Fiona Hill: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump | Lex Fridman Podcast #335 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Fiona Hill: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump | Lex Fridman Podcast #335".


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Intro (00:00)

We've got to have strategic empathy about Putin as well. We've got to understand how the guy thinks and why he thinks like he does. You know, he has got his own context and his own frame and his own rationale. And he is rational. He is a rational actor in his own context. We've got to understand that. We've got to understand that he would take offense or something and he would take action over something. It doesn't mean to say that, you know, we are necessary to blame by taking actions, but we are to blame when we don't understand the consequences of things that we do and act accordingly or, you know, take preventative action or recognize that something might happen as a result of something. - What is the probability that Russia attacks Ukraine with a tactical nuclear weapon? The following is a conversation with Fiona Hill, a presidential advisor and foreign policy expert specializing in Russia. She has served the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, including being a top advisor on Russia to Donald Trump. She has made it to the White House from humble beginnings in the North of England. A story she tells in her book, "There's Nothing For You Here." This is the Lex Friedman podcast. To support it, please check out our sponsors in the description and now, dear friends, here's Fiona Hill. You came from humble beginning in a coal mining town in Northeast England. So what were some formative moments in your young life that made you the woman you are today?

Life Background And Political Outlook

Family Story (01:24)

- I was born in 1965 and it was the period where the whole coal sector in Britain was in decline already. And, you know, basically, my father, by the time I came along, had lost his job multiple times. Every coal mining worked and was closing down. He was looking constantly for other work and he had no qualifications because at age 14, he'd gone down the mines. His father'd gone down the mines at 13. His great-grandfather, you know, around the same kind of age. I mean, you had a lot of people, you know, at different points going down coal mines at 12, 13, you know, 14. They didn't get educated beyond that period because the expectation was, "Hey, you're gonna go down the mine "like everybody else in your family." And that he didn't really have any other qualifications to, you know, basically find another job beyond something in manual labor. So he worked in a steel works, that didn't work out, a brick works, that closed down. And then he went to work in the local hospital, part of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom as a porter, and orderly, supposedly somebody's just pushing people around. There was no opportunity to retrain. So the big issue in my family was education. You've gotta have one, you know, you've gotta have some qualifications. The world is changing, it's changing really quickly. And for you to kind of keep up with it, you're gonna have to get educated and find a way out of this. I'm very early on, my father had basically said to me, there's nothing for you here. You're gonna have to, if you want to get ahead. And he didn't have any kind of idea that as a girl I wouldn't. I mean, actually, in many respects, I think I benefited from being a girl rather than a boy. There was no expectation that I would go into industry. There was, you know, some kind of idea that maybe I, you know, if I got qualifications, I could be a nurse. My mother was a midwife. And so she'd at age 16 left school and gone to train, you know, as a nurse and then as a midwife. I had other relatives who'd gone to teach, you know, in local schools. And so there was an idea that, you know, women could get educated. And there was a kind of a range of things that you could do. But the expectation then was go out there, do something with your life, but also a sense that you'd probably have to leave. So all of that was circling around me, particularly in my teenage years, as I mean, I was trying to sort of find my way through life and looking forward. - First of all, what does that even look like getting educated, given the context of that place? You don't know. There's a whole world of mystery out there. So how do you figure out what to actually do out there? But was there moments, formative moments, either challenging or just inspiring? Were you wondered about what you want to be? Where you want to go? - Yeah, there were a number of things. I mean, I think like a lot of kids, you know, you talk to people and particularly from blue collar backgrounds. So what did you want to do? Boys might say I wanted to be a fireman, you know, or you got kind of, at one point, there's a little girl. I wanted to be a nurse and I had little nurses uniform like my mother. I didn't really know what that meant, but I used to go around pretending to be a nurse. I even had a little magazine called Nurse Nancy and I used to read this. And, you know, kind of that was one of the formative ideas.

Things I Could Become (04:36)

We also, it was a rural area, semi-rural area. And, you know, I'd be out in the fields all the time and I'd watch farmers, you know, with their animals and I'd see vets coming along and, you know, watching people deal with a livestock and there was a kind of a famous story at the time about a vet called James Harriet. It became here in the United States as well. It was a sort of TV mini series. He'd written a book and he was the vet for my, one of my great-hanced dogs and people were always talking about him and I thought, "Oh, I could be a vet." And then one day I saw one of the local vets with his hand up the backside of a cow in a field and he got his hand stuck in the cow was kicking him and I thought, "Yeah, maybe, maybe not actually. No, I don't think I want to be a vet." So I cycled through all of these things about, okay, I could get an education but the whole sense was you had to apply your education. It wasn't an education for education's sake. It was an education to do something. And when I was about 14 or 15, my local member of parliament came to the school and it was one of these, you know, pep talks for kids in these, you know, deprived areas. He had been quite prominent in local education and now he was a member of parliament. He himself had come from a really hard, scrouble background and had risen up through education and he'd even gone to Oxford and done philosophy, politics and economics and he basically told my class, even though it was highly unlikely, any of us were really going to get ahead and go to elite institutions. Look, you can get an education, you don't have to be held back by your circumstances. But if you do get an education, it's a privilege and you need to do something with it. So then I'm thinking, "Well, what could I do?" Okay, an education, it's a qualification, it's to do something. Most people around me, I didn't, I knew, didn't have careers. I mean, my dad didn't really have a career, he had jobs.

Influential early memory (06:15)

My mom, you know, thought of her nursing as a career though, I mean, and it genuinely was and she was out there trying to help women survive childbirth. My mother had these horrific stories, you know, basically over the dining room table, I wish she'd stop, she'd leave out her nursing books and I'd tell you if everyone had had my mom as a, as a mother, there'd be no, there'd be no reproduction on the planet. It was just these grim horrific stories of breached births and fistulas and all kinds of horrors that my sister and I would just go, "Oh my God, you know, what, please stop." So I thought, "Well, you know, "I don't necessarily want to go in that direction." But it was the timing that really sent you things for me. I was very lucky that the region that I grew up, County Durham, despite the massive decline, deindustrialization and the complete collapse of the local government system around the still maintain money for education. And they also paid for exchanges and we had exchange programs with cities in Germany and France also in Russia and Costa Ramar, near Yarra level, for example, an old textile town, similar, you know, down in its, like kind of region, but, you know, quite historic and the Russian context. In fact, the original birth place of the Roman off dynasty in Costa Ramar, just as County Durham, you know, was quite a distinguished historic area in the British context. And so it was an idea that I could go on exchanges, I could learn languages, I studied German, I studied French. And then in 1983, there was the wasker, basically provoked by the Euro Missile Crisis. So the stationing of new categories of strategic nuclear weapons and intermediate nuclear weapons in Western Europe and in Eastern Europe during the height of the Cold War. And the Euro Missile Crisis over SS20 and Pershing missiles went on from 1977, so when I was about 11 or 12, you know, all the way through into the later part of the 1980s. And in 1983, we came extraordinarily close to a nuclear conflict. It was very much another rerun of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. So 20 years on same kind of thing. The Soviets misread, although I didn't know this at the time, I know a lot of this, you know, after the fact, but the tension was palpable, but what happened was the Soviets misread the intentions of a series of exercises, Operation Air Blarcher that the United States was conducting. And actually thought that the United States might be preparing for a first nuclear strike. And that then set up a whole set of literal chain reactions in the Soviet Union. Eventually, it was recognized that, you know, all of this was really based on misperceptions. And of course, you know, that later led to negotiations between Gorbachev and Reagan for the Intermediate Nuclear Forces, the INF Treaty. But in 1983, that tension was just acute. And for as a teenager, we were basically being prepped the whole time for the inevitability of Nuka Rama-Geddon. There were TV series, films in the United States, in the UK, threads the day after we had all these public service announcements telling us to seek sanctuary or cover in the inevitability of a nuclear blast. And, you know, my house was so small, they said, look for a room without a window, there were no rooms without windows. My dad put on these really thick curtains over the window, you know, instead of there was a nuclear flash, you know, we'd have to, you know, get down on the floor, not lock up, but the curtains would help. And we'd be like, this is a ridiculous dad. And then we would all try to see if we could squeeze in the space under the stairs, a cupboard under the stairs like Harry Potter. I mean, it's all just, you know, totally nuts. Or go, you had to throw yourself in a ditch if you were outside. And I thought, well, this isn't gonna work. And one of my great uncles who had fought in World War II said, well, look, you're good at languages Fiona. Why didn't you go and study Russian? Try to figure it out. Figure out why the Russians are trying to blows up. Because, you know, during the-- - Go talk to them. - Exactly, during World War II, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union had all been wartime allies. And my uncle Charlie thought, well, there's something gone wrong here. Maybe you can figure it out. And as you said, go talk to them. So I thought, okay, I'll study Russian. So that's really how this came about. I thought what is applying education, I'll just do my very best to understand everything I possibly can about the Russian language and the Soviet Union.

Enhancing Nuclear War (10:24)

And I'll see what I can do. And I thought, well, maybe I could become a translator. So I had visions of myself sitting around, you know, listening to things in a big headset. And in a best-be translating perhaps at some, you know, future arms control summit. - So how did the journey continue with learning Russian? I mean, this is early dream of being a translator and thinking how can I actually help understand or maybe help even deeper way with this conflict that threatens the existence of the human species, how did it actually continue? - Well, I mean, I read everything I possibly could about, you know, nuclear weapons and nuclear war and, you know, I started to try to teach myself, you know, Russian a little bit as well. - It was always in context of nuclear war. - It was very much in the context of nuclear war at this particular point. But also in historical context, because I knew that the United States and the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union had been more Tamilaz and World War II. So we tried to understand all of that. And also, you know, like many other people, I read, you know, Russian literature in translation, I'd read War and Peace and, you know, I'd loved the book actually. I mean, particularly the, you know, the story parts of it.

