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Source: As Many as 10 Passenger Jets Threatened; Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Showed 'No Will to Fight'; New Video Shows Bloody Battle for Ramadi. Aired 5-6:00p ET
Aired May 25, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: jets scrambled. A threatened Air France flight bound for New York is escorted by U.S. warplanes. And now CNN has learned of threats to as many as ten other airliners. Who is behind these?
No will to fight. Defense Secretary Ash Carter sets off a firestorm with remarks about Iraqi forces in an exclusive interview with CNN. Now Iraq and the White House are responding. Can Iraqi soldiers take on ISIS?
Deadly flooding. At least a dozen people are missing after record storms sweep across parts of the U.S., killing at least three people. Will there be even more severe weather today?
Privileged elite. CNN gets an exclusive look at lavish perks reserved for North Korean favor by Kim Jong-un's regime. Dolphin shows, water parks, new apartments and more. Why is much of the rest of the country struggling just to survive?
Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Breaking now, an FBI investigation into threats against multiple airliners. This includes one prompting the U.S. military to scramble fighter jets that escorted an Air France flight into New York's Kennedy Airport.
Also, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter setting off a huge controversy after telling CNN in an exclusive interview that Iraqi troops showed no will to fight against ISIS forces that overran the city of Ramadi.
We're covering all of that and more this hour with our guests, including Republican Congressman Peter King. He's a member of both the Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees. And our correspondents are with us, as well, from key locations.
I want to begin with CNN's Tom Foreman. He has new information about the airline threat that sent U.S. fighter jets scrambling.
Tom, what are you finding out?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this weekend, where 37 million Americans are traveling, at this hour authorities think maybe one, one person may have triggered all this concern about airplanes this morning with calls of anonymous threats.
It started with an Air France jet coming in from Paris. It was a report that there were chemical weapons onboard. And immediately, air traffic control reached out to this plane and said, "Is anybody sick onboard? Is anything wrong up there?" They were told there was no problem, but nonetheless, two F-16 fighter jets went out over the Atlantic and escorted this plane into land at JFK Airport, where FBI agents went onboard and searched the plane thoroughly, concluded nothing was wrong there, even though they had to hold passengers for two hours.
Simultaneously threats were coming in against other flights, at least ten of them landing at Newark and at Buffalo and Atlanta and maybe some other airports, as well. It's all a little murky right now because all of these threats seemed to be coming in, and in the strangest ways. The first one went to the Maryland State Police.
But nonetheless, authorities have responded to all of these threats out there, and so far they haven't found anything, Brianna, although it really threatened to disrupt a lot of air travel on this very busy weekend.
KEILAR: I know you've also been looking into this suspicious pressure cooker that law enforcement found yesterday on the National Mall. What have we learned about that?
FOREMAN: Yes, that really set it all off. The National Mall is absolutely packed on Memorial Day, with lots of people here for a free concert, to visit memorials, go to Arlington Cemetery, that sort of thing on the other side of the river.
What they found was a car that had been left parked near the Capitol on the west front. And it seemed suspicious. Officers said there was a smell of gasoline to it. When they looked in the back saw, they a propane tank and a pressure cooker.
The bomb squad was called in. They pulled the pressure cooker out, and they blew it apart and only then did they determined that there was really nothing harmful involved here.
They did find the driver eventually, and he was charged with operating without a license, but there did not seem to be any real threat here.
You can see what's happening here, Brianna. Amid all the threats and problems we have had, authorities say they just have to take everything seriously, even if this morning they find out it was one person making a bunch of what would be essentially prank phone calls, threatening airlines flying in from Europe -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Tom, thanks so much for your report.
And now the explosive comments about Iraqi troops by Defense Secretary Ash Carter. He made them in an exclusive interview with CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what did the secretary of defense tell you?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.
A piece of remarkable candor. I want to take our viewers behind the scenes, because I asked the secretary one basic question: What did he think about what had happened in Ramadi and how the Iraqi troops fought? Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASH CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. And yet they failed to fight. They withdrew from the site. And that says, to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:05:23] STARR: How, he is talking, really, centering his comments on the fall of Ramadi and what happened there when the Iraqi forces basically up and left, even though they were not outnumbered by ISIS fighters.
