International bestselling author Isabel Allende discusses her new memoir, "The Soul of a Woman," a reflection on feminism in our society, and in her own personal life.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the White House with plans to announce a new cap and trade system. More than 700 pilgrims die in a stampede near Mecca during the final ritual of the hajj. President Obama accepts an invitation by Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet at the U.N. on Monday. The flow of migrants in Europe enflames old tensions, as Serbia and Croatia close borders to trade. Volkswagen’s board of directors meet to appoint a new CEO amid fallout over the emissions scandal. And the prime minister in Greece regains power, pledging to enforce austerity reforms.
- Moises Naim Distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and chief international columnist, El Pais; author of "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be."
- Nancy Youssef Senior defense and national security correspondent, The Daily Beast.
- Geoff Dyer Foreign policy correspondent, Financial Times; author of "The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China--and How America Can Win."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. China's president is in the U.S. on his first state visit, but little progress on issues like cyber espionage and unfair business practices is expected. The government of German Chancellor Merkel comes under pressure over Volkswagen's misconduct and Saudi Arabia orders a safety review after more than 700 pilgrims are killed in a stampede near Mecca.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Moises Naim of El Pais and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast and Geoff Dyer of The Financial Times. As always, you are a welcome participant in the Friday News Roundup. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And welcome to all of you.
MR. GEOFF DYERGood morning, Diane.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFHello.
MR. MOISES NAIMGood morning.
REHMGood to see you all. Geoff Dyer, China's President Xi Jinping is certainly under a bit of a cloud as he makes his first official visit here to the States. Talk about what he's here to do and say.
DYERWell, this is the first State visit. This is, you know, the Chinese has been in power for three years now. The Obama administration has tried to build up a very strong rapport with this leader. This is the fifth series of summits that they've had. And what the Obama administration hoped to do is to really put a lot of pressure on him, particularly over cyber security, cyber theft, cyber hacking and also over complaints they have about the South China Sea.
DYERIt doesn't seem as if there's going to be a lot of progress on this front, but what you are beginning to see coming out of this summit is what we saw at the last summit they had last year, was about climate change is beginning to become a very important part of diplomacy between the two countries. They announced a big climate change agreement last year where they set targets for their emissions. This year, what you've seen is an important step by the Chinese.
DYERThey're talking about launching a carbon trading program and setting a price for carbon over the next couple of years, which is an important part of them bringing their emissions under control. And so what you see is climate diplomacy becoming this kind of buffer at a time when there's so many tensions over cyber issues, over military issues. Climate change is becoming one of the things, the positive things they can talk about and get on.
REHMBut what about cyber espionage, Nancy? To what extent can there at least be some conversation?
YOUSSEFWell, I think President Xi tried to start that conversation. He started his trip in Seattle and called a cyber espionage, cyber hacking illegal. The White House responded, frankly, that it was dubious about that. And so there seems to be the early signs of the beginning of a dialogue, but it's built on mutual mistrust as China has suspected of taking part in some of the biggest attacks on American business and government agencies.
YOUSSEFAnd so where that can go, there's not expectation out of this trip that we'll see a major breakthrough on that, but with the threat of sanctions, with the threat of this becoming a breaking issue between the two countries, it is sort of the opening step, if you will, of sort of having that conversation.
REHMMoises, with the Chinese government in the economic situation it's in, does that give the White House a little more leverage?
NAIMOf course. And one of the purpose of the visit of President Xi Jinping is to try to count down markets. It's trying to build confidence in an economy that is slowing down. They had a huge devaluation of the currency. Capital is flying away. Investment is retrenching or being more suspicious and timid in China. So there is the need to stabilize this economy. And remember, big legitimacy. A big part of the legitimacy of the Communist party and of President Xi Jinping to govern the Chinese is to deliver a double-digit growth that creates employment and higher salaries.
NAIMAnd if that compact with Chinese society starts to be weaker, then that may bode for more instability in China.
REHMIs that beginning to show its cracks?
DYERWell, you've certainly seen a very rocky few months in the Chinese economy. The official figures are that it's grown about 7 percent, but most people think that's probably not true, that it's, you know, maybe 6, 5, maybe even a lot slower than that. We've seen the stock market crash, as Moises was saying. You've had this problem with the currency devaluation. And what is in the background on this trip is that for the last 30 years, the Chinese leadership have had this incredible reputation for economic competence.
