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Interview with Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Cate Blanchett Meets Refugees in Lebanon and Jordan; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 6, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the blood continues to flow in Syria, the cease-fire there in name only.

When and how this will stop?

My interview with the U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter.

Also ahead, as the Syrian war creates the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, my exclusive with the Oscar-winning actress, Cate Blanchett,

why she's stepping into a new role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

And this week, Syria's five-year war took yet another turn for the worse as fighting intensified in the country's biggest city, Aleppo, where

more than 250 people have been killed since April 22nd.

People's homes have been reduced to rubble and hospitals and clinics have been targeted. The renewed bloodshed forced the U.S. secretary of

state, John Kerry, and his counterparts back to Geneva to try to salvage peace talks.

President Assad and his forces, backed by Russian warplanes, still appear to have the upper hand on the battlefield, leaving the cease-fire

and any chance for peace hanging by a thread.

Earlier this week, I spoke to the U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, about America's role and responsibility in Syria. We met in

Stuttgart, Germany, where he's hosting a meeting of defense ministers in the fight against ISIS.


ASH CARTER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Putting an end to the Syrian civil war is of such desperate importance.

These people have suffered a great deal. And you don't want to see that happen again in Aleppo.

That's why I think what John Kerry is doing, in trying to get a political settlement to this long-standing -- I know it's difficult but

he's doing an excellent job of it and I don't want to speak for him now.

He's in the middle of those negotiations. But he's highly aware, we're all highly aware, of the human tragedy associated with the Syrian

civil war.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Secretary, with respect, you say he's doing an excellent job. In April, more civilians were killed in Iraq under a --

sorry -- in Syria than -- under a cease-fire than in the five years of the war.

My question to you is, sitting here and talking to your military counterparts, do you feel that an offensive, an Assad backed by Russia

offensive, is coming to Aleppo to seize that city?

Is that what you see happening?

CARTER: Well, what -- I can't say that. I can't say that. But I -- and I'm sure Secretary Kerry would be a better person to pose that question


But you talk about the Russians operating with Assad. One of the tragedies of this situation out of the last year has been that the Russians

entered the Syrian situation, they said to help resolve the Syrian civil war.


CARTER: But that's not what they did. They backed Assad, which fuels the civil war.


AMANPOUR: Here in Stuttgart, the secretary said that the fight against ISIS is far from over and that it'll take much more to win.

But we also talked about other major challenges from even bigger powers like Russia and China.


AMANPOUR: You have said while you were here that who would have thought that all these years after the Cold War we'd have to defend against


Tell me how you are adapting in regards to that. There will be more forces in Europe.

How serious a threat is Russia, you know, with the barrel turns around the planes and the buzzing of your warships?

Are you afraid of a confrontation?

CARTER: Well, we have to be prepared for Russian aggression of the kind we saw in Crimea, of the kind they threaten from time to time, of the

kind they threaten when they do nuclear saber-rattling, which nobody even did during the Cold War.

Cold War leaders had, generally speaking, considerable maturity about how they talked about nuclear weapons. They didn't rattle nuclear sabers.

So there's all this disturbing rhetoric and behavior coming out of Russia. And therefore, we are having to adapt, sadly.

And -- but we are doing it. In the United States military, we're modernizing our forces, making sure that we maintain our technological edge

over Russia in all domains. Here in Europe, we're beefing up our forces in a number of ways, positioning more forces here, positioning more equipment

here, putting some more modern equipment here.

We're beefing up our commitment to the alliance, the NATO alliance. And all the allies are doing similarly. And so we're going to stand strong

against not only Russian outright aggression but the little green men phenomenon, which is called hybrid warfare.

We continue to work with Russia where we can. But until the Russian government comes to see it like I do, which is that the best thing for the

Russian people isn't to be isolated from the rest of the world and isolated from the world economy, that's not the best thing for them.

But I can say that but that's not what the Kremlin happens to think at this time, it's quite clear.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Secretary, everybody's focused on the Middle East but you have a huge pivot to Asia and challenges from China.

Isn't it true that, for a long time, the Chinese leadership were not building up their military?

They weren't seen as aggressive by the United States and regional allies.