A lot of concern about all of this. A lot of controversy. But I think the most telling thing, nobody is countering what the secretary said -- Brianna.
KEILAR: That's very telling. Tell us a little bit about what we're hearing from Iraqi officials, and also from the Obama administration? It sounds like they're not disagreeing with the president's defense secretary.
STARR: Well, first up, it's really extraordinary. One of Carter's allies in this commentary is the Sunni deputy prime minister, who says he's also disappointed in the performance of the Iraqi troops.
The White House coming out finally, and days later, and saying that, you know, Carter was only talking about Ramadi. We know Carter was only talking about Ramadi. That's what we asked him about.
But I have to tell you, officials here at the Pentagon are actually rounding out some of this. They're offering some additional context. So why did it all fall apart in Ramadi? Well, it appears those troops hadn't been paid. They hadn't been home to see their families. They were exhausted. And perhaps most telling, many of these troops expressing a loss of confidence in their Iraqi commanders. All of that adding up to a very serious situation.
Because if the U.S. wants to partner and continue to partner with the Iraqi military commanders, the Iraqi government, Iraqi forces, there has to be a professional military there to partner with, and those Iraqi commanders, in the view of the Pentagon, are responsible for stepping up and making that happen -- Brianna. KEILAR: Leadership is so important. Barbara Starr, thank you so
much for that report.
And we are getting some graphic new video of that bloody battle for Ramadi. We want to warn you that some people may find it disturbing. Here's CNN's senior international correspondent Arwa Damon.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the fall of Ramadi has raised a lot of questions and stirred up quite the debate. We met a soldier whose brigade was among the last to retreat. His narrative and the videos that he provided do give a little bit of insight into what went wrong.
DAMON (voice-over): The chaotic final moments captured on a cell phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: "Come on, fight!" a voice shouts. This, one of the last firefights with ISIS before Ramadi fell.
A body is seen in the dirt behind one of the berms used for cover.
Asa'ad al-Yassiri, who gave us the videos, was one of the soldiers there, wounded in that final battle.
ASA'AD AL-YASSIRI, IRAQI SOLDIER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: "There were three IEDs that took out two Humvees and killed five. Then they came at us with two bulldozers rigged with explosives," he remembers.
His contingent, he says, numbered around 140, spread out in smaller units, along the vast terrain west of Ramadi. And Yassiri was in this armored personnel carrier, reloading ammunition.
One soldier calls for a heavier weapon. A warning that ISIS is approaching from another direction, as well.
AL-YASSIRI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: "Then they came at us with big gun trucks, surrounding us from four directions. There should have been a force to our rear, but they weren't there," al-Yassiri says.
His commander radios for air support. Moments later, cries of, "No ammunition! No ammunition!" And the unit receives orders to withdraw.
And Yassiri is bitter and angry. Though wounded, he wanted to keep fighting. Just two weeks before the fall of Ramadi, he says, his unit
captured an ISIS position, killing six, he claims. Two corpses seen torched in this video. Another seven, he says, were detained. Four of them foreigners. Under interrogation, a captured ISIS fighter described their surveillance and bold tactics.
YASSIRI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: Yassiri recalled the fighter saying, "He flashed a light at the tower. We know that there are only 28 soldiers and a five-hour rotations and that there was a lack of ammunition. If the soldiers don't fire at us, then we crawl and plant the bomb."
And Yassiri bristled at the accusation that Iraqi soldiers don't have the will to fight. He wants to quit the army and join the militias. The failure is with the military higher ups, he says, who gave the orders to retreat, and allowed supply lines to fail, and front lines to collapse.
[17:10:17] DAMON: And Brianna, the Iraqi government has said that it is investigating how it was that those orders were issued, but as of now, has yet to come up with a viable or satisfactory answer.
KEILAR: Arwa Damon for us there in Baghdad.
I want to get more on all of this with Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and also the Intelligence Committees -- Committee. He has a lot of insight on this.
