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Obama Heads to NATO Summit; Ebola Survivor Nancy Writebol Speaks Out; Cease-fire in Ukraine or No?

Aired September 3, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.


We're following several major news stories happening at this hour. President Obama now headed to the NATO summit in Cardiff, Wales. That could help define NATO's wall in the defense of Europe and the prosecution of ISIS.

The president has just finished a historic speech to the people of Russia's Baltic neighbor Estonia reassuring them that they do indeed have NATO and U.S. support should President Vladimir Putin try anything there. All of this happening after the report of a cease- fire between Russia and Ukraine apparently was exaggerated.

BERMAN: And a different crisis in a different conflict has set the U.S. directly once again. The latest horror from ISIS. A video showing the apparent beheading of another American journalist Steven Sotloff. U.S. officials now say the video is authentic and President Obama is promising justice.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever these murderers think they will achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They failed because like people around the world Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated. They only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists.

And those who make the mistakes of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.


BERMAN: Another big story we're following right now is Ebola. We are about to hear from missionary Nancy Writebol. She is the second American who contracted the deadly virus in Liberia and to be flown back to the United States for treatment. Writebol is -- set to speak publicly for the first time since her diagnosis.

PEREIRA: One the left hand side -- right hand side of your screen, you're looking at live pictures of the SIM USA Charity campus in Charlotte, North Carolina. Writebol and her husband David have been spending obviously so much needed time together at an undisclosed location since she was released from Atlanta's Emory University Hospital two weeks ago Ebola--free.

We're going to keep an eye on that, on that site there that you're seeing on your screen in North Carolina. We'll bring those comments to you as soon as they happen.

BERMAN: In the meantime, back to our other top story. The president dealing with two very complicated crises on his trip overseas. One involving the conflict in Ukraine, the other the conflict with ISIS. The president speaking about both of those issues over the course of the morning.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Newport, Wales. The president headed in that direction right now.

Nic, we knew the president would have to respond to the execution of Steven Sotloff. He got on that plane yesterday headed for Europe before talking about it. He landed in this morning. He did finally discuss it.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He did, and certainly the message is a very loud and clear one to those members of ISIS. He says that the United States will seek justice and get justice. He said that this will not put the United States off its course. Those people of ISIS who think that this is going to change the United States. It's not going to happen. That -- those sentiments also echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron here today as well, saying that a country like ours will not be cowed by this. Britain will not waver.

And certainly when President Obama arrives here later tonight, he will be looking to those other NATO nations and their leaders to help and assist in that fight, some sort of coalition to degrade and take down ISIS, which is what President Obama says he is intent to do -- John, Michaela.

PEREIRA: Nic, are you getting a sense of the response that can be expected from some of those other NATO nations about that? Because we know it is what many voices are calling for and as you mentioned, the importance of having an international coalition, a NATO coalition, take on this, this threat that is ISIS, this impending threat.

ROBERTSON: We've heard from the British and I think we're going to hear from others as well, certainly they recognize the threat. Britain has an estimated 500 British nationals have joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria. France is in a similar position. Many other European nations the same.

One of the messages that we'll likely hear is this -- is an issue, the coalition building that will taken to the United Nations as well. So President Obama is going to find support here. Certainly the feeling here is that this is something -- the British feeling, if you will, is a feeling that it cannot be tackled along. A coalition needs to be built. But of course intervention in the Middle East is toxic politically for President Obama, for British leaders, French leaders, et cetera.

Building a coalition is their way forward. So I think you're certainly going to find a level of support here. But we have to remember this issue, while it's rushed up the -- the recent agenda was not on the original NATO agenda here.


ROBERTSON: The three main talking points. So it's going to have to find its way in another ways.

BERMAN: Along those lines, I think the president just finished up a speech in Estonia and he was talking about the crisis right now, the conflict in eastern Europe between Ukraine and Russia and what it means for the rest of Europe. And it was a deeply historical speech. In some way deeply portentous, if you will, speech, ominous in some way. He told the people in the Baltics they've lost their independence once and the United States will make sure it doesn't happen again.

ROBERTSON: Yes. And he also made a very pointed message to President to Putin that just because these countries were once under the Soviet sphere of influence, there's no reason to think that that can happen again. A very clear warning. And we just heard in the last few minutes from the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council announcing that it expects that there will be multinational military exercises later this month in Ukraine that will involve troops, perhaps about a thousand troops from a number of different nations, including the United States.