Problemas with Tolstoy (11:40)

I wasn't one really at that time when I was a teenager. I thought Tolstoy went on a bit, you know, in terms of his series of the great man and of history and, you know, kind of social change. Now I appreciate it more. But when I was about 14, I was like, this man needed an editor. You know, could he have just got on with the story? What's an amazing story, what an incredible, you know, kind of book this is. - I still think he needs an editor book. - Yeah. Well, I think his wife tried, didn't she? But he got quite upset with it. And then I kind of thought to myself, well, how do I study Russian? Because there were very few schools in my region, you know, given the impoverishment of the region where you could study Russian. So I would have to take Russian from scratch. And this is where things get really quite interesting. Because there were opportunities to study Russian at universities, but I would need to have, first of all, an intensive Russian language course in the summer. And I didn't have the money for that. And the period is around the miners strike in the United Kingdom in 1984. Now, the miners of County Durham had very interestingly had exchanges and ties with the miners of Donbass going back to the 1920s. And as I studied Russian history, I discovered there was lots of contacts between, you know, Bolshevik Soviet Union, the early period after the Russian Revolution. But even before that, during the imperial period in Russia between the Northern England and the Russian Empire and the old industrial areas, basically big industrial areas like the Northeast of England and places like Donbass were built up at the same time, often by the same sets of industrialists. And Dan Yetsch in the Donbass region used to be called Huzafka because it was established by a Welsh industrialist who brought in miners from Wales to help, you know, kind of develop the coal mines there. And also the steelworks and others that, you know, were hearing about all the time. So I got very fascinated in all these linkages and, you know, famous writers from the early parts of the Soviet Union, like Yves Ginnizam Yassin worked in the shipyards and Newcastle-Pontine. And there was just this whole set of connections. And in 1984, when the miners strike took place, the miners of Donbass, along with other miners from famous coal regions like Durovale, for example, in Germany or miners in Poland, sent money in solidarity to the miners of County Durham. And there'd been these exchanges, as I said, going back and forth since the 1920s formal exchanges between miners, you know, the region, the miners unions. And I heard, again, from the same great uncle who told me to study Russian, that there were actually scholarships to the children of miners, and it could be former miners as well, for their education. And I should go along to the miners' hall, a place called Red Hills, where the miners of County Durham had actually pooled all of their resources and built up their own parliament. And their own, you know, kind of place that they could talk among themselves to figure out how to enhance the welfare and wellbeing of their communities. And they'd put money aside for education for miners. There was all kinds of lecture series from the miners and all kinds of other activities supporting soccer teams and artistic circles and writing circles, for example. People like George Orwell, you know, were involved in some of these writer circles in other parts of Britain and mine and communities, for example. And so they told me I could, you know, go along and basically apply for a grant to go to study Russian. So I show up and it was the easiest, you know, application I've ever come across. They just asked me to, my dad came along with me. They asked me to verify, you know, that my dad had been a miner and they looked up his employment record on little cards, you know, kind of a little, a little trace somewhere. And then they asked me how much I needed, you know, to basically pay for the travel and some of the basic expenses for the study and they wrote me a check. And so thanks to the miners of Donbas and this money that was deposited with the miners of County Durham and the Durham Mines Association, I got the money to study Russian for the first time before I embarked on my studies at university. - As you're speaking now, it's reminding me that there's a different way to look both at history and at geography and at different places is, you know, this is an industrial region. - That's right. - And it echoes in the experience of living there is more captured not by Moscow or Kiev, but by at least historically, but by just being a mining town in the South. - That's right in the place itself.

Mining Towns Economic Previous Identities (16:23)

- Yeah. - Yeah, I mean, there are places in the United States in Appalachia and West Virginia and in Pennsylvania, like the Lehigh Valley that have the same sense of place. And the Northeast of England, you know, was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. It was the industrial version of Silicon Valley, which has its own, I would say, contours and frames. And when you come to those industrial areas, your previous identities get submerged in that larger framework. I've always looked at the world through that lens of being, you know, someone from the working class, the blue-collar communities from a very specific place with lots of historical and economic connotations.

Exploitation Conflict (16:48)

And it's also a melting pot, which is the problems that the Don Bases experienced over, you know, the last 30 years that people came from all over the place to work there. There was a population that all might say is indigenous, you know, might have gone back centuries there. But they would have been, you know, in the smaller rural farming communities, just like it was the same in the Northeast of England. And people in the case of the Northeast of England came from Wales, they came from further in the South of England, the Midlands, they came from Scotland, they came from Ireland. I have all of that heritage in my own personal background. And you've got a different identity.

Soviet identity (17:38)

And it's when somebody else tries to impose an identity on you from the outside that things go awry. And I think that that's kind of what we've really seen in the case of Don Bass. It's a place that's a part in many respects historically and in terms of its evolution and development over time. And, you know, particularly in the case of, you know, Russia, the Russians have tried to say, well, look, you know, because most people speak Russia, there is the lingua franca. I mean, in the Northeast of England, of course, I've been spoke English, but lots of people were Irish speakers, you know, Gaelic Irish speakers, or, you know, some of them might have certainly been Welsh speakers. There was lots of Welsh miners who spoke Welsh with their first language you came there. But they created an identity. It's the same in Belfast in Ulster, you know, the Northern province of the, you know, the whole of the Irish island, and the part of Ireland that is still part of the United Kingdom. That was also a heavily industrialized area. High manufacturing, mass manufacturing, shipbuilding, for example, people came from all over there too, which is why when Ireland got its independence in the United Kingdom, Ulster, Belfast, and that whole region, you know, kind of clung on, because it was again that melting pot. It was kind of intertwined with the larger industrial economy and had a very different identity. And so that, you know, for me, growing up in such a specific place with such a special in many respects heritage gave me a different perspective on things. When I first went to the Soviet Union in 1987 to study the actual meant to translate this institute, what was then called the modest areas, which is now the Institute of Foreign Languages. I was immediately struck by how similar everything was to the north of England, because it was just like one big working-class culture that had sort of broken out onto the national stage. Everything in Northern England was nationalised. We had British steel, British coal, British rail, British shipbuilding, because after World War II, the private sector had been devastated and the state had to step in. And of course, the Soviet Union is one great big giant nationalised economy when I get there. And it's just the people's attitudes and outlooks of the same. People didn't work for themselves. They always worked for somebody else. And it had quite a distortion on the way that people looked at the world. - Do you still speak Russian? - I do, yeah. - Yeah, it would be a big mystery for everybody. And you have an advantage on me, 'cause it's your native language as well. - For people wondering the English speakers in the audience, you're really missing a lot from the few sentences we said there. Yeah, it's a fascinating language that stretches actually geographically across a very large part of this world. So there you are in 1987, an exchange student in the Soviet Union. What was that world like? - Well, that was absolutely fascinating in that period because it's the period that's just around the time of the peak of Peristroika and Mikhail Gorbachev's role as president, well, it wasn't quite present at that point. It's all Secretary General of the Communist Party, the Soviet Union trying to transform the whole place. So I arrived there in September of 1987 just as Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty. It was just within kind of weeks of them about to sign that, which really ends that whole period that had shaped my entire teenage years of the end of the Uram missile crisis by finally having agreement on basically the rejection and constraints on intermediate nuclear forces. And also at this point, Gorbachev is opening the Soviet Union up. So we got all kinds of opportunities to travel in ways that we wouldn't have done before. Not just in Moscow, which is why I was studying its transits, into Jupiter, the Caucasus, to Central Asia, went all the way to Haberovsk in the Russian Far East, all the way around Moscow. And there was at this point, it was also the Kresheniros, which has become very important now. So the anniversary, the 1,000th anniversary of the Christianization of Russia, which of course has become a massive obsession of Vladimir Putin's, but you know, 988, 'cause I was there 87 to 88. At this point, the Russian Orthodox Church is undergoing a revival from being repressed during the Soviet period. You certainly have the Church stepping out as a non-governmental organization and engaging in discussions with people about the future of religion. So that was something that I wasn't expecting to witness. Also, I mean, being in Moscow, this is the cultural capital of our Stumpai at this point. I'd never lived in a major city before, it's the first big city I lived in. I'd never been to the opera. You know, the first time I got on opera, it's at the Bolshoi, you know, I'd never seen a ballet. I mean, I was not exactly steeped in high classical culture. When you're kind of growing up in a mining region, you know, there's very limited opportunities for this kind of thing. I'd been in a youth orchestra and a youth choir, my parents signed me up for absolutely everything, you know, they possibly could, education wise, but it wasn't exactly any exposure to this. So, you know, I was kind of astounded by the sort of wealth of the cultural experience that one could have in Moscow. But the main thing was I was really struck by how the Soviet Union was on its last legs. Because this was Moscow, you know, I got this image about what it would look like. I was quite, to be honest, terrified at first about what I would see there, even at the big nucleus superpower. And since I got there, it was just this, like, as if a huge weight that I'd been carrying around for years and my teenage years just disappeared because it's ordinary people and ordinary players not doing great. This is the period of, you know, what they call deficit near Veremia, you know, so the period of deficits, but there's no food in the shops. There was, you know, very little in terms of commodities because the supply and demand parts of the economic equation were out of work because it was a total central planning. You know, you'd go into, you know, a shop that was supposed to sell boots and there'd be just one pile of boots all in the same size and the same color. I actually looked out because one site was in this Hungarian boot shop that was right next to where my whole residence was and I was looking for new pair of boots and every single pair of boots in the shop were my size. And there were all women's boots, I went on men's boots at all, you know, 'cause there was been an oversupply of boots and that size production. But you could really kind of see here that there was something wrong. And, you know, in the north of England, everything was closed down, the shops were shuttered because there was no demand because everybody lost their jobs, was massive employment. And when I went off to university in 1984, 90% youth unemployment in the UK, meaning that when kids left school, they didn't have something else to go on to unless they got to university or vocational training or an apprenticeship and most people were still looking, you know, kind of months out of leaving school. And so shops were closing 'cause people didn't have any money. You know, I had 50% mail unemployment in some of the towns as the steelworks closed down and the wagon works for the railways, for example, in my area. But in Moscow, people in theory did have money, but there was just, there was nothing to buy. Those are the places was falling apart, literally. I saw massive sinkholes open up in the street, balconies fall off buildings, you know, one accident after another. And then there was, you know, this real kind of sense, even though the vibrancy and excitement and hope with the Gorbachev period, a real sense of the Soviet Union lost its way. And of course, it was only a year or so after I left from that exchange program that I'd already started with my degree program in Soviet studies at Talford, that the Soviet Union basically unraveled.

Why the Soviet Union Fell Apart (Back in 1991) (25:05)

And it really did unravel. It wasn't like it collapsed. It was basically that there was so many debates that Gorbachev had sparked off about how to reform the country, how to put it on a different path, that, you know, no one was in agreement. And it was basically all these fights and debates and disputes among the elites at the center, as well as, you know, basically a loss of faith in the system in the periphery and among the general population that in fact pulled it apart. And of course, in 1991, you get Boris Yeltsin as the head of the Russian Federation, then a constituent part of the Soviet Union, together with the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus, all of these being individual parts of the Soviet Union, getting together and agreeing and essentially ending it. And Gorbachev, you know, it's basically, I'm there at the peak of this whole kind of period of experimentation and thinking about the future. And within a couple of years, it's all kind of gone and it's on a different track entirely. - Well, I wonder if we re-ran the 20th century, a thousand times, if how many times the Soviet Union would collapse? - Yeah, I wonder about that too. And I also wonder about what would have happened if it didn't collapse? And Gorbachev had found a different direction. - I mean, you know, we see a very divisive time now in American history. The United States of America has very different cultures, very different beliefs, ideologies within those states. But those are, that's kind of the strength of America's, there's these little laboratories of ideas. - Until though, that they don't keep together. I mean, I've had colleagues who have described what's happening in the West right now as a kind of soft succession with states, you know, going off in their own direction. - In which states? - Well, you know, there's these kinds of conceptions that we have now of divisions between red and blue states because of the fracturing of our politics. And I'd always thought that that wouldn't be possible in some way like the United States or, you know, many other countries as well because there wasn't that ethnic dimension. But in fact, many of our, the way that people talk about politics has given it that kind of appearance in many respects. 'Cause look, I mean, we know from the Soviet Union and the Soviet period, and from where you're from, you know, originally in Ukraine, that language is not the main signify of identity. And that identity can take all kinds of other forms. - That's really interesting. I mean, but there has to be a deep grievance of some kind. If you took a poll in any of the states in the United States, I think a very small minority people would want to actually secede even in Texas where I spend a lot of my time. - Yeah. - I just, I think that there is a common kind of pride of nation. You know, there's a lot of people complain about government and about how the country's going. The way people complain about the weather when it's raining, they say, oh, this stupid weather is raining again. But really what they mean is we're in the smok together. There's a together there that I-- - I also feel that when I go around, 'cause I mean, I've spent a lot of time since I've, my book in last October, and this last year going around, I find the same feeling. But you know, when I traveled around the Soviet Union, back in the late 1980s, I didn't get any kind of sense of people wanted to see the end of the Soviet Union either. It was an elite project. There's a really good book called Collapse by Vladislav Zubuk, who is a professor at London School of Economics at LSE. And Zubuk is pretty much my age, and he's from the former Soviet Union's Russian. And I mean, he describes it very quite aptly about how it was kind of the elites, that basically decided to pull the Soviet Union apart. And there is a risk of that here as well when you get parties on politics and people forgetting that there are Americans and they are all in this together, like the lot of the population thing. But they think that their own narrow parties on ideological precepts camp for more. And in the Soviet case, because it was also a power player, in a way that actually can't quite play out in the United States because it was the equivalent of governors in many respects who got together three of them, in the case of the heads of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus who then got rid of basically the central figure of Mikhail Gorbachev. It would be a little difficult to do that. The dynamic is not the same, but it does worry me of having seen all of that close up in the late 1980s and the early 90s. And I spent a lot of time in Russia as well as in Ukraine and Cox's Central Asia and other places after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But you kind of see the same elite divisions here in the United States pulling in different directions and straining the overall body politic. And the way that national politics gets imposed on local politics, in ways that it certainly wasn't when I first came to the US in 1989. And I didn't honestly in 1989 when I first came here, I didn't know anybody's political affiliation. I mean, I rarely knew that religious affiliation. And obviously race was a major phenomenon here that was a shock to me when I first came. But many of the kind of the class, regional, geographic, kind of political dimensions that I've seen in other places, I didn't see them at play in the same way then as I do now. And you take a lot of pride to this day of being nonpartisan.

