Background Briefing: February 19, 2024

Navalny Wanted to See “The Beautiful Russia of the Future” While Putin is Fixated on Historical Delusions of Reviving Russian Imperialism

We begin with the contrast between Navalny and Putin with one wanting to see “the beautiful Russia of the future” and the other fixated on historical delusions of reviving Russian imperialism. Joining us is Daniel Treisman, acting director of the Center for European and Russian Studies and a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. A leading specialist on the politics and economics of post-communist Russia, he is the author of a number of books on Russia including The New Autocracy: Information, Politics, and Policy in Putin’s Russia and Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century. We discuss his article at CNN, “The best tribute we can pay to Navalny.”


Do Mike Johnson’s Financial Ties Explain Why He is Cutting Off Aid to Ukraine?

Then we examine House Speaker Mike Johnson’s financial ties to Russian oligarchs in an attempt to understand why he is cutting off aid to Ukraine when they are running out of ammunition in their war against Russian imperialism. Joining us is Anna Massoglia, the Editorial and Investigations Manager at OpenSecrets, which tracks the influence of money in U.S. politics. Her research areas also include foreign influence and investigations into opaque spending networks. Trained as a lawyer, she has held additional roles with the D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge’s Chambers, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Voting Rights Project, the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Sunlight Foundation.


A Country Held Hostage by Gun Violence

Then finally, with two juveniles arrested for the mass shooting that turned the Superbowl celebration in Kansas City into a tragedy and three first responders gunned down in Minnesota today answering a domestic dispute and one killed and five wounded in a Waffle House shooting in Indianapolis, we look into a country held hostage by gun violence and speak with Jonathan Metzl, professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and director of its Center for Medicine, Health, and Society. A prominent expert on gun violence and mental illness, he is the author of several books including Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, and his latest book, just out, is What We’ve Become: Living and Dying in a Country of Arms.