tv Dateline London BBC News April 18, 2021 11:30am-12:01pm BST
hello, this is bbc news with ben brown. the headlines — the two russian men suspected of carrying out the salisbury nerve agent attack three years ago are being sought by police in the czech republic. a senior conservative mp warns borisjohnson he'll lose the support of the so—called red wall voters in former labour seats unless he resolves the row about lobbying. a day of refelection for members of the royal family, after the queen and the nation bid farewell to the duke of edinburgh china and the us commit to working together and with other countries on tackling climate change.
once the world's largest iceberg but now its broken apart. satellite images show the "mega—berg" has virtually gone. now on bbc news, dateline london. hello, i'm shaun ley. welcome to the programme that brings together bbc specialists with the foreign correspondents who file their stories to audiences back home from the dateline london. this week america draws its troops down and out of afghanistan. russia builds them up, but would it go into ukraine? and the changing of havana's revolutionary guard this weekend after six decades in charge.
with me is the american henry chu of the los angeles times, italian writer and film—maker annalisa piras, whojoins us from italy, and here in the studio at a safe social distance, the bbc�*s chief international correspondent lyse doucet. good to have you, lyse, and good to have both of you with us on dateline. now, it was the 9/11 attacks on the united states in 2001 which led to the invasion of afghanistan. presidentjoe biden announced this week that september the 11th 2021 will mark the end of its military presence there. 20 years ago vladimir putin, already running the kremlin, was one of the first to tell america's then—president, "we'll back you all the way." today, though, the capitals of what were the late 20th century's superpowers are in conflict once again over territory moscow once called its own. lyse, how did allies against extremism become in conflict again right in the heart of europe? well, there are areas where russia and the united states are working together, will continue to have to work
together for common cause. you mentioned about islamic extremism. going back to the september 11 attacks. climate change. they are trying to get the iran nuclear deal back on track. they are also working together on afghanistan. but i have to say, sometimes, speaking to russian diplomats — what is the british expression? — barely concealed glee, that they see the united states tragically could face the same fate as russian troops did when they left afghanistan 30 years ago, in 1989. in fact, i was in kabul at that time and a few years later president najibullah�*s government collapsed and sadly that led to infighting among the mujahideen groups, brutal civil war which paved the way to the taliban. and a nasty end for mr najibullah. and a nasty end, you know, hung from a post in kabul and tortured to death. the prospect, the spectre of possible civil war, is on everyone�*s mind,
although everyone hopes it can be avoided. when president biden announced this week that it was time to come to an end, he said you can'tjust keep doing the same thing over and over again. he said there has been four us presidents — two democrats, two republicans — it has to end, we have to close the book, this chapter. but he was at pains to say that america was leaving the war but not afghanistan, in the sense that the united states would use all of its diplomatic weight and political, economic, humanitarian, but quite frankly the biggest leverage the united states has in afghanistan, particularly against the taliban, is the troops, and there is worry about what will happen once the last of the troops leave before september the 11th. henry, it raises the question, inevitably, for all those who serve there, for the families of those who died there, for those who still bear the injuries, has the blood spilt — much of it, i should say, afghan blood, many, many thousands of civilians — i think it's 8,000 just last year lost their lives —
and the treasure spent, to use the words that soldiers talk about — blood and treasure — has it been worth it? well, that's going to be on many soldiers' minds and the families of those who were lost, who fell in battle, because they can look back now at least 20 years, and say, what has actually been achieved in terms of the goals that the us set out for itself? which were very ambitious. it wasn'tjust going in and rooting out terrorism and overthrowing the taliban, which they did, but it was also the starry—eyed dreams of nation—building, of creating a democratic society there and a steady ally that we would have in central asia and leaving it in much better shape than we thought we would leave it, and in the end depart. unfortunately, those haven't come to pass and this is tough for americans because afghanistan, for many people, was the so—called good war. you know, we had the disastrous invasion of iraq, which many people were against, whereas with afghanistan there seemed to be much more common cause and solidarity
behind that war when it was launched 20 years ago. and yet that has come to naught as well, you know, there is that old phrase about afghanistan being the graveyard of empires. well, we saw that happen to the soviet union and unfortunately the us is meeting the same fate there. so that's going to be on the minds of many americans but, at the same time, there is a big constituency of those who feel that enough is enough. you don't want to keep throwing good money after bad and it's time, finally, to withdraw. annalisa, we are told that there was a process of consultation with the other allies, many of them european countries, as part of the nato—led force, a part of the operation, and have been for the last two decades. general sir nick carter, the british most senior officer, was saying, well, this is not the outcome we would have wanted, which rather hints it was more fait accompli than a consultation. are europeans going to accept this? are they worried about,
