Background Briefing: December 30, 2019


Why Crooks and Thieves Rule Our World

As the year draws to a close, as well as the decade, we continue our look back on the defining stories of 2019. Today we examine the role of Russia and its use of hybrid warfare with their targeted disinformation exploiting our divisions. As the Russians turn Americans against each other, we explore the broader global challenge with the Cold War struggle between communism and capitalism having morphed into a new struggle between Putin’s criminal kleptocracy and the West’s frail democracies. We begin with an interview from May 15, 2019 with Oliver Bullough, a journalist and regular contributor to The Guardian and The New York Times who has written about Russian history and politics in “The Last Man in Russia” and “Let Our Fame Be Great”. He joined us to discuss his new book “Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule The World And How to Take It Back” and the how the world had been impoverished for the benefit of a few kleptocrats by the fateful decision by some bankers in London in 1962 who changed the world when they came up with the idea of offshore banking.


 The War Against Reality

The we go to an interview from November 10th of 2019 with Peter Pomerantsev, a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics and author of the award-winning book “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”. He joins us to discuss his latest book “This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality” and explore the extent to which the Republicans and Fox News have borrowed Putin’s model of media manipulation as Trump successfully weaponizes lies while the Democrats struggle to weaponize the truth. 


The Country’s Leading Expert on Russia

Then finally in the midst of a heated inquiry into impeaching President Trump, we spoke with one of the country’s leading experts on Russia who is considered the mentor of Dr. Fiona Hill whose uncompromising testimony in the impeachment inquiry of the House Intelligence Committee was stunning in its clarity and alarming in its conclusions. On November 24th of 2019 Angela Stent, the former National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia on the National Intelligence Council who is now the Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Affairs at Georgetown University and author of Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and with the Rest joined us. We discussed how the Ukrainian leader Zelensky has been damaged and weakened by Trump’s Burisma blackmail while Putin is gloating, trolling us by remarking that “Thank God no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine”. Furthermore, instead of heeding the dressing down Fiona Hill gave the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee about the ridiculous conspiracy theories they have offered up, warning them, “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves”, President Trump doubled-down on “Fox and Friends” spinning absurd fictions that Hillary Clinton and the FBI conspired with Ukraine to release damaging dirt on Clinton herself which was passed on the Wikileaks.