Skip to main content

tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  April 13, 2017 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

12:00 pm
. >> rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with president trump's interview with "the wall street journal" and we talk to gerree seib, one of the reporters and commentators who interviewed the president. >> i thought he was more relaxed than i expected given everything that has been going on, given all the controversy, given the syrian episode, given the fact that he has just been through this high stakes episode with the chinese. he seemed pretty relaxed about all of that. maybe, maybe surprisingly so. but you know, we asked him what is-- you have been in this scrob now 75, 80 days, whatever st. how has it changed you. what is your reaction? and he said you know, i don't think i've changed but the gravity of the office really does, it does kind of present itself to you. you can't avoid the fact that every decision is a big decision. >> rose: and from moscow we talk to david sanger of "the new
12:01 pm
york times" where today the secretary of state met with the foreign minister and with vladimir putin. >> what happens if it spirals downward? i mean we can fight over syria. we have proxy wars that went on throughout the cold war. we don't have the numbers of nuclear weapons poipted at each other thank goodness that we did at the height of the cold war. we don't have this sense of russia as a rising power that is going to challenge us that we had during the cold war. that role has been taken on now by china. but we certainly do have a sense of contention. and that contention is really in three or four different places. >> rose: we conclude with "washington post" columnist david ignatius and former diplomat nick burns now at the harvard kennedy school. >> look what happens today. rex tillerson went to moscow and said we're at the lowest point in our relationship with russia in memory. donald trump backed that up in the press concerns he had with the nato secretary general. they really took it to the
12:02 pm
russians and were extremely drit critical of what the russians had been doing in syria. rex tillerson brought it back to ukraine an crimea. he also said tillerson a couple of days ago that russian interference in our election is a problem. that i think is progress, and calling a spade a spade. >> all about syria, next. >> funding for charlie rose is provided by the >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by the following: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose.
12:03 pm
>> rose: we tbin this evening with our focus on president trump's first 100 days in office. earlier today "the wall street journal" sat down with the president at the white house for wide-ranging interview. the president said that he will not label china a currency manipulator, a reversal from the campaign. he also left open the possibility of keeping janet yellin as chair woman of the fed despite previously saying he would likely replace her at the end of her term next year. they covered many subjects. we want to talk about all of that with gerree seib. so tell me what the headline is. >> i think the headline is probably about north korea. a lot of the conversation was about the relationship with china and the relationship between the relationship with china and the north korean nuclear threat. a lot of conversation about the relationship he's developing with president xi of china and how he's trying to use that relationship quite openly, use that relationship to go after the north korean nuclear program. in fact, he said essentially he's kind of offered a grand deal to the chinese to president
12:04 pm
xi personally which is to say, he said look, if you help us resolve this north korean nuclear program problem, help us stop the program, you will get a better deal from us, the trump administration on trade. which is an issue that obviously was the centerpiece of the conversation about china in the campaign. so it was a pretty direct message to the chinese which he has already delivered himself. he said you know, you help us on north korea, we'll do a better job for you on trade than we might otherwise. >> how many people were there. it was you, jerry baker, carol lee, paul beckett and michael bender. >> right, exactly. >> rose: took place in the oval office. >> yep, yep. >> rose: when was it scheduled? >> a couple of days ago. we've been talking about it for awhile. these things, you are never quite sure they will happen when they happen but it was put on schedule a couple of days ago. so in the context of sort of the flow of events around the visit
12:05 pm
to president xi down in florida and the chinese missile strike and the fact that there are some upcoming conversations about trade and the budget and the health-care bill, one of the problems is there is so much going on right now it's hard to focus any conversation because the fire hose has been turned on and it's flowing freely right now. >> rose: there was an interview with fox news earlier, i think yesterday or this morning. they ran it this morning, in which he said that his next big effort is health care, not tax reform. this tax reform follows health care. >> that was pretty clear in our conversation too. that was one of the striking things on the domestic side. we tried to get him engaged on tax reform. where will you go on tax reform. there is a giant issue there, rewriting the tax code is a big big issue, cutting taxes is a very important priority for republicans. every time we tried to go down the tax reform path, he averted to 45e89 care. he said we're going to do health care, back on health care. so we are going to get the health kir bill down, that all seemed to die away a couple of
12:06 pm