in particular, the kind of afghanistan that will emerge once they and the americans have gone? of course, everybody is worried because it is very easy - to anticipate what is going. to happen, and the chances of a return to violence and civil war are very, i very strong. but on the other end, . as we've just mentioned, this is not working. this is not producing. the results that it was hoped would arrive — the building of- democratic society. so you can't go on for ever. but there is a serious| concern about what is going to happen there. i've just spoken with a good friend of mine who spent 16j years building schools for girls there, and i he told me, you know, - the charity we are talking to, they are just saying, - we are arming ourselves. if the taliban come
to get our girls out| of school, we will fight. so local charity workers are preparing to take that kind of defensive action because they are worried about what is left behind — presumably the capacity of the afghan forces to protect them. yes, absolutely. but, i mean, that gives. you the sense of a society on the brink of civil war. when charity workers - are founding schools for girls and say they are getting armed. so it's the return of total. civil war between militias, civil society, the taliban, so it's very scary. - lyse, how does it look from the afghan government's side? because you've been monitoring very closely, you've been at some peace negotiation meetings. are they worried that this will finally tip the balance back in favour of the taliban? well, i think after the initial shock, when president biden announced the dates, and since... a bit raw when you use september 11. i mean, we can see why they do it perhaps for an american�*s
constituency, but so many afghans have died since september the 11th. but since then, you can see on social media, because social media, the propaganda war is a big part of the war on the ground, is that the afghan security forces, there is a huge afghan national army, and the police have been trained by the united states and other nato militaries. they are putting on a brave face, saying, we will defend the homeland, and i'm sure they will. even though we've heard so many stories about, you know, poorly paid police and soldiers, sometimes not paid at all, in the provinces, abandoning their post when the taliban approach. you know, i've seen some of these special forces, really highly trained and motivated, some 40,000 police and army. they will defend, they will fight to the last. they are not going, as in previous wars, to simply let the taliban walk in to power. which is why there is an effort now, and now it's solely being led by the united nations, rather than by the united states, to try to bring the taliban to accept that, listen, you cannot rule like you did in the �*90s. first of all, as harsh
as you did, but your own. you need to have something inclusive. and i know from talking to the taliban in doha, in the gulf state of qatar, where negotiations have been on and on since september, they accept that but they also believe they've won, they've acted like they've won. and when you get reports from the field — our colleague secunder kermani went to visit the taliban area — they are not in the mood to compromise. they don't want democracy, however perfect it was in afghanistan. they want an islamic state. and, yes, they are very strict when it comes to social laws. notjust about girls and women, but aboutjournalists. journalism is one of the huge success stories in afghanistan. some say the taliban haven't changed, the taliban say they have changed. that is the big question, and it is nothing less than life and death. so i think there is still a chance this can work but there is also a chance it won't. let's talk about the other aspects i raised in the introduction, henry, and that's this stand—off about ukraine
we've seen perhaps reach its peak this week. we had troop movements involving the russians on the border they still have with ukraine. joe biden responded by picking up the phone and saying, let's meet, let's talk. yes, there are sanctions and complaints about what russia has been doing, there has been a tit—for—tat expulsion of diplomats as the week comes to an end. but in the end, has america blinked first? because it looks like putin has mobilised his troops, rattled his sabre, and got a concession, a meeting, a big meeting with the president of the united states. well, he hasn't actually said yes yet, and i'm not entirely sure that he will. i think it will still depend on how things unfold over the next couple of months before he actually accepts biden's invitation. i mean, you can say that the west actually blinked in many ways already back when crimea was annexed by russia already and russia's then incursion into eastern
ukraine was already something that raised the hackles in the west. but the west did very little about except for imposing sanctions. that maybe did a little bit of damage, squeezed a little bit, but really didn't go that far. and now the sanctions that biden has imposed further these last couple of days, as well as the diplomats being expelled, are also fairly moderate steps. he is trying to squeeze a little bit russia's ability to raise money for its sovereign fund, but he's not going whole hog yet and i think what he's trying to do right now, though, is to at least send a more consistent signal than the previous administration because trump, when he was president, on the one hand, did expel diplomats over the skripal poisoning in concert with western allies, and yet on the other hand we know he would toady up to putin and flatter him and in some people's eyes, actually, his campaign worked with putin in nefarious ways.
