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Situation Deteriorating in Ukraine; Interview with Peter Greste; Imagine a World
Aired February 5, 2015 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the U.S. secretary of state flies into Ukraine as President Obama weighs giving Kiev
what it wants: the weapons to defend itself while NATO's top military chief tells me it is clear that Moscow has ramped up the battle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, USAF, COMSAC: The Russian-backed forces in the East have been reoutfitted, resupplied, reorganized, command and control
beefed up, given air defense and other enablers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Also ahead on the program, free at last: the joy of being journalist Peter Greste, happy and at large after 400 days in
a Cairo prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER GRESTE, JOURNALIST (voice-over): Every day I was thinking about this, imagine you're trying to picture what it would feel like walking
through that door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.
A new peace plan for Ukraine but will it stop the Russian-backed war after one brutal year and more than 5,000 dead? That is what the German
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Francois Hollande hope. They arrived in Kiev today with their secret and surprise plan.
And on Friday, they'll take it to Moscow and to President Vladimir Putin. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was also in Ukraine today as
President Poroshenko pleads for the means to defend his people who are far outgunned by Russian-backed forces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Russia and the separatists are seizing more territory, terrorizing more citizens and refusing to
participate in serious negotiations. Let there be no doubt about who is blocking the prospect of peace here.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now the same time from NATO headquarters in Brussels, slowly stepping up the response to that aggression and Russia's
continued military moves, as the secretary general announced small, new NATO command and control bases in the Baltic States as well as in Poland,
Romania and Bulgaria and also a 5,000-strong spearhead force.
Now as those discussions were underway, I spoke to NATO's military commander, the American general, Philip Breedlove, about NATO's failure so
far to deter Putin and what might change his battlefield behavior.
AMANPOUR: General Philip Breedlove, welcome back to the program.
BREEDLOVE: Thank you. I'm glad to be back.
AMANPOUR: This is a very important moment; we hear from world capitals that the situation between Russia and Ukraine has deteriorated
very gravely. There was meant to be a cease-fire in place; the two sides signed it.
What is happening? What are you seeing on the ground right now?
BREEDLOVE: Well, the situation is not good. And I would say it's deteriorating. There was to be a cease-fire; there was a period over the
Christian -- Christmas and Orthodox Christmas to be a pause.
But in fact, during that time, what we actually saw is that the Russian forces and the Russian-backed forces used that time to prepare for,
I think, what you're seeing happening now, which is the offensive in the Donbas.
AMANPOUR: Well, give me an idea of this offensive, because the Russians deny it categorically. They deny it.
BREEDLOVE: Well, let's just be simple about it. The line of contact from the Minsk agreements has moved to the west significantly in several
areas. So we see a push pretty much all along the front, but in several areas to make it a more contiguous area, we see a strong offensive in that.
We do see strong Russian-backed forces in the attack. We see support from Russian forces in key enabling areas, like air defense, artillery and
others. But it is a serious situation, especially in and around the town of Debaltseve.
AMANPOUR: Which is that strategic railway town, of course. They've taken Donetsk Airport now.
What is NATO going to do about it, General?
I would assume that you would agree that so far, Western moves, whether they be sanctions or whatever else, have not deterred President
Putin's military offensive.
BREEDLOVE: So I believe that like many others that the sanctions and the combination of falling oil prices and other pressures have brought
great pressure on Russia at a strategic level.
But on the battlefield in an operational and tactical level, we've seen no change to the steady press to the west, the steady tactical advance
of the Russian forces and the Russian-backed forces.
AMANPOUR: Many people are now saying listen, please, let Ukraine defend itself. Ukraine is begging to be able to defend itself better. It
is clearly outmatched by the kind of personnel and equipment that Russia is sending the separatists and there's a lot of conversation about now lethal
defensive weapons to the Ukrainians.
Even the upcoming Secretary of Defense in the United States has said he's inclined to do that.
Would you agree? Is that what is a necessary next step for Ukraine?