weeks ago when he couldn't muster the votes. a lot of people thought, in fact the president himself suggested we will put health care aside and move on and do a big bill to spend more money on infrastructure. that's not the case now. now the message is we are being back to health care. we are going to get this be do, we will get it done first and we are close to hopefully make i deal. he said we can do this one of two ways can i work out an arrangement with the republican conservatives who didn't like the approach we did before or democrats can come to me when we squeeze obamacare and it starts to really witt err-- wither on the vine and say let's make a deal with us, and you and some republicans. >> one way or the other he said we're getting to get health care i thought that was a striking change from a week or two ago. >> he seems to be changing on a number of issues. >> i think on foreign policy you are seeing a quite different approach on a number of issues. maybe one of the things i wrote about after the meeting was the extent to which he's developing
12:07 pm
a good working relationship, even a close one, i would say, with president xi of china, china was the subject of a lot of very tough campaign rhetoric, you will remember, on trade, on bullying its neighbors, on cheating the u.s., on not playing fair. and it was vladimir putin the russian leader who was supposed to be the one who was going to be the pal, the presidential pal, the one with whom there what be a close working relationship. well, the reverse is actually happened. he is developing a very good relationship with president xi which he talked about at some length. they met for hours and hours down in florida, at mar a lago last week. they talked for an hour on the phone this week on tuesday night, and they, he said basically i like this guy. we have a good chemistry. we can work together. when we asked about vladimir putin he said well, i got a nice call from him after the election. i called him after the terrorist attack recently in russia to
12:08 pm
offer our condolences and help but i don't really know putin. so you have on many fronts including this one a quite different reality than the one that was pressaged during the rose: we know that president trump plet with-- secretary of state met with putin today and coming out of the meeting there were not. >> there is tension there is a lot of tension there. and syria has brought all those tensions to the surface. you know, the idea that the u.s. was going to work with russia in syria, not against russia in syria now seems a pretty distant memory already. the risk of a common goal, let's eliminate isis but a clear desire on the par of the u.s. now to get rid of president assad in syria and the president trump told us today that i'm not demanding that but i think it's going to happen eventually. the secretary of state said essential leigh he invalidated himself as the future leader of syria. meanwhile the russians continue to prop up president assad. so there is certainly tension there. and it came, it really came to the surface this week when u.s.
12:09 pm
officials said essentially we think the russians knew about the chemical weapons attack that happened recently. we think they may have condoned it and we certainly think they're trying to cover up the evidence. we asked president trump about that. he said we're not sure yet. we're investigating whether all those signs of russian complicit are correct or not but he was cautious. there is a lot of tension in the air. >> he was also cautious in terms of saying that assad did not necessarily have to go. >> right. >> and i think that's a way of of saying that's not the goal of our policy. but if our policy produces a departure from assad we'd like that. and more than that, and i think this was the real message and the one you are seeing play out at the united nations. the world is going to decide we don't as the united states have the position to make that happen. by the way president trump was very clear in saying a couple of times we're not going to get into the quick sand of syria. the missile strike is not a prelewd to some big deep involvement of boots on the
12:10 pm
ground in syria by any means. >> i think the message is the world will get rid of assad. we won't have to do that ultimately. >> he did say having looked at the transscript. he did say that they would, in fact, launch, another missile strike if there was another use of sarin gas or b, even perhaps because of barrel bombs. >> yeah, exactly. he did say that, he said, we've already sent that message. if there is another chemical attack, we'll act. then the question we posed was well, what about something short of a kind of a sarin gas attack, what about barrel bombs. he said we'll see. maybe, you know, he said it is a hard line to draw. it nerms of terms of basically-- that game is on to some extent, i think the megsage to the syrians is watch it, we don't want you to know for sure when we're going to strike back, but we're willing to do it. >> what's interesting is the russians and iranians have said they will meet force with force. i mean does he have a sense that this is becomi of spes specific.
12:11 pm
i think the message was sort of we'll be po portional. if we see misbehavior we'll respond accordingly. not we're going to basically force the hand of the syrians or the russians, or the iranians, as far as that goes. i think what he is trying to do, what the president is trying to do here is walk a pretty fine tween washing your hands ofy the problem, problems in syria on the one hand or of getting people involved and saying we're not going to have to fix this thing. that is exactly the line that president obama saw out there and the one he tried to avoid having to walk because it is lard for the superpower to get engaged a little bit. once you get engaged you're expected to stay engaged and ultimately to fix the problem. that is not the message from the
12:12 pm
trump administration right now. we'll just have to see if you can be a little involved in it not but not all the way in. >> rose: the message from the secretary of state is our goal is to get rid of isis. >> but he also said after that then we'll figure out how to solve the syrian problem. he is acknowledging that there is a syria problem out there that you can't avoid foreverer. but he's also saying sequence it. we will deal with isis first. and then we're going to deal with president assad and what happens to him. that is not at all inconsistent with what president trump told us today it is just that he was more explicit in saying we're not going to go diving too syria. , that is not what we are about right now. >> rose: how does he expect to get the russians russians to ne? >> that's not clear. i think that i think there is as hanging in the back drop of our conversation was the meeting that was going on at the time we were talking, between secretary of state tillerson, foreign minister lavrov and the conversation with president
