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Trump opens NATO summit with criticism of Germany; The scars of Rohingya refugees. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 11, 2018 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Coming up, what is behind the war of words as President Trump opens the NATO Summit with a blistering attack

on a close ally, Germany. Victoria Nuland is a former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and is former US ambassador to

NATO and she joins me live from Washington.

Plus, the scars of Rohingya refugees, is this the evidence that could see Myanmar security forces tried for crimes against humanity? Forensic expert

Homer Venters says so and he'll join me to explain how.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Expectations were low going in and they got lower by the minute. Today's NATO Summit began on a note of unprecedented ferocity, as President Trump

called out Germany over a commercial enterprise, a natural gas pipeline deal with Russia. This is what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, if you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia, because they supply - they got rid of their

coal plants, they got rid of their nuclear, they're getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia. I think it's something NATO has to look at.


AMANPOUR: In her one-on-one meeting with President Trump, Chancellor Angela Merkel would not address those comments. But is Germany controlled

by or captive to Russia as the president claims?

Here are the facts. Germany imports about a third of its natural gas from Russia and is not dependent as the president accuses because it has a

diverse mix of suppliers - from Europe, the Gulf states and even the United States.

So, President Trump's claim that 70 percent of Germany's energy comes from Russia and the Nord Stream pipeline is not correct.

Not coincidentally, President Trump wants Europe to buy more of its natural gas from, guess where, America. Few people know more about the complicated

push and pull between Russia and Europe on trade and security than Victoria Nuland.

She was the assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Obama and she served as ambassador to NATO for President George

W. Bush.

Ambassador Nuland, welcome to the program.

VICTORIA NULAND, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS: Thanks, Christiane. Good to be with you on this difficult day.

AMANPOUR: Well, listen, difficult you say. So, tell me, you have been there. You know what all of this is about. Why do you think President

Trump did what other people are saying, conflated apples and oranges and launched the whole NATO Summit on this pipeline thing with Russia?

NULAND: I'm a little bit worried, Christiane, that this is classic deflection. He's worried about criticism that he's going to be too close

to Putin, so he accuses somebody else of being too close to Putin.

Now, that said, the Nord Stream II pipeline, the new pipeline between Germany and Russia is a mistake for Germany. President Obama also worked

with Chancellor Merkel to try to find alternatives for Germany. That's what we should be doing, helping our friend be less dependent.

I agree that US LNG could help Germany. They should be having a positive conversation about that, not comparing Merkel to Putin when she's been the

one who stood up to him the strongest in Europe.

AMANPOUR: So, tell us about the mistake as you see it?

NULAND: Look, a NATO summit is an enormous opportunity for the strongest countries in the free world to get together, demonstrate their unity and

make clear that they will stand up to any threats to our way of life or to the global order that we maintain.

This is how the world has stayed safe and secure for 70 years. A US president should go into the summit like that, particularly when he's

getting ready to see the leader in the Kremlin, wrap his arms around America's allies and friends, talk about all the strong and positive things

we're doing together, including the fact the defense budgets are growing in almost all of the NATO allied countries, and then use that strength as he

goes in with Putin to deal with the problems that are real in terms of US security and European security.

Instead, he's just made this big fight with our best friends, with our best family, essentially beating the family on the front lawn of the house,

while all the neighbors, and particularly the hostile neighbors, stand on the other side of the fence drooling.

AMANPOUR: Gosh, you really do paint a very vivid picture. And you do it in a bipartisan manner because, as I pointed out, you have served

presidents from both parties. And as we know, the Senate passed an almost unanimous bipartisan resolution supporting NATO. So, that's really

important to say.

[14:05:05] I just want to ask you to reflect on what you just said. It is a mistake for Germany to have that pipeline. Why is that?

NULAND: Because it increases Germany's energy dependence on Russia. And there are other alternatives for Germany, including US LNG, including

increasing the mix of renewable energy. That's what we should be working on with Germany.