Ukraine, not a member of NATO, but looking for NATO to help it send a clear message to President Putin to withdraw his influence, withdraw his troops, withdraw his weapons from -- and influence from the east of Ukraine, but the message for those Baltic states, part of a real effort to reassure those NATO members on the east of Europe that under Chapter 5, if their sovereignty is violated, the other NATO nations will step in to protect them.

PEREIRA: All for one and one for all, if you will.

Nic Robertson, you're there in Wales. CNN will be covering what comes out of those NATO -- the NATO Summit. So many pressing issues around the globe that will be needing their attention. Thank you so much for that.

BERMAN: I want to turn back to ISIS right now and that awful video that was released yesterday, the execution of Steven Sotloff but we don't want to focus on that. We want to focus on is Steven Sotloff as a person. Friends and family describe him as a brave journalist and a good friend. He had learned Arabic. He reported for many warzones in the Middle East.

PEREIRA: Sotloff spoke to CNN after the attack on the U.S. compound in Libya back in 2012. He had a firsthand account from the guards who witnessed that violence. Take a listen. STEVEN SOTLOFF, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: There was no protest. They

were armed with AK-47s, RPGs. They had blast demolitions, you know, for -- explosives for blast fishing. They had grenades.


PEREIRA: We'll have more on the Steven Sotloff later this hour.

BERMAN: In the meantime we're going to go back now to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we are about to hear from Nancy Writebol. She is the second victim or the one to contract Ebola in Liberia. Actually a victim but she is now pretty fully recovered.

PEREIRA: Look at her.

BERMAN: Look at her.

PEREIRA: Amazing.

BERMAN: The 59-year-old health care worker speaking publicly for the first time. Let's listen to what she says.

DAVID WRITEBOL, NANCY WRITEBOL'S HUSBAND: A reference to a little bit of a story. During the time that Nancy and I were in Liberia, Nancy was laying in bed, struggling with Ebola, one of things we did was we read scripture and one particular case or one particular time I read the entire Letter of Philippians. I had been studying and I've been thinking about it. And it's the story of Paul's letter to a church. He was in prison and people were saying that Paul's mission had failed and that things were going to stop.

And as I read that letter and I read it to Nancy, it became kind of a marker for our journey in that. People were thinking, well, this is the end, this is not -- the mission has failed, and yet as I read that letter, it's such a joyful and celebration of Paul's ministry and one of the things that he said, of many versus that are in Philippians is verse 12 of Chapter One.

He said, I want to you know, brothers, that what has happened to me or to us has served to advance the gospel, and then he goes on from there to explain that and to talk about that, and really that's -- that's what happened. We didn't ask for this assignment. We didn't choose it. It was given to us and so we recognized and saw God in it, and saw how God was really moving and has given us this wonderful platform.

And it's been a challenge, but we are so humbled that God would choose us to tell that story. We are so humbled that God would return Nancy to health when so many are dying and that he would use us to tell that story and so we want to do it well. We want to give God all the credit and all the glory for what's happened. We are so very thankful. I am so very thankful that this beautiful woman is still with me.

She is -- she's the best part of my life, and I told her so many times and continue to tell her she's the most beautiful woman I know, and I love her with all my heart. And I am so thankful that she is with me still for her recovery. I'm thankful for the prayers and the thoughts from others we've heard from around the world, literally. It's prayers of support and cards and letters and so many ways that people have said they are praying for Nancy.

And we're so thankful for the doctors and the staff at Emory as they received her and gave her such excellent and compassionate care. And you know, I was afraid -- I wasn't afraid but I told people, you know, two or three days after she's there, Nancy is going to be running the place.


And I think -- I think it happened. But they just love her, as I do, and I appreciate their work and compassion and her leadership of SIM and Samaritan's Purse. They were thrust into a situation where difficult decisions were needed to be made and we had so many that are involved in making decisions and caring for us and seeing that things would happen so that Nancy could return to the U.S.

I also want to express thanks for our friends. They are in Liberia. Doctors and nurses who selfishly -- selflessly and tirelessly worked to care for not only patients in the Ebola isolation units, working with Nancy, and Nancy working with them, but also in caring for Nancy and also for Dr. Brantley when he was there.

We're a team. We're a family. We're colleagues. And it's the way that the body of Christ works together and loves each other and reaches out to the world and so that was on display on an hourly basis and continues even today in Liberia and other places.

And I'd also like to highlight or to mention that there continues to be a need for concern on the part of people for West Africa. There continues to be a need for action to help in this crisis. It's still growing. It's still threatening, and there needs to be people who will be able to care for those who are dying. There will be those who need to express concern and provide for containing the spread of this disease, and it is a global threat, and this is what -- this response is what we do as Christians.