12:13 pm
putin. so what the results of those conversations were was not exactly clear in our conversation. and i think he was holding back a little bit to see what comes of that. you know there is a question out there of when does president trump meet with his russian counterpart with vladimir putin. that may happen sooner than later because this question that you just raised, is in fact going to have to get hashed out. >> rose: i guess the chance to me would be at the g something meeting in italy. >> that is a possibility. but the russians made noises about wanting to do something directly one-on-one maybe sooner than that. but at a minimum, that's probably where they are going to have to sit down and look each other in the eye and say what are we going to do. what is your man, what is my man. >> rose: what is asking about this is clearly if you look at it on the face based on events in the last two weeks, he almost in a kissinger style has basically played the china hand as we believe between china and
12:14 pm
russia, that china is the better place for us to do business. >> that's an interesting way to put it. and i think that's, i think that's right. the superpower relationship that we're going to have to invest our time and our effort in and the one that we really need to make work maybe it's the one with china. i mean that's kind of the impression you got. by the way i'm very happy to discover that president xi is somebody i can work with. he is a serious guy. president trump said he's a real leader. you know, i get along with him. there was a lot of indication in the body language as well as the actual words that you know we're going to work this china account. it's not going to be a disaster. we're going to make it-- we're going to be tough, tough on trade. and but we're going to make this relationship work. the one thing that didn't come up and that i still think looms in the background there is the way that china is asserting itself or some would say bullying its neighbors in its own backyard, in the south china
12:15 pm
sea. there is a lot of tension in that area. and some of that tension involves close calls between the russian navy and the u.s. navy as the russians try to assert their rights in that part of the world. there are places where this relationship could still go seriously off the tracks. but for now, you do get the feeling that the impression that donald trump has is that i can make this relationship work. >> rose: he did talk about chinese currency, didn't he? >> he didn't. and he said explicitly contrary to what he said in the campaign that he's not going to declare the u.s. government is not going to officially declare that china is manipulating its currency to increase its power in trade, to increase its ability to export and make it harder for people to send their products to china. that by the way is a decision the government, the u.s. government has to make in a few days. and they've already made the decision this was one of the news elements out of the meeting, that they are not going to declare china a currency
12:16 pm
manipulator. why? well, the chinese aren't manipulating their current currency. they're not trying to drive down the value of their currency to gain trade advantages. the option is happening. the currency is operating-- appreciating and treasury secretary mnuchin who joined us said the chinese are intervening to drive up the value of their currency. and of course the trump administration wants to take credit for that and say they're doing this because we warned them they better change their behavior. the fact is, that's kind of been the way the chinese have been heading for awhile. but in any case that is one potential area of conflict and tension with the chinese. that's not going to be an area of conflict. >> rose: did he at all talk about janet yellin and the fact that he's opposed to the idea-of--- idea of raising interest rates. >> he did and said basically i like low-interest rates. which say bit of a warning shot to yellin and the fed to not go too far or too fast in raising
12:17 pm
interest rates. there is a question down the road and this is a ways off, another year plus of having to reappoint janet yellin as chair woman of the fed or not. and he wouldn't engage on that. he said that's a ways off. but he did essentially say what he thinks about fed policy which is interest rates lower, better than interest rates higher, and i'm reserving judgement on a yellin. he also said along the way that he thinks the dollar has appreciated too much. that makes it difficult for people to sell american companies to sell their products abroad. they become too expensive. and he said he would like to see the dollar go down which had the affect of shaking the markets a little bitment because when presidents say those sorts of things they are taken seriously in the financial markets. >> then there are the questions that were twilling around the trump presidency before syria and before the chinese president came to mar a lago. it is this. steve bannon on the one hand,
12:18 pm
the factional fighting, did he speak to that? >> you know, a little bit. not much. he said basically of steve bannon, he said he is a smart guy. i like him, he didn't join my campaign until late. and i am my own strategist. i make my own decisions. i make my own decisions on strategy which was a kind of a difficult formlation to read precisely. you know, we asked him explicitly, are you going to make some changes in your senior team. and he said i don't think so but that's what i think for now. we'll see down the road. which is a classic trumpian formlation, if you think about it. like this is-- for now, no, but don't hold me to that later. >> rose: basically what he also said, you guys fix this or i will fix it. >> well, i think that's really what-- probably what he is saying implicitly in his public comments and i suspect it's what he said explicitly in his
12:19 pm