And I want to definitely ask you about the Iraqi fight against ISIS, Congressman, but first, let's talk about these multiple threats that have been phoned in regarding flights today. None of them have proven legitimate so far. But what do we think is behind this? Are you getting a sense of that in briefings?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Yes. First of all, there's no determination yet made as to what's behind it. Obviously, it appears they all were hoaxes, but having said that, you know, just last week there was ISIS Twitter chatter, which basically was talking about the use of hoaxes.
Now, I'm not saying that ISIS is behind this, but that certainly is something that has to be looked into, or whether or not ISIS just talking about it, sends that signals out to its supporters here in the U.S. or around the world.
Basically, the chatter was that these type of hoaxes can be almost as effective as an attack itself, because of the economic disruption it can cause. Also, and again, this may be secondary, but they may want to see how we react to these hoaxes, and again, that may factor into, you know, what they do in the future.
But, again, I'm not saying there's any evidence that it's ISIS, but it is coincidental, at least, that just last week ISIS was talking about, over Twitter, the use of hoaxes as a way to disrupt our economy and just to cause chaos in the United States.
KEILAR: Is that something at this point that the U.S. is investigating? And if that's the case, is there a way to ascertain that it could be an ISIS sympathizer? Is there a way to identify who may be behind these threats?
KING: Certainly, I believe if -- that the FBI does have the capacity to determine if this was ISIS. And they may not -- definitely, I would think the capacity is there; they more than likely will be able to determine that. But, again, I don't want to be setting any high mark for them. They will do all that they can. But if anyone can get it done on this, it would be the FBI.
KEILAR: Did you have any concerns about the response? Or if, for instance, this was an area where ISIS sympathizers were testing out the U.S. response, do you feel that they might be dissuaded from an actual threat because of how the U.S. responded? Do you want to see more?
KING: Again, I think it's going to have to wait for an after- action report. I mean, we're in the first few hours after this happened, and we're just really going on sketchy reports. I think we'll have to look into exactly, you know, when the hoax calls came in, when the communications came in, how quickly there was response.
Again, I would say that, ever since 9/11, the response to these type threats has been extremely well-coordinated. So I'd be surprised if there was any gap.
But again, all of this has to be looked at carefully, because this could be, you know, the terror threat of the near future. These type of hoaxes, and making sure that we, you know, run them all down to make sure they are hoaxes and also, what we do, if anything, to prevent this. Because this can cause tremendous disruption, if we have a multitude of, you know, these hoaxes coming in, especially on a busy flying day such as Memorial Day.
KEILAR: More on ISIS. We'll be talking about the fight against the ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria with Congressman Peter King after a quick break.
KEILAR: We're following the firestorm set off by Defense Secretary Ash Carter after comments made about Iraqi troops in an exclusive interview with CNN's Barbara Starr.
[17:18:41] And we're back now with Congressman Peter King of New York to talk about this. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee as well as the Intelligence Committee.
So Congressman, you heard what the defense secretary said. He told our Barbara Starr that the Iraqis showed, quote, "No will to fight in Ramadi." But he said that the U.S. is going to continue to train the Iraqi military.
We also heard in a report from Iraqi soldiers that it's really their leadership, the Iraqi military leadership that they're questioning. So what's the answer here? Should the U.S. continue to train, and is there really a point to it? Can you instill in someone the will to win if they don't have it?
KING: Well, I agree with Ash Carter, Secretary Carter, that whoever's fault it is in Iraq, whether it's the leadership, whether it's the troops on the ground or a combination, the fact is the Iraqi army has failed miserably and the fact that they basically, even though they have far more personnel than ISIS, they ran. The bottom line is they did run, as General Dempsey said. They weren't driven out. They drove out. And to me, there's no excuse for that.
And again, I'm sure there's individual acts of heroism, but as a unit, the Iraqi army failed terribly in Ramadi. In think that it's also a failure. I'm not in any way excusing the Iraqis, but for our own national self-interest, we -- the U.S. should be doing more against ISIS.
[17:20:09] And I agree with Lindsey Graham and John McCain and others who have said that we should have more troops on the ground. Not in a combat role, per se, even though obviously, they're going to be exposed to combat, but to have spotters, for instance, so that the air attack is much more successful than they are.
