tv Unspun World with John Simpson BBC News May 28, 2022 2:30pm-3:01pm BST
now on bbc news it's time for unspun world. john simpson and bbc experts analyse how the war in ukraine has changed europe, and germany's place in it. and look at the continuing outcry over the death of shireen abu aqla. hello, and thanks forjoining me. we're at the bbc�*s headquarters in london, broadcasting house. and here's the statue of the bbc�*s patron saint, george orwell, complete with cigarette. he used to work here. beside him is his famous quote. "if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." well, i hope we can persuade you to hear this edition of unspun world anyway. has germany's influence in the world shrunk?
germany has been very slow, very reluctant to react when it comes to sanctions against russia. what effect will the shooting of the palestinian journalist shireen abu aqla have on the politics of israel? this has been an extremely violent period. certainly this is extremely testing times for israel's leaders. and will president biden�*s lifting of some controls over cuba actually help the people of the island? i think the desire to leave is more acute than it has been in decades. russia's invasion of ukraine has had all sorts of entirely unintended consequences. in the eu for instance, it's shaken up the traditional partnership between france and germany, and damaged germany's
leading role in europe. while the ukrainian government never recovered its faith in germany, the ukrainian army within 48 hours. i asked katya adler, our europe editor who is in brussels for her thoughts on the way the war in ukraine has altered things in europe. we've been seeing a whole shift in alliances and structures. and of course, from a security point of view, vladimir putin has managed to upend the post—cold war security structure, and sort of almost certainties that countries had. but, yes, if we have a look at the traditional motor, it's called, of the european union, the franco—german motor, under angela merkel, after 16 years as chancellor, she wasn'tjust the head of the eu's biggest economic power, but also diplomatically and politically within the european union, she was kind of the leading face, if you like.
she had that ability to kind of knock eu heads together, to find consensus, or at least lock leaders up in a room until they came to some kind of conclusion. that sort of figure is now missing inside the eu. olaf scholz has taken over from angela merkel as germany's chancellor, but this man does not lead neither at home nor abroad. germany has been very slow, very reluctant to react when it comes to sanctions against russia. it has traditionally had this idea of... you know, kind of making advances in relationships with russia or even containing russia through trade. but if you have a look at the decisions it's taken since russia's invasion of ukraine, they have been massive. germany has turned its own post second world war foreign policy on its head. it's getting involved in an active military campaign in europe. but, yes, its reputation has been damaged, and olaf scholz is not seen as a leader. enter emmanuel macron,
just re—elected french president. he thinks now is his time. he already had so many ideas about reforming the european union, and angela merkel pretty much sat on him and his ideas. one of the ideas that's really now taken off, john, was his idea that the eu needs to be more sovereign, if you like, be able to stand more in its own feet. but the one thing that the european union hasn't had is a real military force, has it? and if you go to ukraine, for instance, as i have recently, you find that there's quite a lot of contempt for the eu, particularly for germany, but also not very much admiration for france either. we are not realistically talking about a massive eu army here. it makes sense to kind of look at a number ofjets, look at armoured vehicles and sort of pool resources together in order to be able to act. i think what russia's invasion of ukraine has done is remind the eu and remind emmanuel macron
that they need the united states and they need nato. we can't, of course, diminish olaf scholz�*s efforts to cut back on imports of russian oil, in particular, but that is going to have quite serious effects on the german economy, isn't it? for a german chancellor to take big foreign policy decisions, or any foreign policy decisions, he needs to go before his party and the german parliament in order to say "this is what i'm going to do" and to put it out there. so germany necessarily is going to be a lot slower, and it's going to be a lot more timid. germany also has much closer ties with russia when it comes to energy, and when it came to business ties as well. so it was already more difficult for germany. and as for the economy, i think germany has done what it says was impossible and then went out to do. it couldn't move on oil. it can't move on gas, because it's going to cause a big
hole in the german economy. except that bucha, for example. all of those human rights atrocities that we've been seeing in ukraine, and public opinion in germany, the rest of europe and many other countries across the world were absolutely disgusted. that gives the public support for olaf scholz, in order to take very difficult decisions. when you look at actually the facts on the ground, and the massive moves that it's taken, once again to promise for the first time since world war ii, to invest in its military, to invest 2% of gdp into defence, in order to complement nato�*s. basically, as leading german politicians are doing it, to actually take on the responsibility they probably should have done years ago, but many actually sort of are held behind the reticence that was left in germany after world war two. so germany says it's now rolling up its sleeves, and it is willing to play that bigger, more responsible role on the european and the world stage, as well as just about economic self interest at home.