What does nonpartisan mean to me (30:54)

That said, so you served for the George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, administrations, always specializing in Eurasia and Russia. You were the top presidential advisor to President, former President Donald Trump on Russia and Europe and famously testified in his first impeachment trial in 2019 saying, "I take great pride in the fact that I'm nonpartisan foreign policy expert." So given that context, what does nonpartisan mean to you? - Well, I mean, it's been very careful about not putting any kind of ideological lens on anything, that I'm analyzing or looking out or saying about foreign policy for one thing, but also not taking kind of one stance of one party over another either. To be honest, I've always found American politics somewhat confounding because both the Democratic and the Republican Party are pretty big tents, some of their coalitions. In Europe, it's actually kind of, some respect is easier to navigate the parameters of political parties because you have quite clear platforms. There's also a longer history in many respects, obviously. I mean, there's a long history here in the United States as a development of the parties, going back to the late 18th century. But in the United Kingdom, for example, in the 20th century, the development of the mass parties, it was quite easy to get a handle on. At one point in the UK, for example, the parties were real genuine mass parties with people who were properly members and took part in regular meetings and paid dues. And it was easy to kind of see what they're stood for. And the same in Europe, when you look at France and in Germany and the Western Germany, of course, Italy and elsewhere. Here in the United States, it's kind of pretty amorphous. The fact that you could kind of register, you know, randomly, it seems to be a Democrat Republican. Like Trump did. At one point, he's a Democrat. Next thing, he's a Republican. And then you kind of usurp a party apparatus. But you don't have to be, you're not vetted in any way. You're not kind of, you know, they don't check you out to see if you have ideological coherence.

Trump implications (32:59)

You could have someone like Bernie Sanders on the other side on the left, basically calling himself a socialist and running for the Democratic presidential nomination. So, you know, kind of in many respects, parties in the United States are much more loose movements. And I think you can, you know, it's almost like a kind of an Alacarte menu of different things that people can pick out. And it's more over time, as I've noticed, become more like a kind of an affiliation, even with the sporting team. I mean, I get very shocked, by the way, that people say, "Well, I couldn't do this because, you know, that's my side and I couldn't do anything and I couldn't support someone for the other side." I mean, I have a relative in my extended family here, who is a, you know, died in the world Republican and on, you know, family holiday was a book on their table. Said, "A hundred reasons for voting for a Democrat."

Tribal Politics (33:49)

And I said, "Hey, are you thinking of shifting party affiliation?" Then I opened the book and it's blank. It was pretty funny. I was like, I'd laugh. I thought, "Well, there you go." Then, you know, there's just, there's no way that, you know, people can pull themselves out of these frames. So, for me, it's very important to have that independence of thought. I think you can be politically engaged on the issues, but, you know, basically without taking a stance that's defined by some ideology or some sense of kind of parties on affiliation. I think I tweeted about this, maybe not eloquently. In the statement, if I remember correctly, was something like, if you honestly can't find a good thing that Donald Trump did or a good thing that Joe Biden did, you're not thinking about ideas. You just picked the tribe. I mean, it was more eloquent than that, but it was, it's basically, this is a really good test to see are you actually thinking about like how to solve problems versus like your dread team or blue team, like a sporting team. Can you find a good idea of Donald Trump's that you like? If you're somebody who is against Donald Trump, I'm like, acknowledge it to yourself, probably. Oh, that's a good idea. I'm glad he said that. - Oh, he's even asking the right kinds of questions, which he often did actually. I mean, obviously put them in a way that most of us wouldn't have done, but there was often kind of questions about, why is this happening? Why are we doing this? And, you know, we have to challenge ourselves all the time. So, yeah, actually, why are we doing that?

Governmental Biases And Controversies

The dichotomy of contempt and reality (35:30)

And then you have to, and really inspect it and say whether it's actually worth continuing that way, or they should be doing something differently. Now, we had a more kind of destructive quality to those kinds of questions. You know, maybe it's the real estate developer and him that was, you know, taking a big wrecking ball to all of these kinds of, you know, sacred edifices and things like that. But often, if you really paid attention, he was asking a valid set of questions about why do we continue to do things like this? Now, we didn't often have answers about what he was gonna do in response, but those questions still have to be asked, and we shouldn't be just rejecting them, you know, out of turn. And, you know, the another strength, the thing that people often, that criticizes on Trump, will say is the weakness, is this lack of civility can be a strength, because I feel like sometimes bureaucracy functions on excessive civility. Like, actually, I've seen this, it's not just, it's bureaucracy in all forms, like in tech companies, as they grow, everybody kind of, you know, you're getting pretty good salary. Everyone's comfortable, and there's a meeting, and you discuss how to move stuff forward.

Biases of the bureaucracy; Becomes excessively civil (36:30)

And like, you don't wanna be the asshole in the room that says, why are we doing this way? This could be unethical, this is hurting the world, this is totally a dumb idea. Like, I mean, I could give specific examples that I have on my mind currently, they're technical. But the point is, oftentimes, the person that's needed in that room is an asshole. That's why Steve Jobs worked, so Elon Musk works, you have to roll in, that's what first principles thinking looks like. - The one bit, when it doesn't work is when they start name calling, you know, kind of inciting violence against, you know, the people who disagree with it. So that was kind of your problem, because I mean, often, when I was in the administration, I had all of Europe in my portfolio, as well as Russia. And there were many times when, you know, we were dealing with our European colleagues, where he was asking some pretty valid questions about, well, why should we do this if you're doing that? You know, for example, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the United States has been opposed to Europe's realigns on gas and oil exports from Russia, you know, the Soviet Union since the 70s and 80s. And Trump kept pushing this idea about, so why are we, you know, spending so much money on NATO and NATO defense, and we're all talking about this, if you're all then, you know, basically paying billions, you know, to Russia for gas. Isn't this, you know, contradictory? And of course it was. But it was the way that he did it. And I actually, you know, one instance had a discussion with a European defense minister, basically said to me, look, he's saying exactly the same things as people said before him, including, you know, former defense secretary Gates. It's just the way he says it. You know, so they took offense. And then as a result of that, they wouldn't take action because they took offense at what he said. So it was a kind of then a way of, could you find some of the means of, you know, massaging this communication to go on and make it effective, which we would always try to focus on. Because it's a kind of the delivery. Yeah. But the actual message was often spot on in those kinds of issues. I mean, he was actually highlighting, you know, these ridiculous discrepancies between what people said and what they actually did. And it's the delivery, the charisma in the room, too. I'm also understanding the power of that, of a leader.

Trying to bypass (38:57)

It's not just about what you do at a podium. But it's in a room with advisors, how you talk about stuff, how you convince other leaders. Yeah, you don't do it through gratuitous insults and incitement divided. So that's one of the things you just don't get anywhere on that front. Well, I mean, it's possible. Tough measures and maximum pressure, often there does work. Right. Because there were, you know, often times where, you know, that kind of relentless, you know, nagging about something constantly raising it. It actually did have results, but it hadn't previously. Right. So there's, you know, the maximum pressure, if it, you know, kind of kept on it in the right way, and, you know, often when we were, you know, coming in behind on pushing on issues, you know, related to NATO or, you know, other things in this, you know, same sphere, it would actually have an effect. It just doesn't get talked about because it gets overshadowed by, you know, all of the other kind of stuff around this and the way that, you know, he interacted with people and treated people.

Multiplier Effect on Ukraine (39:37)

What was the heart, the key insights to your testimony in that impeachment? Look, I think there is a straight line between that whole series of episodes and the current war in Ukraine. Because Vladimir Putin and the people around him in the Kremlin concluded that the US did not care one little bit about Ukraine, and it was just a game. The Trump, it was personal game. He was basically trying to get Vladimir Zelensky to do him a personal favor related to his desire to stay on in power in the 2020 election. And generally, they just thought that we were using Ukraine as some kind of proxy or some kind of instrument within our own domestic politics, as that's what it looked like. And I think that he knows the result of that. Putin, you know, took the idea aware that he could, you know, do whatever he wanted. We were constantly being asked, even prior to this, by people around Putin, like, you know, Nikolai Patrichev, the head of the National Security Council equivalent in Russia, we met with frequently, what's Ukraine to you? We don't get it. You know, why do you even care? So they thought that we weren't serious. They thought that we weren't serious about Ukraine's territorial integrity and its independence, or it is a national security player. And Putin also thought that he could just manipulate the political space in the United States. Actually, he could, because what he was doing was seeding all this dissent and fueling, you know, already, you know, debates inside of US politics, the kinds of, you know, things that we see just kind of coming out now. This kind of idea that Ukraine was a burden, that Ukraine was, you know, basically just trying to extract things from the United States. The Ukraine had somehow played inside of US politics. Trump was convinced that the Ukrainians had done something against him, but they had intervened in the elections. And that was kind of, you know, a combination of people around him trying to find excuses to, you know, kind of what had happened in the election to kind of divert attention away from Russia's interference in 2016, and the Russians themselves poisoning the well against Ukraine. So you had a kind of a confluence of circumstances there. And what I was trying to get across in that testimony was the national security imperative of basically getting our act together here and separating out what was going on in our domestic politics from what was happening in our national security and foreign policy. I mean, I think we contributed in that whole mess around the impeachment, but it's the whole parallel policies around Ukraine to the war that we now have. - Yes. - That I'm confronting.

