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February 16, 2022
What A Day
Kyiv Your Friends Close And Your Enemies Closer

In This Episode

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the military has ordered some Russian troops near the borders of Ukraine to return to their bases, signaling the potential for a further de-escalation. However, President Joe Biden later said that “an invasion remains distinctly possible,” and that the U.S. had not yet verified if Russian troops are actually falling back. Matthew Chance, CNN’s Senior International Correspondent, joins us from Kyiv to discuss what things look like on the ground.
  • And in headlines: Remington Arms has settled with families whose loved ones were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, American scientists say they have cured a woman of H.I.V., and a federal report predicts that sea levels along our nation’s coasts could rise one foot in just three decades because of climate change.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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Transcript

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, February 16th. I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, reminding everyone that the movie “Mad Max Fury Road” began with a bunch of truckers protesting vaccine mandates.

 

Gideon Resnick: Right. Or at least that’s one interpretation. It is pretty hard to make out what they’re saying and a lot of that movie.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Look, the point is we need to send Tom Hardy to Canada right now.

 

Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, the gun company Remington has settled with the families of Sandy Hook victims. Plus a new climate report says that ocean levels around our nation’s coast could rise one foot in just three decades because of climate change.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: But first, we bring you more on the standoff around Ukraine. Yesterday featured a series of encouraging signs in the ongoing tensions. First, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the military has ordered some Russian troops near the borders of Ukraine to return to their bases, signaling the potential for a further de-escalation, possibly, maybe. He also said after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that quote, “we are also ready to continue on the negotiating track,” even as this demands about Ukraine never joining NATO in a rollback of NATO presence in Eastern Europe remained firm.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, however, later in an address from the White House, President Biden said that the US had not yet verified if Russian troops are returning to their bases yet. Though he said that quote, “an invasion remains distinctly possible,” he too sounded hopeful about reaching a diplomatic resolution. Here he is:

 

[clip of President Biden] We should give the diplomacy every chance to succeed, and I believe there are real ways to address our respective security concerns. The United States has put on the table concrete ideas to establish a security environment in Europe. We’re proposing new arms control measures, new transparency measures, new strategic stability measures. These measures apply to all parties, NATO and Russia alike. We’re willing to make practical, result-oriented steps that can advance our common security.

 

Gideon Resnick: So that’s a quick look at where things stand as we go to record at 9:30 Eastern.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: But for more on the ground insight, say we spoke with Matthew Chance, CNN’s senior international correspondent, who is currently reporting out of Kiev. We talked yesterday around 10:00 p.m. Ukraine time. We started by asking if we can be hopeful that Russia’s troop pullback is a turning point.

 

Matthew Chance: Yeah, I mean, you’re right. Let’s hope it is a turning point because if there is a full-scale, you know—there was a nervous laugh there—it is going to be a bloodbath. Make no mistake, it’s going to be terrible and it’ll be awful for the people of Ukraine, and Russian soldiers are going to get severely bloodied as well. But you’re right, in the first time in weeks, actually, there was that little glimmer of hope. The Russians announced that troops were going to be moving away from the borders of Ukraine, and so that was a really, really hopeful sign. They didn’t say how many were going to be returning to their permanent bases, and we know there are nearly 130,000, according to the best estimates. And it’s certainly not a big proportion of them as far as we can make out. And in addition to that, there was some other sort of quite hopeful messages coming out of the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, basically saying that negotiations and diplomacy is the way forward at the moment. But at the same time, you know, they pressed ahead with these major military exercises elsewhere. There were live rocket firing exercises. Look, we’re in a situation now that the threat to Ukraine is very much still present.

 

Gideon Resnick: If this does turn into a broader de-escalation, how would we know? What are we going to be looking for next to determine that the threat is dissipating?

 

Matthew Chance: It’s a good question. And actually, we kind of have a blueprint for it, perhaps because last year in April, there was a very similar escalation, you know, on the borders of Ukraine, with thousands of troops gathered there. There were these big military drills and everyone thought back then, you know, gosh, Russians are really serious about this, are going to go in. There was a sort of meeting call between President Biden and President Putin, and that seemed to ease the tensions and everyone thought Russia is back at the negotiating table. That’s probably what they wanted. And so the way that ended was Russia started to do what it’s doing now, it’s starting to pull back thousands of its troops from those border regions. It kept a lot in place, but it started that process of just signaling that it wasn’t going to be going in the direction of Ukraine. They still left a lot of forces there, but it was just the direction of travel was enough at that time to make Ukraine feel, make the US feel that, you know, things weren’t going to go very badly. I think probably going to have to do a lot more this time because the tensions are so much higher, that it’s going to take quite a lot, I think, for the Russians to convince the Americans, the US and the Ukrainians and others in the West, that they’re not bent on staging a violent attack on Ukraine.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Can you walk us through where diplomatic talks currently stand?