plenty of people have pointed out the irony that, while russia invaded ukraine in part to stop itjoining nato, nato is now getting even bigger and stronger because finland and sweden have applied tojoin. fine. except that turkey, so often the awkward member of the nato squad is using the finnish and swedish bid as a chance to score an advantage of its own. the countries have long taken in kurdish opponents of the turkish government, particularly from the pkk group. and now turkey's president erdogan says he'll use his veto to block finnish and swedish membership over the issue. i sought the views of emre temel of the bbc�*s turkish service. pkk has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the united kingdom, united states and the european union.
however, most nato members supported and armed its syrian offshoot in its fight against islamic state in syria. and another key request from ankara is sweden and finland should add to their arms export restrictions they put on turkey, following the incursion of — turkish army's incursion in northern syria. i think most, if not all of the nato countries rather irritated with turkey for the way that erdogan has posed these demands, but what do you think he's likely to get out of them? vetoing nato�*s enlargements and blocking these two nordic countries�* entry into nato at such a crucial time, when nato reshapes its security strategy in europe, following the russian invasion of ukraine. it is very risky for turkey. turkey's loyalty to the military
alliance has been questioned amongst some members, when president erdogan went ahead with purchasing russian made s—400 missile systems in 2017, and turkey is also going through an economy crisis and needs investment more than ever from every circle, including western countries. erdogan has an election coming up, in just over a year's time. is he going to win that? i think the pro—kurdish vote will be key. if pro—kurdish party decides to support the opposition alliance, then it's going to be much more difficult for president erdogan to win it, at least at the first round. but all the polls show a very tight race, and it's going to be more difficult than ever for president erdogan. now an incumbent government usually is punished when the economy goes bad, and the economy in turkey is going really bad, isn't it?
inflation well above 100% in real terms. yeah, and the turkish government's strategy was based upon the idea that we can reach the tourism revenues, like at the peak levels, as we had in 2019. and the tourism revenues of turkey was something like $35 billion then. however, russian—ukrainian war changed all the spectrum, and this seems really unrealistic right now. and obviously turkey is closer to the war zone, which would deter western tourists to flock into turkey as well. all these conditions are pointing out very gloomy figure for president erdogan. but it's hard to work out whether all these things — i mean the nato issue, the war in ukraine and so on, are going to help erdogan or damage him.
obviously, when russia began invading ukraine, president erdogan wanted to act as an honest broker between these two countries. and i think his portrayal of himself like this would increase his credibility. it would be very risky for him, if he moves forward, to block sweden and finland's membership bid. obviously, western perspective of him can be changed once again. for years after the collapse of the old soviet union, there was a good deal of genuine freedom of speech and freedom of the press in russia. it could be very dangerous to be a journalist there, but you could speak out openly. gradually, vladimir putin changed all that. the pressure on free non—government outlets writing and broadcasting
in russian grew and grew, until the invasion of ukraine brought an end to them. the last independent tv station, dozhd, finally closed down in march. now, russian television is absolutely relentless in its propaganda line, and it's the job of francis scarr, of bbc monitoring, to watch it all, hour by hour and day by day. there's so much poison and vitriol in these programmes that the only way to manage this is to retreat into emotional neutrality. otherwise, it's impossible to square what i'm hearing on russian tv with what i'm hearing from other media outlets that are reporting what's going on on the ground. tell me about the vitriol. i mean, what form does it take? they're not addressing the viewer in a kind of rational way. they're playing to their emotions. and so what we've seen is a kind of dehumanisation of ukrainians.