so i think biden is trying to say now, look, that is over, we want to have a constructive relationship. it doesn't mean we'll agree on everything and there will be antagonism going forward. and also biden realises that russia's cyber espionage and hacking abilities have really been difficult for the us. they have compromised some of our systems so, yeah, he's taking it slowly. lyse, one last thought. putin wasn't ever seriously going to send troops over the border into ukraine, was he? can he really afford, given the economic situation he's got at home, a war? we just mentioned what happened in 2014, which was very secret, that the russians still deny that they went in and annexed crimea, went into eastern ukraine. they didn't hide this at all, it's there for everyone to see, which is why some people have said this is about sending signals rather than soldiers. and, yes, the russian media, as you were saying, see this as a big victory for russia's really tough posture, and in fact some of the russian
media have described biden's foreign policy as bipolar disorder. 0n the one hand, you threaten to send two warships through the bosporus and then cancel it. you make threatening... you have nato military exercises, but then you pick up the phone. yeah. i think what is really fascinating in this is that on domestic and foreign policy we are slowly beginning to understand who president biden is. and he's surprising people. 0n domestic policy, he surprising, and perhaps what he seems to be doing on russia, we have to wait and see. he wants to get some issues off the table. 0n afghanistan, as we have just been discussing, he believes that terrorism threat from afghanistan can be dealt with without having troops on the ground, without fighting against the taliban. he wants to find a way... they will never see eye to eye, but they have to try to dial down the tension because he's got china to worry about, he's got climate change to worry about. so let's just see, going forward, where he moves on this one. fascinating stuff, thank you very much. annalisa, i mentioned at the start of the programme
that you're in tuscany. you're normally based in london, you're back home. how does italy's situation now on fighting the pandemic compare with a year ago? italy a year ago was a country that was worst affected in europe and things this year are still quite tough. they're tough but . they are improving. as you rightly say, the last year, italy was hardest - hit country in europe. now it's the seventh in the world. - it has been as dramatically hit as the uk, so it's not in that. unfortunate first place in the number- of deaths and so on. but things are improving. there has been a pick—up in the vaccination rate - and the great news is that, by the end of the month, l we will move from orange—red to yellow, which is the colourl
code that says that - restrictions will be eased. restaurants will be open again to serve only alfresco but it's i going to be spring and lovely weather, so that is _ going to mean a lot, j also psychologically, that restaurants can reopen with tables outside. - schools have reopened. shops will reopen by. the end of the month. so the feeling is that, slowly but surely, we are getting i towards a new normal — but you are right, - the situation is still serious. the third wave, especially with the english variant i at the beginning, and now with all these other- variants, still posesl a big, big challenge. but vaccinations are catching up. and in france, of course, the situation is much worse. 6,000 people in intensive care this week. that's the worst figure since the same time last year and clearly the situation is not yet improving in france.
