ukrainians. I want to show you this. This sort of says the whole thing. These are the shoes for the household. And a lot of people have just left. They have a whole staff of people who helped take care of these Ukrainians while they're here. And while the young man I'm going to speak to here is not Ukrainian, he's Nigerian, a student, I want this guy's life actually. He's 19 years old. You're studying medicine. You play for a local soccer club in a small Ukrainian city. And now you're caught up in war. What is the bit like the horror of what Vladimir Putin is doing by choice in Ukraine? And then the beauty of what you've received here? How do you reconcile how humans can be?

IMAN ODEJOBI, STUDENT IN KIROVOHRAD, UKRAINE: -- comprehended. Well, to be honest, I have to say like, this is all unexpected to me. Like I haven't really experienced none of this in my life before. But I have to say what these people are doing over here, it's a -- it's good work. It's good job. This is very, I didn't expect them to be this generous to -- MARQUEZ: You are one of 31 in this house. You've been here for how many days?

ODEJOBI: I've been here for approximately four days.

MARQUEZ: And they're going to get you to the airport in Bucharest, about an hour away tomorrow?

ODEJOBI: Exactly, tomorrow, so I can go back to Qatar. That is true, which was my family side. So I have to say very generous again.

MARQUEZ: And then what does this do to your life? You were studying in Ukraine, do you know, what now?

ODEJOBI: Well, I just, everything is just hopes and prayers to be honest because absolutely, there is nothing saying what Putin is going to do next, because that guy is uncontrollable, crazy, I have to say. And, well, we're just going to wait and see if the war goes on. And then hopefully, we could come back to Ukraine. But if not, we might as well think of transferring to other universities, other institutions.

MARQUEZ: All right. Thank you very much. This man is going to have an incredible life. This is one family in Romania taking care of so many people and they are doing it across Romania and throughout European cities, towns everywhere. John?

KING: Miguel Marquez, grateful for that live reporting. Say thanks to the young man for joining and time. And again, you're right. It's remarkable to see amid the horror, just a remarkable outpouring of humanity and caring as well. Miguel, thank you so much.


And if you're watching and you want to help, for more information about how you can do just that, go to We'll be right back.


KING: New projections today about how the war in Ukraine will impact economic growth here at home. Goldman Sachs saying it will slow economic recovery during the first half of this year. The Wall Street Bank also warning of an increased chance for a possible recession over the next 12 months. I'll give you a look here at how you feel about way things are going in the United States right now. This is an indicator I follow closely. University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index you see it has fallen below 60 to 59.7 right now. Back in March 2021, the early days of the Biden ministration it was near 85 percent. So clearly because of the pandemic and now war in Ukraine, Americans a bit nervous about the future of the economy, something we will keep an eye on.


Appreciate your time today on Inside Politics and throughout this very difficult week. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcast, try in these tough times. And have a peaceful weekend. Ana Cabrera, Anderson Cooper, pick up our coverage right now.