Competence vs integrity (42:40)

- Signaling the value we place in peace since the billion in that part of the world, or the reverse by saying we don't care. - Yeah, we seem to not care. It was just again. - But I mean, the US role in that war is very complicated one. That's one of the variables. Just on that testimony, did it, in part, break your heart that you had to testify essentially against the president of the United States? Or is that not how you saw it? - I don't think I would describe it in that way. I think what I was was deeply disappointed by what I saw happening in the American political space. I didn't expect it. Look, I was a starry-eyed immigrant. I came to the United States with all of these expectations of what the place would be. I'd already been disabused of some of the, let's just say, Rosie perspectives on how the United States, I'd been shocked by the depths of racial problems. It doesn't even sum up the problems we have in the United States. I mean, I couldn't get my head around it when I first came. I mean, I'd read about slavery in American history, but I hadn't fully fathomed. And really, they're kind of the way that it was ripping apart the United States. I mean, I had to read Alex's talk film and he'd commented on this. And it obviously kind of changed to the way that one would have expected all this time. From the 18th century onwards. So that was kind of one thing that I realized civil rights movement and all of these acts of expansion of suffrage and everything else were imperfect at best. And I was born in '65, the same time as the civil rights act. It was heck of a long way still to go. So I wasn't, let's just say, as starry-eyed about everything as I'd been before, but I really saw an incredible competence and professionalism in the US government. It was in the election system and the integrity of it. And I really saw that. So the United States was the gold standard for kind of some of its institutions. And I worked in the National Intelligence Council. And I'd seen the way that the United States had tried to address the problems that it had faced and it had just whole botched analysis of Iraq and this terrible strategic blunder of, and honestly a crime in my view of invading Iraq. But the way that people were trying to deal with that in the aftermath, I went into the National Intelligence Council and the DNI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence when they were coming to terms with what had gone wrong in the whole analysis about Iraq in 2003. And the whole work of people trying to pull together after 9/11 and to learn all of the lessons from all of this. And I saw just really genuine striving and deliberation about what had gone wrong, what lessons could we learn from this? And then suddenly I found myself in this, I couldn't really describe anything with it. It's totally crazy looking glass thinking of, you know, Alice in Wonderland, Alice through the looking glass version of American politics. I mean, I'd seen everything starting to unravel over a kind of a period of time before I'd been asked to be in the administration, but I did not expect it to be that bad honestly didn't. I mean, I'd been warned by people that this was, you know, kind of really a very serious turn that the United States had taken, but I really thought that national security would still be upper most in people's minds. And it was when a lot of the people that I work with, but what I found, you know, if you want to use that, you know, term of heartbreaking was the way in which all of these principles that I'd really bought into and tried to uphold in the United States government and in the things that we were trying to do with me and my colleagues were just being thrown out the window. And that, you know, I would have to step up in defense of them and in defense of my colleagues who were being lambasted and, you know, criticized and given death threats for actually standing up and doing their own jobs. - In particular on the topic of Ukraine?

Iraq and Afghanistan (46:41)

- Not just on Ukraine, but a national security overall. So, I mean, I'd gone through this whole period even before we got to that point. I'm seeing non-partisan government officials being attacked from all sides left and right and but especially the right and being basically accused of being partisan hacks in a deep state, coup plotters, you know, you name it. The prejudice isn't being questioned as well. I know a lot of people I work with in government, like myself, naturalized Americans, a lot of them are immigrants, many were refugees and many people had fought and was on behalf of the United States and Iraq and Afghanistan being blown up and, you know, they'd put their lives on the line, they'd put their family lives on the line, you know, because they believed in America. And they were just, they were reflections of Americans from all kinds of works of lives. It was what really made, you know, that cliche of America great. It wasn't, you know, whatever it was that was being, you know, bandaged around in these crude, crass political terms. It was just this strength of an incredible set of people who've come together from all kinds of places and decided that they're going to make a go of it and that they're going to, you know, try to work towards the whole bit of variety of the preamble of the Constitution towards a more perfect union. And I, you know, I saw people doing that every single day despite all of the things that they could criticize about the United States, still believing in what they were doing and believing in the promise of the country, which is what I felt like. And then here we were, people were just treating it like a game and they were treating people like dirt and they were just playing games with people's lives. I mean, we all had death threats, you know, people's, you know, whole careers, which were not just careers for their own self-aggrandizement, but for careers of public service, trying to give something back, were being shattered. And I've found, you know, I just thought to myself, I'm not going to let that happen, because, you know, I've come from a, well, are they going to send me back to Bishop Auckland and county don't find, I'm totally fine to go back, you know, because I could do something back there. But I'm not going to let this happen. I've made this choice to come to America. I'm all in. And these guys are just behaving like a bunch of idiots and they're ruining it, you know, they're ruining it for everybody. So the personal attacks on, on competent, hard-working, passionate people who have loved what they do in their heart, similar stuff I've seen for virologists and biologists, so colleagues, basically scientists in the time of COVID when there's a bunch of cynicism. And there was just personal attacks, including death threats on people that's that, you know, work on viruses, work on vaccines. Yeah, are they going around in, you know, but are basically with protective gear on in case somebody shoots them in the street? That's just absurd.

Perspectives On Past Us Presidents

Have the Presidents been dishonest? (49:17)

But let me zoom out from the individual people. Yeah. And actually look at the situations that we saw in the, in the George W. Bush, Obama and Donald Trump presidencies. And I'd like to sort of criticize each, by the not the treatment of individual people, but by the results. Right. Yeah, I think that's fair. Yeah. So if we look at George W. Bush and maybe you can give me insights, this is what's fascinating to me, when you have extremely competent, smart, hardworking, well-intentioned people, how do we as a system make mistakes in foreign policy? So the big mistake you can characterize in different ways, but in George W. Bush is invading Iraq. Yeah. Or maybe how it was invaded, or maybe how the decision process was made to invade it. Again, Afghanistan, maybe not the invasion, but details around like having a plan about how to withdraw all that kind of stuff. Then Barack Obama, to me similarly, is a man who came to fame early on for being somebody who was against, a rare voice against the invasion of Iraq, which was actually a brave thing to do at that time. And nevertheless, I mean, I don't know the numbers, but I think he was the president for years over increased drone attacks, increased like everything from a foreign policy perspective, the military industrial complex, that machine grew in power under him, not shrunk, and did not withdraw from Afghanistan. And then with Donald Trump, the criticisms that you're presenting, sort of the personal attacks, the chaos, the partisanship of people that are supposed to be nonpartisan. So if you do sort of the steel man, the chaos, to make the case for chaos, maybe we need to shake up the machine, throw a wrench into the engine, into the gears. And then every individual gear is gonna be very upset with that, because it's a wrench, it's not an inefficient process, but maybe it leads for government. It forces the system as a whole, not the individuals, but the system to reconsider how things are done. So obviously all of those things, the actual results are not that impressive. - You could have done that on the latter, shaking things up, because I'm all one for questioning and trying to shake things up as well and do things differently. But the question is if you bring the whole system down with nothing, the idea is of putting it to the place.

The weight of the Presidents narcissism (52:21)

I mean, like many people, I've studied the Bolshevik Revolution and many others as well. And what's the pattern here that actually fits into what you're talking about here is a kind of rigidity of thought on the part of revolutionary in many cases as well. And also narcissism. In fact, I think it takes a pretty strong sense of yourself, kind of an only yourself to wanna be president of the United States. For example, when we see that in many of our presidents it'd be narcissist to different kind of degrees. If you think about Lenin, for example, and people can go back and read about Lenin, he formed his views and he was about 18 and he never shook them off. He never evolved. He didn't have any kind of diversity of thought. And when systems go awry, it's when they don't bring in different perspectives. And so Trump, if he brought in different perspectives and actually listened to them and not just believed that he himself knew better than anyone else and then tried to divide everybody against each other, it would have been a different matter. It's a tragedy of a completely and utterly lost set of opportunities because of the flaws in his own nature. Because I mean, again, there was all kinds of things that he could have done to shake things up. And so many people around him remained completely disappointed. And of course, he divided and pitted people against each other, creating so much factualism in American politics that people have forgotten they're Americans. They think that they're red or blue parts of teams. And if you go back over history, that's a kind of a recipe for war and internal conflict. You go back to the Byzantine Empire, for example, this famous episode of the Nikke riots in Constantinople, where the whole city gets trashed because the greens, the reds, the blues and these various sporting teams in the hepidrome get whipped up by political forces and the polar place apart. And that's kind of where we've been heading on some of these trajectories.

Since Bush and why theres no looking to other views (53:59)

But the other point is when you look back, a bush and a bomber as well, there's a very narrow circle of decision-making. In Bush period, it's the focus on the executive branch with Dick Churney as the vice president, being very fixated on it. In the bomber, it's he and kind of the bright young things around him from he himself is kind of intellectually, one might say arrogant in many respects. He was a very smart guy. And he's convinced that he has any ruminates and he has some overall things, but he's the person who makes, you know, a lot of decisions. And basically, George W. Bush used to call himself the decider as well, right? I mean, they're all the people who make the decisions. It's not always as consultative as you might think it is. And for Trump, it's like, I'm not listening to anybody at all. You know, it's just me and whatever it is that I'm walking up to there and I've decided to do. So I think the problem with all of our systems, why we don't get results, because we don't draw upon the diversity of opinion and all the ideas of people out there.

Why have bipartisanship when it comes to solving problems? (55:05)

You do that in science. I mean, all my friends and relatives are in science. They've got these incredible collaborations with people, you know, across the world. I mean, how did we get to these vaccines for the COVID virus? Because of this incredible years of collaboration and of, you know, sharing results and sharing and ideas. And our whole system has become ossified. You know, we think about the congressional system, for example, as well. And there's, you know, this kind of rapid, you know, turnover that you have in Congress every two years, you know, there's no incentive for people, you know, basically to work with others. They're constantly campaigning. They're constantly trying to appeal to whatever their basis and they don't really care about, you know, some do, you know, over their constituents, but a lot of people don't. And the Senate, it's all kind of focused on the game of legislation for so many people as well, not focusing again on that kind of sense about what are we doing, like scientists, to kind of work together, you know, for the good of the country to push things along. And also our government also is siloed. There's not a lot of mechanisms for bringing people together. There ought to be in things like the National Security Council, the National Intelligence Council actually did that quite successfully at times for analysis that I saw. But we don't have, you know, we have it within the National Institutes of Health, but we saw the CDC breakdown on this, you know, kind of front. We don't have sufficient of those institutions that bring people together from all kinds of different backgrounds. You know, one of the other problems that we've have with government, with the federal government, over, you know, state and local government, is actually quite small. People think that the federal government's huge, because we have postal service in the military that are part of it. But your actual federal government employees is a very small number. And, you know, the senior executive service part of that is the older white guys, you know, who kind of come up all the way over the last, you know, several decades. We have a really hard time bringing in younger people into that kind of government service, unless they're political hacks, you know, and they want to, you know, kind of, or they're kind of looking for power and, you know, sort of influence. We have a hard time getting people at yourself, and other, you know, younger people kind of coming in to make a career out of public service, and also retaining them, because, you know, people with incredible skills often get poached away into the private sector. And, you know, a lot of the people that I work with in the National Security side are now at all kinds of, you know, high-end political consultancies, or they're gone to Silicon Valley, and they've gone to this place and that place, because after a time as a younger person, they're not, you know, rising up particularly quickly, because there's a pretty rigid way of looking at the hierarchies and the promotion schemes. And they're also getting lambasted by everybody. People are like, you know, public servants. They're not really public servants. There's this whole lack and loss of a kind of a faith in public service. And, you know, the last few years have really done a lot of damage. We need to revitalize our government system to get better results. We need to bring more people in, even if it's, you know, for a period of time, not just through expensive contracts for, you know, the big consulting companies and, you know, other entities that do government work out there, but getting, you know, people in for a period of time, expanding, expanding some of these management fellowships and the White House fellows and, you know, bringing in, you know, scientists, you know, from the outside, giving, you know, that kind of opportunity for collaboration that we see in other spheres. - I think that's actually one of the biggest roles for a president that, for some reason, during the election, that's never talked about, is how good are you at hiring? - Yeah. - And creating a culture of, like, attracting the right. I mean, basically, chief hirer. When you think of a CEO, like, the great CEOs are, I mean, maybe people don't talk about it that often, but they do more often for CEOs than they do for presidents, it's like, how good are you building a team?