BREEDLOVE: So it's important to agree with what you first said and that is that the Ukrainian people do have their right to their self-defense
and the tools that are out there for that self-defense include those that you speak of.
But we have to remember that the -- that the guiding principle is that the solution to this problem in Eastern Ukraine has got to be diplomatic
So how do we use the tools to accomplish that diplomatic and political final result is important. And, Christiane, I think it's important here
that I have given my military advice, both in my U.S. chain and in my NATO chain, through all the appropriate channels to do that.
And now our nation's leaders will deliberate those options that have been prepared.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, I'm guessing, then, that you think they should get more lethal, military equipment and training to be able to
BREEDLOVE: I think we should allow -- as you know, they haven't even considered it yet here in NATO. That will be after this conversation that
you and I are having. So I think it's most appropriate for us to allow the leaders to listen to those things that we have offered first before we have
a public dialogue.
AMANPOUR: All right. I fully understand that.
So let me put it this way. Please, can you give me your military assessment of what the separatists have and the armor and the training and
the backing compared to what the Ukrainians have?
Are they not outgunned?
BREEDLOVE: So it is a very fair question. I think that the easiest way to look at this and make a judgment is to remember back in the late
summer, when the Ukrainian forces were advancing and were about to cut off the Russian-backed forces in the east and possibly then come to a
resolution of the conflict.
The Ukrainian forces were faring well against the Russian-backed separatists. And it was at that moment in the late August or the late
summer that the Russian forces, conventional forces, came across the border and backed the Ukrainian forces well towards Donetsk and Luhansk in the
And so what we see is at that point the Ukrainian forces were attrited and were put in a position where they had to go on the defensive in the
And so what we see now is over again the break that we have had and over the Christmas break, the Russian-backed forces in the east have been
reoutfitted, resupplied, reorganized, command and control beefed up, given air defense and other enablers.
And so what you see is a very capable force in the east. And this is what the Ukrainian forces face.
AMANPOUR: What do you think Ukraine would need if it were to get it to be able to defend itself, again, you know, politics happens when there
is the military reality to allow that politics to happen.
BREEDLOVE: So what I would say here, Christiane, is that as we saw in late August, the Russian forces came across the border when it appeared
that the Ukrainian forces were going to be able to effect a military solution.
We will not be able to give Ukrainian forces enough equipment or time in order to defend against the Russians. If the Russians are completely
determined to hold the situation in the Donbas that puts Kiev into a bargaining position, where they have to come to the table and meet Russian
needs, Russia will apply the necessary pressure just like they did in late August.
And so we should not attempt to enter into a situation where we try to match their capability to meet that; they simply will not be able to do
AMANPOUR: Wow! That is pretty -- that's a pretty dire assessment, isn't it?
BREEDLOVE: It's why we say that there has to be a diplomatic and political solution.
AMANPOUR: Could I just clarify something?
Do you actually say to me that in no circumstance will you be able to provide the Ukrainians with the kind of self-defense, weaponry and training
that they need?
BREEDLOVE: Well, let's go back, Christiane, to what happened again in August.
The Ukrainians were advancing on the separatists or I call them the Russian-backed forces in the east. And when it appears that the Ukrainians
were going to be able to accomplish their goal, the Russian forces came across the border in detail and combined arms effort and defeated the
Ukrainian forces and backed them up.
I think that if we see another time in the future where the Ukrainian forces are actually able to advance in detail against the separatists, why
would we just -- why would we expect any different behavior from the Russians than what we saw in August?
AMANPOUR: General Philip Breedlove, thank you so much for your time.
BREEDLOVE: Thank you, Christiane. It's good to talk to you again.
AMANPOUR: Now as the West struggles to resolve the war in Ukraine, we turn to another battle after a break, long fought and hard won. A
conversation with Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, home from an Egyptian jail. That's when we come back.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
After 400 days in an Egyptian jail, Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste is finally back home in Australia and just a few hours after he landed, I
spoke to him from his family home in Brisbane. He told me that he's been blown away by all the support and he told me how he kept hope alive all
those long, dark days behind bars.