DYERWhatever anyone thinks of their politics, their diplomacy, whatever else, they were seen as people who really had a very strong handle on how to run the economy, these very competent technocrats. That's the issue that's been called into question in the last few months and that's the sort of the cloud that's hanging over Xi Jinping in this visit than what he's trying to convince people sort of, yes, we've still got it under control.
YOUSSEFYou know, I want to say, broadly speaking, we're going to see all the pomp and circumstance of a State visit, the 21-gun salute, a State dinner, but I saw a wonderful description about the sort of the greater undertone of all this is two nations who have a shallow understanding of each other's intentions. And I thought that was a wonderful way to sum up the sort of the underlying problem that hits all these issues, climate change, China's actions in the South China Sea, cyber, Iran, all these issues that -- and so what you're seeing from the U.S. perspective is this push/pull of sometimes containment, sometimes engagement.
YOUSSEFAnd I think we're going to see a little bit of both play out this week.
NAIMAnd therein lies the challenge. These, as Nancy says, are two countries, huge countries, that don't understand each other and yet, this is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. And the way in which the United States and China agree or disagree will have consequences that are global in nature. And, you know, let's not forget that just two weeks ago, Susan Rice, the national security council's -- the head of the national security council was in China threatening the leadership with sanctions because the Obama administration has essentially -- is exasperated and fed up with the constant attacks and the hacking attacks and the cyber attacks against the United States that originate...
NAIM...in China. So she was very -- reportedly, it was a very tough conversation and as a result of that, the Chinese government sent a very large mission of experts and security officers to the United States and they had detailed negotiations about the framework that they will try to agree and launch during this visit.
REHMAll right. Let's turn to Germany, which is facing its own problems, Nancy, with the resignation of the Volkswagen CEO, Mr. Winterkorn, who resigned over this emissions scandal. Get us up to speed.
YOUSSEFWell, it's one of the -- I have to tell you, one of the more interesting corporate scandals I've seen in a few years. So Germany's Volkswagen, which is a huge employer in Germany and frankly emblematic of their efficiency and their ability to manufacture, was putting out what they said were clean diesel cars. And as it turns out, there was a computer system that they had created such that when the car was being tested, it came back with low levels of nitrogen oxide, which is a pollutant. And when it went out onto the streets, the system basically turned off.
YOUSSEFNow, why is this important? Because cars run a lot better without having to deal with that silly pollution problem, as it were, and so this was a big deal for them because they were selling up with this way to have clean cars. And as it turns out, they did not. And this has huge implications for -- it's called a defeat device. It was the EPA that spotted it with the help of some private researchers at West Virginia University and it all came out last week and he said we're going to -- the president or, excuse me, the CEO of Volkswagen said, we're going to investigate. And nobody really believed he would be able to survive this and he was not.
YOUSSEFHe claims he didn't know, but the depth and the scale of this to affect 500,000 in the United States alone suggests that there is some deeper problem and so this has been a hit to Germany's image and could face major fines. The defeat device fine in the U.S., the standard one is $37,500 per car or $18 billion for the number of cars affected.
NAIMWhat were they thinking? That is what everyone is asking, you know. How can a company like that assume that they can do this on such a large scale, global scale and get away with it?
REHMBut here's the thing that we heard on this program on Wednesday. If one company is doing this and succeeding, its competitors are likely doing the same thing. So one wonders if this is going to stop with Volkswagen or is it perhaps the same in other companies.
DYERWell, this is one the situations where I'm not a car expert and I possibly suspect that the rest of us are not as well, but it's one of these situations when this news came out, the car experts that I know said that, well, we all know that the companies lie about this stuff. And, of course, we had no idea. But it's the same pattern you've seen in a lot of other corporate scandals, including the financial crisis, where you have companies across an industry chipping away at the regulations, cheating a little bit here, cheating a little bit there and then the company goes a little bit further and a little bit further and then you get a situation like Volkswagen where, all of a sudden, they're just way out of line and they finally get caught.
REHMAnd if one of them is cheating and getting away with it and saving money as a result and selling cars as a result, somebody else is going to do it, too.
NAIMSo there are two silver linings to this scandal. One is as you say that, you know, there are going to be -- now every car company is going to be scrutinized and perhaps we'll discover that this is a common practice. So let's see. Let's wait and see if this is...
