tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera September 29, 2015 5:30am-6:01am EDT
bulletin. but all our stories which are updated all the time can be found by logging on to our website, you can see our lead story there on afghanistan, what is happening in kunduz, thanks for watching, the address al jazeera.com. i'm ali velshi. "on target" tonight, stranger bed fellows. like it or not, america might need russia to defeat i.s.i.l. even with an oppressive regime. a man who knows all too well when you cross the kremlin. world leaders have descended on new york to address the united nations general assembly. it is an annual event of pomp, for a body that too often fails if its main mission, secure the
peace. on the syrian civil war, president obama clashed with his russian counterpart vladimir putin, who attended the opening of the u.n. general assembly for the first time in ten years. the russian president called it an enormous mistake to overthrow the government of bashar al-assad, and cooperation with the syrian regime to defeat i.s.i.l. which he called one of the biggest threats threatening the world. russian leadership accountable for the fighting in ukraine and the military buildup in syria and in a not so subtle twiep at swipe at putin, on the subject, of russia's human rights i want to tell you a story you may not know of a highly successful
investor in russia, bill browder he was listed as an enemy of the state by the russian authorities. obviously, the russian authorities are extremely angry with me. i think they'd love to kill me the they got away with it. >> a kid born in the south side of chicago winds up being at the center of a russian scandal. his lawyer dead and a warrant for his arrest. in the early 90s, bill browder began one of the biggest hedge funds to invest in russian. his company hermitage company, made billions of dollars. but by 1998, proved difficult. >> certainly it is a crisis in the economy.
>> russia was in the brink of a financial collapse. he defaulted. his company shrank to almost nothing, took control of the economy the russian oligarchs. >> took on a campaign of stealing. >> browder didn't abandon the country he fought back. he formed a team for sole purpose to expose the oligarchs to the rest of the world. his plan was success. >> as a result the share prices went up. >> but browder's plan brought him into the cross hairs of a man who previously supported his efforts, vladimir putin. the hunter became the hunted. >> i had $4 billion invested in the country at the time.
>> things unraveled quickly. browder was denied reentry into the country, a place he had lived in for years. charged hermitage capital with tax fraud. most of browder's team fled russia except for his tax attorney sergei magnitski, he was taken from his home and jailed for over 400 days and then things turned tragic. >> they chained him to a bed and bead him until he died. >> the story doesn't end there. coming up how bill browder struck back in his own words.
successful investor in russia but then he got kicked out of russia and his attorney was arrested. magnitsky died in 2009. i talked to browder about the guilt he feels over someone who was defending him. >> i thought to myself, how do we get justice outside russia? if something like this happens there are no mechanisms much international justice. the best thing you can do is go to the state department and if they're willing they will write a sentence or maybe two sentences in a report to say they're not so happy about how russia based in this situation. >> and ey ironically they werent so happy to help you when you >> yep. >> president obama had been elected and part of his platform of what he wanted to do with the world was this reset with russia.
>> so i relooked at this crime and i said to myself this is not a crime of ideology, this is not a crime of religion, this is crime of money. they killed sergei magnitsky to steal $230 million. those folks who stole $230 million, they don't keep it in russia. as easteesly as they stole it, someone could steal from them. thee keep it in london, new york, germany. it became obvious to me they steal in russia and keep their money in the west. i went to washington after sergei was killed and i went to two senators, senator ben kardon, and a senator from maine. i told them the story i just told you here now and i said can they take away their visas and freeze their assets and make a law and they said yes.
and so they came up, and this was one of the few things in a polarized washington that the democrats and the republicans could agree on and they came up with something called the mag any 60 act named after sergei magnitsky my lawyer who was killed. october of 2010 they introduced it to congress and it was very interesting because right afterwards, their phone lines lit up. they were getting telephone calls from many, many russian victims of other crimes. and those people said, you know, the -- can you sanction the person that killed my father, you know can you sanction the person that killed my husband my sister my brother? and they realized that they were onto something much bigger than just sergei magnitsky. they found the achilles heel of the putin regime.