AMANPOUR: Peter Greste, it really is great to see you and you have been looking so smiley and happy and your arms in the air.
Just how is it to be out?
GRESTE: Oh, look, Christiane, it's really difficult to talk about this without sounding as -- without speaking in cliches. Now it's just
absolutely awesome. I was trying to imagine what it would be like probably 400 times, in fact, over the last year or so; every day I was thinking
about this, imagine you're trying to picture what it would feel like walking through that door.
But believe me, nothing but nothing I imagined came even close to what it was like.
I've been physically free for about three or four days beforehand. But it really needed that big moment, walking through the door at the
airport and seeing that massive crowd and waving to everyone to really get that emotional freedom.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's so good to hear you say that and I'm sorry to put you back now into remembering and recalling for us what you went
through for more than a year.
What did it take to get you through those 400-plus days and nights?
GRESTE: Incarceration anywhere is a difficult thing to cope with and particularly when it's an open-ended (ph) process. We're not really sure
about how it's all going to resolve itself. But I had to make a very conscious decision, I think, to really look after myself physically,
emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. And so I was pretty careful to try and keep up a strict regime of fitness. We have space where we were
able to exercise. It's pretty limited but you still were able to work out some exercises and keep fit, physically fit.
And as you may know, I also started a course -- a master's degree in international relations. And I also spent quite a lot of time meditating.
I think all of those things really helped me get through some of the harder times, some of the darker times.
AMANPOUR: You know, at the heart of all of this were these allegations against you and I spent a lot of time questioning Egyptian
officials and many of our colleagues did as well, obviously your lawyers and your family and friends and everybody.
And we were told over and over again that you had spread falsehoods, that you were members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the whole
idea of being terrorists and this and that.
Why do you think those were the charges leveled against you?
GRESTE: Look, Christiane, I really don't know. What we always said to the Egyptians and to everyone else is that the evidence is in our work
and the allegations were regarding our public work. They were saying that we were acting as mouthpieces, as almost as propagandists for the Muslim
And they were referring very much to the work that we were putting on air. And so we always said, look, have a look at what's on air. It's on
the -- it's a matter of public record; by definition what we do is on the record.
And if there is something in there that we need to answer for, then we're happy to answer for it. We're responsible for our output, as is any
journalist. And I still felt -- I feel now and I always felt that was always -- that was never an issue.
Now if there's something else that was involved with this, it's -- really, I don't know.
AMANPOUR: You've also said clearly since you came out and your parents have said it as well that your joy is somewhat tempered by the
concern for Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohammad, who are still there. And you've said, "If I could be free, they should be free."
Do you get any sense that they would be following you anytime soon?
GRESTE: We've heard the reports; obviously the Egyptian -- sorry, the Canadian foreign minister has said that Fahmy's release is imminent; all I
can say is -- repeat is that we haven't heard anything more. I'm not privy to any further negotiations or discussions. You know, all I can say is
that it's great to be free and that I'm really looking forward to the others following in my footsteps as soon as possible.
AMANPOUR: Were you physically mistreated?
GRESTE: No. Not at all. Not at all. You know, there's a lot of talk about the conditions in Egyptian prisons and I know that there are
some pretty difficult places there. But our treatment was pretty reasonable, was quite decent.
AMANPOUR: Were you aware of all the support that you were getting from the outside, of what your own channel was doing and the whole
GRESTE: Let me say that I was -- when I say that I was aware, I -- my family that kept bringing news about what was happening and occasionally
they'd bring in photographs of people with the "Zip the Lips" campaign, I saw a photograph of you with the three AJ staffs. That was very, very
And I want to thank you and everyone who backed us, the Australian government and the foreign ministry, the British, the Americans, everyone
who was involved in the campaign.