And it's a particular mistake because German gas from Russia currently comes through Ukraine and helps to support the economy of Ukraine.

So, if you build a pipeline that goes - that bypasses Ukraine, you lose that ability to stabilize a country that Germany and the US have put a huge

investment in, including to support their democratic direction and their ability to live separately from Russia.

AMANPOUR: But are you - I mean, do you agree with the way President Trump characterized it, that Germany is captive, controlled by Russia because of

this deal?

NULAND: Absolutely not. As you said at the beginning, less than a third of Germany's energy mix comes from Russia and it could go lower if we work

together on these things. But, more importantly, it has been Chancellor Merkel, since the invasion of Crimea in 2014, who has rallied the European

Union and all of the NATO countries in Europe to stand up to President Putin, to implement difficult sanctions, to take economic hits as a result

of those sanctions and to insist that he get out of Eastern Ukraine before we can have normal relations together.

So, she's been a strong advocate and ally of the United States in standing up to the real bully on the block, Vladimir Putin, and we should not be

alienating her.

AMANPOUR: Well, you've just talked about Putin as being the real bully on the block. You've said that he's drooling over all of this discord.

And, in fact, one of your successors, the current US ambassador to NATO, a Republican senator in her former life, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, agreed and

admitted to me that this discord that Trump is sowing amongst the alliance is music to Putin's ears.

So, what do you think about the next step of this journey? Will President Trump go into his meeting in Helsinki with President Putin stronger or

weaker after all of this that we're seeing now?

NULAND: I mean, that all depends on how President Trump plays it with President Putin. If he continues to say he's an OK guy, he's the easiest

meeting I'm going to have, if he talks about giving away sanctions, the sanctions regime or Crimea for nothing, and if he doesn't bring up the

interference in democratic systems, US elections including in 2016 and potentially in 2018, then Putin is going to have a fantastic day.

If, on the other hand, he said, I hope you saw what I said at NATO, I want NATO to be stronger because I'm worried about what you're up to and we're

going to stand together, that'll be a different thing, but that has not been President Trump's pattern vis-a-vis Russia. He seems to forgive our

adversaries' everything and to enjoy beating up our friends.

AMANPOUR: So, on the big picture, which is the strengthening and keeping this Western alliance that has underpinned peace and security and

prosperity for the last 70 years, Donald Tusk who, as you know, is the president of the European Council, yesterday, he asked President Trump to

appreciate their allies, saying we, Europeans, are your allies and you don't have many around the world.

So, that was, obviously, a little dig at President Trump. But, today, he's kind of doubled down and Donald Trump is saying - rather, Donald Tusk is

saying that Donald Trump should not be underestimated.

"He is systematic, consistent and has a method to undermine what the European values are in respect to the trans-Atlantic relations."

So, they're worried that the alliance is being demeaned, disrupted and denigrated. I guess, they're worried that President Trump could even pull

some support and US involvement in NATO itself.

NULAND: I think they're worried about that. I think, more importantly, inside Europe, they face challenges to the democratic rules and norms that

have grown and strengthened the system.

And they watch, in the United States, as President Trump poses challenges to an independent judiciary in the United States, an independent media in

the United States, and it is these democratic values that differentiate us from countries like Russia and countries like China and that have made us

strong over these 70 years and have made this a great democratic alliance.

And if the United States doesn't do its historic job of standing up for those values and defending them and being the beacon of them, not just in

the trans-Atlantic space, but around the world, then Europe is going to have to do that in our absence, and that's a big job.

[14:10:05] AMANPOUR: It is indeed. And it's one actually the United States hasn't wanted Europe to do, hasn't wanted it to create its own army

in Europe and its own military.

I wonder, just to sort of further what you were just saying about what the president needs to do to make it stronger when he meets Putin, you did

write an op-ed in "The New York Times" saying that, after these summits, the NATO and the Helsinki, he will either restore American global

leadership or kill it off. I mean, those are strong words.