henry, how does it look in the americas? i'm thinking in particular of the country you report from, the united states, for the la times, but also in brazil, the other big country that has had a pretty rough time. and where i was actually posted in rio de janeiro myself, as a correspondent, i wasjust in brazil last year right before all of this broke. starting with the us. you know, there is a fairly successful vaccine roll—out happening there and that has led to unfortunately some complacency, so although there had been a really promising drop in the number of infections across the us, we now see that either levelling off or even now going again and there are hotspots like the state of michigan, which is actually quite a bad way at the moment. and so we've talked about vaccine hesitancy, vaccine diplomacy, and now there is vaccine complacency. you know, the idea that suddenly we are protected and the reopenings can happen willy—nilly. so the us still has to be vigilant about it. now they are nothing, though, compared to brazil, which i think is a basket case
at the moment under bolsonaro's policy of essentially denying that this is a problem, with a callousness that is almost breathtaking. i thinkjust last week, when somebody pointed out that more than 4,000 or 5,000 people were dying a day, he said there is no use crying over spilt milk. and that is a lot of milk, isn't it? i was looking at the figures. the first week of april, 11% of the infections worldwide were in brazil, and 26% of the deaths. it's quite frightening and unfortunately he still has a base of support that will go along with him. he's not in danger of being impeached, which is what happened to dilma rousseff, the former left—wing president. what is also being recognised now, though, is that this is notjust a national tragedy, this is now an international threat because you have a brazil variant of the virus that can potentially be more lethal, more transmissible, and without it being damped down in any decent way within brazil, it's going to spread around the world, and so i think brazil, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be going in a direction that
any of us looking at it medically, orjust the pure data of who is going into hospital and how many people are dying, can say is an upward trajectory. and what about the us? us, as i mentioned before, is actually on an upward path in general. they have to be careful not to become complacent that the vaccinations are going well, but my own state, california, has been cautiously reopening even though it had a bad patch over the christmas break and thereafter. with the vaccines picking up, the economy is picking up, and i think things are actually looking fairly well in the us overall. there is that move to get the governor out of office, isn't there, because of him being spotted having a meal with friends in a restaurant? it didn't send the right signal somehow. a very expensive restaurant. a very expensive restaurant! lyse, there is a danger, isn't there, because the us is still at the top when you are talking in absolute numbers. it's perhaps not fair to compare big countries with big populations and small countries with small populations without talking
about the share or percentage of people who are ill. but india is the big country and its share of people who are ill is really high. sharp intake of breath. we're talking about a country of 1.4 billion people. the descriptions that are coming out of india now is a tsunami of cases. phenomenal increase of cases. 200,000 cases a day. over a period of ten days, millions more cases. the hospitals are full, the morgues are full. look, we heard about italy and the united states. what happened was after november we all relaxed, complacency. "0h, we've beat it." so the shops opened up, the markets opened up. and india went a step further. it had elections, boisterous packed rallies, it had festivals like holi and kumbh mela. it's still having kumbh mela, even though 1,700 people tested positive in the testing that they did. india is now beginning to lock down a bit more and the scientists are beginning to say, well,
why is this happening? the dangerous part of this is that there is a double mutation in the indian variant, and some cases are being spotted in britain. so, again, back to that mantra that we've heard time and again. no—one is safe until everyone is safe. there are some real alarm bells ringing in india. they are starting to take measures and probably will do it, and they of course are a country which is manufacturing vaccines. they've vaccinated about 100 million people, but they've got a long way to go. talk of vaccines takes us to cuba. it's almost 60 years since moscow and washington faced off over soviet missiles on the island. khrushchev and kennedy are long gone but there has been a castro in charge in havana since the revolution of 1959. until this weekend, that is. friday evening, local time in havana, we had this announcement at the five—yearly party conference, henry, that raul castro, the younger brother of fidel castro — i say younger brother, he's 90 now, so he was still his younger brother —
but obviously fidel died five years ago. his younger brother is stepping aside. five years ago he said we are all too old, we need a new generation. finally at the new generation is going to take charge. is that going to change, do you think, the importance of cuba in your country, in a state like florida, where it still seems to matter in elections? yeah. it is hard to imagine not having the words castro and cuba in the same sentence. particularly for the us and in florida, as you say, where, for such a small island it wields an outsized influence in terms of its effects on our politics. i think that wooing that president trump did of the cuban—american community particularly really helped him win florida again in the presidential election in 2020. and because of that importance in terms of their electoral clout in what is one of the most important states for any presidential candidate to win, cuba will remain an important part of any candidate's and any president's calculation in what he does. now biden, when he was vice president to 0bama,