conversations conversations with his own staff. but the message was, i'm not doing any big staff shakeups for now and i like steve bannon fine. but let's not be confused. he's not the president, i'm the president. >> rose: there is also, he's got, with respect to health care, he's got to, and some other things. he's got to risk his base. >> yeah. >> rose: and he's got to negotiate with his base which is in part the freedom caucus in the house. i mean is he prepared to abandon them? >> well, i think what he was-- what he was suggesting was that we're going to bring the freedom caucus around. they like me, he said this quite essex explicitly. they like me, they want me to subbing sed and be he happy so we'll fine a way to do it one of the things that happened in the health care debate that actually works to the president's advantage is that some of the things the freedom cause you can-- caucus, some of the changes in obamacare or parts of obama care they were trying to eliminate turned out to be fairly popular with those blue clar populist voters who
12:20 pm
supported donald trump. and so he's got a little bit of leverage i think on the freedom caucus. because as people understood some of the changes that were being considered in health care at the we hest of the freedom caucus and more conservative parts of the republican caucus in the house, they realized those things weren't playing that well with trump voters who benefit from some of those programs. and so i think the president is basically saying i may be able to bring those people around, but he's also saying if that doesn't happen, i'm willing to go out and cut a deal with the democrats. i think the implicit message there is if i cut a deal with the democrats you guys in the froo he dom caucus aren't going to like the outcome of that conversation too much. >> rose: two other issues, one north korea. where does he think north korea is going? >> well, you know, i asked him specifically, what is the message you are sending by sending an aircraft carrier and its associated ships toward north korea in recent days. and he said, i think this is striking. he said you cannot allow a country like that to have
12:21 pm
nuclear weapons. that's the message he wants people to get. now the north koreans already have nuclear weapons, you know, they have nuclear devices that they've exploded. but i think his message was i'm sending this as a sign to the north koreans and probably to the chinese as well that this program is going to have to be stopped one way or the other. and in particular, the ability to develop missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads is going to have to be stopped. >> rose: finally this. you have interviewed him before. you have seen him in action before. you have been reading and writing about all the controversy about the first, how many days it's been so far. what was his demeanor? >> i thought he was more relaxed than i expected given everything that has been going on. given all the controversies, given the syrian episode, given the fact that he has just been through this high stakes episode with the chinese. he seemed pretty relaxed about all of that. maybe, maybe surprisingly so.
12:22 pm
but you know, we asked him what, you have been in this job now 75, 80 days, whatever st. how does it change you. what is your reaction. and he said you know, i don't think i have changed. but the gravity of the office really does, it does kind of present itself to you. you can't avoid the fact that these-- every decision is a big decision. they're life-and-death decisions. and he said it's not just like closing a real estate deal where you win or somebody else wins. these are decisions that are life-and-death decisions and every one of them is a big decision. so it was kind of, i thought, an interesting look into this sobering reality of being president which donald trump has figured out. >> rose: it's that. and they say all presidents say look, there's no experience that will give you everything you you need to handle this job. they all say that. >> and he said you have to have all the skills you have need to be brought to bear in this job. so there is clearly some element of being president that is
12:23 pm
humbling to anybody, everybody who has ever walked into that office. and that certainly includes the current occupant, i think. >> rose: gerree, thank you so much for joining us. >> sure, charlie. >> rose: we continue now with david sanger of "the new york times" who was in moscow, secretary of state rex tillerson is also in moscow where he met with russian president vladimir putin late today at the kremlin. that meeting came amid heightened tensions between the two nations. it was the first face to face meeting of the russian leader with a top trump administration official. earlier this week the white house accused putin's government of covering up president syrian president assad role in the chemical ka tack. putin-- today's meeting could determine future relations between russia and the united states. david sanger is the national security correspondent for "the new york times." he joins me from moscow and i join him by congratulating him on the rekip yent or tsh shall
12:24 pm
recipient for his team for a pull itser prize, congratulations. >> thanks very much, charlie. it was a great team, and all russia related. it was the story of the russian hack and the russian disinformation program. >> rose: so you get decide to d? did he always decide to do it it. has there been any reporting on the subject? >> well, that would be inside vladimir putin's head but we've seen this before. moments where he kept john kerry and even president obama at various points, sort of on tender hooks about whether or when he would meet. so we have seen this happen. although in this case, because he know mrs. tillerson from the days that tillerson was the chief executive of exxon mobile,
12:25 pm
it surprised us a little bit. cuz he was obviously dealing with a known quantity here. this was the first meeting, charlie, between anybody from-- senior in the trump administration. and vladimir putin. or at least the first one that we know about. and so it was some what critical to watch whether or not they could get passed this remarkably different set of facts they've been describing. and based on the only voice we've heard since then which was mr. tillerson at a news conference with serk aye lavrov the russian foreign minister, it doesn't sound like they had gotten any closer on the facts. the american view is that it was the syrian regime that was responsible for the sarin gas attack. the mr. putin himself in other interviews today or broadcasts today gave some completely alternative theories. there is still not in the same