and what that's done over the last eight years is to condition russians to see ukrainians as kind of, not quite subhuman but definitely inferior, and out to get russia. the kremlin has described ukraine as a kind of anti russia. they're saying this this state only exists to be a sort of a way for the west to to get back at russia. so, i mean, it really is kind of quite 198a—ish, isn't it, with, you know, big brother on the screen, the morning hate and all that kind of stuff. and it is having an effect on people. these state tv shows, they're, on a visual level, they're incredibly entertaining. there's lots of flashing lights, there's all sorts of cameras swooping around the studio, giving different angles, almost to the point where it becomes quite distracting to watch. and there's this sinister music played in these talk shows. so any report about ukrainian
soldiers will have this sort of heavy drumbeat. and really, even if you're not engaging with it properly, it sort of provides this background that seeps in. and yet there have been just one or two extraordinary examples, haven't there, of people who've come on, people that you might expect just simply to pour out the line, who haven't done so. there was that colonel, just recently, who was on, who really blew the whole idea of russian success and russian achievement out of the water. that�* s right. this retired colonel mikhail khodarenok, who is a kind of defense columnist, a military analyst. now, he really shattered the kremlin�*s message
he spoke of russia's international isolation. he's an ex military man and perhaps he just found it hard to ignore the reality of what's going on in the battlefield. and the presenter wasn't really sure how to deal with this outburst of candour. and then he went back again just the other day, didn't he? and he seemed to have changed his tune by that stage. indeed, what he then said was that really the war was going in, going russia's way, and that any suggestion, suggestion of ukrainian counteroffensive were just rumours. this suggested to me that he was, in effect, giving a talk, giving a talking to. one of the things that, of course, is quite worrying is how willing the people who talk endlessly on television are to broach the idea of nuclear warfare, of armageddon if necessary. it's important in the context of the war, actually, because at the beginning
they were talking about it as a kind of surgical operation that would be over in days. the tune on russian tv has has changed, and they've been framing russia itself as the victim and talking about how it's surrounded by a hostile west and and this idea of russia effectively being willing to carry out nuclear strikes on countries in the west i think it plays in, it's part of this this overall picture of of russia as a victim, which is willing to do anything to defend itself. the shooting of a hugely popular palestinian journalist, shireen abu akleh in the west bank town ofjenin and the chaotic funeral that followed caused yet another crisis between israel and the palestinians. but it's still not finally being confirmed how shireen died. i asked the bbc middle east correspondent tom bateman to cut through this emotive,
angry atmosphere for us. we were all having to cover this event about somebody who here was just one of the veteran correspondents, one of the old hands, somebody who knew the patch inside out, lived the story her entire life. and i was in ramallah on the day at aljazeera's offices with many of her closest colleagues and friends, and just this sort of really appalling atmosphere of having to both absorb the news and people were obviously in a terrible state of shock. so that is really, i think, has been the kind of tone or the mood for people throughout this over these last few weeks. because on the one hand, you know, you have the investigation into what happened by both the israelis and the palestinians, a lot of international pressure to get to the truth about what had happened to shireen, but at the same time, just this immense popular outpouring of support. and, of course, it's happened at a time of immense,
seething discontent and political upheaval inside israel itself. this has been an extremely violent period in the region. in a couple of months, there have been at least five different gun and knife attacks on the streets of israel and in the occupied west bank that have killed 19 israelis and foreign nationals. more than 30 palestinians killed in that same period, many of those in israeli raids to try and find the perpetrators. and at the same time, the israeli government has been sort of moving into yet another political crisis. and that is because this is one of the most sort of diverse coalitions that has been trying to hang together for the last year or so. that's been proving increasingly difficult. and we had in the last week another resignation, a member of the coalition, an arab israeli mp, who walked out and cited some of these events.
she said she simply couldn't stomach the way that palestinians and arab—israelis were being treated. now, it seems she might have walked back into the government actually in the last few days. so perhaps the crisis is abating for now. but certainly this is extremely testing times for israel's leaders. and it looks to me from the outside as though the old idea that america will back israel, whatever happens, is fading. there was a time and you know it well, john, when this region was absolutely critical to the security and economic interests of the united states. think about oil, think about energy dependency. now that has shifted. i think the middle east is no longer even second on the list of priorities, perhaps not even third, it's moved down the league table. the position ofjournalists where you are is probably one of the most difficult and and hostile environments really of anywhere in the world.
how do you kind of deal with that? you know, this is an extremely polarized part of the world. there are competing narratives. i think what we have to try and do is work our way through that in an objective and fair way, but also adhere to the truth that we are seeing on the ground. and there's nothing more powerful than that. you know, i was at the funeral of shireen abu akleh, where these israeli border police waded into a crowd of mourners holding a coffin and and beat them. now, you know, when you see that with your own eyes, you know, it's very important to me to simply tell it as it is. and one of the things we saw after that was the police injerusalem putting out a series of statements, some of which just were not factually accurate. and it was important to me to to say that in our coverage. but, you know, as you you know so well, the first rule ofjournalism isjournalism