NAIMBut then another silver lining, Diane, and that is some commentators that do know about the car industry have said that this is going to be a big boost to the development of electric cars. And that, of course, is good news. If, as a result of all this, the mechanics and the engineering associated with combustion cars changes, that opens the door for a more rapid development and market presence of electric cars on a larger scale.
REHMMoises Naim of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and chief international columnist for El Pais. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back to the international segment of our Friday News Roundup. This week, with Geoff Dyer. He's foreign policy correspondent for the Financial Times, author of "The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China -- and How America Can Win." Nancy Youssef is senior defense national security correspondent for The Daily Beast. Moises Naim is the author of "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be."
REHMAnd the pope is telling us to think differently about what capitalism is. He's talking -- he spoke today at the United Nations. He spoke to a joint meeting of the Congress yesterday. How much of an impact -- either here in the States or around the world -- do you believe the pope's message will have an impact, Moises?
NAIMThis pope has been a refreshing change and he's having a huge impact, not just but what he says, but what he does and the way he behaves and the kinds of initiatives he takes. And his message was, I think it's going to be heard, and it's message was, for example, when he was in Cuba, he gave a big speech where he stressed that ideologies -- one need to be wary of ideologies and rigid ways of thinking about politics and the market. And that those kinds of rigid approaches backfire and are not desirable. He was talking to a group of very -- of young people. And his point is that it's not just about the market or the government and the state, his point is about how to better intertwine and combine both. Because you need both.
NAIMYou cannot just do it by markets working alone and you cannot just do it by government alone. So his message is, our challenge is how to intertwine markets and governments in a way that serve the poor, that pay attention to inequality and that create more opportunities for everyone.
REHMAnd speaking of those who are experiencing extraordinary hardship, the migrants who are moving out of war-torn areas, trying to get into various parts of Europe -- the European Union voted on Tuesday to distribute 120,000 asylum seekers among member states. How are they all reacting to this, Geoff?
DYERWell, if you like, last week, you know, we were focusing very much on the humanitarian aspect of this crisis. I think, this week, we started to see very clearly the way that this is tearing apart almost the fabric of the European political project. I mean, I don't want to overstate it, but you're seeing all sorts of indications of that. So this -- the plan you talked about this week was very unusual for European politics, because it was forced through. Usually the EU likes to do things by consensus: everyone agrees with something. This one was forced through over the objections of four Eastern European countries, who are now accusing the Germans of being the big bully again, of having really forced them.
DYERYou have the Brits, they're essentially turning their back on the whole thing and not getting involved in the discussion. And it's accelerating the process where maybe Britain might think about leaving the EU. You have a situation where the Serbs are calling the Croats Nazis because of what, you know, what they're doing. You also had the EU this week raising the issue about putting border controls back into various countries, which is symbolically and in practical terms a hugely important part of the European Project was the way that border controls came down.
DYERSo all across the board, you're seeing these very kind of deep-seated, historical and political tensions coming back to the force -- coming back to the surface, pushed because of the intense pressure from this refugee crisis.
REHMWhat could this mean, combined with the VW situation, for Angela Merkel?
DYERAnd not just the VW situation but, you know, the Greece bailout of just a few months ago as well, where essentially she was in the role again of being, you know, being perceived as the bully. I mean, you -- I think you're seeing two different things. One is you're seeing Germany very much stepping up as being the leader in all these issues. I mean, she's been -- and on the refugee issue, she's been an incredibly positive force, Germany taking huge amounts...
REHMTaking in 800,000.
DYER...800,000 in the next decade.
DYERAnd she's the one who's trying to force Europe to come to terms with the humanitarian aspects of it. But at the same time, she is building up all this resentment about a very powerful Germany that has deep historical roots across Europe and is causing lots of political friction.
YOUSSEFCan I just add, though, Germany, there is a demographic issue at hand that I think has contributed to their ability or willingness to take in refugees, in the sense that they have a shortage of workers who can work in factories and that this does serve a need for them. I hate to say it, but it almost has become cliché when we talk about the European Union and this battle between unity and national sovereignty. We went through this, as you mentioned, with the Greek crisis and now with this issue of migrants and distributing money and people.
