where women have been told that from next year they will be able to drive. king salman issued an order allowing women to be given driving licences. saudi arabia is the only country in the world where it is forbidden. an active volcano on the holiday island of bali has entered a critical phase, and an eruption could be imminent. 75,000 people have left the area surrounding mount agung. and this story is trending on bbc.com: a shopping list created by an indian woman to help her husband with their weekly food shop has gone viral. it is full of instructions and little illustrations showing what to look for. era golwalkar‘s list has struck a chord with thousands of social media users. that is all from me now. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news, it is time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur.
relations between the us and russia are at a post—cold war low point, filled with mistrust, unpredictability and potential danger. in washington, there's a president whose mixed messages tie his own staff in knots. meanwhile, in moscow there's a president who seems intent on exploiting western division. my guest today is konstantin kosachev, chairman of the russian senate's foreign affairs committee and an influential russian voice on foreign affairs. does russia see opportunity in diplomatic chaos? konstantin kosachev, in moscow, welcome to hardtalk.
thank you. you have been a diplomat and an experienced observer of international affairs since the 1980s. can you ever remember a time when the russia—us relationship was more dysfunctional, more unpredictable? well, i have studied historical relations between our two countries during the cold war period and definitely, we have had much worse examples of frozen relations between our two countries. so what is happening right now is definitely a rather unusual and unwelcome period in our bilateral relations but this is not the worst one. you have just come back from new york. you were part of the russian delegation at the un general
assembly. did you get any sense of a coherent american stance toward russia during your time there? well, everything is changing, everything is moving. one obvious change which i could notice was the reaction of the people sitting in the hall of the general assembly in new york, listening to mr trump and that attitude was different to the one i could experience in previous years when people were listening to mr 0bama. what you mean by that? be clear with me. mr 0bama was interpreted by most people in the audience as a kind of person who really rules the world and possesses the final truth
while almost everything which was pronounced by mr trump was contested by the audience and i could count at least four times where people applauded and at least the same number of times where people were expressing their strong disagreement with what mr trump was pronouncing. the reaction was obviously different. ironic then maybe not so ironic, it is interesting that you in russia, even now, despite the sanctions that we see, despite the tit—for—tat embassy closures and staff recalls, interesting that foreign minister lavrov after trump's speech that didn't go down well, as you say, lavrov said there were things that he welcomed in the statement and things he hadn't heard from an american leaderfor some time. what on earth was he talking about?
for me, this speech was somehow drafted by two completely different persons and sometimes, especially in the beginning, and that part is what mr lavrov referred to, mr trump sounded like a kind of prophet, expressing completely obvious things, for everything good against everything bad, respecting the sovereignty of independent states, declaring the readiness of the us influence the world by example, not by using any violence or interference methods while the second part of the speech was rather a speech of a judge, declaring certain sometimes very humiliating estimations of other countries and governments existing and ruling these countries. so it was a speech containing two absolutely different approaches and one of them is to be welcomed and that is what mr lavrov
was talking about, and the other one is to be anticipated in any case. it strikes me that the mixed messages and nobody would dispute it, the mixed messages coming from donald trump and his administration, the dissonance between him and his senior staff, the dissonance between what he tweets one day and the next, it seems to have got you lot in moscow on the back foot. you seem almost as incoherent as him. you have lavrov saying things were welcomed, dmitry medvedev and others slamming trump saying the administration is going in the wrong direction. you seem almost as confused as he is. well, during the first period of mr 0bama's presidency, two countries established a bilateral so—called presidential commission with some 27 working groups, 27 channels
of communications about everything possible — human rights, disarmament, security, anti—terrorism, all that stuff. by that, we had a clear vision of intentions, ambitions, plans and everything else coming from the united states of america. as for now, we have a kind of a one or two axis to everything that is going on inside the american administration and this one—door access is mr tillerson. we do not have any other people in the state department or the presidential administration to have communications with and that creates confusions and different reactions on different statements pronounced by different people in the american administration. it's not normal but it's completely natural. there is one element of confusion.