Do you think they're aggressive now?

And how will you get them to stop building up?

You've asked them to stop building up their military and they're not doing it. They're -- they still build.

CARTER: Now I'm not one of these people who believes that a conflict with China is inevitable, even likely. It's certainly not desirable.

And many Chinese and -- or Chinese, most of the time, understand that and believe that their best shot to develop politically and economically is

to be integrated with the rest of the world, not to stand apart and self- isolate.

But there is a strand that says China's special and the only way to -- for China to express itself in this region is to dominate it. And you --

so you see them trying to dominate countries --

AMANPOUR: Are they being aggressive?

CARTER: -- so what are they -- yes, it's seen as aggressive by other countries in the region --

AMANPOUR: Do you think -- ?

CARTER: -- I think it is aggressive in -- when they -- it's, well, coercive. It's not military aggression but it's an effort to be coercive.

And so we intend to check that tendency by keeping our pivotal military role -- and that's why we're making investments; we're putting

some of our newest, most modern equipment out there. We're making investments in new technologies.

But the real thing that's going on out there, Christiane, and that is changing the dynamic, is that China's tendency to be coercive with other

countries in its region is causing them to come to us, not just longstanding allies like Japan and South Korea and Australia and the

Philippines, but even countries like Vietnam, with which we have, to put it mildly, a complicated past, countries that used -- like India, with which

we did not used to have any kind of military relationship, we're developing a military relationship with them. And we want to work with them in order

to keep that peace and stability that's essential to the Asian economic miracle.

I hope China takes the path that it had -- did largely until 5-10 years ago, of --


CARTER: -- developing itself, integrating and not trying to coerce its neighbors. Maybe it'll take that path in the future.

But in the meantime, we're going to continue to keep our edge and our pivotal role there. But everybody needs to play their part in that and

there, as elsewhere, we intend to stand strong behind the principles that we and so many in that region believe in.

AMANPOUR: I know that you won't talk politics and you won't weigh in on any presidential candidate.

However, on the issues, the leading Republican candidate says that NATO is obsolete and NATO should be reconfigured in some way to attack


What are your views on the validity and the effectiveness of NATO in today's current military challenges?

CARTER: I am the Secretary of Defense. And, in our country, we have a tradition that national security -- and especially defense -- stand apart

from the political fray.

Sitting here in Stuttgart, the headquarters of our European Command -- and I remember well when the Cold War ended, those of us who had been part

of NATO during the Cold War -- and I began my career fighting the Cold War, of which NATO was an essential part -- we wondered what NATO would do after


NATO turned out to be -- who could have known -- but turned out to be a very valuable military instrument in the Balkans.

Then on 9/11, it was NATO that essentially declared itself at war with the United States against the terrorists that struck the United States;

proved itself valuable then.

And then in Afghanistan, they have been a partner to us and many of the NATO nations that I met with today are -- in fact, all the ones that I

met with today -- are part of the counter-ISIL coalition.

So you have, whether it's in the formalities of the NATO alliance or simply as the trans-Atlantic community of nations, you have people who

share a certain view towards what human security should mean.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Carter, thank you very much indeed.

CARTER: Good to be with you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, the Oscar-winning actress, Cate Blanchett makes her debut on the world stage. Her next very different

starring role is as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. That is next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

The Oscar-winning actress, Cate Blanchett, has played everything from a depressed socialite in "Blue Jasmine," to Katharine Hepburn in "The

Aviator," to Queen Elizabeth I and now she's about to take on one of the most important roles yet, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. The U.N. refugee

agency has just named Blanchett to the position.

And as we've been reporting, the most pressing humanitarian crisis of our time comes from Syria, with 12 million refugees since the war started

five years ago, inside and outside the country. She's back in London after a visit to some of those refugees and she joins me here on set.


AMANPOUR: Cate, welcome to the program.

BLANCHETT: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Am I right?

Is it the most important role yet?

BLANCHETT: Well, one could say motherhood is perhaps the most important role. But it's a --


BLANCHETT: -- balance, isn't it.