YOUSSEFWhen I heard this story, my first question was what happens if more than 120,000 refugees come into the European Union in the time that this agreement has been spelled out, between now and when the next agreement is? Who's going to enforce making adjustments? How do you enforce such a thing like this, given the economic pressures, given the, as you mentioned, the hope for consensus and a refugee issue that is really overwhelming the framework with which the European Union operates under?
NAIMSo we thought that the financial crisis would test the European Project. Then we thought that the Greek crash would test it. And now we are seeing a real...
NAIM...real test, in which they have to contend with massive numbers of people coming to Europe. And as Nancy says, you know, the more you create conditions for that in Europe for -- to accept them and the more dire the situation is in their home countries, you will risk having even more people coming and without a clear solution. So is this going to be solved with more Europe or with less Europe...
NAIM...or with no Europe. And by that I mean, is this going to create more conditions for Europe to act together in a coordinated, cohesive way? Or is this going to break Europe down? Or is this just going to create stagnation in their decision making?
REHMBut Moises, talk about what's happening between Serbia and Croatia.
NAIMThat's an example of less Europe, right?
NAIMThey are -- instead of getting together and trying to decide that this is a joint problem that they have and that work for solutions and seek help from Germany and others, they are essentially building fences and they're denouncing each other for, you know, with historic insults and all that. The other story here is, you know, the EU meets and decides on quotas that they assign to different countries.
NAIMSo each country now has a number that -- of immigrants that they have to accept. What if they don't? What are, you know, what happens if Hungary, for example, says, you know, you gave me the quota but, you know, I'm not accepting any. And so that's, again, is going to test quite severely what the meaning of Europe and the ability of Europe to work together.
REHMAnd what about the U.S. role and to what extent is -- I think it was John Kerry who said we are going to, by the end of 2017, take in 100,000 of these refugees -- refugees, migrants, the differentiation there. How significant is that number, Geoff?
DYERSo, you know, the U.S. has increased the number of refugees it's going to take in for the next couple of years by 30,000 people. That's a large number of people and the U.S. has historically been, you know, the biggest receptor of refugees -- has played a outsized role in this process. I think one of the risks you're starting to see to the U.S. reaction is it's starting to break down a little bit along partisan political lines, where you're seeing pressure on the left for a much stronger humanitarian response from the U.S. of this unique Syrian crisis, in particular.
DYERBut you're starting to see some rhetoric on the right, which might start to play into the election campaign, linking it with an immigration issue, but also people suggesting that, you know, maybe some of these people could be terrorists and trying to, you know, linking the refugees with the terrorism issue. There is a real risk that it'll start to kind of tear apart and become a partisan bun-fight.
YOUSSEFThat's an interesting point. And yet, there has been an unwillingness to really confront the underlying issue, the Syria crisis, in a bipartisan way. You haven't even had the authorization for the U.S. military involvement and the air strikes there. So the partisanship shows up on the sort of -- the effect, but not in addressing the cause -- the instability and the fracturing of the Syrian state that has led to this migration crisis to begin with.
REHMSo now you have an agreement between President Obama and Russian President Putin to meet on Monday at the UN General -- at the annual session of the UN General Assembly. What has leaked about that? What is likely to come out of that conversation? Was it truly Putin who asked for it?
NAIMThey have not met for -- in the last 15 months. Again, this is another important relationship that -- between the United States and Russia, that is now very frail and full of conflicts. So this all starts when Putin decides to increase the military presence of Russia in the Middle East and specifically in Syria. He decided -- he announced that he -- the Russian are -- were going to launch air strikes against ISIS. They have increased the arms supplies to the Syrian military. They have increased -- they had an amazing, in Syria for many years and so they are expanding their presence.
NAIMAnd that forced the hands of President Obama, in Syria, and of Europe. Now they have multiple objectives. They need to defeat ISIS or at least contain its expansion. They have the huge refugee crisis that needs attention.
REHMAnd also have Assad.
NAIMAnd they want to get rid of Assad. And in the middle of all that comes in Putin and with the Russian military, which for the second time now, Russia plays -- is a game changer in the dynamics in Syria.
YOUSSEFIt was a very interesting week in terms of what the Russians were doing and the U.S. response or lack thereof. You had Russians now starting drone surveillance, manned aircraft with the pilots doing surveillance -- and not only doing surveillance, but doing surveillance in western Syria, over Idlib, which suggests that rather than going after ISIS as the first target, they are going to go after those opponents who are not ISIS, such that potentially they create a state where your choices are Assad or ISIS, by the areas in which they're in.