Also, to have American troops embedded with the Iraqis to prevent situations like this, you know, from happening. I think this all began when we withdrew too early in 2011. That's behind us. I do think we have to increase the training, but to make it, at least in the short run, we have to have more effective use of air power. And that, I think, is going to require, I believe is going to require having more American troops on the ground. The number I've heard is 10,000. I'm not certain of that.
I know Tom Cotton also supports that, the senator from Arkansas and he's been in Iraq. He's a combat veteran.
But what's happening now is our policy, is failing. There's no doubt in my mind our policy is failing. We are not training the troops quickly enough. The troops are not showing any significant improvement, and the air attacks are not having any meaningful impact on ISIS.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about the NSA now. You've been highly critical. Your Senate -- your colleague in the Senate, Rand Paul, he opposes the NSA bulk data collection. And this is a provision of the Patriot Act we're looking at expiring in six days now.
KEILAR: Is this going to expire without congressional approval? KING: We can't allow it to expire, because the majority of both
houses want the program to continue in one form or another. I would support it being reauthorized as it is. I realize that's virtually impossible at this stage. Either there should be a brief extension, or they should adopt a bill that the House passed.
Again, I didn't fully support that bill, but I ended up voting for it, because that was the only way to keep the program going.
The NSA is essential. I'd rather have it continue as-is, but at least under having it continue under the amended form, or the revised form that came out of the House. But it's irresponsible.
And people like Rand Paul, who, again, somehow make the NSA the villain when it's al Qaeda, it's ISIS, it's this whole array of Islamist terrorists we're against, and somehow Rand Paul is consumed by the NSA.
I've never met a more patriotic group of people than the men and women of the NSA, and I also believe that constitutional protections are in place right now. The House bill would increase those protections, and there's no excuse for it to be allowed to lapse.
If we can't come to an agreement by June 1, because that's the date, then at least have a 30- or 60-day extension so we can get this resolved. We can't be basically, you know, fiddling while Rome is burning. That's what's going to happen here.
KEILAR: Congressman King, thanks so much for talking with us.
And coming up, the latest on deadly flooding and the ongoing search for a dozen people missing after record storms pound parts of Texas.
Plus, an exclusive look at the perks set aside for North Korea's elite.
[17:27:29] KEILAR: We're following the FBI investigation into a series of airliner threats. A source is now telling CNN as many as ten planes were threatened. This includes an Air France flight that was escorted to New York -- New York's Kennedy Airport by U.S. fighter jets.
And I want to dig deeper now into this with former CIA counterterrorism official and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd; retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, who's also a CNN military analyst. We have retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Ollivant, a senior national security fellow at the New America Foundation. And we have Andrew Tabler. He's the author of "In the Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria."
Phil, I want to get your reaction to something we just heard Congressman King say that we hadn't heard before. He said that about a week ago there was chatter coming from ISIS about how hoaxes, for instance, it appears these threats on airliners that thus far have proven to not actually be real, that hoaxes can be just as damaging as an actual attack. And so he's wondering if there might be some sort of connection, and he says that's something that may be investigated. What do you think?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think there's a chance ISIS looks out and says, "Hey, let's watch what's happening today with these airliners. Let's see if we can learn something."
Remember, though, if they're thinking of going down road to hoaxes, if you look at the world through their perspective, they've got to worry about things like recruits and money. They have to worry about actual operations. So if this does turns out to be some ISIS affiliate, my guess is it's a better chance that somebody out there in some city says, "I like ISIS. I want to affect America."
We also have Saudi Arabia, one airliner threatened here, Air France. Might be someone who just wants to support ISIS, as opposed to the group itself. Because I think they want to come in and conduct operations, not just threaten operations.
KEILAR: General Hertling, you heard what the defense secretary told our Barbara Starr. He said the Iraqis showed no will to fight in Ramadi. They outnumbered ISIS fighters, and yet they retreated. I wonder if you're talking about -- we've heard from U.S. officials that they need to have this will to fight, but how do you inspire that in fighters if they just don't have it? Is it possible?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you're -- it's a great question, Brianna, and you're asking me to give the secret of any good army. And it consists of three very simple things: teamwork, training and trust.