12:26 pm
place about who hacked into the election process. while mr. tillerson hasn't wanted to dwell on it since his boss is a skeptic, he said it is basically an established fact that russia met with it. and of course putin has denied that. >> what's interesting to me is that a lot of people from putin to tillerson to others are saying that the relationship is at a low point. what are the implications of that? >> well, the implication is what happens if it spirals downward? i mean we can fight over syria. we had proxy wars that went on throughout the cold war. we don't have the numbers of nuclear weapons pointed at each other, thank goodness, that we did at the height of the cold war. we don't have this sense of russia as a rising power that is going to challenge us that we had during the cold war. that role has been taken on now by china. but we certainly do have a sense
12:27 pm
of contention. and that contention is really in three or four different places. it is over crimea and the ukraine and mr. tillerson said again today there would be no relaxation of sanctions until that's solved. i don't see a solution getting close on that. it's over europe where the russians are now meddling in the elections the way they did in our case. it's over the election investigation which whether or not this is supposed to be a distraction from, that's chugging forward. and then of course it's over russia's general view that its role is to be the spoiler for the united states, the counterweight to nato. and i think that the big transition we've seen in the past week is that donald trump has come around to thinking that maybe the russians have been pretty disruptive actors. not something you heard during the campaign or even the first 80 days of the presidency. >> rose: the interesting thing too is whether the united states
12:28 pm
is tonight with respect to the future of bashafter-- bashar al-assad. >> well, part of the deficit that we have had in the past week since the missile strike last thursday, charlie, has been getting the administration to explain what its strategic objectives are in syria. so the narrowest explanation they offered is this was to stop the use of chemical weapons again. then sean spicer, the press secretary came out and said no it is to stop violence against the syrian people and left open the pont we could retaliate for barrel bombs and the other horrors that have been rained on the syrian people by the assad regime. then we heard from nikki haley that maybe this was really about regime change, something that mr. tillerson has denied. then we've heard that maybe it's about o protecting the syrian
12:29 pm
people, setting up safe zones or no fly zones and so forth, which would be a far more complex operation. you could argue you've got an administration that is only 80 days into its time in office. they haven't had time to figure out their goals. but what we do know is that's very different from what donald trump was saying during the campaign which was we shouldn't be involved in these kind of conflicts at all. america first means focusing on america within its borders. >> it is interesting too, how the president, president trump has referred to the president or russia as saying you know, he's supporting a very bad man. and clearly we had the secretary of defense presenting evidence why they were sure that this came from bashar al-assad and the united states makes sure it notes that there are russians that were connected to where this took place. and that they clearly, you would expect, to have known because of
12:30 pm
their prox imity. not only that there were chemical weapons there which is a violation of the treaty, but also that the russians should have seen what they were doing and planning to do. >> well, tillerson said the other day that the russians were either incompetent or it has the wool pulled over their eyes by their syrian hosts. and there were upwards of a hundred russians on this base where the united states maintains the planes took off ladened with the chemical weapons. so even though it's a big base, it is hard to believe that the russians had no idea what was going on. the russians today called for an investigation lead by a criminal investigators at the hague to figure out what happened and who was responsible. but putin just hours before he met rex tillerson laid out these different theories including that the syrians had mistakenly hit a warehouse that was full of
12:31 pm
this material, that it belonged to terror groups. or that the united states and its allies had set this entire thing up as a hoax in an effort to go try to force assad out. what is clear is this. the american view now not a week ago, is that assad has to go. and the only question is how do you orchestrate that. and the russian view is that this set of events has driven them closer to bashar assad and more intent on holding on to it. >> because it represents their national interest and their special interest in having a port there, which is their largest port outside of the russian border. >> the port is part of it but i think a good deal more of it as well has been that with the military move in to syria, president putin has on the cheap given russia a much larger role in the middle east than it has
12:32 pm
had in decades. it's made it the deciding force that has kept assad in power, along of course with the iranians. and so all the early talk that president trump had about why can't we be friends, don't we have common interests here, can't we come to some kind interests in fighting isis and all that, i think the overall message of the trip that mr. tillerson took here was not any time too soon. and you have to wonder whether or not mr. tillerson came equipped with enough policy options to break this logjam. you didn't hear many big ideas today about reviving the process that john kerry started up called the geneva process, bringing syria and all of its neighbors together. you heard about some small working browps to work out smaller differences between russia and the united states.