is to say it as you see it. cuba has been a problem for the united states for at least a century. cubans, of course, would say that the united states has been just as big a problem for them. over the last few decades, different american presidents have taken different lines. several have basically just tried to ignore it. barack obama tried dialogue, but that didn't really work. donald trump clamped down on economic links with cuba, and that didn't work either. nowjoe biden is easing up again. what effect is that likely to have on cuba? i sought the views of our correspondent will grant, who's just returned to mexico city from havana. there are, in essence, 100,000 visas to come. and this first step will be reopening consular services in the embassy in havana
and allowing some of those families to access those visas, instead of doing what they're currently doing, which is a huge exodus off the island any which way possible from havana over to nicaragua and up through central america, through mexico to the us border. that's a very common route, as is, of course, the extremely treacherous crossing over the florida straits in rickety boats. given that there is a limit to the number of visas that they're going to issue, surely those people will be getting in their boats and trying to get to honduras and through just as much as before, won't they? i think the desire to leave is more acute than it has been in decades. we can just look at some of the numbers at the moment. in april alone, 35,000 cubans were detained at the us—mexico border. now, if we were to take that extrapolated across the year,
that would easily outstrip the 1980 mariel boat lift, when 125,000 cubans fled. over the course of 2022, this is going to be far, far greater than that year. which is a real threat not only to the united states, but also to cuba itself. in the sense that you look at the profile of the people who are trying to leave, they're young, they had ideas and dreams about things they might be able to do in cuba just a handful of years ago, when relations were good with the obama administration, when private businesses were opening up, when tourists were arriving in their millions and opportunities were growing all the time on the island. this brain drain of young people is tragic for cuba. now it's nothing new, as you've pointed out, but the current degree of exodus is particularly acute. i spoke to one man, a fisherman, and he's attempted seven times to make it across the florida straits in these incredibly rickety boats made of polystyrene and wood
and bits of plastic. when fidel died, when raul stood down, the newspapers were full of articles about how this was the end of the communist experiment in cuba. but it hasn't been the end, has it? it's still kind of lingering on. what many, many thousands, millions of cuban young people want is not more continuity from the castro era. they want a new project. they don't necessarily want to convert themselves into miami overnight, or become puerto rico, or some some island in the caribbean that falls under the complete dominance of the us. but nor do they want simple continuity with the same socialist communist project of their grandparents. and what did that bring? i think at its height, just last year, in july last year, nationwide protests,
people on the street throwing stones, chanting "libertad", that they wanted freedom, you know, unimaginablejust a handful of years before. will grant speaking to me from mexico city. it looks as though after three months of bad russian tactics and low morale, the war in ukraine is shifting in russia's favour, though it's impossible to think that ukraine can actually be beaten now. and so more and more people are thinking about how it will all end. some in washington think president putin needs to save face, so ukraine will have to accept the loss of some of its territory. no chance, say others, including the british foreign secretary — ukraine must get everything back, including crimea. the chances of a nice, tidy ending are pretty small, as long as president putin
is running things anyway. well, that's it for me and the unspun world team and from george orwell, too. i look forward to being with you again soon. hello. there's still a lot of fine and dry weather to come through the rest of this afternoon but the amount of cloud that we've seen build—up has tended to increase through the afternoon. this is how fife looked earlier today. you can see the cloud building and spreading across the sky on the satellite picture. we still have some sunny spells for all of us but the best of the sunshine is across parts of the southwest where earlier, cloud across parts of devon and cornwall, it has been a glorious day with
temperatures peaking at 19 celsius. 20 across some areas of the southwest in the next hour or two. in the evening, some of the cloud will start to fade away a little bit, more sunny spells to end the day, an outside chance of one or two showers for norfolk, suffolk and aberdeenshire but for the vast majority it will be dry. overnight, we continue to fade in those northerly winds, one or two showers for north and east scotland, one or two into northeast england but otherwise it's a largely dry picture but it will turn chilly overnight, temperatures getting down to six and seven celsius across the north. that chilly fade of air continues into sunday. if anything, the air is a little bit cooler. it starts the day with some sunny spells around but we will see the cloud building once again. this time, it will build up to such an extent we will see some showers breaking out across parts of scotland, england and wales seeing showers, northern ireland should
stay predominantly dry. temperatures down in recent days and it's probably one of those days where it turns cloudy and quite breezy. it will feel on the cool side but when the sun comes up it won't feel too bad, the may sunshine certainly strong enough to make it feel warm. low pressure moves on through monday, tuesday and wednesday, a showery feature so showers are the things that will break out widely on monday but this time the showers are going to be heavy, thundery, there's probably some hail mixed in, many of them across northern areas of the uk but across england and wales further south you could see one or two showers developing through the day and temperatures in the cool site for the time of year, 11 or 12 across parts of scotland, 1a and 15 further south. showers continue through tuesday and wednesday, not just across scotland and northern ireland but pretty widespread across the whole of the uk. some of them heavy with some hail and thunder, perhaps more settled towards the end of the week. that's your latest weather. bye—bye for now.
this is bbc news with the latest headlines... people travelling abroad are facing disruption at airports, stations and on the roads — as the half—term getaway begins. more conservative mps publicly declare they have no confidence in the prime minister — after sue gray's report into lockdown parties in downing street liverpool and real madrid fans descend on paris — to support their teams in the final of european club football's most prestigious prize. at the stadium, five hours until