You've got to understand that you're part of a team, that you have to depend on the people on your left and right. You have to train continually and be prepared for anything that might happen before it actually does happen. You never want to experience something in combat before you've experienced it in training.
And the most important element of leadership is trust. You've got to trust your fellow soldiers. The film that you showed earlier, that Barbara showed, there's trust between the soldier on the front line. Do they have the same trust in their leaders? That seems to be missing a little bit in Ramadi.
And do they have the trust in their government? And that's generated by things like being paid, being cared for, knowing you're part of an organization that's defending the country, as opposed to defending a sectarian regime. So all -- three simple things: teamwork, training and trust.
KEILAR: And Doug, you heard that in some of our reports. These were Iraqi soldiers that hadn't been paid. They don't really trust their leaders. We're hearing that from the ground there in Baghdad, from troops who have come back. You've got ISIS, though, where there's a lot of cohesion. They believe in their mission. How do you confront something like that with Iraqi troops?
LT. COL. DOUG OLLIVANT (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, I think we do need to do some building. I think in some ways the secretary's comments are overstated. These troops in Ramadi have been holding this city for a year and a half. Retreated only at the very end, where if reports can be believed, they faced wave upon wave of very serious car bombs that it makes it dubious that any military force would have held up to that absent air power. So in some ways they simply performed as any army would.
That said, you know, Mark Hertling is right: there are real problems with leadership, real problems with pay, and we need to get those fixed.
KEILAR: As you see the Assad regime and forces -- Assad's forces taking on ISIS in Syria, Andrew, are they facing any similar problems here in the will to fight, or is there a greater will to fight against ISIS?
ANDREW TABLER, AUTHOR, "IN THE LION'S DEN": Absolutely. The problem we have with the Assad regime is just lack of capacity. It's partially due to the rigidity at the top of the system. In Iraq, you have the hope of changing the system. You can change the prime minister. In Assad and Syria, Bashar Assad is president literally forever. So unless you change the politics there, it's very difficult to get the military situation correct on the ground.
KEILAR: Andrew, Doug, Phil, General Hertling, thanks so much to all of you for insight on this.
And we do have some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Next, state of emergency. Some devastating floods -- you can see these pictures -- hitting dozens of Texas counties. Washing cars right off of roads. Hundreds of homes off of their foundations.
And, later, while millions of North Koreans starve, a lucky few get dolphin shows and other western-style perks you've just got to see to believe.
KEILAR: We're following breaking news in Texas. At least a dozen people are missing in flooding that caused -- was caused by unrelenting storms. Just now officials said that search operations have been suspended, but rescue boats are standing by.
Two bridges and at least 400 homes washed away in hays county near Austin. The floodwaters caught drivers quite by surprise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)! Oh, my God! Stop, stop, stop! He needs to get out!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Jesus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: We're told the man in this SUV did manage to get out safely.
The floods in Texas and Oklahoma are blamed for at least three deaths, though, and you have more rain in the forecast.
I want to bring in now CNN's Ed Lavandera. Give us the latest and tell us about the search for the missing.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a great deal of concern. It was a group of families that had come up to this area here in the town of Wimberley, Texas, to spend Memorial Day weekend. And what we're gathering is that some of these families might have been washed away in one of the river homes that they were renting and hanging out in for the weekend. So that is of great concern.
And as you mentioned, those search-and-rescue operations have been called off for the rest of the day because rain continues to fall here in central Texas, and very heavily at times. So this is one of the lesser parts of the rainfall that we've seen throughout the day.
But Brianna, as you look back over here on this side, the Blanco River is just off here to our right, and you can see the force that these floodwaters came through this area. These -- I can't overestimate just how large these trees are that have been broken apart and were slammed into the bridges. That's what washed out several of the bridges.
As you look at the one bridge that we are on here, I'll give you a better sense of what we're dealing with. And this is the Blanco River here, Brianna, and the water came up over the water where we're standing. So it has receded dramatically for now, but as the rain continues to fall, it's a great concern.
But this is what washes out the bridge. I mean, this is -- this is a massive tree broken apart, splintered, all washed up against here. So you can see the Blanco River just down there and all of this rushing heavily downstream.