12:33 pm
but that seemed to be mostly a cover, an effort to say well, we've done something. >> rose: the other thing that is interesting and apparent from interviews that president trump has done here in the united states with "the wall street journal" and with fox news is that he says i still hold to the position that i held before, that we have no business in going in and getting voferred in e civil war, and in any significant way. >> well, that's true. and if he has said that repeatedly. but at the same time he hasn't made that compatible with a strategy that would actually remove assad from power with the help of the syrian people. you've got to stop the war to be able to do that so the syrian-- syrian people can take an honest and real vote. and that means a lot of syria is no longer living in syria. and he hasn't made it compatible with the rest of the strategy. i did think it was interesting tonight when we were at the russian foreign ministry and secretary tillerson and foreign minister lavrov were both
12:34 pm
talking, that lavrov turned to tillerson and gave him a five or ten minute tutorial on all the times the united states had gone about regime change in his mind, in recent years and seen it go bad. he went back to bill clinton's intervention of the balance cans and so that on mil mil's-- mill os vich removal and on saddam hussein under the weapons of mass distruks and then he took to libya and what happened after moammar qaddafi was overthrown. the moral of the story is you listened to lavrov, every time you americans go in and do this, you then get out and leave a vacuum with a giant mess. which sounds a lot like what done all trump used to say on the campaign trail. >> rose: we still don't know how president putin sizes up president trump, do we? >> they both revel in being unpredictable. you didn't see putin going into
12:35 pm
grab crimea, for example. they both are highly transactional. they are not terribly idea logical. and i think the final one and the most important one is that they both have this sense that their countries have for some reason or another not been able to exercise the kind of power that they're due. and they are determined to fix that. now you could imagine two people with those common views finding a way to have an accord because they're not idea logical enemies. you could also imagine this spinning a bit out of control because both of them are vying to bring their countries back to the kind of global influence that they imagined from a previous glory era. >> rose: david sanger from moscow, thank you for joining us. >> thank you, charlie. great to be with you. >> rose: we continue our
12:36 pm
coverage of the trump add-- administration big week on the national security stage, joining me david ignatius, foreign affairs columnist for "the washington post," from boston nicholas burns, a professor at harvard quen de school of government and served as undersecretary of state for political affairs under george w. bush. i'm pleased to have both of them back on this program. nick burns let me begin with you and something you said to me before we went on camera. this is a remarkable sort of week, i think you said day, in the foreign policy history of a president. >> well, it could be, charlie. you know, donald trump is so unpredictable, you never know what he will say and do next. but look what happened today. rex tillerson went to moscow and said we're at the lowest point in our relationship with russia in memory. donald trump backed that up in the press conference he had with the nato secretary general. they really took it to the russians and were extremely critical of what the russians have been doing in syria. rex tillerson brought it back rightly to ukraine and crimea.
12:37 pm
and he also said tillerson a couple of days ago that russian interference in our election was a problem. that is i think progress, in calling a spade a spade. this relationship is at a low point and the russians are trying to undercut the united states. i also thought charlie it was interesting to see donald trump who for 18 months has been rails against nato saying nato is obsolete and will you forgive me, i'm a former ambassador to nato 6789 and today done all trump said nato is no longer obsolete. he said nato used to not be fighting terrorism. and now is fighting terrorism. nato wasn't spending enough, and now they are on track to spend more. so he tried to put a positive gloss on these issues where he has been extremely critical. and it may be we're seeing the reconsidering, we'll see, of the administration. maybe these establishment figures like jim mattis at defense and hr mcmaster, general mcmaster and rex tillerson are winning some of the policy battles at the white house.
12:38 pm
>> rose: this is interesting because your colume says sm of the similar things am you two seem to be on the same page. >> i agree with what nick said in that colume this morning, charlie, i quoted tom donlon who was national security advisor for president obama who thought the strike on syria was appropriate. but said the changes on policy on russia, china and syria from the administration and in recent weeks have been whiplash indecemberring was the phrase he used. such sharp changes from what donald trump talked about during the campaign. he was going to get closer to russia. china was raping america and was-- our biggest respective adversary. sir yas-- syria was something to stay away from. now we are seeing he has changed all those. i do think that the president is listening more to his foreign policy team than he did. and listening a lot less to the person who's encouraged him to
12:39 pm
be a disrupter, dismantler. and that's steve bannon. it's really striking to me how the knives are out for steve bannon. the things that the journalists like me are hearing from the white house about bannon, the president's anger at bannon for his, what the claim is his attempt to grab attention for himself tells you that trump has moved from being very probannon to considerably less so. on these foreign policy issues, as nick says we're just going to have to see, just a final thought from me, i am struck by the way in which donald trump is doing what henry-- henry kissinger prided himself on doing which is playing the try angular relationship, the u.s. russia and china, playing off the two superpower rivals, seeking advantage, leaning one way then the other. that is a classic kissinger balance of power diplomacy and oddly enough donald trump's most
12:40 pm
inexperienced president in my lifetime seems to be doing a little bit of that. >> and there is this. i think jared kushner is being schooled by henry kissinger, you may know a lot more about that than i do. but i know there have been conversations as jared kushner realizes he had not been in government. he has a lot to learn and he reaches out to learn as much as he can. >> charlie, i have that same impression, jared kushner, 36 years old, young man, harvard grad but not much experience certainly with foreign policy. i think henry kissinger has taken jared kushner on as a project. hen real estate kissinger's age, the last project he may undertake to teach him about the way in which a great power like the united states maneuvers, especially in a period of adversity. we have to remember that kissinger came in at a time when the vietnam war had really enfeeb eled the united states, it was thought, similar time