That's what we've been given to do. Our Lord and Savior went about doing good and therefore we also should go about doing good and this is how we demonstrate the love of God to the world, and so we pray that resources would be brought to bear. We pray that this response would indeed bring about the containment of the disease and also the healing and the health of many, many people there.

Nancy and I are going to continue to enjoy a season of rest and recuperation, and we want to see our children and grandchildren. We're looking forward to what God has for us in our next mission and it is not a failure of mission, but simply another chapter in the unfolding story and the unfolding grace that God is showing to the world, and so we ask God to guide us. We pray -- we ask for your prayers that God would lead us and guide us, and again we thank you.

We thank God and so I'm going to give it to my beautiful wife and let you hear her voice. Thank you.

NANCY WRITEBOL, MISSIONARY: Well, good morning. It is wonderful to be with you. It is a great privilege to be with you, and I say good morning to Liberia too, to our dear brothers and sisters in Africa. Our prayers are for you. Our prayers are with you in West Africa.

And I would just like to say thank you to some people that have been so part of this story. And really this is not our story, this is god's story. God is writing this, and I just want to express, first of all, my appreciation to the lord for his grace, for his mercy, and for his saving of my life. There were many mornings I woke up and thought I'm alive, and there were many times when I thought I don't think I'm going to make it anymore.

I really would like to thank SIM and our leadership for the way that they have cared for us during this, for the evacuation. I would like to thank SP, Samaritan's Purse, and all of our colleagues at Samaritan's Purse for the way that they were involved, and you know, I'm not sure people really understand that we work on the same campus together. We're a partner, and partners help each other, and so when one partner hurts, the other partner helps. And so we are so very thankful for the partnership and to be able to help in a time of need.

I am thankful and very grateful to the doctors in Liberia, the doctors who are still there serving. The doctors who attended to Dr. Brantly and myself during this very difficult time. I thank you and I thank god for you.

It is amazing to be able to be a part of a mission hospital. SIM has been in Liberia for over 60 years. There is a radio station that has broadcasted all over the world, a school, and also the mission hospital. It was a great privilege to be a part of the hospital during this difficult time of Ebola. To be able to help patients and to be able to help dress doctors and nurses as they got ready to go into the Ebola unit, to make sure that they were safe. And then to be able to -- when they came out, to decontamination them and to make sure the suits were coming off properly and doctors and nurses were kept safe.

I would also like to thank the doctors and nursing staff at Emory. What a great, great nursing staff and what great doctors. I don't know that I have ever known five doctors who have cared so much and for the 21 nurses that served Dr. Brantly and myself, thank you. They were amazing people, and just a lot of fun to be around too. If you have to be in the hospital.

I don't want to forget the people that have prayed for us, and David has mentioned this, we thank you for your prayers during this time. Prayers from all over the world. To god be the glory for what he is doing.

And two last -- well, actually four, four last people that I would actually like to thank is our amazing sons and their -- and our daughter-in-laws. Oh my goodness, never in my life, would I have imagined that they would be the first faces I knew when I arrived in Atlanta. And they were there the whole time. I'm so thankful for them and for the way that they have helped us in this very, very difficult time, and for their wives who have been so supportive. I can't wait to put my arms around all of our children, and all of our grandchildren and we hope that will be soon.

Some of you may be wondering why in the world did you go to Liberia. And the answer is, of course, it was god's call. Why did we go? That was where we sensed that the lord was leading, confirmed in that by our leadership, and I have to tell you that it was a joy to be there, and there was not a fear there. Every, every single day was new. You never knew what was going to happen every day, and so it was a wonderful place to be able to work and to serve, and so I thank the lord for our team in Liberia. I thank the lord for the opportunity to be able to go and to serve. I'm going to ask our dear friend Bruce --

BRUCE: Yes, as I've been talking with David and Nancy, I just want to ask them a couple of questions and share -- Nancy and David, explain when you found out, how you found out --

PEREIRA: Okay. So we have been listening to, and watching, quite an amazing thing. I want to point out to you that it was August 5th that this woman, a 59-year-old woman from North Carolina, was essentially feeling as though she was on death's door. That's when she arrived at Emory University Hospital. You can hear her now. You can see her now. John, she looks fantastic.

BERMAN: You say you want to point that out. One thing I want to point out, she's adorable.

PEREIRA: I love her already.

BERMAN: She's adorable right now.

PEREIRA: She's really quite wonderful.

BERMAN: You can see the joy in her face. She said it's wonderful to be with you. I bet it is. She said good morning to Liberia. She made clear that she does send her prayers to the people in West Africa right now suffering from Ebola.