after about ten of these calls they said, this has got to be bigger than sergei magnitsky. they added 60 words to the law, to sanction other serial abusers. >> in december of 2012, vladimir putin held a press conference, in which again, it came up again, sergei magnitsky, reporters asked him about it and he said magnitsky was not tortured, he died of a heart attack, in addition, he was not a human rights activist, he was an attorney for mr. browder. you had made u yourself into public enemy number 1 in russia. >> in 2012 --
>> you think a little grudgingly? >> they tried you in court along with sergei magnitsky, who was dead. >> this has never happened in the history of russia. russia had a terrible history. even stanle stalin didn't try dd people. but he wanted to defame sergei magnitsky. they put him on trial, found him guilty, found me guilty, put me in jail in absentia for nine years. >> i'm talking to a man
>> now shocking as it is, bill browder's story isn't unique. human rights watch says it's not shacking. vladimir putin addressed the u.n. general assembly and using offense as the best defense, saying ig sanctions eliminate competition. the invasion of eastern ukraine, the country's human rights record and now, putin's support of bashar al-assad. russian studies history and politics at nyu and princeton and i understand not a fan of bill browder's story. >> i don't know what you're doing, i really don't. you ask me to come down here and talk about what might be the greatest international crisis of our time maybe the most monumental decision that president obama and other world leaders have to decide about i.s.i.s. and
you begin with something called the enemy of russia, bill browder. >> you know the story of browder. he couldn't have made it up. >> it is a very old story. why would you want to link it to putin at the u.n? >> i need to -- you don't understand. if you think that what browder said characterizes the leadership of putin you don't. so let me knit the two -- >> hang on a second. it sort of does. you do know who you're dealing with right? if russia if vladimir putin has been on the take with some of these oligarchs and that's how he makes his decisions, this administration had to decide it wanted a reset with russia. >> yes. this is an administration that says it wanted to do more business with russia when they came into office.
the event events, tell me where i'm wrong because you have studied this. you saw them clinking grasses, america around russia have got to do business together. i don't think the two stories are connected. >> you have certainly connected them. you decide about whether you've handled this properly and i've been doing television for many, many years and what did you with this browder story leading with it over what's going on at the u.n. is to say the least unusual. >> okay. >> here is the situation. the greatest evil in the world today is the islamic state, it's contagious it's on the move it's occupying large parts of iraq and syria. nothing can stop it. it's threatening europe, millions of refugees will be there soon. it's destabilizing the middle east, direct threat to american national security, direct threat to russia's national security. so despite all their distaste
inform each other. putin and obama decided to talk about a grand coalition against i.s.i.s. each has to decide but whether you know it or not despite all this nonsense about having isolated putin and turn him into a pariah, putin has been very busy on the world scene. when he arrived at the u.n. he had already assembled a coalition against the islamic state, syria, iran, iraq -- >> if you don't like the bill browder story you can't deny that it's true, that vladimir putin heads a government that has human rights problems. that was the connection. i don't think it's unfair to talk about that. >> saudi arabia has a problem -- >> saudi arabia has a panel on human rights committee at the united nations. it is really quite remarkable. i'll have the saudi ambassador to answer that. >> the point here is, is that
whether or not this coalition is formed, and the coalition has left the station, putin's put it together. so essentially what obama has to decide is whether he wants to get on the caboose. the train has left the station. they are deciding that in their talks and what follows. they are not telling us what exactly they said. bear in mind, far more important bill browder who applies on -- >> tortured and killed by russian authorities, steve why do you have a problem with -- do you doubt bill browder do you doubt sergei magnitsky was killed? >> the way we do journalism is we don't put on one man who is selling a book to tell his story without another point of view. i know the magnitsky case far better than you do. he died in prison in horrible yes.
>> at the hands of russian officials. he was charged and tried as a dead man. when is the last time you heard that happen? a dead person tried in court? what's wrong with saying russians don't do everything right? maybe they do some things right? why are you defending this this way? are you deebd cefnedding actions -- defending objections against sergei magnitsky, not bringing this story to the american people? >> this is absolutely preposterous. we're talking about the greatest crisis in the world. >> why are you -- >> you haven't given me the chance. >> you came in and told me it's preposterous to talk about bill browder and sergei magnitsky. >> your priorities aren't right either in terms of what's in stake in the world today or what's news. to finish the point if you want to know the bigger picture and
you care about the national security of the united states at least that. footnote yes i care that magnitsky died in prison. >> at the hands of the russians, the russians held him and killed him. >> if you die in a prison you die in the hands of the authorities in the country. do you know how many have died in prison in the united states? >> they weren't beaten to death. >> you know that? >> wait a minute you're telling me-z are internobody is beaten to death at rykers island? >> we have a case of somebody being beaten to death in a russian prison. we can accept that the russians did something to magnitsky and then the value that the russians -- >> i doubt this is going to make air. >> it is all going to make air. >> we can argue. if i can get my point out. >> go ahead. >> if you really want to talk about bill browder, that what i know about browder that you
don't know, i'll leave you with one question, how did anybody a russian american in particular make as you put it billions of dollars in lawless murderous illegal russia in the 1990s? >> because they were privatizing and every russian got a voucher that was part of the privatization -- >> i wrote a book about it. i know about it. i fear from what you just said you don't know about it. we can have a separate discussion about privatization in the 1990s. >> did russians not have the opportunity to buy pieces of government owned companies that were being made private? >> it was a scheme and the wealth of the country fell into the hands of a handful of insiders, browder willy-nilly unwilling of that, you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. to attempt to white wash his career in russia. >> including the death of his lawyer. >> the lawyer was not the only one they killed.
