Background Briefing: February 18, 2024

A Friend of the Murdered Leader of the Russian Opposition Discusses Putin’s Latest Murder of the Leader of the Russian Opposition

We begin with the murder of the leader of the opposition in Russia, Alexei Navalny, who Putin’s FSB almost killed with a nerve agent in 2020 then had him incarcerated in gulags on trumped up charges. Joining us is a close friend of Boris Nemsov, the former leader of the Russian opposition who preceded Navalny. He was assassinated just outside the Kremlin on Putin’s orders and we speak with Dr. Ariel Cohen, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. A recognized authority on international security and energy policy, and a leading expert on Russia, Eurasia, and the Middle East, he is also a senior fellow at the International Tax and Investment Center where he heads the Energy, Growth, and Security Program. The author of 6 books, his latest is Hour of Truth: The Conflict in Ukraine – Implications for Europe’s Energy Security and the Lessons for the U.S. Army.


Why Speaker Johnson Admires Putin and Has Shut Down the Government for a Month

Then we look into Speaker Mike Johnson’s move to shut down the government for a month to avoid congressional action on the FISA renewal and aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan just as the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition. Joining us to discuss why “Christian” nationalists like Johnson admire Putin is James Risen, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author whose investigative reporting has triggered a series of political firestorms in particular for revealing unwarranted NSA wiretaps. Among his best-selling books are State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration and Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War. The Senior National Security Correspondent at The Intercept and a former investigative journalist with the New York Times, his new book is The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, and the Kennedys―and One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy. 


What We Know About Recent Warnings That Russia Plans To Deploy a Space Weapon

Then finally we speak with John Pike, one of the world’s leading experts on defense, space and intelligence policy. He is Director of, which is focused on innovative approaches to the emerging security challenges of the new millennium. Pike previously worked for nearly two decades with the Federation of American Scientists, where he directed the Space Policy, Cyberstrategy, Military Analysis, Nuclear Resource and Intelligence Resource projects. He has also been at the forefront of utilizing satellite imagery to monitor worldwide weapons facilities and we discuss what we know about recent warnings that Russia plans to deploy anti-satellite nuclear weapons in space.