 

Matthew Chance: Yeah, I mean, this was the result of Russia’s years of, you know, festering resentment at being sidelined in international diplomacy and its allies being, in its view, toppled by the American-backed west and NATO expanding. And in some ways, this is a Putin drawing a line in the sand, saying, Now the time has come for the world to stop ignoring what Russia says it wants. What Russia says it wants is an end to NATO expansion. What Russia says it wants is for, specifically Ukraine, never, ever—and that’s their words “never, ever”—to join the Western military alliance. It’s very, very hard, if not impossible.

 

Gideon Resnick: And definitely, that’s good perspective in terms of thinking about where this is going. But have there been any kind of even small, substantive breakthroughs in the kind of direct conversations that people like German Chancellor Olaf Scholz or even President Biden have been having in speaking directly with Putin?

 

Matthew Chance: I think they have been, but not on those core issues. You know, I think what’s quite interesting about this whole process is that almost immediately when Putin said, Look, this is what I want, and if not, then, you know—I mean, he didn’t say this—but then, you know, he put these troops on the border and sort of de facto threatened, you know, the sovereignty of Ukraine, he was offered a whole range of compromises.

 

Gideon Resnick: Right.

 

Matthew Chance: They did quite a lot, I think, around the edges of the negotiations to say, Look, we can’t give you those core things that you want, but we can give you a load of other stuff. And I personally thought that was going to be enough for Putin because—and it still might be—but secretly, I thought—well, secretly, I said this on television—that, you know, one of the objectives of Russia may be to shake the diplomatic tree and see what compromises fell out and then pick them up and say, Look, look what we got. And you know, I spent years talking about how one of Russia’s, under Putin, one of its main foreign policy objectives, is to be taken seriously as a power, as a superpower, they want to be seen as again, you know, to get a seat at the top table diplomatically. You know, so from that perspective, they’ve already achieved that. Putin has already won that one. He’s got everybody, there’s an endless line of foreign leaders and foreign ministers knocking at his door, eager to make nice with him and to talk to him. And that’s important for him, remember, because it comes after several years from being quite isolated, you know, through sanctions because of various Russian malign activity around the world. And so I think he’s probably enjoying, enjoying the doing the attention.

 

Gideon Resnick: Right.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: What awareness do people have on the ground of what Ukrainian and U.S. leaders are saying? So do they actually believe it when U.S. officials keep saying that an attack is imminent at this point?

 

Matthew Chance: I mean, most people, I think here take their cues from the country’s leadership. And I think this message of “be calm, don’t panic, we’ve been facing this Russian threat for eight years”, which is the message of the Ukrainian government, you know, I mean, people like that. And they like to think that they can cope with anything the Russians can throw at them. I’m not sure they’re entirely correct in that assessment because I’m not sure if Russia does decide to pull the trigger on a full-scale military invasion of the country, I think it’s going to look very different to the sort of military action that the Ukrainians have so far experienced, which has been Russia sort of fighting through a proxy rebel army. If the Russian military, in its sort of fullness and greatness, decides to invade Ukraine, that’s going to be a very different dynamic, very bloody and painful, and short I expect, military intervention. I do understand why the Ukrainian government are persisting in this idea. I think it’s because on the one hand, they genuinely don’t want people to panic. It’s causing massive economic problems. And I think the third thing as well, which I sort of get from them privately, is that if you keep saying the Russians are about to attack, the Russians are going, the Russians are going to attack, I think there’s a bit of concern that it might actually force the Russians into a corner and they might actually have to attack.

 

Gideon Resnick: Right.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

 

Gideon Resnick: Can you talk a little bit about what is actually happening on the ground where you are? Are there actual any visual hallmarks of something potentially impending? What a sort of day-to-day life look like for you and other people in Kiev?

 

Matthew Chance: In Kiev, no, it is not a lot has changed. And so you wouldn’t see the kind of preparations or the kind of trenches or the kind of defenses that you’d see, up there. I stayed back here in the capital along with my colleague Clarissa Ward because there is talk, there’s concern that Kiev may be one of the main targets of a Russian attack. And so if that happens, obviously that would be incredibly significant and awful and devastating. But in terms of ordinary life for people, a couple of days ago it was Valentine’s Day, of course. And everybody—apart from every journalist on the story—was with their loved ones. But I was doing some live shots out of the hotel here in central Kiev, where we’re living, and there was a massive Valentine’s party, and there’s all these young couples there with these big balloons—I mean, they go big on Valentine’s Day here, I’d say—and it was interesting that nobody was paying any attention to the possibility there could be an imminent crisis about to crash down. I think probably if you scratch the surface on that, though, people aren’t stupid. You know, people are hopeful that nothing will happen but are aware that if it does, it could be, you know, pretty disastrous.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: What has all of this been like for you? So what has surprised you the most about how the situation is progressing and what has your experience been personally?