NULAND: I said.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And so, what is your prediction today?

NULAND: I can't predict. I'm quite worried. I had hoped that President Trump would come into this NATO summit still being firm on the need for

allies to meet their defense spending commitments - that's important - but also taking some positive credit for the fact that every single NATO ally

is now increasing its defense budget, that they felt the threat increase since the Russians went into Crimea and they're all doing more and then

encouraging them in a positive way.

I had hoped he would also take credit for some of the affirmative things that Secretary Mattis has led, increasing NATO readiness, increasing the

ability for forces to move.

In fact, the United States is contributing strongly to the NATO mission in Poland and in Eastern Europe. And Trump could use that in his meeting with

Putin to say come back into compliance with the INF Treaty that you are violating, get out of Ukraine, let's settle Syria in a manner that doesn't

hand it to Assad and Iran.

But, instead, he seems to think that meeting is going to be easy and this is the one where he should be making all these strident comments.

So, I just think he's missing an enormous opportunity to gain - he's squandering an opportunity to gain leverage, gain power for the United

States with the wind of alliance at our back and to go in and take on Putin.

Putin is not as strong as he looks. He would put himself in a stronger position for the Helsinki summit if he did that. Now, we have to see how

he plays Helsinki because Putin, you can be sure, has studied very hard and is looking to exploit all of those places where President Trump and the

NATO allies have split to his own advantage.

NULAND: And you did mention Syria, the talks he might have with Putin on Syria. And as you know, there's been a lot of reporting about a possible

quid pro quo, a possible sort of attempt at a bargain with Putin whereby he, the United States, would allow and accept President Assad to stay in

power in return for Russia's help in getting Iran out of Syria. How much do you know about that? How workable do you think that is? Is that good?

AMANPOUR: Well, first of all, Russia has no interest in getting Iran out of Syria. Iran worked directly with Russia and Assad and Iran provided the

ground force to control the rebellion against Assad in Syria. So, the Russians are just going to pull wool over his eyes if they promise to keep

Iran in check.

What they want is to keep Syria safe for Assad, to stabilize it and to run that region themselves and to make our NATO ally, Turkey, our treaty ally,

Israel, more dependent on Russia than they are on the United States for their security.

So, Putin's making a march and Trump could easily be tricked into the kind of deal that you have if he doesn't understand the game.

AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating. (INAUDIBLE) at stake. Victoria Nuland, former US ambassador to NATO, thanks so much for joining us.

And, of course, let's not forget that, in 1949, as this picture shows, it was the US President Harry Truman signing NATO into existence in the first


Now, for President Trump and many NATO allies, refugees fleeing war and violence across the globe is a huge issue.

The world's fastest growing refugee crisis is the plight of the Rohingya Muslim. Nearly 700,000 of them have fled their homes in Myanmar to

neighboring Bangladesh since last August, bringing with them stories of alleged mass murder and destruction at the hands of Myanmar's military,

which denies the accusations.

But the scars they bear are physical reminders of the persecution they've endured. For the NGO called Physicians for Human Rights, they are

important pieces of forensic evidence, which corroborate first-hand accounts of genocide against the Rohingya.

A new report by the human rights group exclusively shared with this show looks into the injuries of 25 Rohingya refugees from the village of

(INAUDIBLE), where one such massacre allegedly took place.

Its lead author, the doctor, Homer Venters, joined me earlier this week from New York to discuss those findings.

[14:15:07] Dr. Venters, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, this report that you are putting out is quite unusual, in that you're tracking and tracing the accounts of a massacre that you think

happened through specifically the injuries on victims. Is that correct?

VENTERS: That's right. We're using our skills to document the forensic, the scientific and medical, evidence of these injuries and abuses to report

out the truth of what really happened.

AMANPOUR: What do the wounds, these scars, the injuries tell you about that day in (INAUDIBLE).

