12/02/2016 Newsnight


In-depth investigation and analysis with Kirsty Wark. The Syrian opposition leader talks about the ceasefire. Plus a look behind the scenes at the new ROH ballet.

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Is the Syrian ceasefire no more than smoke and mirrors?


We have an exclusive interview with a key opposition leader.


We'll discuss how all this squares with Assad's boast that he'll retake


As the people's bank tries to hatch entrepreneurs,


RBS's chief executive warns that the possibility of a Brexit


is already taking its toll on business.


I think the issue we've got is just the uncertainty. It might slow


business is down and over time slowdown banking as well.


And in this week's Artsnight, museum director Maria Balshaw looks


A woman is still deemed to be representative of her whole gender.


So if she's a failure then we're all failures. However, if she's a


success, she is the exception that proves the rule. And I don't know


how you change that. The definition of a ceasefire


is "the temporary suspension of fighting", and the word has been


sprayed around like confetti today, even though it is unclear whether it


will be maintained on the ground and doesn't even apply to many


who are fighting in Syria. And all the while Bashar al-Assad


is insisting that he will return the whole of the country


to his control. So, the cessation in a week's time,


vaunted by major powers in Munich, will not necessarily move


the resolution of the conflict Here's our Diplomatic


Editor, Mark Urban. The world's decision-makers had


assembled in Munich for a security conference. After long hours of


negotiations late into the night they announced a deal. 17 states and


three international organisations signed off on it, but in essence


it's a Russian and American plan. Our work today, while it has


produced commitments on paper, I want to restate that the real test


is clearly whether or not all the parties on those commitments and


implement them in reality. The agreement sets up an international


humanitarian task force, lists places where aid needs to go now,


notes that humanitarian access should not benefit any particular


group over any other. It calls for a cessation of hostilities in one


week's time. The 19th of February. With another task force to agree the


boundaries of who holds what territory in Syria. And then the


resumption of peace talks as soon as possible, in Geneva, the 25th of


February is the hoped-for date, we here. Does this provide a real hope


for peace? Earlier I spoke exclusively to the leader of Syria's


opposition umbrella group. The battle for Aleppo continued


today, with the Syrian army warning of imminent further assaults and its


leader bullish after recent successes.


TRANSLATION: If we negotiate it does not mean that we will stop fighting


terrorism. Two tracks are negotiating -- expect inevitable in


Syria, through negotiation and through fighting terrorism. And the


two tracks asked about from each other. As for the president himself,


his future is central to the political transition envisaged in


today's agreement. But even if the Americans now see Assad staying on


for a while, the opposition insists he cannot.


The Assad regime is offensive, backed by the Russians from the air,


spearheaded by uranium and other volunteers on the ground, began


getting real traction three months ago, south-east of Aleppo. Earlier


this year, rebels were driven back in the rebel heartland. Under


today's deal, the Al-Qaeda linked front and Islamic State will still


be attacked, but will more moderate groups the too? They've got the


potential for a very important breakthrough but it all depends now


on the behaviour of the Russians. If the Russians carry on bombing the


moderate opposition this will not be the outcome we want. So today aims


for a ceasefire but only between certain people. Even if it works,


Russia, America and others will still be taking aim at the Islamic


State and others. The Syrian groups are not actually party did today's


agreement. Instead, those who did sign are meant to deliver them.


Iraqi and Russia -- Iran and Russia, the Assad government and the US and


Gulf states and various opposition groups. Talking to opposition


leaders it is apparently already resent that.


As Munich ends, there is a sober realisation that this will be very


tough, but they are already working on speeding up humanitarian aid to


besieged communities, and that at least could be something.


Joining me to discuss this from Munich, where the deal


is being struck, is Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Moscow-based


Russian International Affairs Council and here with me


is columnist and author Anne Applebaum.