You must be a good hirer if you want to be successful president. (59:00)

- Well, we make it really difficult because of the political process. I mean, and also because we have so many political appointments, we ought to have less, to be honest. I mean, if we look at other governments around the world, you know, that are smaller, it's much easier for them to hire people in. - Yeah. - And it's not that I say that the government is necessarily too big, but it's just thinking about each unit in a different way. We shouldn't be having so many political appointments. We should kind of find more professional appointments, more non-parties on appointments, because, you know, every single administration that we've had over the last, let's see, span of presidencies, they have jobs that are unfulfilled, because they can't get their candidates through Congress and the Senate, because of all the kind of political games that are being played. I know loads of people have just been held up because it's just on the whim of, you know, some member of Congress, even though that the actual position that they want is really technical and doesn't really care about what, you know, what political preference they particularly have. So I think we have to try to look at the whole system of governments in the way that we would over, you know, other professional sectors and to try to think about this as, just as you said there, that this is a government that's actually running our country. This is an operating system, and you wouldn't operate it like that if you were looking at any kind of rational way. It shouldn't be so ideologically, or parties untainted. - So you're-- - It's every level anyway. So I would actually just make a bit for a more non-parties unapproached of a lot of the parts of government. You can still kind of bring in, you know, the political and premature, but also you have to explain to people large in America as well that this is your government. And that actually you could also be part of this, things like the Small Business Administration, the East Department of Agriculture, you know, all these kind of things that actually people interact with, but they don't even know it, the Postal Service, you know, all of these things. I mean, people actually, when you ask them about different functions of government, they have a lot of support for it, the National Park Service, you know, for example, it's just when you talk about government in an abstract way that I grew too much bloated, you know, not efficient and effective. But if you kind of bring it down more to the kind of local and federal levels, that's kind of, you know, when people really see it. If people could see kind of themselves reflected in many of the people who've gone into public service, I think though they would, you know, have a lot more support for it. - More like superstars, like individuals that are like big on social media, big in the public eye, and having fun with it and showing cool stuff that is not, right now a lot of people see government as basically partisan warfare.

What makes people love their government? (01:01:29)

And then it just, it makes it unpleasant to do the job. It makes it uninspiring for people looking in from outside about what's going on inside government, all of it, the whole thing. But you are, you know, just with all due respect, you're a pretty rare individual in terms of non-partisanship.

Partisan Political Dynamics And Opinions

Nonpartisan government advisors (01:01:59)

Like it's actually your whole life story, the humbling aspect of your upbringing and everything like that. Do you think it's possible to have a lot of non-partisan experts in government? Like can you be a top presidential advisor on Russia for 10 years, for 15 years and remain non-partisan? - I think you can, I don't think that's advisable though, by the way, because I mean, I don't think anybody should be there, you know, so you're first advisors to fight yourself after 10 years. - Well, you should definitely have 10 moments, just like you shouldn't have everything, right? I mean, it's just like 10 year in university. - Oh, we all have 10 limits. - Yeah, you kind of, you know, we do, we have natural term limits, but you know, you're kind of, you know, basically bottling it up for other people. I mean, you know, what I'm trying to do now, I'm 57 now, and I always try to work with, you know, people from different generations to me, just like, you know, I've already benefited from these, you know, kind of mentorship of people who are older, you can, you know, mentor up and well and mentor down. I mean, I would, you know, try to get, you know, people from different backgrounds and different generations to work together in teams.

Young people increasingly closer to the workplace (01:03:06)

Honestly, I'd like to more team network to kind of approach the things, the kind of things that you get again in science, right? I mean, all these ideas are gonna come from all kinds of different perspectives. Age and experience does come for something, but you know, fresh ideas and coming in and looking at a problem from a different perspective and seeing something that somebody else hasn't seen before. I mean, I just, you know, kind of love working in an environment with all kinds of different people and people don't agree with you. You need people to take you on and say, "Absolutely, that's crap." Kind of, "Where did you come up with that from?" And they go, "Hang on, well, explain to me why you think so." And then, you know, you have this kind of iterative process back and forth. I mean, I would always encourage my colleagues to tell me when they thought it was wrong. I mean, sometimes I didn't agree because I didn't see the, you know, the reasoning, but other times I'd be like, you know, they're right. You know, that was a complete mistake. I need to admit that and, you know, kind of, we need to figure out a different way of doing things. But the one point I do want to get across is there were a lot of people who were non-parties, and the ones that I worked with. I mean, honestly, in most of the jobs that I had, up until more recently, I had no idea about people's political affiliation. It's just when you get into this kind of highly charged parties and environment, they kind of force people, you know, to make decisions. And when you have, you know, one political party, political factions trying to usurp power, it does make it quite difficult. I mean, that's the situation that we're in right now. And, you know, we're seeing some of the things happening next to this. I've seen and studied and other settings or seen for myself happening. You know, when you have a president who wants to cling on to power, you know, you've got to call that out. You know, is that a partisan act or is that a kind of, you know, defense of that larger political system that you're part of? You know, so I think we've got to recognize that even if you're not partisan, you can be politically engaged. And, you know, sometimes you just have to stand up there and speak out, which is, you know, what I did and what others did as well. None of those people who spoke out, you know, can initially saw that as a partisan act, even if some of them, since then, have decided to make political choices they hadn't made before. Because, you know, the situation actually forced people into, you know, taking sides very hard to still stay above the fray when you've got, you know, someone who's trying to perpetrate a coup. - Yeah, just the link on that, I think it's hard and it's the courageous thing to do, to criticize a president and not fall into partisanship after. Because the whole world will assume, if you criticize Donald Trump, that you're clearly a Democrat, and so they will, just, everybody will criticize you for being a Democrat. And then, so you're now stuck in that, so you're going to just embrace that role. But to still walk the nonpartisan route after the criticism, that's the hard road. So not let the criticisms break you into, you know, into a certain kind of ideological set of positions. - I mean, our political system needs revitalization. We need to be taking a long hard look at ourselves here. And I think what people are calling out for, look, there's a vast way of the population, like me who are unaffiliated. You know, maybe some lean in one direction over another, and unaffiliated doesn't mean you don't have views about things and political opinions, and, you know, you may sound quite extreme on, you know, some of those, you know, by the, from a left or right perspective. What people are looking for is kind of an articulation, you know, things in a kind of a clear way that they can get a handle on. And they're also looking for a representation. Somebody's going to be there, you know, for you. You know, not part of a kind of a rigid team that you're excluded from, you know, the ins and the outs. But what people are looking at now, they're looking at that in the workplace, because they're not finding that.

Why workers are now turning to unions (01:06:50)

In politics, you're actually getting workers, you know, pushing the, people talk about the rise of the workers, people just saying, hang on a sec, you know, the most important space that I'm in right now is my workplace, because that's where my benefits are from. They're not coming from the state. I mean, that's a peculiarities United States system, you know, the Britain, you've got the National Health Service, and you've got all the kind of national wide benefits, you know, you're not tethered to your employer like you are in the United States. But here now we're asking people, you know, people are pushing for more representation. They're asking to be represented within their workplace, be it Starbucks where various deserves, you know, no, the Starbucks employees are trying to unionize. We have unions among our research assistants, the Brookings Institution where I am, you know, kind of teaching assistants in big universities doing the same kind of thing as well, because they won't have their voice heard. They want to kind of play a larger role and they want to have change. And they're often pushing their companies or the institutions they work for to make that change because they don't see it happening in the political sphere. So it's not just enough to go out there and protest in the street, but if you want something to happen, that's why you're seeing big corporations playing a bigger role as well. - Yeah, and of course there's, you know, there's a longer discussion. There's also criticisms of that, mechanisms of unions to achieve the giving of a voice to people. - This goes back to my own experience growing up in Northern England. The Durham miners that I was part of for generations, you know, first posted my family not in the mines on my dad's side, they created their own association. It wasn't a union per se at the very beginning. Later they became part of the National miners union. They lost their autonomy and independence as a result of that. But what they did was they pulled their resources. They set up their own parliament so they could all get together. Literally they built a parliament. You know, opened in like the same time as World War I and where they all got together 'cause they didn't have the vote, they didn't have suffrage at the time because they didn't have any money. You know, so they didn't compare the tax and they couldn't run for parliament. And this is, you know, kind of the origins of the organised Labour parties later, but they create this association so they could talk about how they could deal with things of their own communities and have a voice in the things that mattered. You know, education, you know, improving their work conditions. It wasn't like what you think about some kind of like big political trade union with, you know, left wing, you know, kind of ideas. In fact, they actually tried to root out later after the Bolshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union even when they were still having ties with players like the miners of Don Bass in the 1920s, Trotskyites and, you know, kind of Leninists and, you know, companies. They were more focused on how to improve their own wellbeing. You know, what they called the welfare. They had some welfare societies where they were kind of trying to think, and that's kind of what barristers in Star Wars want, or workers in Amazon. They're looking about their own wellbeing. It's not just about pay and work conditions. It's about what it means to be part of this larger entity because you're not feeling that same kind of connection to politics, you know, at the moment, because, you know, you're being told by a representative, sorry, I don't represent you, because you didn't vote for me. You know, if you're not a Democrat, you're not a Republican, you're not red, you know, you're not blue, you're not mine. And so people are saying, well, I'm in this work class. This is kind of my collective. You know, this is, you know, therefore, this is why I'm going to have to try to post-to-make change. So, I mean, this is kind of happening here, and we have to, you know, realize that, you know, we've kind of gone and we're full circle back to that, you know, kind of period of the early emergence of sort of mass labor and, you know, the way that that's where the political parties that we know today, and, you know, the kind of early unions came out of as well. This sort of feeling of a mass society, but where people weren't really able to get together and implement or push for change. You know, with unions at a small scale and a local scale, it's like every good idea on a small scale can become a bad idea in a large scale. On a large scale, yeah. So like, a marriage is a beautiful thing, but at a large scale, it becomes the marriage industrial complex that tries to make money off of it, combined with the lawyers that try to make money off the divorce. It just becomes this caricature of a thing.

a country of weird polarization and deeply disturbed people (01:11:00)

Or like Christmas and the holidays, it's like, it's just-- - I don't disagree, but what I'm saying is there's people are basically looking for something here, and, you know, kind of, this is why, I mean, I myself, am start to think about much more local, you know, kind of solutions for all of these, you know, kind of problems. It's again, the team's networked approach. - On the impeachment, looking back, because you're part of it, you get the experience that, do you think they strengthened or weakened this nation? - I think it weakened in many respects, just the way that it was conducted. I mean, there's a new book coming out by a couple of journalists in the Washington Post, I haven't actually seen it yet, but I really did, you know, kind of worry that myself, that it became a spectacle. And although it actually, I think in many respects, was important in terms of an exercise of civic responsibility and, you know, give people a big massive lesson in civics, everyone's kind of running out and looking up the whole process of impeachment and what that meant, and kind of like congressional prerogatives. I was, as well, I was, you know, like running off myself and, you know, trying to learn an enormous amount about it, 'cause I was in the middle of all of this, that it didn't ultimately show responsibility and accountability. And that in itself was kind of, was weakened, because on both sides, there was a lot of parties on politics. I mean, I think that there was a dereliction of duty in many respects. I mean, especially I have to say on the part of Republican members of Congress, who were, you know, kind of, they should have been embracing, you know, Congress's prerogatives. You could have, you know, kind of basically done this in a, in something of a different way. But the whole thing is because it was this larger atmosphere of polarized, not even polarized, but fractured, fractured politics. And I was deeply disappointed, I have to say, in many of the members of Congress on the Republican side, I mean, there's a lot of grandstanding that I really didn't like a bit on the Democratic side either. And not admitting to mistakes and, you know, not kind of addressing head on, you know, the fact that they'd, you know, kind of been pushing for, you know, Trump to be impeached and, you know, talking about being an illegitimate president, you know, kind of right from the very beginning. And that, you know, as a result, that a lot of people just saw this as kind of a continuation of, you know, political games, you know, coming out of the 2016 election. But on the Republican side, it was just a game. There was people I knew who were, you know, basically, you know, one point, one of them winked at me. You know, in the middle of this, you know, kind of impeachment, just like, don't take this personally, you know, this is-- - This is a game, this is a game. And I just thought, this isn't a game. And that's why I think that it, you know, kind of weakened because, I mean, again, on the outside, it weakened us, the whole process weakened us, in the eyes of the world, because again, the United States was the gold standard. And I do think, I mean, again, in the terms of the larger population, although a lot of people, you did actually see the system, you know, standing up trying to do something to help people account, but there's still was that element of circus and a big political game, and people being careless with the country. - But I do think that the Democrats were the instigators of the circus.