YOUSSEFAnd you had the secretary of defense come out yesterday and say, essentially, we're going to wait and see what happens and then determine how to respond. And as someone who spends every day in the Pentagon, you feel the frustration of what General Dempsey, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called a stalemate and the inability of the United States to really hold on to control to the outcome of the war there. I thought the most interesting piece that came out was one by The New York Times in which the -- Obama apparently was not enthusiastic about the Syrian Train-and-Equip Program, had felt he'd been dragged along in the Syria conflict. And you see a White House almost (unintelligible) itself.
YOUSSEFSo the question I'm left with is how much is -- there's what the military wants and what the administration wants. How much is the administration really that upset about Russia coming in and trying to take on this intractable problem?
DYERThe big outstanding question from what Russia's doing in Syria is, is Putin doing this because he wants to try and save Assad? Or is he doing this because he think Assad is going to collapse and he wants to sort of increase his leverage over the, you know, the next stage, over what happens after Assad. If it's the latter, then maybe there is a new opening for some kind of negotiation and bringing together all the other different outside powers and trying to think about or talk about, you know, moving, you know, a political transition away from the Assad regime.
DYERSo what you're seeing is that, you know, Nancy is talking about the Pentagon reaction -- the State Department reaction is, yes, we very much need to talk to Putin at this stage. We need to explore what he's up to. And we need to see if there is a possible negotiation that we can kick off here.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." But can the two men really talk with one another?
NAIMAnd the subtitles to that conversation is sanctions. Because Putin is also, of course, it's Syria and it's the presence -- the military presence and all of that. But what Putin really wants is that the sanctions that the international community and led by the United States and the European Union have on his country are eliminated. The Russian economy is hurting...
NAIM...badly. And it's a double-whammy of low oil prices and very biting sanctions. And so, you know, it's impossible to imagine that Putin and President Obama meet and that that subject doesn't come in some way in the conversation.
YOUSSEFArguably, in a way, there's no expectation of any great breakthroughs. This is an hour conversation that's very informal. But in a way it's ancillary because you have, in the span of a few weeks, Russia becoming a key part of the U.N. talks next week -- their actions in Ukraine, their actions in Syria. They've gone from being a side player to a major player to world events. And I think Putin wants that as much as he wants all the things that we've discussed here.
REHMCan we talk for a moment about this deadly stampede near Mecca on Thursday, that left more than 700 people dead? How much do we know about how and why this happened? Moises.
NAIMThere is a very interesting article today in The Washington Post dissecting the nature of the stampedes. It also gives a context in terms of this doesn't only happen in Mecca. It happens frequently around the world where there is just a lot of people -- essentially, the article says that this happens when people in the front of large concentrations of people walking stops, and those on the back don't know that and continues to walk until they crush people in the middle. And apparently there is a pattern to this and it has been seen in accidents like that in Europe and elsewhere.
NAIMSo the problem here is, you know, this, in Saudi Arabia, comes on the heel of, two weeks ago, a crane fell also in Mecca and killed 111 people and injured almost 400 people. This one, as you said, had hurt 717 -- has killed, the stampede killed 717 people and hurt more than 800.
REHMBut is it that there is disorderliness? Or is it that, as you say, they just don't realize?
NAIMThe Saudi government has spent an immense amount of money in trying to organize this. Much of the legitimacy as the custodian of the holy places derides on the fact that they are able to organize and facilitate this, you know, large concentration of people every year.
REHMBut I mean, you had more than 11,000 people yesterday on the (word?) and it was orderly going in, orderly coming out. I realize it may be even more thousands going into Mecca, but what is the mechanism that drives people to keep pushing?
DYERI mean, we don't know the answer, but it's surely something to do with just a panic reaction, when you fear something...
DYERThat's the only thing where I can think we can really explain it, as a natural human panic where you just feel surrounded by so many people, fears of being pressed around and people panic.
REHMAll right. We have to take a short break on that sad note. When we come back, we'll open the phones. We also want to talk about Greece and the reelection of Alexis Tsipras. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to open the phones. Let's go first to Kathleen. She's in Sterling, Virginia. Kathleen, you're on the air.