12:41 pm
now, many would argue. and i think inadvicably, we don't read or hear about this, it seems that kissinger is giving advice to kushner and through him to the president. >> nick burns, is how-- how do you perceive the russians to be reacting. >> i think the russians are angry. and a little bit stunned. i mean charlie we all saw during the transition in the first month of the administration all those positive words from donald trump, the russians were thinking this could be a sea change in the relationship with the united states. there's tremendous disappointment about this in moscow. president putin kept secretary tillerson waiting a little bit, didn't get his meeting until the very end of the day. there was suspense on whether or not putin would see him. so i think there were dashed hopes there. but what do the russians expect given everything that they have done in eastern europe and the middle east to undercut the united states, plus the interference in our election. and i think president trump is boxed in, obviously, on these
12:42 pm
charges that there may have been collusion, we don't know, between the trump campaign and the russian government. but the open, what we do know is the rush arnes did interveer-- interfere, interesting that tiller son raced that this week. interesting that president trump still won't criticize president putin. he was asked today at the press conference, president trump what is your relationship like with vladimir putin. he basically pivoted away from putin and said a lot of nice things about xi jinping am he that he they had good talks in mar-a-lago an about north korea with xi jinping. and david's point is is central here, it looks as though the united states has flipped, now very open and praising china, very critical of russia. the opposite of where president-elect trump was during the transition. >> rose: what about north korea? what do you both see what our options are because the president has said in some of these interviews he has said in the last couple of days i'm
12:43 pm
sending an ar mata to the waters off nofort korea. what do you make of that? >> well, charlie, i will just begin and leave it to nick. i think trump is pretty much told us the base line, that he had extensive, it said four hours of one-on-one conversation with xi jinping. north korea was a central part of that. i'm told that each explained how they look at this north korea problem. trump said it's improbable for the united states to allow north korea to get a nuclear tip missile that could strike american territory. if you don't help us deal with it, we will deal with it. i think xi jinping talked about how frustrating it is for china to deal with north korea. what a difficult neighbor they are. so they talked it through, and then interestingly, after the visit, the chinese have been unusually cooperative, they an strain-- abstained on a u.n. vote on a syria resolution,
12:44 pm
taking a different position from russia. trump said today in his news conference that china has already started turning around north korean kohlhepp ships, exports that are crucial for the north korean economy. chinese issued a public preses statement today basically warning north korea, not warning donald trump, warning north korea that the current situation, confrontation is intolerable to china. so it seems as if trump has imagined to pull xi jinping toward him in this crucial confrontation. obviously the chinese want this to be resolved without military force, that would be catastrophic for all of t it's been a really interesting, surprisingly nuanced, to me, bit of diplomacy from a very inexperienced president who just, you know, until the summit with xi jinping, i am not sure he ever had a meeting quited like that. >> rose: i want you to comment
12:45 pm
on this too because you have been there. it is so interesting to me that the strike tack place on thursday night and xi jinping is having dinner with a man who ordered the strike. >> i think it must have stunned xi jinping a little bit the way all of us were stunned because of the astonishing speed of donald trump's decision between the use of sarin gas and those 59 cruise missiles heading for the air base in syria. and the chinese must have thought is trump trying to signal us that he has some options on north korea. i agree with dave, and charlie, that president trump is banking a lot on the chinese here. the chinese are very frustrated with kim jungun and they have been for years. and the chinese have begun to restrict kohlhepp exports to north korea. they provide all the food and most of the energy, so they've got leverage. but i'm kept kal that president trump is is going to be any more successful than president obama or president george w. bush. i was part of the bush effort ten years ago to try to get the chinese to do more. at the end of the day, the
12:46 pm
chinese i think are more comfortable with the status quoa of a nuclear armed north korean than the possible alternative it, let's say the collapse of north korea at some point, refer gee nooses china and a united korea, democratic, based in seoul, allied with the united states, at the board we are china, and i don't know if donald trump and secretary mattis and tillerson are going to be able to piecer that chinese wall. they'll give a little, say they are frustrated and lecture the north koreans but will they actually change a core chinese position. i'm not sure that they will. >> rose: david? >> well, you know, trump has presented the chinese with an additional unsavory option which is that the u.s. would take unilateral military action on their border. that has got to be the least attractive of all. i had heard people in the trump administration talk in a very general sort of way about the
12:47 pm
possibility that some day a different north korea might be a buffer state between a strong south korea aligned with the u.s. and china. the chinese obviously fear a unified korea, dominated by south korea, would be in effect an american prompty on their border and threatening. so i think there is a little bit of creative thinking about some way to say that the chinese, we understand that you have interests. we would be prepared to explore an yowd come here that would recognize those interesting and leave you feeling secure as opposed to insecure. >> nick, you know more about this than i would object veesly again, but i'm told in terms of diplomacy, nothing makes another nation happier, especially if they are weaker, that is not true with respect to china, if they believe that you are listening to them. that their point of view is being heard. >> and it's interesting to see
12:48 pm