And for me, I mean, I've long been engaged remotely in the refugee crisis just as a human being. I mean, like millions of people around the


And when UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, approached me and asked me a year ago, would I be a Goodwill Ambassador, I was very -- I felt compelled

to go on that journey with them, because I think, as you suggest, the global displacement crisis is completely unprecedented, with 60 million

people around the world.

AMANPOUR: It is huge.

BLANCHETT: And those figures are very, very difficult to relate to, in a way. You feel very powerless.

But in the last year, having gone on missions with the UNHCR and meeting these families, women, children, you know, single men, first-hand,

the points of connection, I think, and the stories that you hear, suddenly the human face and the similarities between everyone become really


AMANPOUR: What was it like for you?

Because you have just returned from visits to the camps. Even before you were named, you had been to see the refugees out there in some of those

camps in the front-line countries.

What sort of struck you the most?

What was something that you didn't expect?

Or was it all as bad as you expected?

BLANCHETT: One hears, I suppose, about this mass exodus. You hear about the numbers. And what -- I went -- just recently was in with my

husband, Andrew Upton, was in Azraq camp and Zaatari in Jordan, and also visiting refugees who were in an urban context who's without UNHCR's help,

obviously in a much more fragile position, in a way less safe than those in the camp.

I think what struck me most was the resilience and fortitude and pride. There was one woman I met in the education center and she could see

a fairly privileged white woman walking through.

And she summoned me over and she asked me why I was there. And she asked me what I did. And I told her what -- I said I was here to try and

amplify the voices of the refugees, that one can hear these things from afar but you want to get the human stories back out and to decrease the

level of xenophobia that seems to be arising.

And she said, well, tell people that Syria is full of strong women who want to rebuild Syria -- and the pride. She doesn't want to be in that

camp, she doesn't want to be outside Syria. She doesn't want to be resettled in Europe. She wants to be home. But Syria is not safe.

AMANPOUR: You just mentioned xenophobia and it is everywhere right now. You can see what's happening in the presidential campaign in the

United States. You can see what's happening in Europe, all of this influx has really created the rise of xenophobia and right-wing parties.

But your country also, Australia, is not the most friendly to refugees.

What's your view on that?

BLANCHETT: It is bewildering to me -- we are a signatory, Australia, to the '51 Refugee Convention and we're a nation, certainly since

colonization, that has founded its identity on immigration and being very receptive and warm to refugees.

So it is bewildering what is going on there. And, like all countries, Australia needs to do more to burden-share.

AMANPOUR: Do you think -- look, it gets political.

Do you plan to be political?

In other words, we're sitting right here in England and, right now, there is a crisis because several thousand children, who they had promised

to bring in, are still not being able to come in, Syrian children, refugee children.

What do you feel are the parameters of your role?

BLANCHETT: Well, I think that it's very important that the right to refuge, to sanctuary to people who are fleeing, these are citizens who are

fleeing torture, who are fleeing rape, whose children are -- literally I met one family, whose -- her sister, the woman's story had died, took in

her three children and they fled because her nieces and two of her own children were injured by very unfriendly fire.

And they couldn't go to the hospital because, if you're injured in a hospital in Syria at the moment, you're considered the enemy. And it's so

confusing for those people, because they don't actually know who is shooting at them.

And they fled in absolute terror. And this is the point, is that these people are -- they're not political, they're not on one side or the

other. They are victims and they're citizens.

AMANPOUR: You collected, very profoundly, when you were out there --


AMANPOUR: -- you've just described a little bit of what you saw and what people asked you for in the camp.

There was, when you went to the camp, also some acting that was going on. I think you saw a play, some of the children learning how to act. We

want to play a little bit of it and then talk about it.


BLANCHETT (voice-over): Medi (ph) likes to act. And this group of children, about 15 of them, had chosen to create, through a series of

scenes, this play about early marriage.

So it was drama as therapy. This community center and the chance for them to enact their fears, their worries, their stories, their hopes, it

became a really important outlet for them.


AMANPOUR: So obviously, you're narrating that piece of UNHCR video but you're an actress, we have you on the red carpet, you've won Oscars.


AMANPOUR: What do you think for these people, who have got nothing, who fled in the circumstances that we've all been reporting and you've seen

first-hand now, what does that give them?