And one of the big concerns now, Brianna, is that this -- where these rivers and waterways, heading out toward the Gulf of Mexico, a great deal of distance. And all of this water is heading downstream. So not just in central Texas, but down closer into south Texas, toward the Gulf of Mexico, where in the coming days, you'll see floodwaters and the rivers cresting up down there as well as this river all heads south towards the Gulf of Mexico.
But you can see the intensity of the damage, and all of the debris that was just taken downstream here in a dramatic force here in the middle of the night. Many people rushed to safety as quickly as they could -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Ed Lavandera watching things for us there in Texas. Thanks, Ed. And there's another breaking news story that we're following
right now. Russia's news agency just announced an ominous new round of military exercises. The combat-readiness check includes 12,000 troops, hundreds of warplanes, including long-range bombers firing cruise missiles.
The war games come amid new fears that Russian leader Vladimir Putin may be planning to order new military aggression. Ag the same time, other reports say that Putin, whose marriage broke up two years ago, also may be a new father. And this is very intriguing.
And let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd with details on this -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, from his personal life to some moves that he's making on the Ukrainian border, which are being called outright dangerous. Vladimir Putin tonight is again playing a perilous chess game, one that is angering officials from the United States and NATO and prompting them to send some warnings of their own.
TODD (voice-over): Two wounded men confessing on camera, a video put out by the Ukrainian security service. They were captured in Ukraine, and European monitors say they both admitted to being Russian soldiers.
They told the monitors they were inside Ukraine on reconnaissance, not to fight, but they're not supposed to be there at all.
And tonight, White House and NATO officials tell CNN they're concerned that Vladimir Putin and his army are violating their cease- fire agreement with Ukraine: stockpiling troops and weapons at the border, arming and training Russian separatists inside Ukraine, getting ready for possible action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of their actions are consistent with preparations for another offensive.
TODD: Ukraine's president claims Putin has bolstered Russian troop numbers at the border to 50,000. But the separatists have about 4,000 inside Ukraine. There's been significant fighting reported by European monitors. Why would Putin be fueling this?
MASHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, "THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE": His approval ratings went through the roof as soon as Russia annexed Crimea, and they haven't gone down since. They're hovering around 86 to 88 percent. That's sort of totalitarian-level approval ratings, and he is addicted to them.
TODD: Analysts say Putin believes he can do anything he wants in Ukraine, but that he's treading on dangerous ground.
FIONA HILL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: There could be a serious miscalculation where Putin may actually think that there is much less likelihood of us taking action to things that he is doing. I think there is a great deal of signaling going on in the United States and Europe and in NATO, particularly these statements by General Breedlove and others that, if you keep pushing us, we will take action.
TODD: The Russians continue to deny any plans for military action.
With all eyes on Putin's next strategic moves, rumors also circulate about his personal life. Recently, his assumed girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, appeared in public. The former gymnast wore a loose- fitting red dress. Social media is buzzing with comments about her possible weight gain, and rumors that she recently gave birth have been rekindled.
HILL: They're presented as very much the virile man about town, which is kind of like an image that a lot of Russian men like to aspire to.
TODD: Now, the Kremlin has never confirmed that Alina Kabaeva gave birth and has consistently dismissed talk of a romance between her and Vladimir Putin. But analysts say the one reason Putin and his inner circle might not mind all of the speculation is because it distracts Russians from some of Russia's real problems -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And he did disappear a short time ago for a little while. Right, Brian? I mean, maybe this was paternity leave?
TODD: There was a lot of speculation on that, Brianna. He vanished from public view in early March for several days. There were reports that he was with Alina Kabaeva in a very posh, exclusive clinic in Switzerland, and that she gave birth to a baby girl there. Now again, neither the Kremlin nor Putin or Alina Kabaeva have confirmed nor denied these reports, but they're not complaining too loudly about them at the same time.
KEILAR: Oh, what they don't say is important. All right. Brian Todd, thank you.
And coming up, genuine laughter in North Korea. Next, a rare and exclusive look at the lives of the North Korean elite. If you're among the favorite few, you even get, yes, dolphin shows.