Characterize the Democratic Party Circus. (01:14:14)

So as it's perhaps subtle, but there's a different way you talk about issues or concerns about accountability when you care about your country, when you love your country, when you love the ideals, and when you, versus when you just want to win-- - And stick it to the other side. - No, I agree. - Stick it to the other side.

Alien Oath Taking (01:14:39)

- I agree, I mean, there were people who, I actually thought, managed that, that made it about the country rather than about themselves. - But I guess there's both, I'm tempted to do that. - Yeah, there were others who did a lot of grandstanding. Yeah, and that's another problem of our political incentive structures, that the kind of sense of accountability and responsibility tends to be personal. You know, people, whether people decide to do it or not, it's not institutional, if that makes sense. We've had a kind of a breakdown of that kind of, that sense. Now I took an oath of office, and I'm assuming that most of them did too. You know, I had to be sworn in, you know, when I took those positions. I took that seriously, but I already took an oath of citizenship. There's presumably you did too, you know? You kind of, started to become an American citizen. It's not something you take on likely. And you know, that's why I felt this deep sense of responsibility all the time, which is why I went into the administration in the first place. I mean, I got a lot of flack for it, because, you know, I thought, well, look, I've been asked. And there's a real issue here, after the Russian interference and the whole influence operation of the 2016 elections, and I knew what was going on, and I should do something. You know, if not me, then, you know, 'cause someone else will go and do, but can I live with myself just sitting on the sidelines and criticizing what people are doing, you know, and kind of worrying about this? Or am I actually gonna muck in there and, you know, just go and do something? It's like seeing a house on fire, and you see that, you know, 'cause this is pretty awful and dangerous, but I could go in there and do something. To clarify the house on fire, meaning the cyber war that's going on, or cyber attacks, or cyber security. - Well, in the 2016, you know, when the Russians had interfered in the election, you know, I mean, basically, this was a huge national security crisis. And our politics, we'd gone mad as a result of it.

Accountability And Influence In Politics

Big Importance to Sign on Accountability (01:16:19)

And we, in fact, we were making the situation worse. And I felt that I could, you know, kind of at the time, maybe I could do something here, I could try to clarify, I could, you know, work with others who I knew in the government from previous stints in the government to push back against this and try to make sure it didn't happen again. And look, and I also didn't have this, you know, mad, you know, kind of crazy ideological view of Russia, either. I mean, I knew the place, I knew the people had been sitting a long time and quite calm about it. I don't take it personally. It's not kind of an extension of self. It's, you know, something I've spent a long time trying to understand for myself, going back to that very beginning of why were the Russians trying to blows up? There must be an explanation. But while it was a very complicated and complex, explanation, it wasn't as simple as how it sounded. And also there was a long tail to 2016, you know, Putin's perceptions, the kind of things that he thought were going on. You know, the whole way that what they did was actually fairly straightforward, they'd done this before in the Soviet period during the Cold War, classic influence operation. It just had gone beyond the bounds of anything they could have anticipated because of social media and just a confluence of circumstances in the United States as well. We were very fragile and vulnerable. And I remember at one point having a discussion with the Russian ambassador where, you know, we were complaining about the Russian intervention. He said, "Are you telling me that the United States "is a banana republic that it's so vulnerable "to these kinds of efforts?" And he actually looked genuinely mystified. Although I mean, obviously it was probably, you know, part of a kind of political shtick there. But he had a point. The United States had never been that vulnerable as it suddenly was in 2016. And in the time that I was in government and going back to what you asked about the whole impeachment and the whole exercise in Congress, that vulnerability was as stark as it, you know, ever could be. Our domestic politics were as much a part of the problem as anything else. They were the kindling to all of the kind of the fires. Putin didn't start any of this other kind of problems domestically, just took advantage of them. And, you know, basically added a bit of an accelerant here and there. - Yeah, the interference.

Can You Teach Hacking for Good? (01:18:38)

I mean, that's a much longer discussion 'cause it's also for me technically fascinating. I've been playing with the idea of just launching like a million bots, but they're doing just positive stuff and just being kind. - Yeah, I was kind of wondering if is it possible to do something on this skill that's positive? Because, you know, a lot of people seem to be able to use all of this for pretty negative effect. You've got to kind of hope that you could do this, use the same networks for positive effect. - I think that's actually where a lot of the war, I think from the original hackers to today, what gives people like me and I think a lot of people that in the hacking community pleasure is to do something difficult, break through the systems and do the ethical thing. So do the, because if there's something broken about the system, you want to break through all the rules and do something that you know in your heart is the right thing to do. I mean, that's what Karen Schwartz did with releasing journals and publications that were behind paywalls to the public and you got arrested for them and they committed. But to me it's fascinating because I, maybe you can actually educate me, but I felt that the Russian interference in terms of social engineering, in terms of bots, all that kind of stuff, I feel like that was more used for political bickering than to actually understand the national security problem because I would like to know the actual numbers involved in the influence. I would like to, I mean, obviously, hopefully people now understand that better than are trying to defend the national security of this country.

The Intentional Bot Armysal! (01:20:05)

But it just, it felt like, like for example, if I launch one bot and then just contact somebody at the New York Times saying I launched this one bot, they'll just say, "MIT scientists hacks," you know, and then they'll spread. - But that's exactly what happened. - It was, you know, kind of, I think that Putin and some of the people around him understood because again, propaganda state, they're spending an awful lot of time thinking about how you, you know, basically put out your own content and how you get maximum effect through performance. Putin himself is a political performance artist. I mean, Trump understood exactly the same thing that were actually operating in parallel, not in collusion, but in parallel. You know, basically Trump understood how to get lots of free airtime, you know, how to get himself at the center of attention. Putin, you know, did that through a kind of, I think, a less organic kind of way, you know, you got a lot of people working around him. I remember that's the old, you know, Bolshevik, I did prop and, you know, kind of then the whole Soviet propaganda machine and, you know, Putin kind of growing up in that kind of environment and having, you know, the kind of the Kremlin press office and all the kind of people around him got kind of a massive machine knew how that worked. I mean, they haven't done, you know, what the Chinese did in Russia, like, you know, blocking everything and having a big firewall, it was kind of putting out lots of content, getting into the, you know, the sort of center of attention. Trump's doing the same kind of thing.

Armysal Automated Propaganda Machines! (01:21:42)

And the Russians understood that, you know, if you put a bit of things out there and then you'd call up New York Times and people are going to run with it. And what they wanted was the perception that they had actually swerved the election. They loved it. This was the huge mistake of the Democrats and everything. I'm going to keep trying to push against this. No, they did not elect Donald Trump. Americans elected Donald Trump and, you know, the Electoral College was a key part. Bloody me, Putin didn't make that up. You know, and basically I also remember, you know, one point the Russian ambassador, you know, talking to me about when we were doing the standard, you know, here we are, we're lodging our complaint about the interference, you know, he basically said, well, we didn't, you know, kind of invent Comey and, you know, basically the, you know, the decision to reopen, you know, Hillary Clinton's emails or, you know, kind of Anthony Wiener and, you know, kind of his emails on his computer. And I was like, yeah, he's right. I mean, you know, there were plenty of things in our own system that created chaos and tipped the election, not, you know, kind of what the Russians did, but, you know, it's obviously easier to blame the Russians and blame yourself when, you know, things are kind of, all those random forces and those random factors because people couldn't understand what had happened in 2016. There was no hanging chads like 2000 where there was, you know, kind of a technical problem that actually, you know, ended up with the intervention of the Supreme Court. There was, you know, pure and simple, the electoral college at work and a candidate that nobody'd expected, including the Republicans and the primaries, you know, to end up getting kind of elected or put forward, you know, different 2016 suddenly becoming the president. And they needed a meta explanation. It was much better to say, Vladimir Putin had done it and Vladimir Putin and, you know, the Kremlin guys were like, oh my God, yeah, fantastic. Champagne, cocks popping, this is great. Our chaos agent, they knew they hadn't done it, but they'd love to take credit for it. And so, you know, the very fact that other people couldn't explain these complex dynamics to themselves, basically dovetails beautifully with Vladimir Putin's attempts to be the kind of the Kremlin, the Kremlin in the system. And it is, you know, basically was taking advantage of that forever more.

De Blasio Blames Putin for Jewish Leaders Assassination Plot (01:24:01)

And I wanted, you know, to basically try to work with others to cut through that. And the thing is then, you know, people lost faith in the integrity of the election system because people were out there, you know, suggesting that the Russians had actually distort the election. People didn't books about that. They said, you know, that they had the system, you know, they were trying to hack our minds. But again, we were the fertile soul for this. I mean, we know this from Russian history, the role of the Bolsheviks, you know, the whole 1920s and 1930s with Stalin, the fellow travelers and the, you know, socialist, you know, international. I mean, the Russians and the Soviets have been, at this few years, they're like going to pulling, you know, kind of people along and into kind of a broader frame. But it didn't mean that they were influencing, you know, directly the politics of countries, you know, writ large, there's plenty of interventions. It's just that we were somehow, it was like, it was a confluence of events, a perfect storm. We were somehow exquisitely vulnerable because of things that we had done to ourselves. It was what Americans were doing to themselves that was the issue. - You think that's the bigger threat than large-scale bot armies? - Those can be, if I obviously do have an impact, but it's how people process information. It's kind of like the lack of critical thinking. I'm just not on the internet, to that extent. I had to go and looking for information. I'm not on social media. I'm in social media, but not by myself. You know, I don't put myself out there. I'm not, I've got a Twitter feed. - You don't have a Twitter one. Yeah, but there's a, - There's a lot of fear in hell. - It's a lot of fear in hell. - I have all kinds of strange things. It's fear in hell's cart, which I kind of like, you know, occasionally have people send things to me. - You have so many fans, it's hilarious. - But what I, what I try to do is just be really critical. I mean, my, you know, my mom sends me stuff and I'm like, what is this? You know, I kind of, you know.