was part of the the baby steps that the 0bama administration took to try to open up and be a bit more emollient towards cuba, and trump reversed all that. i don't think biden is going to rush back in to do exactly what happened before, when he was vice president to 0bama. he will still take it a little bit carefully but once raul castro is no longer actually in charge, it remains to be seen whether those who are still the leaders of the communist party, which is what it's called, will start doing the reforms that even they themselves several years ago said that they would do. they are only finally pulling the trigger on those so let's see how that works and if that affects how cuban—americans in florida feel about the regime. annalisa, there was a time when the european left, in the 19705, saw cuba as a great romance, castro as a great hero. i've lost count the number of che guevara t—shirts i used to see when i was growing up in the �*70s and �*80s in the uk alone. now, is it looked at
rather differently — are they still heroes, or is there a sense that the revolutionaries became the dictators, like daniel 0rtega in nicaragua and so fidel castro in cuba, that the romance is dead? well, i guess that in reality, i yes, it's dead, but you cannot take away your youth's best memories _ i mean, the sounds and - the t—shirts with che guevara or the songs about fidel castro _ i mean, they will always belong to that period i of idealism and utopia, so i think— they will not change. but i bet that you will find it. hard to find anyone who thinks that cuba today is a model of a good government. - so i think that's long gone. lyse... not the songs and t—shirts! no, they will still be sold and they will still be sung, certainly on those long balmy nights in havana — maybe the old boys and girls will still be meeting
even if they are no longer in power. i'd like to ask you a question, shaun, about cuba and your romantic attachment. too young. i'm too young, you see. iamjust... like annalisa, i'm a child of the �*60s but i wasn't a student of the �*60s. ijust wondered, though, on a serious point, i mentioned vaccine, lyse. this was always castro's great ambition, that pharma was going to be, and it never happened. i mean, was cuba ever really built for the kind of identity it wanted once, you know, the soviet subsidies stopped, the venezuelan subsidies became much more unreliable? the independent cuba and still the terrible human rights record. well, you know, we were talking about health issues. cuba still is praised for its health system. but in others it is falling short, and most of all falling short its own people. in fact, talk about the cuban model, which was modelled on the soviet, is now more soviet than the soviet union, which is of course no more. and obviously you started by talking about the changing of the guard, the face of cuba, but castro is dead, long live castro. the reforms of the economy has been very, very cautious.
they've opened up social media, which means that there's more freedom of expression. from what we understand is that these very important meetings this weekend, they will be discussing about how to open up without losing control. and just on that point, it's worth quoting something that the economist mentioned in a recent article. this is from a state newspaper headline. dealing with the covid crisis, it said, "capitalism results in superfluous health care and socialism delivers it in just the right dose." so some things don't change — castro or no castro. that's it for dateline london. my thanks to lyse doucet, annalisa piras, and henry chu. thank you for watching. we are back next weekend. goodbye.
hello. there's a lot of dry weather in the forecast not only for the rest of the day but also through the week ahead. we started off in england and wales on a chilly note, but with some beautiful spring sunshine and it's quite pleasant out there now. it does look as though the beginning of this week will be a bit warmer than last week because of the wind direction, but the wind changes once again. noticeably cooler from midweek, and that means we could see a return to more significant night—time frosts. there is some rain around, that said, as you can see across parts of western scotland, out of northern ireland into the isle of man. that is just bringing more cloud into western fringes of wales and south—west england as well. but for the remainder of the day, the further east you go, dry, settled and sunny with a light breeze and temperatures will respond. we could see into the middle of the afternoon highs of 15 or 16. a bit cooler into the far north under the cloud, a bit more of a breeze here and staying quite
murky to higher ground. that weather front will retreat a little bit further north and west overnight, but it's still sitting out in the atlantic. it's still going to continue to bring quite a lot of cloud into the far north—west. here it will stay mild through the night. we can draw in more low cloud and fog through the vale of york down into lincolnshire perhaps, and into north norfolk as well. not as cold a start as previous mornings. we'll keep those temperatures perhaps up just above freezing. so, on monday, a largely dry story to begin with. that fog will burn back to the north sea, a good deal of sunshine coming through. cloudy with light patchy rain into the western isles and maybe to the west of northern ireland, here a bit of a nuisance, but in terms of the feel of things, maybe 17 an expected high. it looks likely, as we move out of monday into tuesday, that this area of high pressure is going to build in from the atlantic and drift steadily eastwards.
that will push and weaken the weather front considerably, but more importantly it means a change of wind direction. more of a northerly flow, which will drag the slightly cooler air across the country, and that will mean a change to the feel of the weather. particularly on those exposed east coasts, cooler with the breeze coming in off the sea. take care.
this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. the two russian men suspected of carrying out the salisbury nerve agent attack three years ago are being sought by police in the czech republic. a in the past, until quite recently, they were reticent about picking a fight with moscow and it is quite interesting having then pivoted. a senior conservative mp warns borisjohnson he'll lose the support of the so—called �*red wall�* voters in former labour, unless he resolves the row about lobbying. a day of refelection for members of the royal family, after the queen and the nation bid farewell to the duke of edinburgh. china and the us commit to working together and with other countries on tackling climate change.