donald trump's first for rea, i think this has been the most important two weeks of his presidency on foreign policy. he spent a lot of time with xi jinping. they didn't play golf together, at mar a lago. they had a lot of conversations and one-on-one time, in the phone call last night where they are checking in with each other about the latest steps on north korea, it is a very good sign. because i think we learned over the last decade or two that china is two things to the united states. in a way, china is going to be our most important partner on big soos like north korea. and climate change, if the trump administration would see its way forward on climate change. but it's also a competitor to the united states. a competitor for strategic and military power. and balancing that, requires real subtlety and sophistication and foreign policy. i think president obama and president george w. bush were able to keep the balance, and frankly, i think president trump has had a good week dealing with xi jinping in mar-a-lago and again last night and in his
12:49 pm
statements today, they were very admiring of xi jinping. they were supportive of a stronger relationship between the u.s. and china. and he really gave the back of his hand to russia. didn't want to talk about the russia relationship. so let's hope that this idea logical battle in the white house is really swinging towards people who know what they are talking about, our secretary of state, our secretary of defense. >> david, have we made a choice, has this country made a choice as to whether it's going to go after isis and leave assad alone except for the use of clem kal weapons? or do we have a larger strategy that includes doing, you know, not just simply getting rid of isis or minute miedzing isis, and then going after some transition in the syrian government. >> charlie, as mere as i can tell from my reporting, the strategy remains pretty much what it was under obama. and strategy is generous in implying clarity. but in eastern syria, the united
12:50 pm
states l lead a coalition that will take the isis capital of raqqa, the u.s. is going forward with a force that is lead by syrian kurdish elements who are good fighters, drives turkey nutteds but the u.s. is pushing ahead with that. in terms of the ultimate political balance in the west of syria and damascus and aleppo in the north and the cities in between, i think the u.s. continues to believe that a negotiated political settlement there that gets bashar al-assad out eventually after a transition of some length is the only policy that makes sense. when i talk to senior commanders in the pentagon, that is still what they tell me. i just will see whether there are any progress was made by rex tillerson in this conversations with putin about some efforts between the united states and russia to broker that transition. john kerry tried it, admirably.
12:51 pm
he worked so hard on it under president obama. never really got it done. i think trump is basically trying that again although they're not saying it. >> but john kerry always beknowned and did soings with 51 dip plo mats at the state department that the u.s. had no leverage on the ground so therefore negotiation was very difficult. >> they've got more. he's fired 59 cruise missiles and you have a little more leverage. >> do you think that is true with respect to the north koreans? do you think this was at the united states intendsd, to leave? >> i was just going to say to build on david's choint, carlie, this was president obama's point of weakness, where most people thought he lost american credibility, the failure to defend the red line in syria. i do think president trump ump earned a little bit of credibility last week with those air strikes. but it's going to be hard to proceed now because rex tillerson has been talking about a big negotiation to try to put, bring the parties in syria together and go for a transitional government and some kind of ceasefire, that could
12:52 pm
take years. he's right to try it. but i'm not sure we have the leverage on the ground. the russians have leverage, they're far more powerful than we are in syria. they've got the iranians and hezbollah and the syrian government. i don't think putin is going to be pushed off that position. so tillerson's right to try. president trump said today it's time to end the war. but i'm not sure they've got the leverage to do it yet. it gets back to david's very good reporting, can the united states build these coalitions with fighters on the ground. whether the syrian kurds or some sunni militias to get that leverage. >> someone said to me that in the conversation between rex tillerson and foreign minister lavrov, that lavrov read out almost seven or eight examples where american intervention had come to nothing. >> well, that's a standard russian refrain. you americans keep going in and blowing up countries without knowing what is going to come next. and look at the message you've created. and i think we all understand there's a way in which that
12:53 pm
carries an important proof. i think in this case russia gained the strategic advantage when it intervened in syria in september 2015. and has been in the driver's seat. and u.s. diplomacy has been bootless it just hasn't had the clowt to be effective. what i hear from the white house as they talk about what they are trying to do, is the idea that u.s. by being more decisive, as nick says, very quick, in two days responding to chemical weapons attack, puts the russians on their back foot a little bit. i quoted one official in a colume this morning saying the russians are catching for a change after you know pitching for so long. now they're catching. now they're responding. >> rose: i saw that, that was great. so i think that tells you how they are looking at this. they want to make russia own the syria problem.
12:54 pm
once russia owns it, well, do they really want to stick with bashar al-assad. is that really in their interest. that is the kind of conversation i think they want to have. >> one last question about the factional fighting. is the life of steve bannon at the white house short lived? >> well, when the president himself is as critical of steve bannon as he was last night in the television interview, an when unnamed white house officials say things as they have been to me and other journalists, criticizing bannon for being selfish, egoistical, devicive, you know the knives are out. does this have, is there a way for steve bannon to reboot himself? i don't know. he's going to have to seat om crow, i would think, after what the president said. he's going to have to show i'm a loyal team player, sir. but you know, we've entered a very different phase.
12:55 pm
he seemed to be, you know, high in the saddle a month ago and not so now. >> david thank you so much. >> nick burns, thank you so much. >> for more about this program and earlier episodes, visit us online at and charlie captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgh
12:56 pm
>> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information seices worldwide. >> you're watching pbs.
12:57 pm
12:58 pm
12:59 pm
1:00 pm
announcer: a kqed television production. ♪ sbrocco: and everybody say "opa!" -man: opa! -woman: opa!


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on