 

Matthew Chance: That’s a good question. You know, I guess if I’m actually honest, I’m still in sort of semi shock. I’m astonished that we’re in a situation where a country as big and as sort of European is sort of facing this threat from an equally modern and, or European, civilized place like Russia. And I live in Moscow. And I’ve lived there for years, and I know that there’s very little appetite in that country among people there for an aggressive, bloody war with Ukraine. Yeah, there’s a certain amount of like animosity towards the pro-Western leadership here, but that doesn’t translate to support for an appalling, massive military intervention. The problem with predicting what Putin’s going to do or what Russia’s going to do is that, you know, it’s all in the sort of, at the whim of one man, you know, in the 59th minute of the 11th hour, Putin can decide to pull the trigger or not pull the trigger.

 

Gideon Resnick: Right. Well, Matthew, we want to thank you so much again for taking all of your generous time, especially during this moment, and stay safe throughout the course of your reporting there.

 

Matthew Chance: Thank you. I will definitely try to do that.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: We’ll keep you updated as things change in the days ahead. But that’s the latest for now.

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday WAD squad, and for today’s Temp check, we were discussing the patron saint of destroying your life because of one dumb belief:  Novak Djokovic. The tennis star and would-be competitor in last month’s Australian Open if it weren’t for your meddling vaccine requirements, gave an interview with the BBC yesterday, where he stood by his decision to disqualify himself from past and future grand slam tournaments by not getting vaccinated against coronavirus. Here is a clip:

 

[clip of Novak Djokovic] And I understand that not being vaccinated today, I, you know, I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment.

 

[interviewer] And that’s the price you’re willing to pay?

 

[clip of Novak Djokovic] That is the price that I’m willing to pay.

 

[interviewer] Ultimately, are you prepared to forgo the chance to be the greatest player that ever picked up a racket statistically, because you feel so strongly about this jab?

 

[clip of Novak Djokovic] Yes. I do.

 

Gideon Resnick: I mean, at least he’s man enough to say that, just put the idiocy out there. Djokovic’s absence from the Australian Open allowed Rafael Nadal to pass him in total grand slam titles won with 21 titles. So Djokovic told the BBC that he opposes getting the vaccine because as a professional athlete, he carefully reviews anything that he ingests and his standards and methods are apparently more rigorous than those of the greater scientific community. So Josie, what do you make of this story?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I just can’t get over it. There are seven billion people in the world. He is quite possibly one of the best in the world at something, and he is giving it up for a belief that isn’t even really a belief. This isn’t a belief.

 

Gideon Resnick: No.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m sorry.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I had the same thought process of like, I don’t want to be a high-horse guy, but there are like lots of people who would kill to have one one hundredth of this man’s athletic ability, the resources that he has, the chance at being etched in infamy—or well, I mean he’s already etched in infamy—in legacy as like one of the greatest athletes to ever do anything ever.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

 

Gideon Resnick: And this is your reason? Yeah. Like, it’s—

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Like, they’re totally beliefs where I’m like, OK, you give it up for like gender equality or racial quality or class quality or world hunger.

 

Gideon Resnick: Sure, sure.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Like there are totally beliefs, I’m like, this isn’t the most important thing in the world, but it actually is more important than like not getting a vaccine you’ll be fine taking because, look, everybody else took it and they’re fine.

 

Gideon Resnick: The guy, by the way, who just won the last thing that your dumb ass didn’t go to—.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right, right.

 

Gideon Resnick: Had the fucking vaccine in him, and he was playing pretty well, right?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

 

Gideon Resnick: He played pretty well.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Totally. Like it feels like it would be different if it were like week two of the vaccine and he was like, My body’s a temple, and I don’t know what it’s going to do yet.

 

Gideon Resnick: Or like if all like vaccinated tennis players were like losing in the first round or something or like, Wow, my legs are broken the second I’m stepping on the court.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

 

Gideon Resnick: Then I would be like, Oh, Novak, interesting points are being made.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

 

Gideon Resnick: My guy, the guy who passed you had COVID and has been vaccinated before, and he seems to be doing great.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

 

Gideon Resnick: Anyway, I’m done. Just like that we’ve checked our temps. They are now hot because this man drives me insane. And we’ll be back after some ads.

 

[ad break]

 

Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.

 

[sung] Headlines.