Good evening to you both. First of all, how could this possibly work if


Russia continues to bomb Aleppo? Our Defence Secretary today said that


Aleppo will be the new Sarajevo. I think it can only work if the two


sides agree on how they define terrorism and terrorist


organisations. They should look at the lists, they should compare the


lists, and they should find a common to nominate. Because definitely


until it is done, the hostilities will continue and it would be very


difficult to maintain a ceasefire. Unfortunately because you couldn't


see the translation, basically the opposition leader was saying that


this ceasefire has simply been designed to preserve Russian and


uranium -- preserve Russian and Iranian


games. I think the situation on the ground might change. I don't think


there is a military solution to the problem. I think that for the time


being indeed the Syrian army has accomplished something but it can be


reversed, especially if there is an inflow of support from places like


Saudi Arabia or Turkey, not to mention the potential Turkish direct


intervention into Syria. So, do you think this is designed simply to


sort out the situation or two -- to preserve Russia's position? I will


give the people participating in the conversation credit for saying it is


designed to get humanitarian aid into a desperate situation. But I


think we should all be clear about what Russia is trying to do. The


object of Russia and Assad is to create a situation where there are


only two sides, the regime and the terrorists. They identify everyone


who is not the regime as terrorists. Their bombing campaign in Syria for


the last several months has been exactly that. They have been allowed


to do this presumably because America has abdicated its


responsible at the in Syria? I would not say just America, I would say


the West in general has not had a clear plan from the start of this


conflict. We sort of supported some groups but we didn't really give any


serious aid. We help some of the non-regime areas stay alive but we


haven't really intervened and we haven't had a clear role. Let's


quickly talk about Aleppo here because Isis and others operating in


the area, as well as moderate opposition groups and a lot of


civilians there. The fact that we have created a cessation of


hostilities and allowed Russia to bomb Aleppo is very strange. If


Russia is allowed to bomb Aleppo, there is no ceasefire, there is no


cassation of hostilities. Do you agree with that? Well, if Russia is


going to bomb the city, I think that can be regarded as a continuation of


the war but I don't think this is the plan. I think the plan is to


have a ceasefire that would include Aleppo. So you're suggesting that


actually the Aleppo area will not come under fire in a week's time.


You are suggesting there will be a proper cessation? Well, I think that


there might be some surgical strikes against terrorist groups, if indeed


these terrorist groups happened to be in adjacent places. But I don't


think there will be a kind of massive campaign against Aleppo, I


don't see it. Let's turn to what Russia's position is on Bashar


al-Assad. Is the position is not necessarily, you've said already,


that he would retain control of the gain control of the country, but is


Russia's position to leave Assad in power? Well, I think that the main


goal of Russia, as far as I understand the main position taken


by President Putin, is to preserve the Syrian statehood. Russia is


emphatically against any partition of the country and it wants to


maintain the democratic integrity of Syria. Right now, Assad seems to be


the only person who can do that. That if there are alternatives, if


there are other forces may be from moderate opposition who can do it


better than Assad, I don't Inc that Russia would necessarily stick to


this particular person. He's not a personal friend of Mr Putin. He is


not a person who should be rescued at any cost... Sorry to interrupt, I


know there is a delay... Can I just say, it is very clear to the West


that it looks as if President Putin right now is shoring up President


Assad? Well, I think that Putin made it very clear many times that his


goal in Syria is not to protect a particular personality. His goal is


to maintain the integrity of the Syrian state, to prevent it from


disintegrating. The truth is this would not be happening right now at


all if it wasn't for the fact that there is now a ruckus over the


migrant numbers and countries don't want to take them, isn't that the


case? It's true that the migrant issue has dragged Europe back into a


conflict that it has been desperate to avoid and has been trying to stay


out for many months and years. I think returning to point about


Russia, whatever Putin does say, and he says many things at different


times, it's very clear from his actions that his goal in Syria has


stooped -- has been to keep Assad in power and his bombing campaign has


been designed to help Assad's army. His goal and his desire to take a


dictator and insert itself into the Middle East peace process so that he


has a role... Absolutely, this has been his role from the very


beginning. I don't think anyone who has been watching this closely has


any doubt about that. What does what has been happening over the last few


months say about Russia's plays in the world and its ambition to change


that again? Russia was involved in this disastrous war in Ukraine.


Disastrous for Russia and Ukraine. I think it was becoming clear to the


Russian public that the war wasn't working out, so they decided to


change the narrative. The narrative is, we're now going to become


involved in Syria. There was a clear moment when he did that and that has


been his goal, to become a major broker in the Middle East, somebody


that nobody can ignore, so that he gets back into the role of world


power which is what he wants to have. Finally, do you think this is


actually a turning point? From the last five years. Is this the change


that people need in Syria? I think it might be a turning point.