KATHLEENHi, thank you. What I'd like to say is the EU sets quota numbers, and that is each country will take in X amount of immigrants, but it does not provide sufficient funding for these countries. Then the countries take in immigrants and send them without funding to communities that are already under stress from Draconian austerity programs, and the same thing happens here. And compounding the whole situation, the austerity policies are eliminating the middle class and with it their purchasing power, which is affecting China.
DYERI mean, I think what, you know, you see in Europe, but one of the reasons why so many people want to go to Germany at the moment is because all these other benefits and, you know, amount of cash available to refugees is much more generous in Germany than it's going to be in a lot of other European countries, particularly in Eastern Europe. So that's what makes Germany so attractive, but it also creating some of this pressure, as well.
REHMIsn't, as Nancy was saying, you've got an aging population in Germany. You've got new workers that could move in. So therefore wouldn't it be economically beneficial for Germany to have many, many refugees come in?
NAIMUndoubtedly. The thing is that this is a sudden shock. One thing is to accept immigrants gradually over time.
NAIMAnd integrate them and absorb them and have just a sudden influx of these desperate people. And as for the money, you know, the leaders, the European leaders that met, they pledged millions for what they call transit countries for international aid agencies and up to $1 billion for Turkey, which is -- Turkey is home to more than 2 million Syrian refugees, and it's the main point of entry to Greece, which is, you know, the transit country to Europe.
NAIMSo there is some money available, but as Kathleen said in her call, it's never going to be enough.
REHMEnough, exactly. Nancy?
YOUSSEFI would just add for all the quotas that are in place, you talk to a lot of these refugees or migrants coming from the region, and they have one country in mind, quotas or not, and that's Germany because the perception is that the place that they are going to be welcome. And so that may supersede any sort of quotas that we talk about.
REHMHere is an email from Jake, who says between the pope's comments and China's recent actions and the upcoming Paris meetings, is there a real sea change on climate change internationally? Could it even start swaying the Republican Party in the U.S.? Geoff?
DYERWell, certainly one of the best things that's happened in terms of climate change diplomacy is this greater closeness between the U.S. and China with these announcements today and the big announcements last year. That is creating a lot of pressure, a little momentum behind these big talks that the caller mentioned in Paris later this year. They hope to, you know, create a new global climate change treaty. But there are still lots of problems. I mean, India is another huge emitter, huge economy.
DYERVery much more reluctant to get involved in this diplomacy than now China seems to be.
REHMAnd here's another email from Marcia in Indianapolis. She said, I haven't heard it reported why VW wanted to tamper with emission control. What was their reason? What did they have to gain?
DYERWell, it is -- it's to comply with regulatory standards and to...
REHMCosts more money.
DYERRight, and essentially there is a tradeoff between how fuel-efficient you are and how -- and your emissions. And -- but essentially there is a regulatory obligation that they were trying to bypass.
REHMBut you also sell more cars that way, telling the public that you were emitting fewer particulates.
NAIMAnd that was the central branding message of these cars.
REHMExactly, exactly. All right, and let's go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Bill, you're on the air.
BILLYeah, hi Diane, hi panel. I was hoping that somebody could give a little feedback on the idea of whether other manufacturers are doing the same thing as Volkswagen, and my thought is a couple of things. It has to do with a very specific pollutant, nitrogen oxide, and the cars, a lot of diesel cars in the United States, where the EPA has been very focused on this particular pollution, and so my question or suggestion is wouldn't the best place to look be other manufacturers of similar type vehicles in the U.S. as opposed to just the worldwide diesel industry in general? And then do you have any thoughts on that?
YOUSSEFWell, Kia and Hyundai have paid $300 million in fines for misrepresenting their emissions. I believe Ford at one point had a similar issue. So we've seen issues of misrepresenting numbers but not to the scale of creating a system that's put in every car. Now to your question, are other companies doing it, I have a feeling we're about to find out because of this scandal and the more aggressive inspection because one of the things that came out of it was a study done by an independent group, along with West Virginia University, in which they built a whole system to kind of break the code and figure out why a car would test better in a test setting and not a real-world one.
REHMDo you know what the answer is? The answer is that in the testing process, the steering wheel is steady and stable, and therefore no emissions. When you're out on the road, that's when this whole computer system goes off, and then you start emitting.
YOUSSEFBut it might change testing, as well, right, because of that. The takeaway is perhaps it needs more rigorous testing.