you are in york and not washington, do you understand the degree to which vladimir putin's name and russia's reputation is now toxic in wahsington, dc? to quote senator lindsey graham who we had on hardtalk the other day, he said he hopes 2017 is going to be the year of kicking russia in the as. are you aware of that? yes, i listened to mr graham when he pronounced this formally in munich this february, but let me stay with mr graham. 0therwise, yes, iam not surprised because each day, each american can listen to american tv and read american newspapers and each piece of information about russia would be negative. it does not surprise me that russia is toxic as for now but it does not have anything to do with real russia, it does not have anything to do with... laughter
sorry, but you can't say that with a straight face. of course it has to do with the real russia! it has to do with the russia that meddled and interfered with the us presidential election which is now the subject of a host of different us investigations including a special counsel robert mueller. that is at the very heart of why russia is now toxic in the united states. well, this is your opinion, the opinion of mr graham and people like him. but for me, this is part of an internal, domestic game between different political forces in the united states of america. the victory of mr trump has not been accepted via those who have been defeated. this is how they find different explanations about why and how they were defeated. unfortunately, russia was discovered
as a very good explanation for that. the head of the fbi, the head of the cia, the director of national intelligence, all of these people with james comey at the lead have, and i am quoting james comey now, absolutely no doubt that russia was behind the hacking in the democratic party e—mails. unfortunately, this is how you interpret it. first, we could hear the news that all 17 security agencies of the us have taken a certain position unanimously. later on, it was discovered they do not have 17 security agencies and this position was expressed by just four of them, which does not create the final truth for me. and in any case, it has nothing to do with presenting evidence. evidence has not been presented. isn't it time to acknowledge that
what russia did has massively backfired because whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument we're just having with each other, the truth is because of the political impact of this, the last thing donald trump can afford to do now, politically in washington, is reset relations with putin or do anything which might be interpreted as a warmer move toward russia which people in washington might associate with the investigations going on inside the beltway. whatever the rights and wrongs of your argument, the fact is, donald trump is now painted into a corner. one, i believe this theory about russian meddling demonstrates weakness of the united states of america, not strength. i do not believe any country in the world, russia included, could have succeeded in making any influence
in any election of the united states of america. for me, this is just a very clever move by those people who were in a position to answer very inconvenient questions about the content of what had been leaked out. suddenly, nobody is any more concentrated on the content but everybody is discussing russian meddling. i would say bravo those who did it but this is a very disgusting move of the political technologists in the united states of america. second part of your question, yes, definitely, mr trump is now in a very difficult position. he is very much limited by red flags which were deployed by his opponents and enemies in the congress and yes, he cannot make any move towards russian normalisation of relations with russia. though, the usa does need this
normalisation of our bilateral relations even more in comparison with which russia needs. we both need it. we have the same challenges, we have the same threats, we have the same enemies. in brief, let's look at some of the foreign policy challenges that both the united states and russia have to deal with right now and figure out how the mess we have just been discussing impacts upon it. let's start with north korea. as i understand it, you, and you are a voice of influence in moscow, and this is a quote from you, you are saying that on the north korea issue and the tit—for—tat with kim jong—un and donald trump, you are saying that the us poses a greater threat to peace than north korea.
do you really believe that? yes, i do believe that. because people in the leadership of north korea which i definitely dislike, the way they behave right now, they are well aware about what happened previously with some countries not being able to develop protection mechanisms like weapons of mass destruction. they are well aware of what happened to iraq, they are well aware of what happened to libya, they are well aware about what almost happened to syria. the united states of america is a country which on one hand is the only country in the world which used the atomic weapons in the history of mankind and secondly, this is a country which has made the interference in others‘ domestic affairs its official policy. no other american presidents have
ever tried to hide the fact that their ambition to change the government in north korea as well. that policy definitely provokes... if i may say... definitely provokes the leadership of north korea to develop this programme. i do notjustify it. the policy of the north korean leadership, i condemn it. but i may understand why they try to protect themselves. the american position seems to be that the united states will not stand by and see north korea develop a nuclear weapons that can be put on a ballistic missile capable of reaching san francisco, other cities, on the us mainland or other potential targets in the pacific 0sceean. so, the united states‘ position therefore is that it will do what it has to do ultimately to protect its national security.