It depends object political will on both sides and whether both sides


can restore some trust. And it also depends whether they can convince


their local partners and clients to support the agreement. Because no


matter what Russia and the United States might do, if there is no buy


in by Saudis, and Iranians, it is not likely to work. Thank you very


much indeed. In the years since the Royal Bank


of Scotland crashed and almost burned, the bank has tried


to reposition itself as a bank And so today a hatchery


opened in Edinburgh, in what was once the restricted


access executive wing when the now disgraced Chief Executive Fred


Goodwin was in charge. The Hatchery, for entrepreneurs


rather than chickens, offers free office facilities


and mentoring and collaborating with bank staff for up to eighty


businesses every six months, and the project Entreprenurial Spark


will be stitched into the fabric Royal Bank of Scotland was


Scotland's bank when it became the world's. At one point it was not


only the world's biggest bank, but its biggest company. Then the most


exposed of British banks, RBS crashed. The purchase of a Dutch


bank turned out to be a disaster trousers overreach. -- disastrous


overreach. It is a nightmare for Wall Street. When in 2008 the


financial world came toppling down, the bank was bailed out and


nationalised by the then Chancellor, costing the British taxpayer some


?45 billion. Last year the Chancellor began the process of


reprivatisation, selling 5% of the shares. Below the cost price at


which the Government bought them. It is the right thing to do for British


businesses and taxpayers. We may get a lower price, but we will get the


best possible price. Now that looks shrewd. Over the last 12 months


their share price has fallen by 45%. The price today is 220 pence a


share. It is up to the Chief Executive Ross McKeown to try to


steady the ship and prepare it for a proper return to the private sector.