And all of the thousands, the hundreds of thousands of people who supported us online, the tweets and Facebook messages and so on. But also
our professional community. And this comes back to your original question. Look, you know as well as I do just how fractious and cantankerous and
competitive journalists really are, how difficult it is to get them to work together and cooperate on anything.
To see the way that they pulled together around this issue in particular was absolutely remarkable.
AMANPOUR: I want to know how it was for you when you saw your parents again; I know you've seen them a couple of times when they visited, but
when you saw them as a free person again.
GRESTE: Yes, that was quite spectacular. It's really hard to describe. You can imagine it in all sorts of ways but unless you're been
through something like this, and walked out, walked through a door to see people as a free man after 400 days is -- it's really difficult to imagine.
It was just absolutely awesome.
AMANPOUR: Are you a changed man?
GRESTE: Look, you can't go through something like this, an experience like this without being changed. But I would like to think, I hope to
think -- we'll need to see how things unfold over the coming weeks and months. But I would like to think I've changed perhaps for the better.
You know, I've learned an awful lot about myself. I've grown a lot. I've learnt a lot about my family. I've -- my incredible family.
GRESTE: But -- and this campaign wouldn't have been half the campaign that it turned out to be if it wasn't for them.
I've learned a lot about life. I've learned a lot about what I'm capable of as well, which I think is pretty important.
And so as difficult and as tough as it has been, at the end of the day, I think it's actually been probably a more positive experience than it
has been a damaging one.
AMANPOUR: You know, you say you changed. You've learnt a lot. I wonder what's next for you. Do you continue this job because I had, as you
know, a wonderful conversation with your parents the day you were freed and perhaps jokingly, perhaps not, your mum said that perhaps the first thing
she would do is put you over her knee and give you a good whack for giving her such a hard time as a foreign correspondent, causing so much worry.
GRESTE: Yes, well, I've managed to avoid that whack. Just make sure my mum's out of earshot when I say that.
I really don't know, Christiane. I find it hard to imagine giving this business up. I feel it's an important job. I think what we do does
have a really important function. But I also recognize that we've been able to build an incredible coalition of people, incredible platform for
these freedom of speech issues. And I think I'd like to continue with that. I'd like to use that platform and make sure that we don't lose sight of the
fact this is an important issue that freedom of the press is a problem in all sorts of societies and it is absolutely fundamental to the functioning
of healthy democracies.
AMANPOUR: Well, we wish so much luck and a lot of time to get fully well and happy and healthy again and take all the time you need. It's
great to see you out and about. Peter, thanks so much. Good luck.
GRESTE: Thank you. Thanks again, Christiane. Lovely to talk to you.
AMANPOUR: So happy times for Peter Greste and of course let's not forget his two colleagues remain behind bars in Egypt. And there are so
many journalists in jail all over the world, not to mention under vicious assault from groups like ISIS and others.
But we were, of course, talking to Peter from Brisbane via Skype. And after a break, a papal hookup. Imagine a world where the pope enters a
AMANPOUR: And finally, a look forward tonight. Imagine a world where, at the touch of a button, you find yourself hanging out with Pope
Francis. And the past meets the present as the Catholic Church hears from its youngest followers online.
The pope extended a virtual hand to chat with children from around the world on Google Plus Hangout live from the Vatican. And he promoted
technology as an educational aid for those who might be struggling with disabilities.
And despite describing the Internet as a gift from God, the pope also revealed that when it comes to technology, he has a lot to learn as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pope Francis, I would like to ask you a question.
POPE FRANCIS: Please do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) to your computer?
POPE FRANCIS: Can I be honest?
I am really not so good at it. I do not work with a computer. It's a bit of a shame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And tomorrow, the pope will go off the Web to host the first full meeting of a commission that he has set up to protect children
from sexual abuse within the church. That is continuing a crusade that he has pledged to win for the church's most vulnerable.
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember as well as hanging out with the pope online, you can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter
and see the whole show at amanpour.com. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.