 

Gideon Resnick: After an eight-year long legal battle, gun manufacturing company Remington Arms has settled with nine families whose loved ones were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. That massacre left 28 people dead, including 20 young children. The company agreed to pay the families in the lawsuit $73 million, and these families argued that the way Remington markets its military-grade weapons to civilians, particularly the AR15-style rifle that the Sandy Hook gunman used, led to the wrongful deaths of their relatives. Tuesday’s settlement marks the first time a gun manufacturer has been held accountable for a mass shooting in the U.S., and legal experts say it could set a precedent for similar cases in the future. Joshua Koskoff, an attorney for the families, had this to say about the settlement:

 

[clip of Joshua Koskoff] These families would pay everything, they’d five it all back just for one minute. That would be true justice.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s devastating. My God. The disgraced Duke of York, Prince Andrew, announced that he has agreed to settle the lawsuit brought against him by Virginia Giuffre, the woman who accused him of raping her. Giuffre filed the lawsuit last year, saying Andrew sexually abused her when she was trafficked to him by Jeffrey Epstein as a teenager. The accusations, paired with Andrew’s ties to Epstein, have disgraced the royal family in recent months, resulting in him being stripped of all his military honors and titles. The amount Andrew will pay Giuffre was not made public, but a joint statement attached to the filing said that Andrew also quote, “intends to make a substantial donation to a charity that supports victims of sexual abuse.” This comes just one month after Andrew’s failed attempt to get Guiffre’s lawsuit dismissed, and just weeks before Guiffre’s lawyers were scheduled to question him. As we’re recording this, Buckingham Palace has not formally commented on the settlement, but told The New York Times that the matter was between Andrew and his lawyers.

 

Gideon Resnick: There was a major breakthrough in the quest to treat the nearly 38 million people in the world living with HIV. Yesterday, American scientists announced that they were able to use blood from an umbilical cord donor and cure HIV in an unidentified New York woman who also had leukemia. That blood, along with blood from a close relative, allowed doctors to completely rebuild her immune system—wow. She was treated in 2017 and after she stopped her antiretroviral therapy just over a year ago, showed no signs of HIV in her blood. Only two other people have been cured of HIV, and they were both men treated using bone marrow transplants. But researchers pointed out several advantages to using umbilical cord blood instead. First, in New York, women only needed a partial blood match. She’s mixed race, and most donors in registries are of Caucasian origin. Plus, she experienced fewer complications afterwards, as opposed to the others who suffered punishing side effects when the donor cells attacked their bodies. Crazy.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Very crazy and great news.

 

Gideon Resnick: Oh yeah.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Some actually good news. While our leaders stay occupied with Russia, a more fearsome enemy is readying an attack on our shores. Her name is the big blue ocean. Federal climate scientists released a report yesterday predicting that sea levels on our nation’s coast will be about one foot higher by 2050, which would make the sea level rise over the next 30 years equal to the rise over the past 100 years.

 

Gideon Resnick: Lord.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Crazy According to the scientists who represent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAH, this will happen whether or not we reduce our emissions. So Biden can rest easy knowing that his “check for clean energy is in the mail” policy towards the environment is not a major contributing factor. The impacts of this rise will be vast, though. According to NOAH, flooding will occur 10 times more often by 2050 than it does today, and floods will become more damaging. Looking ahead another 50 years to 2100, at which point many of us will have uploaded our consciousness to the cloud, NOAH says that in a worst-case scenario, sea levels at our coasts could rise by a total of seven feet! Seven feet. That is an unbelievable amount of feet.

 

Gideon Resnick: Every single climate change update over the course of our lives has just been: it’s happening faster and worse. There’s never any like, Oh, actually, we discovered we have a lot of time.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 100%. Honestly, by the time we get to 2050, seven feet will be a joke.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: We’ll all be dead.

 

Gideon Resnick: Well, with that, go on with your mornings. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: this week on Takeline, Jason and Renee recap the Super Bowl with ESPN Daily host Pablo Torre and NFL reporter with The Athletic, Arif Hasan, and discuss the housing issues involved with hosting the game in L.A.. You can listen to new episodes of Takeline every Tuesday wherever you get your podcasts. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, re-watch Mad Max Fury Road and remind us what it’s about, and tell your friends to listen.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just the terms of use agreement for uploading oneself into the cloud like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.

 

Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

[together] And it’s okay to change your mind, Novak Djokovic.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’ve changed my mind about so many things.

 

Gideon Resnick: Same.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Asparagus, didn’t used to like it. Now it’s great.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s an interesting turn. I respect that.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: You know.

 

Gideon Resnick: I had that past with Brussel sprouts, personally.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah! Brussels sprouts, correct. They’re kind of good.

 

Gideon Resnick: What we’re saying, Novak, is your mind may change about vegetables, if not vaccines.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

 

Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.