Nurturing a new generation of entrepreneurs in the heart of their


HQ is a signal that the bank wants us to take that the atmosphere is


different. This was part of the executive wing, it was a restricted


area for only certain people. Now you have entrepreneurs, 80 are here,


young or older entrepreneurs, growing businesses again in


Scotland. This looks good for the Royal Bank of Scotland, but no one


knows the share price more than you at today it is 224, so it has lost


45% on your watch last last year. That is no at good position. No,


you're seeing all banking stocks across the world, the prices have


come down. This time around quite similar to the last time the market


collapsed, we are drifting with the market place. So you're in the hands


of market place, when you said last year that you were confident that we


would all get our money back in three year, you're having to revise


that? The markets go down as we are seeing today, they also go up and we


will wait and see. The Government's aim was to get out 75% of their


shareholding in this term of government. It makes it much more


difficult when the markets are like this. But that is in the Treasury's


hands. It looks like they will be in the red for the eighth year. How do


you feel about that It is clear we will be in the red given the


decisions that we made a month ago. We said 2014 was a year when we


would restructure and get the business into the customer groupings


and rebuild capital. Phase two is 2016 and our aim is to take, get rid


as much of the conduct and litigation issues that have plagued


the organisation and the heavy costs. So it does put you in a


position of making losses. But Joe public, ?45 billion, they won't get


their money back at this rate? No, but can I go back to why 45 billion


was put into the bank, because this is important. We would love to get


that money back to the public. But at the time, if they hadn't saved


the Royal Bank of Scotland, a lot of financial services in the UK would


probably have collapsed. Because a fair number of transactions go thus


this bank and if you let that drop it would have been a catastrophe for


the public and the economy. The decision was the right decision. Now


Europe, do you think the British sector will be better or worse off


outside the EU? I think, I haven't seen any economic data that says we


would be better off outside in the short to medium term. Let's go back


too the facts, in the short to medium term. There is a lot of


uncertainty, what does it mean to come out of Europe as well? The


issue we have got is the uncertainty that will slow businesses down and


will over time I think slow down banking, it is the uncertainty. It


is good that the Government's trying to get to a point of having the vote


quickly. Because it is the uncertainty. I haven't seen any data


that says it is a good thing. RBS has said that economic growth is


being undermined by uncertainty over the EU vote. It is clear. We saw


that under the, with the Scottish referendum. When you go through


these times, businesses stop making the decisions that they would


normally make, because of the uncertainty. That is why it is


important that the Government does move on quickly with they can get it


in June, I think it would be better than having it later. On interest


rates, do you think the Fed was wrong to jump ahead and raise the


rate? I think the Fed saw the US was starting to grow and they wanted to


make sure that inflation stayed that way. They have got great economics


and analysts doing the work on their... I will leave them to make


their calls. I would say we are going to be lower interest rates for


a lot longer than anticipated. Any talk of an interest rate rise, it is


not going to happen this year. I don't think this year and possibly


into all of 17. We have to get used to an environment with low interest


rates for a long period of time. Finally on that, do you think people


in this country will ever like bankers again? A number of people do


like them, but banks' reputations got tarnished because of what


happened and the consequence it had on people. They never want that to


happen again. Banks and bankers have still a long way to go to rebuild


that trust and it is done with every interaction every day. Thank you


very much indeed. Ross McEwan says that low interest


rates are here to stay perhaps even beyond next year, but there's


another scenario being talked about right now,


negative interest rates. Our Policy Editor


Chris Cook is here. What actually are negative interest


rates and how do they impact? You're familiar with the idea of interest


rates and central banks cut interest rates and that cuts the amount


savers get when they keep their money in banks and cuts the cost of


borrowing for investors or mortgage holders. The idea of negative


interest rates are we have come down to zero interest and central banks


have gone down as low as they can. We have tried quantitative easing,


to reduce the amount that savers get and the amount, the cost of


borrowing further. This goes beyond that and they would say to banks, if


you have money sitting on your balance sheet that is uninvested we


will fine you for having that. Capital reserve though? Not capital,


the money they have that is uninvested. So the idea is banks


would feel that it is what they have to do is get money out and lend. So


the effect would be what? It depends how far and how fast they go. It has


been talked about in the United States and things tend to travel in


banking. Nothing affects one country alone. What would happen would


defend on how far we went. It could be that things are as they are now,


but a bank would be desperate to lend to you or you could have a


situation where banks were so desperate to lend that theltd pay


you -- they would pay you to take money. Here is ?100, give us 90 quid


next year. Thank you. From Aphrodite to Marilyn,


the image of the femme fatale has Those are the two emotions strongly


associated with a John Singer Sargent painting that is merely


known by the title Madame X. The extreme reactions it caused


on first showing in 1884 have inspired a new ballet


by Christopher Wheeldon, Strapless - which is being performed


for the first time tonight Katie Razzall has been exploring how


a 19th Century picture has It just seemed there must have


been a story behind her. The scandal of this picture


was so much that I don't think In a studio at London's Royal Opera


House, two of the company's finest It's the latest creation


of choreographer extraordinary, Inspired by the story


of Amelie Gautreau, a young American It is this great story of the rise


and fall of this great We always look for in story


ballets quite large-sized And in this case downfall


and the shunning of this This painting of Amelie Gautreau,


by John Singer Sargent caused her downfall,


though it is difficult these days to understand what all


the fuss was about. Wheeldon fell in love


with the picture on visits But when its American creator


exhibited it at the Paris Salon At that time, his portrait


showed Amelie with one dress strap falling


from her shoulder. An earlier study at Tate Britain


shows Amelie's right She had bare shoulders


with this plunging cleavage, so it hints at nudity,


without actually showing her naked There were lots of nudes in these


Salons, so why did a picture that was not of someone


naked cause such scandal? These were representations


of historical or mythological characters,


such as Diana or Venus. What was scandalous about this


picture was that it was a portrait of a recognisable individual


and the suggestion is through the dress that it is sort


of slipping off her. She must have been perched


on the precipice a little bit. And this painting gave society just


an excuse to push her. That story of a woman


from high society humiliated and shunned is now


the centre piece of a triple bill of Wheeldon's work getting its world


premiere at Covent Garden. This is Wheeldon's eighth creation


for the Royal Ballet and he is back You have worked together before,


how is it to be back together? Narrative ballet, telling


a story, is just as much Wheeldon's How do you tell what's


really more like a That is the sort of


skill of it, I guess. Chris knows how to somehow get that


character across through There is only a certain


set of moves and there But just a shoulder


change or an angle of a head or the way you phrase


something can say a lot about that character's situation without sort


of bending the rules too much. It is quite, it is


an interesting thing for us to do as well,


without changing any steps you can Decades later Sargent


called the finished painting of her his finest work


and in 1884, it stayed on the Salon wall in Paris,


despite her humiliation. The scandal of this picture


permeated so much through high society, I don't think


she ever got over it. People always associated her


with this particular She begged him to remove it


from the Salon and he refused. I think he really did


believe in the painting. But eventually he took it


away and he painted, In the long-term this


established his reputation as an artist who broke boundaries,


who broke convention. And in fact when he moved


to London, people flocked to his studio


to have their portraits painted. It was a great scandal


for him, but he, you know he left Paris, she was the one


that really suffered. That's not the first


time that's happened. No, unfortunately


it's a man's world. Do you see parallels


to now with her story? Yes, absolutely, we love to build


celebrities up and then we sort of also rather relish


in tearing them down. I do think we still as


human beings take some Tomorrow morning's front-pages The


Independent, refugees terrorised by far right militia and Independent is


going to be digital after March. The financial times, banks fight to


regain confidence. Daily Telegraph Facebook fights to find poor NHS


care. And Guardian, plan for Islamist terrorist. And at the


bottom, the guilt of killers, the mother of a killer from America. And


an interview is on Newsnight. This week's presenter is museum


director Maria Balshaw. She wants to explore continuing


gender inequality in the arts and she talks to artist Sarah Lucas


and double Oscar-winner Glenda Jackson, who today announced


that she is returning to the stage


With Kirsty Wark. The Syrian opposition leader talks about the ceasefire, there's an interview with the chief of RBS and the team examine negative interest rates. Plus a look behind the scenes at the new ROH ballet.

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