Apr 5, 2022 - Podcasts

What does the West stand for?

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky spoke recently to CBS' Margaret Brennan, describing apparent Russian war crimes committed against the people of Ukraine. Brennan says this brutal war is challenging what the West stands for today.

  • Plus, how to get started with crypto investing.
  • And, jury selection in the death penalty trial for the Parkland shooter.

Guests: Margaret Brennan, host of CBS' Face the Nation and Axios' Brady Dale.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, April 5th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: how to get started with crypto investing. And, jury selection in the death penalty trial for the Parkland shooter.

First, today’s one big thing: how war in the Ukraine is challenging what the West stands for.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY: “Indeed, this is genocide…The elimination of the whole nation and the people, we are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities.”

NIALA: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, there, speaking through a government interpreter, describing apparent Russian war crimes committed against the people of Ukraine. He was interviewed by CBS host Margaret Brennan on ‘Face the Nation.’ Margaret’s with us now to talk about that conversation and what the last few days have meant for this conflict – hi Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Hi. How are you?

NIALA: Margaret, I was struck by the strength of the language that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky used when you spoke with him. With the possibility of war crimes by Russia, do you feel like this conflict has moved into a new phase?

MARGARET: Well, the conflict has moved into a new phase in terms of Russia repositioning its forces into the east, which is what allowed us to start getting these images of what was happening in those areas that had been under Russian control in Kyiv around the capitol. And it begs the question of what aren't we seeing in some of these other areas, particularly in the Southeast. So this is starting to give us an idea of what six weeks of Russian military aggression has been like for civilians.

NIALA: And as you speak to American lawmakers and policy experts, what do you anticipate in terms of the type of pressure you feel like they are under to respond to this?

MARGARET: Well there is bipartisan support and it's building pressure on the administration to get that diplomatic work done more quickly of providing the kind of heavy weaponry that President Zelensky is asking for. I'm thinking of countries like Poland, providing Soviet area tanks or, uh, countries like Slovakia transferring those S-300 missile systems to Ukraine. Those things are sort of hanging in the balance because those countries want cover and they want to be back-filled and it's, it's just not moving quickly the mechanics of this. And so that'll be part of the conversation I believe at this week's NATO summit when Secretary of State Blinken goes to Brussels.

NIALA: What stood out to you with the conversation you had with the Ukrainian Presidents Zelensky? He was talking and it stood out to me he was talking about the looting that took place. He referenced it a number of times, as if he were surprised and he said it, you know, why is killing people not enough. Why did all of the rest of this happen? It's raising the question of whether Russian military generals actually have command and control of their forces. Are they actually encouraging this kind of behavior? Zeleinsky’s spoken about jewelry, earrings being ripped out of the ears of women who were being raped. Why? He really was just really appealing to that sense of moral outrage around the world and saying “really, are you all going to stand by and allow this to happen?”

NIALA: How are you thinking about how to communicate the human toll of this conflict to your audience?

MARGARET: I think there is a danger for people to start to block it out and just say, “oh, war is always bloody.” War is always bloody, but this kind of behavior is what all these norms, the world set up after World War II were meant to prevent. The world turned its eyes away when it was happening in Syria. When it is happening in a European capitol so blatantly, that is really challenging what the west stands for.

NIALA: Margaret, we have talked quite a bit about the atrocities that Zelensky was sharing with you. I wanted to also ask you about what he said he's willing to negotiate on. How this conflict could end. What were you left with?

MARGARET: I think this is the farthest I've heard President Zelensky go in laying out what that diplomatic path could look like for him. When he said go back to the February 24th lines, that is signaling potentially here that there is room to negotiate around Crimea, which was seized in 2014 and annexed by Russia about Donetsk and Luhansk’s self-declared republics in the east that had been fought over for the past eight years. Now he's not going to give those up easily, but at the same time, he's showing some wiggle room here, and putting things on the table. The problem is that when you only have one side putting offers on the table, it doesn't look like diplomacy, right? It, it looks like your crying uncle. On the day that we're looking at all these images being revealed of atrocities, that Volodymyr Zelensky would say “I'm going to put my personal feelings aside and still be willing to meet and negotiate with Vladimir Putin,” shows that they want to wait for this to end, but it also raises that question to the West, is Vladimir Putin, someone that can be a negotiated with, or if you give them a little something, those territories, for example, is that just wedding his appetite for more. And that's how you hear that reference time and again to is this 1938 or 1939?

NIALA: Washington journalists Margaret Brennan. Who's host of CBS's ‘Face the Nation.’ Margaret, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

MARGARET: So great to talk to you. Thank you.

We’ll be back in 15 seconds with Crypto Investing 101.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo. We’re constantly seeing headlines about cryptocurrency. Just yesterday, the U.K. government announced plans to mint its own NFT – that’s non-fungible token – by this summer, in a bid to be a world leader in crypto. But so many of us still can’t quite wrap our heads around how cryptocurrency actually works. And maybe still want to get involved with it. Brady Dale is the author of the new Axios crypto newsletter, and he has some answers for us – Hey Brady! Welcome to Axios Today.

BRADY DALE: Hey, Niala. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

NIALA: So I know crypto is a digital currency, but I don't think I could explain more than that. Do I need to be able to understand the mechanics of this before I invest?

BRADY: I don't think you need to understand the mechanics, you know, the purist idea and the idea that really clicked for me… I think it was Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures who said this: Bitcoin is money native to the internet. And so if you believe the internet is going to be a valuable space, obviously it needs a way of transmitting value. You don't need to understand how that works. You just need to understand that that's what it is. And it's the beginning of something maybe probably transformative.

NIALA: So if you're new to this world, how should you go about investing in crypto? What do you need to know?

BRADY: You need to know to be cautious and careful. The number one piece of advice is don't invest more at the beginning, than you can afford to lose or really ever. You know what we see people do all the time is jump directly into the deep end of the pool. They hear about some weird new token that their friend digs, and they say it's going to be the next Bitcoin. And they put in too much money in, and then all too often, they lose it because they don't understand cryptocurrency. They don't understand the danger signs. I don't like to advise people on what they should or shouldn't invest in, but if they want to get in, you know, there's some coins that have been around there for a while. They're probably not going to disappear. That's probably the right place to start until you kind of get a better feel for the space.

NIALA: You used to be a tech reporter. Do you think it's a fair analogy that crypto is where it is now, where we used to look at, for example, tech stocks at the beginning of the internet?

BRADY: Totally. I'm old enough that I remember the early days of the internet. I remember people being like: this isn't going to go anywhere, this is ridiculous. So again and again, we see this stuff come along. Everyone is just like, you know, this is stupid. It's not going to go anywhere. And then it goes really far. And so, I do think that's where crypto is at. And I do think it's, I think it's still early. I think it's the 1990s in crypto, as you know, like compared to the internet.

NIALA: Brady Dale covers crypto for Axios and writes our new crypto newsletter. We'll leave a link to sign up in our show notes. Thanks, Brady.

BRADY: Thanks, Niala.

One last note before we go today – jury selection began yesterday in the sentencing trial of the high-school age gunman who in February 2018 murdered 17 people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland Florida. Jurors will have to decide whether Nicholas Cruz, who pleaded guilty on all counts, will face the death penalty versus life in prison. Jury selection will take weeks, because of how hard it will be to find impartial jurors, and the time commitment required of them. The trial itself is expected to begin May 31.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Go deeper