Is it escapism?

Is it something else?

BLANCHETT: I think it's a way to start to deal with the intense trauma that they have experienced because obviously these people are not

migrants. They're refugees. And there's a very important distinction between those two states.

If you're migrating somewhere, you have time to prepare your exit and plan your entry somewhere. But if you're a refugee, you're fleeing from,

you know, a terrifying situation.

And these children, I mean, the amount of stress that they have suffered, losing siblings, losing parents, some of them actually being

shot. I saw one -- the exit wound of a bullet on a 13-year old -- you know, I've got a 14-year old -- in Zaatari camp.

And these children, the drama, I think, actually gives them an outlet to tell the -- what's concerning them most. And they're all -- this is a

middle class problem, the people in that community center, the parents of these children that I met, they were architects, they were doctors, they

were pharmacists, they were lawyers, they were engineering students.

And these children don't expect to be put into an early marriage. But that, the boys and the girls, chose to create that drama around that

because, obviously, when your family has nothing, arrives with nothing, an early marriage suddenly becomes an option for these people.

AMANPOUR: You tell me that you have told those people there that you want to amplify their voice. You are a world-famous actress and,

presumably, that's why UNHCR wants you there, to be able to use that voice and that presence.

But I just want to also switch gears very, very briefly because you also are a women's activist, for women's rights. You've partaken in

several panels.

I want to know what you make of your colleagues in Hollywood, who want equal pay or better pay for the roles. And we've just been reading that

Patricia Arquette, who made a big stance during her Oscar speech, has said that she feels that she's getting fewer roles and she's being more shunned

in Hollywood since she made that speech but that it was a price worth paying.

What's your view on that, because it goes to the heart of Syrian women, every woman being paid equally?

BLANCHETT: Of course. I did begin to work with UNHCR on the issue of statelessness. And there's 27 countries around the world that don't confer

-- that don't have equality in their gender nationality laws so that women can actually confer a nationality on their children.

So these children end up, simply because of their gender, of their mother not having that equality, these children don't have access to

education, they don't have passports, they can't travel.

Where do we start?

But in relation to what you're asking me, one does being to wonder what century we're in that we're even having this conversation. But I

think there's a critical mass of women across all industries and I think Hollywood, yes, it's a -- you know, I don't even know what Hollywood means.

I think it's a state of mind, you know. I sort of lift up --]


BLANCHETT: I suppose so.

But it does mean exposure. And so it's the pointy end. It's a very exposed industry in that way.

But I cannot name an industry where there's equal pay for equal work. And I think that's what people like Patricia Arquette and anyone who voices

that is trying to say. And it's also to do with the age window, that certainly actors like Judi Dench and Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep and

Charlotte Rampling have been expanding those boundaries but there have been many limitations placed on them in both financial and the creative


But I think that's beginning to change because it's not just in the film industry. It's across all industries. And I think it's -- you know,

that's why I wanted to get involved in this.

If you have access to an audience, if you have access to authority, then I think you have a responsibility to use that wisely and sensibly,

that air time. And so if you can speak up for actresses of generations behind you, then I think it's important that you do so. And that's -- I

think what Patricia said was fantastic.

AMANPOUR: Cate Blanchett, thank you very much.

BLANCHETT: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thanks for joining us.


AMANPOUR: And next, we imagine a world where the curtain comes down on a certain big-top performer. The end of an era but the start of a new

life --


AMANPOUR: -- after a break.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world packing up its trunks and making tracks.

For Ringling Brothers Circus, the 145-year-old tradition of elephant entertainers has come to an end with the circus' last 11 elephants set to

move to the Ringling Elephant Reservation in Florida.

The Ringling Brothers Circus has been touring the United States since the 19th century.

But in recent years, the elephants in the room have quite often been the elephants under the big top.

Animal rights activist have campaigned against cruelty to these huge mammals for decades, attacking their cramped living quarters in zoos and

their brutal training routines, which sees the animals forced to stand on their heads, balance on small stools and perform other tricks while

strapped into their costumes.

Activists are still working to end the use of any exotic animals in the circus. But for this traveling troupe, the show finally is over and

they can finally just be elephants.

That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.