Your mothers can be influence on your believes (01:25:47)

It's just, you know, your own mother can be as much of an agent of misinformation as, you know, a kind of Vladimir Putin. - Oh yeah. - I mean, we're all, you know, kind of, we all have to really think about what it is we're reading. There's one thing from my childhood that was really important. I mean, I always think every kid in school should have this. My next door neighbor who was, he was actually very active in the Labour Party. And he was, you know, kind of really interested in the way that opinion, you know, shaped people's political views. He was well, she was a native wealth speaker. So, you know, he was always trying to explore English and how, you know, there was kind of the reach of, you know, the English culture and, you know, kind of, and how it was kind of shaping the way that people thought. And he used to read every single newspaper, you know, from all the different spectrums, which was quite easy to do, you know, back in the 70s and 80s, because there weren't that many in the UK context. And every Sunday, we get all the different Sunday papers from all the different kind of ideological vantage points. And then when I got to be a teenager, he'd invite me to look at them with him. Because it was my godfather, and he was just an incredible guy. And he was just super interesting and, you know, kind of culturally, you know, and outsider always kind of looking in. And he basically runs through, you know, what the Guardian looked out, the observer, the daily mail, the sun, you know, kind of all of these, you know, the telegraph, all of these newspapers and how you could tell, you know, their different vantage points. And of course, it's complicated to do that now. I mean, in this, you know, incredibly extensive media space, I look at what it is that they're saying. And then I tried to, you know, read around it and then, you know, look at what other people are saying and why they're saying it and who are they, what's their context. And that was kind of basically what I was taught to look at. And I think everybody should have that. And certainly that's something that people in politics that are in charge of direct and policy should be doing. - They should be. - Not getting lost in the sort of the hysteria that can be created. Like it does seem that the American system somehow, not the political system, just humans love drama. Very good, like the Hunter Biden laptop story. There's always like one, two, three stories somehow that we just pick, that we're just gonna, this is the stuff we're gonna fight about for this election. - And everyone's got an opinion on it. Everybody, yeah, yeah. - And it's the most like Hillary Clinton's emails, Russians hacked the election. - Yeah, we had John Podesta's pasta recipes for a while, you know, that we were kind of all obsessing over. I don't know, people running out and trying them out, you know, something like that. - And there's fun, I mean, there's all, there's the best conspiracy theories about Giuliani. I just love it, we just pick a random story. Sometimes it's ridiculous. - And if you track some of what the larger question should be, which is about the family members of, you know, senior officials and mothers, they should be anywhere near any of the issues that they're, you know, there's ethics, there's government ethics and things that, you know, kind of across the bar, but there's a bigger story in there, but that becomes a destruction. It's a look over there, you know, the oldest trick in the book, you know, kind of idea. - Yes, and give them the- - And politicians are really good at that because it detracts from the larger question because every single member of Congress and, you know, government officials, their family should be no where near anything they're doing. - Well, that I could push back and disagree on. I mean, I just- - Well, it depends on what, they do if they're making money out of it, you know, and kind of basically being in business is what I mean. You know, kind of this is an issue.

Family Dynamics In Business And Political Views

Why people are criticizing the idea that all members of a family should not work in the same business (01:29:14)

So it's not, you know, Hunter Biden on his own, it's, you know, kind of basically the kids of, you know, the Trump family that have been, you name it. - Yeah, in general like that, I just think, it's funny, like there's a lot of families that, you know, they work very closely together, do business together, it's very successful. I get very weird about that. It just feels like you're not, in fact, I don't even like hiring or working with friends initially. You make friends with people you work with. - That's right, no, I have the same worries as well because it kind of clouds, you know, I would encourage, you know, my daughter to do something completely different. Not going to the same field. No, look, it's different if you're, you know, in science or, you know, mathematics or something like this. And, you know, maybe, you know, kind of, you've got a family member, you should kind of building on some of their theories and ideas, you know, if Albert Einstein had a, you know, kind of an offspring, it was mathematics and took, you know, his father's thinking, you know, further, that would be very different. But if it's, you know, kind of you're in business and other things and it's just, you know, the nepotism problem that, you know, one has there. - Well, it says that too, you know, especially ideas. - I'm sorry, I'm sorry, they do. If they're not people aren't coming in but building on the ideas in a constructive web. - Right, but even for some daughter of Einstein, you want to think outside the box of the previous-- - Yeah, well, that's fine meaning, but I mean, it's just, but they shouldn't be sort of told, no, sorry, you can't go and study math 'cause, you know, whatever, physics, you know, because of-- - But a lot of that, you can't actually make it into law, well, you could, I suppose. But honestly, if you do that kind of thing, you should be transparent, there should be just an honesty about it. - It gets back to what I was talking about before we need diversity of views and diversity of thinking and you can't have other things. It's like being part is on or, you know, the routine just for a team, you know, if something's gonna cloud your judgment or concentrate in the way you think about things and become, you know, kind of a barrier to moving on out. And look, that's what we see in the system around Putin. It's kind of kleptocratic and it's, you know, it's filled with nepotism, although they kind of like people who you kind of see out there and prominent positions that the sons or daughters of, including Putin himself. I mean, that's when a system has degenerated and that's kind of, and I suppose in a way, this is a symbol of the degeneration of the system. But again, it's just a diversion from, you know, kind of the bigger issues and bigger implications of things that we're discussing. - So critics on the left often use the straw man of TDS, Trump derangement syndrome. Why does Donald Trump around so much emotion in people? - It's just the nature of the person. I mean, I don't feel particularly emotional about him. I mean, he's kind of a, he's a very flawed guy, to be honest, and this may seem bizarre. I thought sorry for him, because this guy is so vulnerable, so wrapped up in himself, that, I mean, he's just exquisitely open to manipulation. And I saw people taking advantage of him all the time. He has zero self awareness. I mean, I kept thinking to myself, my God, if this guy didn't have this entourage around him, how would he function? I mean, I felt sorry for us as well. I mean, that he ended up being our president, because that should not have happened. I mean, in terms of character, and in terms of fit for the job. Although I saw this, you know, kind of over a period of time, but I didn't feel, you know, kind of any, you know, sense of derangement, you know, kind of around him. He didn't drive me nuts in that way. I just became, I was just very worried about, you know, the kind of the impact that he was having on many particular issues. - Here's the important thing. So what I noticed with people that criticize Donald Trump, is they get caught up in the momentum of it, and they're unable to see, first of all, let's start with some ground truth, which is approximately half the country voted for the guy, right? - Yeah, and more voted in 2020 than voted in 2016 for it. - Yeah. - And I just feel like people don't load that in when they're honestly criticizing. - A lot of those people didn't vote for him and his personality and often could, I know a lot of people who voted for him by the first time in second time. And they could disassociate, you know, kind of the, all of the kind of features of Donald Trump that drives other people nuts from, you know, what they thought that an actual fact he could achieve in terms of, and it wasn't just this kind of sense about what I couldn't possibly vote for a Democrat. Sometimes it's just like, well, look, he shakes things up and we need things to be shaken up and-- - Some people might have voted for a personality. See, this one kind of time-- - Some of them did as well, but I'm just saying that not all of them did either. - We don't know that data, that's the thing. - But I can't say how much is, I'm just saying anecdotally, I know people who voted for him because he's him from the charisma and another, so he voted because he's shaking things up and, you know, he's keeping people on their toes and, you know, kind of we need that, you know, idea. - But the way to avoid Trump-Durangement syndrome, to me, me as a doctor, I'm sort of prescribing to the patients on this syndrome, this issue, is I feel like you have to empathize with the people. You have to imagine your mind, all the different strengths that the people who have voted for Donald Trump see and really understand it, really feel it, like walk around with it and then criticize. Like, I just feel like people get lost in this bubble of criticism in their own head. And to forget like the tribe, your aunt or whatever, in their own head, they're not able to see, like half this country that we're a part of, voted for the person, same with Biden, half the country voted for the guy, the people who are criticizing Biden and they're doing this, the way Biden is currently criticized is not based on policy. It's based on personal stuff similar like to Trump. - Yeah, I know it is. I mean, that's what people don't look. I think part of that is, I mean, look, first of all, I want to say I completely agree with you about understanding where people are coming from and I think it's very important for people to listen to other people and their views. I try to do that all the time. I'm trying to learn from that. I mean, everybody's got a perspective and a context. We all live in a certain context. We're all living in history, our own personal histories, matter a lot and also the larger context and environment in which we're living in and where we live and who we live with. And the kinds of lives that we lead as well, those are all extraordinary important. I mean, I know that from myself, everything that I've done in my life has been shaped by where I came from, who I was, my family and the way that we looked at things. You can't take yourself out of that.

Brandon posting rapes the niche (01:36:09)

I mean, you can do it in some, like a science or something else, but still your own views and maybe some of the ideas that you have and pursuing an experiment might have been shaped by your larger context, depending on what it is that you work on. But the other thing is the niche of the political system. The presidential election is like a personality contest, a beauty contest. It's like a kind of a referendum on one person or another. It's kind of like what we see in Russia on the sea with Putin or not Putin or Putin before. It's all about Putin and what do you think about Putin? It's not about what the president should be doing and kind of what their policies are. That's kind of the bizanis of the US political system.

Why the constituents vote for Trump (01:36:51)

Look, we've just seen this happening in the United Kingdom. You've got this core of a couple of hundred thousand, rather people in the Conservative Party who've just voted for three leaders in a row the rest of the country. And then they're just looking at whether they like that personality and what they say to them rather than what they're necessarily going to do for the country, which is kind of pretty absurd. And again, the presidency is a weird hybrid in the United States. We were talking before about the person who should be running the country, to the chief executive or the prime minister in another setting. We don't think of it like that. We often think about whether we like the guy or not. So we'd like to hang out with him or one of my younger relatives. And I said, "So why did you vote for Trump?" He said, "Well, he was great. It was funny. How much of his rallies?" I got kind of charged up and I said, "Could you see yourself voting for Biden? No, he's too old." And I simply know he's only just a little bit kind of older than Trump. Or is the same age as your grandma? Do you think your grandma's old? "Oh, no, not at all." But it's just this kind of perception he's boring. So there's people that are actually sometimes basically being kind of motivated by just a feeling. Kind of sense because that's the sort of nature of the presidency. It's this kind of how you feel about yourself as an American or how you feel about the country at large, the kind of the symbol of the state. Look, you know, in Britain, you had Queen Elizabeth II and everybody seemed to, for the most part, not everyone, I guess, but most people respected her as a person, as a personality, as a kind of symbol of the state. Even if they actually didn't really like the institution of the monarchy, there was something kind of about that particular personality that you were able to kind of relate to in that context. But I mean, the United States, we've got all that rolled into one, the head of state, the symbol of the state, the kind of Queen, the king, the kind of idea, the chief executive, the kind of prime ministerial role. And then the commander in chief of the military, it's all things kind of at once. But ultimately, for a lot of people, it's just how you feel about that person. Oh, I couldn't cover up for them because of this or I couldn't vote for them because of that. And in 2016, Hillary Clinton actually did win the election in terms of the popular vote. So it wasn't that kind of people wouldn't vote for a woman. I mean, more people voted for her on the popular level, not obviously through the electoral college and the electoral college vote. So it wasn't just gender or something like that, but it was an awful lot of things for people found Trump attractive because he was sticking up the big middle finger to the establishment. He's an anti-establishment change character. There was a lot of people voted for Barack Obama for the same reason and voted for Trump. We know that phenomenon, what was the 11, 12% of people. So they could vote for some completely totally different, radically different people because that's that sense of change and charisma. I mean, I had people who I knew voted for Trump, but it would have voted for Obama again if he'd run again because they just liked the way that he spoke, they liked the way that, because they said, I mean, this is all my own anecdotal things, doing about one of my relatives that I could listen to Obama all day, every day. I just loved the way he sounded. I loved the way he looked. I was just like the whole thing about him and then said about Trump. Well, he was exciting. He was interesting. He was kind of like whipping it up there. So there's this kind of feeling. We always say about, could you have a beer with this person? And people, people decide they couldn't have one with Hillary Clinton. And maybe they could go off and have one with Barack Obama and with Donald Trump. They didn't want to have one with Joe Biden. For example, and remember, George W. Bush didn't drink. So he wouldn't have had a beer with him. He'd have gone out and got a soda or something with him. But there's that kind of element of just that sort of personal connection in the way that the whole presidential election is set up. It's less about the parties. It's less about the platforms. It's more about the person. - Yeah, and picking one side and next, sticking with your person. I really like a support team. - Yeah, it is. Yeah. What do you think about Vladimir Putin? The man and the leader. Let's actually look at the full, you've written a lot about him, the recent Vladimir Putin and the full context of his life. Let's zoom out and look at the last 20 plus years of his rule.