do you believe that that is a legitimate position to take? only if it is supported by the security council. nobody, not a single country in the world has entitled the united states of america to take the global responsibility on the global security issues. the united states of america is a country, a country among other countries, we have a collective mechanism of discussing and taking this kind of very serious decisions like interfering with other countries‘ internal affairs, like sanctioning other countries and all that stuff. if the united states of america continues to act unilaterally without any approval from the security council, it will continue to provoke response. the problem is that on the security council,
you and china constantly backpedal, for example, when it came to new, tougher sanctions on north korea, you and the chinese clearly did not want an all out oil embargo on north korea so that had to be softened. so it‘s no good talking about the security council being a vehicle if you won‘t allow the security council to do its work. stephen, you are probably too busy and you don‘t read news or you don‘t read the speech of the american president, but in his latest speech to the united nations, mr trump explicitly expressed his gratitude to russia. i know that. and china for common efforts to solve the problem of north korea at the security council, and that was the only mentioning of russia by the way in his speech. if i‘m may correct you, mr kosachev, that was not the only mention of russia because he also made a point of saying ukraine represented one unacceptable example
of sovereignty being infringed. that was a second reference to russia and it‘s a very important one. russia was not... not mentioned by name but it does not matter in any case. in any case, ukraine definitely was not the central, fosceal point of mr trump‘s speech to the united nations. —— the focal point. we had many other issues but not ukraine. again, stephen, the rhetoric that you are now using reminds me very much of the rhetoric that was used colin powell and other guys in the security council while preparing a military attack on iraq. it was actually the same wording, iraq does develop weapons of mass destruction we need to protect the national security of the united states of america,
we need to protect the national security of our allies and this is why we will move ahead. we know how it all finalised and how it all continues to develop. vladimir putin has put on the table a proposal to introduce un peacekeepers, blue helmets into that disputed zone of east ukraine. the donbass and the luhansk regions. but it‘s interesting that nobody it seems in the west and certainly not petro poroshenko, the ukrainian president, are taking this seriously because president putin says those un peacekeepers should only be on the line of conflict, not throughout the disputed territory and certainly not on the russian border. this proposal isn‘t going to fly unless putin gets real about what those peacekeepers should be doing. do you accept that? this is a wrong description of the russian initiative. yes, the peacekeepers should have one complete mission to protect the 0sce observers according to the mandate given to them
by the 0sce and the mission of the 0sce is to observe, it‘s not about taking part or keeping peace, it‘s not about forcing any part of the conflict to peace. any peacekeeping or peace enforcement mission should be accepted by both conflicting parties. these both conflicting parties are inside of the ukraine, not outside. in in case the leadership of donbass or luhansk would accept the presence of un peacekeepers elsewhere, let‘s do it. but for me the most important thing is not about where peacekeepers would be deployed. the most important thing is to force kiev and ukrainian authorities
to fulfil their commitments according to the minsk agreements. the key problem of this conflict is not russia, it is not the south—eastern ukraine, it is the authorities in kiev which are interested in keeping that conflict alive, in demonising russia, in antagonising russia with the western part of this world. this is their primary interest and unfortunately the so—called west, the european union, the united states of america are trapped by this anti—russian policy of kiev. i wonder whether putin‘s kiev initiative, to quote fyodor lukyanov, a big foreign policy thinker in russia, he says it represents a significant shift, possibly a conciliatory shift from the russian president. i wonder whether we should see it as a bigger picture. here you are in russia, you‘ve got a massive military commitment you‘re making two east ukraine and crimea and it‘s costing you an awful lot of money, you got a massive military commitment that your maintaining in syria that‘s costing
