Axios (2018) s04e01 Episode Script

Season 4, Episode 1

Volodymyr Zelensky / a conversation with the president of Ukraine Axios headquarters ARLINGTON, VA Jonathan, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.
He was a comedian, elected president, played a huge outsize role in American politics because he was on the other end of President Trump's "perfect phone call.
" This couldn't really have been more of a disaster.
He, like every Ukrainian leader, the essential task is to build a really good relationship with the US.
Ukraine relies on America for support.
And so Zelensky, he gets dragged into an impeachment scandal.
He wants to use this interview to reset the U.
-Ukraine relationship.
And what's the signal he wants to send the new president? "We need your help to confront Russia.
He needs American skin in the game.
And Ukraine could wind up being the linchpin for war or peace in Europe.
Well, the only hot war in Europe right now.
We forget this.
Now, it's cooled down a little bit.
But the fact is 14,000 people have died and Russia still occupies huge chunks of Ukraine.
And there's this real tension inside Ukraine between the pro-Russian authoritarian forces and the pro-democracy forces.
If I'm watching this in Georgia, or Arizona, or Michigan, why do I care? Ukraine has been a laboratory for Putin's nefarious activities.
If you care about the fact that Russia intervened in our elections, well, before they did that, they meddled in Ukrainian elections.
Their cyber warfare tactics are often perfected inside Ukraine.
And then these weapons turn up in America.
We've just seen a massive cyber hack of our government.
Here's the thing.
What happens in Ukraine doesn't stay in Ukraine.
Kyiv, Ukraine Presidential Administration Building No, I'm hearing Ukrainian in my ear.
I can hear you.
Yeah, but you're definitely not speaking my language.
Got it.
So, Mr.
President, we're meeting here three days after a new administration was sworn in in the United States.
What would you say to Joe Biden if he was sitting right here? My congratulations, first of all.
I sincerely wish him success with all of the challenges he is going to face.
As for Ukraine, I would like for us to enter a new phase, go on a new path.
President Biden said that he cares and will continue caring and working on the security of Europe.
That's of the utmost importance because security in Europe, this is us.
There is the war in the east of Ukraine.
There is the aggression by the Russian Federation, the annexation of Crimea.
So I would wish for the United States of America and specifically President Biden, who is very familiar with Ukraine, to help us exit this truly tragic situation.
What is that thing that you need from the United States? Speaking frankly, not just as the president of Ukraine but as a Ukrainian citizen, I want to ask him this.
We are grateful for everything.
But if we the Ukrainians, Ukraine wanting to be an equal member of the alliance, an equal member of NATO.
This is one of the most important points of security, the same security that President Biden is speaking about.
So then I have a very simple question.
President, why we are not in NATO yet? Do I understand you correctly: If Ukraine is not allowed into NATO, then there's no way of getting Russia out of your country? If Ukraine had been a NATO member, there would have been no escalation in the east, in the Donbass region.
They would have to defend you.
Yes, and rightly so because we are now defending Europe.
Be that as it may, we are grateful to Europe for their help, for the sanctions.
We are grateful to the United States.
Sanctions are important, but you cannot restore human lives using sanctions.
One of the big obstacles to peace is Vladimir Putin.
Putin sees Ukraine as part of Russia.
He's spent a lot of blood and treasure invading your country and taking this territory.
What is actually gonna get him out? I think if anyone knew 100% how to do this, that person would have done it.
The war is in its seventh year now.
But there are certain steps.
First, unification.
The unity of people all over the world who will begin to put pressure on the person or on the policies of those who do not respect international law and international order.
I feel empathy for your situation.
You weren't the president in 2014, okay? So this didn't happen when you were there.
But the U.
, frankly the previous administration, they did little things around the edge, but they didn't even send weapons.
And this was the Obama-Biden administration.
Joe Biden was the point person for Ukraine.
When they really needed to have your back, they didn't.
And what I want to know is: What do you say to them to persuade them to actually put their skin in the game to help you? They have to understand that this is Ukraine now.
But who will be next? This is a provocation.
Tomorrow, it could be anyone, any country, any European country.
It could be the United States.
You see, we are talking not just about an armed invasion, like what is happening in Ukraine.
What we are facing now is an information war.
The United States is one of the most vivid examples of how this can happen.
We forget, but for a long time now information weapons are more powerful than nuclear ones.
For example, what happened in Donbass, during the first stage.
No weapons were involved.
The first stage was about information.
Unfortunately for many Americans, when they hear your name, what comes to mind is that phone call with Donald Trump and the impeachment of Donald Trump.
They wonder what was going on for you.
What was going through your head? Honestly, the main thing I read when my name appears in different media outlets, I read that Trump put pressure.
Pressure? Well, I was very offended to hear this.
Why? Because I am the president of Ukraine.
We may be smaller than the United States, but we are an independent Ukraine.
We proved this to Russia when we kept our territory.
We continue to prove that we are an independent country.
This is why he did not "pressure" me.
I will never say that.
There was one unpleasant thing.
Until now, I have not spoken about this.