REHMIf you give the EPA a little more money to test more thoroughly. All right, let's go to Linda in Gainesville, Florida. You're on the air.
LINDAGood morning, you may have already addressed this issue earlier in the program, but my comment/question is, why is there not more world pressure or media exposure of other countries not participating in the immigration crisis and fleeing from war, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan? There are a number of countries that are simply just not taking any refugees, and I'm wondering why that has not gotten more press.
DYERI think that's a fantastic question. I think I would particularly highlight some of the Gulf Arab countries, very, very rich countries. This is their neighborhood. They are participants in the Syrian in lots of cases.
REHMSo what's the answer?
DYERI mean, they would -- they'd simply -- I don’t want to generalize too much, but they just don't want to be taking in immigrants in that way. I mean, they have very kind of tight control on immigration policies, they have all these sort of contract laborers that come in from South Asia. It would be politically very hard for them. But this absolutely is the right question to be asking. Why are they not doing more? This should be part of their responsibility.
REHMAll right, let's go to St. Louis, Missouri. You're on the air, David.
DAVIDHi, so I'm going back to Volkswagen and why they would bother doing this. And I want to point out that there's just more energy in gallon of diesel than there is in a gallon of gas. That's where the extra mileage comes from. So what happened was, is that Volkswagen is a expert in diesel going back 30 years, and they were using these cars to compete against the Prius and the Honda Insight and the other gas-electric hybrids.
DAVIDAnd the point is that if you turn all of the emissions on, diesels have a tendency to be slow and sluggish, and they're just not pleasant to drive. And what they were doing is, if you go out on a test drive, and you see this car, and they say, oh, it's so clean, and it drives just like the car you're used to, people will pay extra for the diesel. And if you turn all that stuff back on, then the car will be cleaner, but it will still go back to those little stereotypes of what diesels are.
DAVIDAnd they just can't compete with somebody like a hybrid.
YOUSSEFDavid raises such a great point, and he explains it so well. So the question becomes, to all those people who thought that they were being environmentally friendly, how do you -- do you give them all new cars?
YOUSSEFHow do you fix the problem, then?
REHMThat's the question.
YOUSSEFBut David's summation is beautiful.
REHMAnd I think that's one of the ones VW is really going to have to deal with. Moises, let's talk about Greece with the leftist leader, Alexis Tsipras, getting back in power.
NAIMAnd surprisingly he was re-elected. He's the leader of the Syriza Party.
REHMHe knew it was going to happen from the beginning. He sort of planned it that way.
NAIMWell, he has proven to be a very adroit, very smart, astute politician. He has gotten away with a lot of contradictions. He has divisive pressures inside his own party, but he has prevailed. And now he has to deliver. And concretely he has promised that he will renegotiate the deal with the Europeans and try to get some debt relief and that he was also going to fight their reforms that are required.
NAIMIt is very interesting that the center of the conversation is about austerity, meaning that there is going to be budget cuts of all kinds. But he focuses, rightly so, in structural changes. It turns out that the Greek economy is rife, filled with monopolies and distortions and special interests and all kinds of subsidies that help the rich some organized interest and hurt the general population.
NAIMThat will not require budget cuts. That just requires the political power to take away some of the privileges that some of the straight groups, business associations of all kinds...
REHMDo you think he can accomplish that?
NAIMWell, he'll have to try, and, you know, Greece has gone through so much that one expects at this point the mood is more open.
REHMThat people are ready.
NAIMMore open to change and tackle these long-standing distortions in the Greek economy.
REHMNancy, you look somewhat skeptical.
YOUSSEFWell, maybe I'm just too empathetic to the Europeans, who have grown impatient with the austerity measures that Greece has taken or not taken. We'll have -- so he'll balance between what Greeks want him to do and what the European community, the pressure that they're putting on him, and he'll face his first test next month, when there's the first review of the economic reforms that are going to be put in place.
YOUSSEFSo that push-pull that he'll find himself in between, his population and the European Union, I mean his charisma has certainly gotten him far, and I have to say that the kind of Greece that he is taking over, not only with the austerity measures but the migrant issues, it's an extraordinary, complicated time for Greece, and that he was able to win and win so resoundingly certainly speaks to his leadership.