you a lot of money. right now you have and economy underperforming massively by any international measure. you have frankly a profound demographic problem that you don‘t have enough young russians of reductive capacity. perhaps it‘s time to admit that russia needs to change its strategic position because it cannot afford to maintain the position is that it‘s held for the last couple of years. would you accept that there‘s some in that? first i would not accept your description of the russian foreign policy, of the russian domestic policy and neither the state of affairs in russia today. 0ne, you should not compare our military presence in syria with our presence in crimea, which is an integral part of russia, or our presence in south—eastern ukraine, which has nothing to do with the regular military operation or russian troops in the ukraine. this is all false information. secondly, the economy of russia is not torn into pieces the way mr 0bama tried to describe it,
or the opposite, the economic growth of the russian economy, the economic growth of russia, has now been stable since the beginning of this year and the table of economic growth is becoming higher and higher each month coming. and also the demographic problem of russia, it does depend on oui’ experiences. from the early 90s, where we had a completely different foreign policy, accepting everything coming from the west, and giving up all possible russian national interests in order to have as good relations with the west as possible, that tore the russian
economy into pieces. that created a huge crisis in the russian society. this is how people stopped to give birth to children and they are now in the second period of this modern history of russia. so i do not see any real reasons for russia to change its foreign policy. the major reason i do not believe that is due to russian foreign policy, the world is still multilateral. it is not unilateral the way the united states of america or the united kingdom or any other countries from nato would like to see it, starting from the end of the cold war. the world is completely different from the way you‘re part of the world tried to develop it in the recent two decades. mr kosachev, that‘s why we always enjoy getting your perspective
so i thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you, sir. good morning. yet again if you had some sunshine yesterday you probably had some warmth and in fact in the london area we saw highs of 22 degrees. some sunny spells, as you can see. but things are set to change. this low pressure is moving in, bringing wet and windy
weather by the end of the day for many of us. we start off with the west—east divide. a bit of patchy mist and fog slowly lifting away, but the wind will strengthen and cloud and rain gathers. some of it quite heavy in northern ireland by the middle of the afternoon. the best of the weather is likely to stay in the south—east corner and we could have temperatures into the low 20s. by the end of the afternoon across the south—west of england and parts of wales we‘ll start to see some rain arriving. in east wales we might get a bit of brightness. 17—18 degrees. the heaviest rain into northern ireland where it will feel dismal. not a bad end to the afternoon in much of northern england and eastern scotland. cloud thickening up, the wind strengthening across western fringes of scotland. so that weather front sweeps eastwards through the evening and overnight and in actual fact it is moving at quite a pace. there will be some rain, some of it heavy, for all of us at some point,
clearing away in all but eastern fringes towards dawn. with clearer skies and lighter winds we could have patchy mist and fog forming. more favoured spots for it to linger perhaps through south—west england and wales. but again further west on thursday you‘ll see the best of the sunshine. after a cloudy and damp start there is a slow improvement through eastern fringes, but we might keep a bit of cloud through east anglia and the south—east. the highest values, 14—20 degrees. as we move out of thursday and into friday things are set to change. that‘s partly because of what‘s happening across north america, with a cold plunge of air coming out of canada, mixing with warm, moist air in the caribbean, and that‘s going to strengthen the jet, which will in turn deflect these areas of low pressure across the uk. a spell of wet and windy weather moving into friday is likely to sweep steadily eastwards, behind it a better clearance — brighter weather to come.
14—19 is the high. this pattern continues into the weekend. saturday could be a day of sunshine and showers before another significant area of low pressure brings wet and windy weather for sunday. i‘m rico hizon in singapore. the headlines — saudi arabia‘s set to lift the ban on women driving — but are they really on the road to equality? this is a historic day for saudi society, for men and women, and we can now say, at last bali braces for a major volcanic eruption. after hundreds of tremors and a mass evacuation — mount agung enters a "critical phase". i‘m babita sharma in london. also in the programme — fighting prejudice: we report on the soldiers on trial in south korea — for being gay. and a pioneering implant restores