The publishing of our conversation, I think this is very wrong.
And it was not Ukraine who made it public.
I would never let that happen.
I think no matter what we talked about, this conversation was the first serious conversation between two presidents, between strategic partners.
And in any case, neither of us had the right to make such things public because these are personal things.
Sure, we do not belong to ourselves because we are presidents who were chosen by our people.
But I believe this simply should not have happened.
I believe that was wrong.
I can see you're angry with President Trump.
Maybe a little bit, huh? A little bit.
You must have been thinking, "What in god's name is happening here?" Jonathan, honestly, I didn't see it like that.
For me, the most important thing was to preserve our relationship.
For me, it was most important to hear we as countries support each other.
I've been thinking about the challenge that you're facing with COVID-19 and with the vaccine.
And it seems to me that the situation with Ukraine trying to get a vaccine is like a microcosm of the awful situation you often find yourself in.
You turn to the United States, your great ally, you say, "Can we have a vaccine?" and they say, you know, "Bottom of the queue.
" Then Russia says, "Oh, come in.
Have our vaccine.
" But we don't know if their vaccine is safe.
So you had to turn to China.
Help me understand how this painful process has shaped your view of Ukraine's allies.
There are several emotions about the global vaccination campaign.
The fact that Ukraine is not an equal member of the EU or the world was confirmed by the terms for vaccinations.
We are not a priority for the countries that are receiving the vaccine now, like other countries are.
The countries of the European Union, the ones we have wonderful relationships with, I did approach their leaders and they said they would help little by little from their own supply of vaccines.
This would be difficult to explain to their people, I understand, but they will little by little give some to us.
But it is unpleasant to feel that you are standing there with your hand out.
In the United States, there's a big concern, bipartisan emerging consensus, that China is the number one geopolitical threat.
Do you agree with that assessment? I cannot agree with that because we do not feel this in Ukraine.
You don't feel China's a threat? I believe there are many different potential threats from powerful states because any powerful state sees itself as an empire.
And when a state becomes an empire, it sees only itself.
There really is a sort of cold war between China and the United States.
We know United States business is represented in Ukraine.
But at the same time, it's true that Chinese business is also represented.
I believe that regardless of nation or nationality, if people, if business, if a certain country treats you with respect, respecting your people and borders, they can be present in your country.
On January 6th President Trump held a rally and he incited his supporters to storm the United States Capitol to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
I've been thinking about how you must have seen it.
How did you feel when you watched that happen in the United States? We were very shocked.
I was very surprised.
I could not imagine that something like this was possible in the United States of America.
I believe this was a strong blow to democracy of the United States.
We are used to seeing in books, in films, in television.
We are used to believing the US has the ideal democratic institutions, where power is transferred calmly without war, without revolutions.
Power is passed from one presidency to another.
We saw it in Ukraine.
In Ukraine, we lived through two revolutions.
We saw it.
We understood such things can happen in the world.
But that it could happen in the United States, no one expected that.
And this says that not everything is ideal.
I remember when I was a young person and the entire world watched when September 11th happened.
We all remember this.
It was some kind of horror.
We watched, and you believe it and cannot believe it at the same time, that in the United States where security is always at such a high level that something like that can happen.
It sounds like you were profoundly disturbed watching this.
I was very worried.
I was very worried.
I did not want you to have a coup, shooting, and god forbid loss of life.
It is just that after something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the United States as a symbol of democracy in the world.
President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani met Andriy Derkach who the United States government has since labeled as a Russian agent.
Would you be willing to cooperate or to assist in the federal investigation of Rudy Giuliani in relation to his dealings with Russian agents in Ukraine? - I'm afraid as president I cannot.
- No, your administration.
If they ask for your assistance, if the Southern District of New York said We are ready to help.
We are ready to help.
Our position is very firm and productive.
We are ready to help the United States obtain the truth and the results in this case.
Because for us, this is also very, very important.
I want to ask the same question.
There's a federal investigation into Hunter Biden in relation to his dealings in the Ukraine.
Would you be willing to assist with that investigation if your administration is asked? The criminal authorities, the prosecutors' offices, and any other agencies of any countries can work together.
I believe that is normal.
Finally, Mr.
President, we've covered a lotta ground, but I wanted to give you an opportunity if there's something that you really want to say.
I really want the people of the United States of America to understand that Ukraine is having a difficult time, to understand that Ukraine is strong, to understand I want to say once again.
We see our future with a strong democratic European mindset, to understand the labeling of Ukraine as a corrupt country, that is not at all how it is.
Yes, corruption exists.
We are fighting it.
We will defeat it.
I know Ukraine is changing every day.
And frankly, if we did not spend so much time and money on the war in the east, Ukraine would make big leaps forward.
- Thank you so much, Mr.
President - Thank you.
Great pleasure.
And wish good health for all Americans.
We really appreciate it.
Thank you so much.
Game changer / the president of the Washington Football FedEx Field LANDOVER, MD Hey Jim.
Let's go do one of these.
How are you? - Pleasure to meet you.
- You too.
Thank you for doin' it.
So you're the president of the Washington Football Team.
