Background Briefing: April 1, 2024

New Evidence on “Havana Syndrome” Links the GRU’s Assassination Unit 29155 to the Mysterious Attacks on U.S. Officials and Their Families 

We begin with revelations from a joint investigation by CBS’ 60 Minutes, Der Spiegel and The Insider that the AHI (Anomalous Health Incidents) known as “Havana Syndrome,” which incapacitated a number of high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials serving abroad, were caused by directed energy weapons wielded by members of Russian Military Intelligence GRU Unit 29155. Joining us is Michael Weiss, editor at The Insider, a Russia-focused, independent media outlet, who has reported on international affairs for over ten years with a focus on the Middle East and Russia. He has interviewed ISIS operatives and Russian spies, published and curated a series of still-classified KGB training manuals, reported from rebel-held Syria and war-torn Ukraine, broken major stories about financial corruption, and exposed the Russian intelligence services’ ongoing subversion efforts in the United States and Europe. He is the author of The Menace of Unreality: How Russia Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money and coauthor of the New York Times Bestseller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. We discuss his article at The Insider, “Unraveling Havana Syndrome: New evidence links the GRU’s assassination Unit 29155 to mysterious attacks on U.S. officials and their families.”


A Scholar Just Back From Ukraine on the Heroism of Ukraine and the Nihilism of Mike Johnson

Then we speak with Marci Shore, a professor of history at Yale University who teaches the intellectual history of twentieth and twenty-first century Central and Eastern Europe. She is the author of Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968, The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe, and The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution, just out in an updated paperback edition. She is just back from Ukraine and we discuss her article at CNN, “The heroism of Ukraine and the nihilism of Mike Johnson.”


Trump’s Illiberalism is Not a Departure, but a Recurring Theme in American History

Then finally we speak with Steven Hahn, a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian who studies American political and social movements and teaches at New York University. His acclaimed works include A Nation Under Our Feet and A Nation Without Borders, and his latest book, just out, is Illiberal America: A History. We discuss how the recent alarm about the resurgence of illiberal democracy with Trump’s capture of the GOP is seen as a departure from American tradition, but in fact may be more of a recurring theme in American history.