they killed a lot of people. >> i disagree with you. >> you know how many have been assassinated in russian? >> this is not a discussion about bill browder, it's a discussion about russia and eastern ukraine. >> let me make my point and we can quit, it's your show. i got to let you go with what you want. back for a moment to the u.n. unfortunately, speaking as an american patriot and not as a defender of russia, i object to you saying -- you said why are you defending the death of magnitsky. >> you keep going back to it. >> magnitsky died in horrible circumstances in a russian prison. are you asking me if i defend that really? you're asking if me if i defend that? >> i'm asking you if you discount it. >> it's an insult. you talk about it. can we go to the real point? >> yes. >> alas, that means
unfortunately for those people who -- it's a word alas, two of president obama's fundamental policies have failed. and it's not that i'm saying so, the obama administration is admitting it. one was the attempt to destroy militarily the islamic state. they've been testifying in congress it's been a failure. the other was, to use president obama's own words, about 16 months ago, to isolate putin's russia. both policies have failed. how do we know that? because when president obama agreed to meet putin or putin agreed to meet obama, today, it was a recognition on the part of the white house that both policies have failed. now, putin says he has a solution to the islamic state problem. which is what we should be discussing. is it a plausible solution? we don't know for sure what they said between each other. >> right. >> but assuming that obama knows
his policy has failed and he now need putin for the second time in two years in syria, you remember the chemical gas thing. one assumes that they are doing some cooperation. leaders at that level never tell us fully what they really said to each other. both are vulnerable at home politically. but when putin said today at the u.n. think in terms of the world war ii alliance against hitler. we might reasonably ask ourselves instead of thinking about mr. browder, could roosevelt and churchill unite with sant stalin who is no kind of putin, to defeat the i.s.i.s. state. obama's enemies and the people who have demonized putin as browder has been doing will accuse obama of appeasement.
keep in mind what's at stake, keep in mind failed american policies and keep in mind that the islamic state is a grave menace to russia. >> that's why i brought you on the show there will be people who will demonize russian and china and cuba, and we vo to have a discussion about engaging with these countries is better than not engaging with these countries. >> we could turn this into a saturday night live skit. are you saying that maybe if obama isn't careful, putin will kill him in a prison? what's the link? >> you say russia. >> the link? >> russia we're dealing with a regime that doesn't always do the right things. and one could argue that united states doesn't always do the right things. there is a deal with iran, they
kill more people per capita, that's the reason i invited you but you're so steamed about bill browder. >> you know what i'm really steamed about? it's unfair. you bush whacked me. i talked to your prowzers and all we talked about is u.n. syria, russia and putin. >> we're talking about syria we're talking about terrorism we're talking about ukraine, we're talking about nawght russia proxies. that's what i wanted to talk to you about. you came in here so mad about bill browder.. >> i wasn't angry about -- >> you are an expert about bulgaria estonia latvia, lithuania. >> ukraine didn't want to -- >> wants to join nato.
>> you said it wanted to, now it wants to it matters to historians when you are talking about. >> whether or not that pushes russia into a situation, that's what i booked you to talk about. my producer didn't lie to you. >> i'm not mad about browder. what do we do? >> let me ask you that question. if you are russia all of those countries that were in your sphere of influence during the soviet days are now in the western sphere of influence. so russia some argue feels backed up and needs to act aggressively and did so in ukraine. how do we deal with that? they have played that argument. i believe the argument that they're a coiled spring. >> in the english language there are these two concepts of leadership. one is proactive which would be aggressive and one is reactive which means you've just shoved me, i fall back, come back and i shove you back. my view
of putin both as a russian historianen in studying russia and from the perspective of studying american national security is that we've pushed pushed pushed and finally he pushed back. let me give you a footnote to that. in moscow which i visit not as often as in the past but i still visit, there are influential ultra-nationals who believe that today, in private talks with obama, putin sold out ukraine. in return for europe, for syria. they don't trust him and why don't they trust him? they think he's too pro-western. and why do they think he's too pro-western? because he never strikes first. he is a counter-puncher, if you want to put in that language. they don't think he's a fit leader for today. analytically that's not in my language. as obama is going back to washington and we're going to appease putin, the monster the
guy who killed magnitsky how can you do this, putin is going to say what did you sell out our comrades in d unbasse. >> i'll leave you with the tease, coming up i'm talking to a man who needs rudd too much to tak russia too muchto take a stand. >> it's clear, pay you the ultimate compliment. this was almost as much fun as hang out with putin. >> stephen cohen, good to talk to you. thank you for hang out with us, as always. this is our show, i'm ali velshi.
♪ >> announcer: this is al jazeera. ♪ welcome to the news hour, i'm sammy in doha and taliban fighters raise the flag in the center and the government sent in special forces to retake the city. u.n. condemned air strikes that reportedly killed up to 135 people at a wedding in yemen. typhoon makes landfall in eastern china, causing chaos in taiwan and life on mars could