Still getting used to that part.
You're 38 years old.
So you're the youngest president of a football team in the NFL.
You're the first Black president.
Kind of a slacker, huh? None of those things were in my mind when I took this role.
It was the opportunity to do something special for this fan base and a franchise that was at a transition point.
Everything that's not on the football team you're the CEO of.
- You're the CEO of it as a business.
- It's the right way to think about it.
Coach Rivera handles everything that's between those hash marks and on that sideline.
Everything off of that is what I oversee and manage.
You were a player.
Then you went to business school.
Then you were a McKinsey man.
McKinsey is a consulting firm.
Yep, don't hold it against me.
I loved it.
I think it's a wonderful place.
Then you come here.
What is the most surprising, difficult part of the job? What is it that you're like, "I did not expect it to be this hard"? One of the harder transitions for me mentally was going from someone who's a player for seven years, almost a decade, and who's an analytic thinker.
But now, my job is to help steward this franchise on behalf of a fan base that is deeply, passionately emotionally invested at the heart and gut level.
With Donald Trump gone, you probably work for the most despised man in Washington, Daniel Snyder, who's the owner.
Why do you think people seem to hate him so much? I don't know.
My experience with Dan has been incredibly positive.
One of the things we're celebrating is the diverse leadership we've brought in and what that represents at this moment and this time.
And people are talking about that substantially.
On the business side, I've turned over 90% of my senior business staff.
We've brought in women.
We've brought in people of color.
Not just for those purposes but because we know if we have a diverse team, we actually get to better outcomes.
One of the raps on the team, one of the raps on Snyder has been the allegations of sexual harassment both the environment here, which is cultural, and with him specifically.
Yeah, when I did my due diligence at the beginning, what I heard from everybody around the organization was a dogged commitment to creating a culture that did not have that and putting everything in place that was needed to move forward.
And I haven't been hindered, not one bit.
Let's talk about the name, the Washington Football Team.
- Come on.
That's weird, right? - I don't think it's that weird.
But it's definitely mixed views on this.
I think the thinking prior was, "Hey, we need to get something that can be a great placeholder.
" But there's also precedent for a team that is named after the place it's in.
Did you consider the Redskin name racist, when there was a big debate going? I come from this bubble that definitely had that that mindset.
"This is obviously a derogatory term.
" I had the analogies in my head of what it would be for me as a Black person.
I had all that stuff.
And that was the broad narrative.
As I jumped into this role, I found out that the debate of folks closer to it was much more nuanced than that.
I think everybody can agree the right thing is to move forward into a new name, brand, and identity that captures the best parts of our history and allows us to innovate and move into the future.
You were a player.
Now, you're a president.
Is there systemic racism in the NFL? I see systemic racism, systemic gender bias systemic bias of all sorts as just a bit of the air we breathe in society.
So it's a little bit of, "Does it exist period?" Yes.
- Therefore, it exists everywhere.
- Is it more profound? I think it is more obvious because 70% of the men on the field are Black men.
Right? So I think just the optics of it are different.
In your role as president of the Washington Football Team, do you still feel like you're experiencing racism in the capacity of running the team? I think the way that I've experienced racial bias, which is I guess my preferred term, is something that I've experienced ever since sort of through high school, college, and definitely in my professional career.
When you have any moment of accomplishment, accolade, appointment, the first question in people's minds is, "Is this tokenism? Is this a PR stunt? Do they deserve it?" And that is an additional burden that sits on people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people that doesn't exist on other folks.
It always pops up.
No matter what the track record was before.
As a result you carry that with you.
It's something that every Black professional experiences at some level.
You obviously want to be in this job for a long time.
So you probably think about the longevity of the NFL.
It seems like watching it from afar, it's like a great job to have when you have it, right? You're a star.
Everyone loves you.
Everyone's rootin' for you.
For a lot of people, it seems like it sucks when you're done.
The financial stress, the brain damage.
It's hard.
How worried are you that football might not even be around ten years from now? I think football will be here.
Football is enduring.
Football is in the lifeblood of this country.
It is the place, again, where a true cross-section of America comes together to cheer.
There is something that's deep in our spirits and our psyche around this game, so I don't think it's going anywhere.
It's a matter of us collectively continuing to be good stewards of the game.
Well, Jason, I appreciate it.
Thank you for joining Axios on HBO.
And thank you for bringing us to the Washington Football Team stadium.
- Our version of the Frozen Tundra.
- Now, go change that weird name.
It's my pleasure, Jim.
- I will show you.
- Looks like a trap door.
Here we go.
Who have you hosted in this room? Many.
Many, yes.
I think Pompeo was here.
- Kurt Volker? - Yes, Volker was here many times.
It's very cool.
- Center of Presidents.
- Very good.
Here it is written.
Ambassador of USA, she was the first guest.
We saw your inauguration of President Biden here.
Oh, so this is where you watched the inauguration? - Yes.
- Oh, nice.
- Will you maybe do a second term? - We'll see.
- I know you said only one, but - We'll see.
Yes, I said only one.
You can change though.

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