VENTERS: Well, they tell us that the accounts that others have surfaced, that civilians or a group of civilians in a village were attacked by both

the military and by Rakhine Buddhist civilians that, in fact, what we see is that children, women and men were subject to horrific types of injuries,

including blunt force trauma, injuries from gunshots, burns, other types of injuries that when we examine the forensic truths in each individual

injury, we see that this clearly did not appear to be any kind of anti- terror operation, that this was a systematic attack on civilians using guns, using knives, using sexual violence, other types of illegal and

really horrific physical attack.

AMANPOUR: So, doctor, we're going to put up two imags of scars that you found and photographed on a 17-year-old Rohingya boy. And this is what you

say - or he said that he sustained these wounds from an explosive device while fleeing (INAUDIBLE) into a nearby field.

And then, apparently, he told you all that he had to travel for almost 12 days on foot, trying to flee 12 days on foot to neighboring Bangladesh,

which is where we know a lot of the Rohingya have ended up in refugee camps there.

Fill us in his story a little bit more and how difficult must it have been to travel with those wounds by foot.

VENTERS: Well, I think that this story, and others like it, first of all, the horrific physical impact of - in this case, what appears to be a blast

injury, of a grenade or some other explosive device, but also others who sustained gunshot wounds.

These are injuries that break the bones inside the leg. They shatter not only the bone, but the flesh around it. These are wounds that became

infected as survivors struggled just to survive the initial hours after the attacks and then family members, others from the village, would help them

carry them really all the way over to Bangladesh.

And the, the heroic efforts of surgeons and other humanitarian and medical aid folks intervened to help patch these survivors back together


But what we see in this case and many others like it is that this poor young man still cannot bear weight on that limb, likely in part due to

infection, likely in part due to not having access to physical therapy after such a horrific injury.

And so, the long-term impact of these injuries lives on in the psychological trauma, but also in the poorly healed bone fractures and

other injuries that we have documented in the report.

AMANPOUR: Doctor, you are Physicians for Human Rights. What is it that you want this report, this discovery to achieve?

VENTERS: We aim to bring the credibility of science and forensic evidence to bear on the telling of the truths and the search for accountability and

justice on behalf of survivors of this violence.

AMANPOUR: Does that mean putting those responsible to the International Criminal Court? How does one do that in a country like Myanmar, which is,

by all intents, still a military ruled nation?

VENTERS: I think that there certainly is an important effort towards accountability, referral to the International Criminal Court or a universal

jurisdiction prosecution.

PHR, Physicians for Human Rights, we've been part of that work in Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, all over the world. So, that's part of our mission.

The circumstances are not easy in the camps and Bangladesh is really committing incredible amounts of resources to - and international NGOs also

to provide shelter, clothing, chair for people who are there.

I think that despite the difficulty of caring for seven hundred-plus- thousand refugees, it's absolutely critical that we not support any efforts of repatriation before understanding what type of transparency has been

established to show that there is a safe path to return.

AMANPOUR: I want to put up another picture that we have, and this is of a woman's arm, and it shows a gunshot wound. We're seeing it there on the


[14:20:04] And this woman, apparently, you spoke to, she fled the violence, she had a baby in her arms, her young children by her side, she had seen

other people raped particularly women, obviously, as she was fleeing.

And her 2-year-old son was killed by that bullet wound, by a bullet that went through her arm. And she has to see that every single second of every

single day. So, the loss, the injury, but also the PTSD must be eternal for many of these people.

VENTERS: It is absolutely ongoing. And the scars that we see physically are really just a pale shadow compared to what people are dealing with on

the psychological trauma.

We saw it in children, we saw it among the women and men. It is absolutely omnipresent in this community. And so, the concept of sending people back

or of contemplating a future where there is no justice or accountability, all of that could cause just an ongoing level of re-traumatization.

AMANPOUR: Your report says that, of the 25 victims that you found, a good 10 of them were children. And you have a quote where the report says,

"These events (INAUDIBLE) upon children is particularly concerning. A helicopter flew over during an interview with a survivor in a refugee camp

and several children in the vicinity became visibly agitated and afraid. They pointed to the sky, yelling Myanmar is coming towards us."

