Background Briefing: June 25, 2023



Putin’s Brush With Civil War in Nuclear-Armed Russia

We begin with Prigozhin’s march on Moscow as the head of the Wagner mercenaries turned warlord threatened the very seat of power in nuclear-armed Russia. In a direct challenge of Putin, after refusing to sign a pledge of loyalty to the Russian military and the state, Prigozhin’s mercenaries took the city of Rostov and held it hostage, a city which happens to be the hub of Putin’s war against Ukraine. After barrelling toward Moscow, Prigozhin apparently agreed to stand down in a deal that was supposedly brokered by the Belarussian dictator Lukashenko.  We assess the extent to which a nuclear power already engaged in a war with its neighbor is teetering on becoming more like Sudan with warlords trying to take over once the state loses its monopoly on violence. Joining us is George Beebe, the Director of Grand Strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He served in government for 25 years including as director of Russia analysis at the CIA. His latest book is The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe.


A Profile of the Russian Warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin

Then we get a profile of Yevgeny Prigozhin from someone who was hired to make a documentary about Prigozhin’s mercenary army, having already spent time with and studied Erik Prince’s mercenary army Blackwater. Joining us is Robert Young Pelton, an author, filmmaker, journalist and explorer. He is the publisher of Dangerous magazine and has had a first-hand perspective on the war on terror from direct contact with the world’s most famous jihadi, rebel, insurgent and mercenary groups. The author of Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror, he recently returned from the front in Ukraine.


What we Might Learn About Trump’s Ties to Putin and Collusion with MBS from the Upcoming Trial

Then finally, we examine the possibility that the upcoming trial of Donald Trump revive the much-maligned “Russiagate” story and lead to more press focus on Trump’s connections to the Saudi Crown Prince MBS since it is likely that Putin would very much want to see a highly classified document that lays out the United States’ vulnerability to attack by a foreign enemy and MBS would surely be interested in classified documents involving Iran’s nuclear capabilities and plans for a military attack on Iran. Joining us to discuss the desperate efforts by House Republicans to shield Donald Trump with show trial hearings and shameful censure votes is Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School and is a contributing editor at Harper’s in legal affairs and national security. He serves on the American branch of the International Law Association, and has represented a variety of journalists and whistleblowers.