PEREIRA: Even talking about the fact, and we will bring in our Elizabeth Cohen here in a second, even talking about the fact that in that isolation ward at Emory University Hospital, five doctors, 21 nurses involved in her care and in the care of Dr. Ken Brantly, how difficult it was, how tremendous the care and support they received, but even the amount of fun. I don't think of fun when I think of an isolation unit.

Let's bring our Elizabeth Cohen in. I'm sure you are taking note of the fact, Elizabeth, that a month it has been since she arrived at hospital. It's amazing.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And look at that, she looks, as John said, she looks adorable. You want to reach through the TV and hug her. Yes, absolutely. And you know, it's interesting that it would be very easy for their narrative to be one of traumatization. She has been through a lot. She said many times I thought I'm not going to make it anymore. But it's not a narrative of trauma. It's a narrative of joy. And it is a narrative her husband said, we are just honored and humbled that God chose us for this challenge. To come out of something like that with that attitude is - We can all learn form that.

BERMAN: She looks terrific. I just can't believe it was only a couple of weeks ago that she was released from this unbelievable level of care. What does she have to deal with going forward? Is the Ebola now just totally gone?

COHEN: Well they say she's passed two blood tests and both were negative. Now, her husband said, a bit ago, that she was still weak from the effects of Ebola. So she doesn't have Ebola anymore, but he said a while back that she was still weak from the effects of it and I imagine that is still true now. She looks to me she's lost a little bit of weight which would not be surprising. So I don't think she's feeling 100 percent necessarily, but she does not have Ebola and I think that's an important distinction to make.

PEREIRA: It certainly is. Elizabeth Cohen, thank for joining us to talk about the amazing recovery that we've seen. I think the other thing that surprises many of us, or maybe it doesn't, because so many people talk about this couple, they have done such missionary work around the world, dedicated their lives to it, is the fact that her husband says whatever mission comes next, they are ready to take it.

BERMAN: This was a little bit of hopeful news today and we need it because there is a lot else going on. Namely, what can we learn form Steven Sotloff's final moments? We're going to talk about the clues left behind in this awful video of his death.

PEREIRA: Then, is there a cease-fire or is there not? Ukraine says yes. Russia says no. What is going on? We'll bring you a report from Kiev.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a brazen assault on territorial integrity of Ukraine, a sovereign and independent European nation. It challenges that most basic of principles of our international system. That borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun. That nations have the right to determine their own future.


PEREIRA: President Obama speaking out forcefully, strongly against Russia's military movements in Ukraine. Meanwhile, there's some confusion over whether Ukraine and Russia have actually reached a cease-fire agreement today. Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko says yes they agreed in a phone call, however Russian President Vladimir Putin's office will not confirm that, insisting that Russia isn't involved in the conflict, so it can't be involved in the cease-fire.

BERMAN: So is this just semantics or is this a denial, which would only be the latest denial since fighting started in April taking the lives now of more that 2,600 people.

We're lucky we Reza Sayah now from the Ukrainian capital in Kiev. Reza, what's going on here? Is there a cease-fire or not?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Based on the information we have, John, there is no official cease-fire in place, but one could go in effect as early as Friday. Let's try to clear up some of the confusion and the ambiguous statements. This all started this morning when the Russian news agency InterFax reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had had a phone call and they agreed to a road map with which they would get out of this conflict.

Then we heard from Ukrainian officials here in Kiev. They confirmed the phone call but they took it a step further saying that the two leaders had established an actual cease-fire. That term wasn't in the initial statement from Moscow. So we reached out to Moscow to clarify and that's when President Putin's spokesperson said that Mr. Putin was not authorized to declare a cease-fire, because Russia was not a party to this conflict. But they said Moscow supports the framework with which a cease-fire would be established.

And several minutes ago, the office of President Petro Poroshenko confirmed that there was a discussion again and he said he is hopeful that the process to reach a cease-fire would begin on Friday, and that's when all sides of this conflict meet once again in Belarus, John.

PEREIRA: Maybe that we'll hold out hope as well than that maybe some agreement can be reached. Now add to the mix we're also learning just a few minutes ago that Ukrainian officials have announced that NATO is going to hold military exercises in Ukraine. I understand their annual exercises but let's look at the current situation. There's a conflict going on there.

SAYAH: Yes, and I think that could be interpreted by Moscow as a provocative move by Washington and NATO. Indeed this is an annual exercise that takes place every year in western Ukraine. It was scheduled to take place a couple of months ago, NATO postponed it because of the conflict.