VENTERS: Yes. I was conducting an encounter when that happened and I was absolutely stunned. I was talking to a woman. And all of a sudden,

children started to cry in the huts all around me.

It's really - I had to ask a translator what was happening. And the fact that months after these attacks, these children still are prone to

reliving, reexperiencing this kind of terror is really speaks to the ongoing horror of what they have experienced.

AMANPOUR: So, let's get to the government response. A year or more ago, they did conduct an investigation which ended up exonerating themselves.

Then they conducted another investigation into their own and this was based on reporting by "Reuters" journalists.

And, of course, shortly thereafter, the "Reuters" was sent to jail and are still in jail despite a huge international effort to get them out.

Have you spoken to the military chiefs, have you spoken to Aung San Suu Kyi, do they have any sense that this is getting too big, too hot, they

need to rethink?

VENTERS: Well, my sense from our back channel communications with people who are in touch - we're not directly in touch with the officials you

referenced - is that there is a hope that somehow repatriation can be managed without answering this question of accountability and transparency.

And so, that's why every time we talk about this, we say there must be an independent investigation with full transparency by independent experts.

The UN fact-finding mission is collecting data right now, which is of critical importance. Ultimately, we've been calling for a referral to the

International Criminal Court for an investigation.

And so, those mechanisms have to stay on the table as we're discussing all of the other very real humanitarian issues because that accountability, we

know from our work in Rwanda, in Yugoslavia, in Iraq and other places, is ultimately what perpetrators of these types of crimes fear most.

AMANPOUR: We've shown some of these horrible images of the scars. We've talked about the children. And you also, obviously, have spoken to women

who've suffered repeated sexual assault.

Here is an excerpt detailing the events of the day in question by a 20- year-old you interviewed. Here we go.

"Fatima Alam said that she was taken from her home to the school in the military camp area where dozens of women were held and many were raped.

After they took her gold jewelry, they blindfolded her and tied up her legs. They also tied her hands behind her back and she was forced to lie

down with her face up. She was raped numerous times, but did not know the exact number of men because she was blindfolded. They beat her in the

head, face, shoulders and torso with a gun."

How does it affect you when you hear that story and then you hear it over and over again? How you do this job?

VENTERS: Well, I think - everybody who works in this field and humanitarian workers also who hear these stories, probably more often than

we do, has to take solace in the notion that bringing these stories to light is important, it's critical and essential to justice and


And so, reflecting not just the stories, but the physical and forensic evidence of what happened, I and others are committed to this, so that we

can get the truth out there. There have been great victories with the use of forensic evidence towards accountability in Rwanda, in Yugoslavia.

[14:25:05] And so, the dedication to this work by myself, but others who are really much more steeped in it than I am, I think, comes from that


AMANPOUR: Do you feel any sense of sort of, I don't know, desperation, disappointment at the current US administration? You are a US-based

organization. You are in the United States where we're talking to you. Do you think that this administration is minded to help pursue these kinds of

moral and judicial cases and accountability?

Let's not forget that it was the United States under the Obama administration which moved mountains to normalize relations with Myanmar

and support democracy there.

VENTERS: I think that we have grave concerns about the withdrawal from the human rights community by the United States. That includes withdrawing

from the Human Rights Commission.

These cornerstones of accountability that I just mentioned, the ICC, the Rome statute and the International Criminal Court, those all represent

international rules that we have worked towards to establish accountability for perpetrators of just this kind of violence.

And so, as the US - to the extent the US withdraws from support of those mechanisms, we believe that that's not just counterproductive, it actually

emboldens future perpetrators.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Homer Venters, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

VENTERS: Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: So, we've reached out to the Myanmar government for a response to this interview and the specific allegations raised by this report, but

we have heard nothing back.

And that is it for our program. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and


Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.