DYERSo I mean, the next big issue is going to be debt relief. And they got this emergency loan a couple months ago to tide them over. What they now want is to have their overall debt reduced by the creditors, which means another negotiation with the Europeans. This victory gives him a much stronger platform going into that negotiation, and for the other European countries, the key thing that they were watching for was not necessarily whether he would be the next prime minister but the combination of his government.
DYERHe did so well that he doesn't need some of the centrist, more pro-European parties that they hoped he would need, that they thought would moderate his demands. He's got a much freer hand politically as he goes into these negotiations with the rest of Europe.
REHMSo what about this migrant crisis? To what extent is Greece in a position, considering its fragile economy, to take in more migrants from Syria and elsewhere?
DYERAbsolutely no position whatsoever. I mean, you already have sky-high unemployment, austerity, budget cuts, economy in a deep depressions. This is, you know, the worst possible thing that could happen to Greece in the situation they're in at the moment.
NAIMBut the migrants don't want to go to Greece. They don't want to stay there.
REHMThey want to go...
NAIMThey know that Greece is in deep trouble, that there are no jobs, and the situation is dire. So they are just using Greece as a transit place to reach Germany.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's go now to Billy in St. Petersburg, Florida. You're on the air.
BILLYDiane, I'm curious to hear your panel's reaction on how the Volkswagen diesel crisis is going to affect Germany's position going into these negotiations with Greece over austerity, given the fact that, you know, they've sort of shown they're economically cheating somewhat. And then contrarily, Greece's prime minister being re-elected, you know, with such a mandate. And I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you.
REHMThanks for calling. Moises?
NAIMWell, German public opinion is going to drive much of Germany's position regarding Greece and regarding that negotiations that are inevitable. And yes, they may be a little more shy as a result of the Volkswagen scandal, but it's hard to imagine that we will see a dramatic shift in Germany's posture towards Greece.
YOUSSEFBecause they hold the ultimate card. There is no option but them. They are the leader of the European Union. So however more bolstered the incoming prime minister is, it is a European Union being driven by and led by a much more powerful Germany vis-à-vis its other states. And that to me will supersede the sort of -- the ability to maneuver the Volkswagen scandal into Greece's benefit.
DYERYeah, I mean, it's an interesting point, but I don't really see the connection too far. I mean, this is ultimately about corporate Germany and a big company like Volkswagen. I mean, and growing up in Europe, as I did, I don't quite know what the reputation of Volkswagen is here, but in Europe, Volkswagen was about reliability, honest and efficiency. Those are the bywords. They are never the flashiest cars on the road, but they were absolutely, you know, the solid, most reliable cars you could buy. That's the kind of -- that's the big issue here for the company and for corporate Germany. That whole image is now in question.
REHMSo when you say that whole image is now in question, what does the company have to do in order to regain the trust of people around the world?
DYERI mean, crisis management people would say you have to come completely clean, you have to get all the bad news, all the information out right now from the start. You can't have any -- you can't have other drip-feed of further revelations because if you do that, that's the thing that will really kill you. You can manage this, and you can survive this type of crisis if you come clean at the start very quickly, but if you -- if there are other things that come out, then that's the real cancer for a company.
YOUSSEFI would just add, it seems that they'll have to show fundamental changes in the structure of the company such that people can speak up when they have concerns. There was an accusation that Volkswagen was very centralized, and people didn't feel that they could come forward with concerns to show that there are structural changes in the organization such that this kind of deception cannot go on this long without being exposed by certainly people under -- below who knew what was happening.
NAIMToyota and British Petroleum and the Vatican, and there is a long list of organizations and institutions that have brand accidents, you know, bad, catastrophic incidents that hurt the brands. And we have seen how each of them eventually with time, with firing those that were in charge at the time, recover.
NAIMSo it is a matter of time, but again, the culprits will have to be fired or taken to court, and what is clear is that Volkswagen is a highly centralized company in terms of decision-making. So it's very hard to imagine that a lot of people at the top of the organizations were ignorant about this malfeasance.
REHMMoises Naim has the last word. He's with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He's a columnist for El Pais and the author of "The End of Power." Nancy Youssef is a senior defense and national security correspondent for The Daily Beast. Geoff Dyer, foreign policy correspondent for the Financial Times, author of "The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China--and How America Can Win." Thank you all for being here.
DYERThank you, Diane.
REHMHave a great weekend, everybody. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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