Putin Is Good For Russia Everywhere Else (01:40:58)

In what ways has he been good for Russia? In what ways bad? - Well, if you looked at the first couple of terms of his presidency, I think on the overall ledger, you would have actually said that he'd made a lot of achievements from Russia. Now, there was, of course, the pretty black period of the war in Chechnya. But he didn't start that. That was Boris Yeltsin. That was obviously a pretty catastrophic event. But if you look at then other parts of the ledger, what Putin was doing from the 2000s onwards, he stabilized the Russian economy, brought back confidence in the Russian economy and financial system. He built up a pretty impressive team of technocrats for everything, the central bank and the economics and finance ministries, who really got the country back into shape again and solvent, paid off all of the debts, and really started to build the country back up again, domestically. And the first couple of terms, again, putting Chechnya to one side, which little hard because there was a lot of atrocities and I have to say that he was pretty involved in all of that because the FSB, which he'd headed previously, was in charge of wrapping up Chechnya and it created kind of a very strange system of fealty, almost a feudal system in the kind of relationship between Putin at the top and Khadiraf in Chechnya and there was quite a lot of distortions kind of as a result of that in the way that the Russian Federation was run, in a lot more of an emphasis on the security services, for example, but there was a lot of pragmatism opening up the country for business, basically extending relationships. I would say that by the end of those first couple of terms of Putin, Russians were living their best lives. There was a lot of opportunity for people. The labor, it was being paid for. There weren't being taxed. The taxes were coming out of the extractive industries. There was kind of, I guess, a sense of much more political pluralism. It wasn't the chaos of the Elson period and then you see a shift. And it's pretty much when he comes back into power again in 2011, 2012. And that's when we see kind of a different phase emerging. And part of it is the larger international environment, where Putin himself has become kind of convinced that the United States is out to get him. And part of it goes back to the decision on the part of the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. There's also the recognition of Kosovo in 2008 and the whole kind of machinations around all kinds of, you know, other issues of NATO expansion and elsewhere. But Iraq in 2003, and this kind of whole idea after that, that the United States is in the business of regime change, and perhaps, you know, has him in his crosshairs as well. But there's also then kind of, I think, a sense of building crisis after the financial crisis and the Great Recession, 2008, 2009, because I think Putin, up until then, believed in, you know, the whole idea is a global financial system and that Russia was prospering and that Russia, you know, part of the GA to actually could be genuinely one of the, you know, the major economic and financial powers. And then suddenly he realizes that in the West is incompetent, that, you know, we totally have mismanaged the economy of our own, the financial crash in the United States, that are kind of blowing up of the housing bubble and that we were feckless and that had global reverberations. And he's prime minister, of course, you know, in this kind of period. But then, you know, and I think that that kind of compels him to kind of come back into the presidency and try to kind of take things under control again, in 2011, 2012, and after that, he goes into kind of a much more sort of focused role, where he sees the United States as a big, big problem. And he also, you know, starts to, you know, kind of focus on also the domestic environment because his return to the presidency is met by protests and he genuinely seems to believe, because again, this is very similar to belief here in the United States that Donald Trump couldn't possibly be related by Americans or somehow was some kind of external interference because the Russians interfered and had an impact. Putin himself thinks at that time, it's one of the reasons why he interferes in our elections later, that the United States or another said interfere because he knew that people weren't that thrilled about him coming back, they'd kind of liked the Medvedev period. And the protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg and other major cities, he starts to believe are instigated by the West, by the outside, because of, you know, funding for transparency in elections and, you know, all of the NGOs and others, you know, their operating state department and BC funding, you know, and, you know, the whole attitude of God is back, you know, kind of thing. And so after that, we see Putin going on a very different footing. It's also somewhere in that period, 2011, 2012, we start to kind of obsess about Ukraine. And he's always, you know, I think being kind of steeped in that whole view of Russian history. I mean, I heard at that time I was in, I've written about this and many of the things that, you know, I've written about Putin, that in that same timeframe, I'm going to all these conferences in Russia where Putin is and Pescov, his press secretary, and they talk about him reading Russian history. I think it's this and this kind of period that he formulas this idea of the necessity of reconstituting the Russian world, the Russian Empire.

Putin Starts Taking On The Elements Of Lifting The Room (01:46:31)

He's obviously been very interested in this. He's always said, of course, the collapse of the Soviet Union was the great catastrophe of the 20th century, but also the collapse of the Russian Empire before it. And he starts to be critical about Lenin and the Bolsheviks. And he starts to do all this talking about Ukraine as the same country, Ukraine, and the Russians being one and the same. And this is where the ledger flips because I mean, the initial question you asked me is about has Russia, has Putin been good for Russia or not? And this is where we get into the focal point of, or the point where he's not focusing on the prosperity and stability and future of Russia, but he starts to well-obsessed about the past and he starts to take things in a very different direction. He starts to clamp it down at home because of the rise of opposition and the fact that he knows that his brand is not the same as it was before and his popularity is not the same as it was before because he's already gone over that period in anybody's professional and political life, if you stay around long enough, people get a bit sick of you. Just be talking about that before, should you stay in any job for a long period of time? You need refreshing. And Putin is starting to look like he's gonna be there forever and people are not happy about that and would like their chance as well to move on and move up with him in student place, that's not going to be particularly possible. And that's around the time when he starts to make the decision of annexing Crimea, and that's when the whole thing flips in my view. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 is the beginning of the end of Vladimir Putin being a positive force within Russia because if you pay a very close attention to his speech on the annexation of Crimea, in March of 2014, you see all of the foreshadowing of where we are now. It's already of his view of his obsessions, his historical obsessions, his view of himself has been kind of fused with the state of kind of a modern czar and his idea that the West is up to get him and it becomes after that almost a kind of like a messianic mission to turn things in a different direction.

Evolution of the individual (01:48:38)

- And who are the key people? Do you in this evolution of the human being, of the leader? Is it Patroshov? Is it Shoryu, the Minister of Defense? Is it like you mentioned, Pascal, the press secretary? What role does some of the others like Lavrov play? - I think it's more rooted in the larger context. I mean, individuals matter in that context, but it's kind of like this shared worldview. And if you go back to the early 1990s, immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet Union when Yeltsin, you know, and his counterpart, some Ukraine, Belarus, pull it apart, there was an awful lot of people who wanted to maintain the Soviet Union, not just Putin. I mean, you remember after Gorbachev tried to have the new Union treaty in 1991, and there was the emergency committee set up the coup against Gorbachev. It was because they were worrying he was going too far and then raffling, you know, the Union then as well. They were posed to his reforms. There's always been a kind of a very strong nationalist contingent that become Russian nationalist over time, rather than Soviet, you know, hardliners who, you know, basically want to maintain the empire, the Union in some form. And in the very early part of the 1990s, there was a lot of pressure put on Ukraine and all the other former Soviet republics, now independent states, by people around, you know, Mayor Lushkov, for example, in Moscow, by, you know, other forces in the Russian doomer, not just, you know, Vladimir Zhivinovsky and others, but, you know, really serious, you know, kind of what we would call him, like right-wing, you know, nationalist forces, but it's, you know, pervasive in the system. And it's especially pervasive in the KGB and in the security sector. And that's where Putin comes out of. Remember Putin also was of the opinion that one of the biggest mistakes the Bolsheviks made was getting rid of the Orthodox Church as an instrument of the state. And so there's this kind of restorationist wing within the security services and the state apparatus that want to kind of bring back Russian Orthodoxy as a state instrument, an instrument of state power. And it were kind of, you know, looking all the time about strengthening the state, the executive, the presidency. And so it's everybody who takes part in that. And it's also, there's a lot of power, honestly. And they see Putin as their vehicle for power. I think to be like Sergei Kydianko, I knew Kydianko back in the '90s. I mean, my God, that guy's all in. I like Dimitri Medvedev, you know, who was, you know, a warm, a fuzzier version of Putin. Certainly had a totally different perspective, wasn't it, in the KGB? - Did you say warmer, fuzzier version? - Yeah, I mean, he's kind of like, he was literally a warm personality. I don't know if you watched him during the September 30th annexation, the guy had all kinds of facial twitches and looked so rigid and stiff that he looks like he might implode. I mean, that wasn't, you know, how he was, you know, earlier in his career. And he, you know, had a different view of Padastryka. We always have to remember that Putin was not in Russia during Padastryka was in Dresden, watching the East German state fall apart. And, you know, dealing with the Starsy and in a kind of place where he weren't getting a lot of information about what was happening in West Germany or even what was happening back home in Padastryka. And he has that kind of group of people around him, the Patrashevs and Bortnikovs and others and Sergei Vanoff and others, you know, from, you know, the different configurations of his administration, who have come out of that same kind of mindset and who kind of, you know, wanting to sort of put everything back together again. So there's a lot of enablers, there's a lot of, you know, power seekers and there are a lot of people who, you know, think the same as him as well. He is a man of his times, a man of his context. - You as a top advisor yourself and a scholar of Putin, do you think, actually, now in his inner circle, are there people he trusts? - There are people he trusts for some things, but I don't think there's people he trusts for everything. I don't think he's the kind of person who tells anyone everything at all. I don't think he's got some deeply compromised. I know he, I think he compartmentalizes things. He's often said that the only person he trusts is himself. And I think that's probably true. He's the kind of person who keeps his own counsel.

Putin'S Information Sources And Invasion Of Ukraine

Sources of information for Putin (01:53:12)

I mean, people talk about Koval Chuk, for example, or, you know, kind of some of the other people who were, you know, friends with him that got to go back to his time in St. Petersburg. You know, various points he seemed to, you know, spend a lot of time, you know, way back when talking to people who were, you know, people think of kind of more moderating forces like Alexia Kudrin, but, you know, it doesn't seem to be interacting, you know, with them, you know, there are obviously aspects of his personal life, you know, does he speak to his daughters? Does he, you know, speak to, you know, kind of lovers, you know, kind of anywhere people speculate about, you know, kind of who might he confide in? But I would greatly doubt that he would have deep political discussions with them. He's a very guarded, very careful person. >> What about sources of information then? So trust a deep understanding about military strategies with, for certain conflicts, like the war in Ukraine or even special subsets of the war in Ukraine or any kind of military operations, getting clear information. >> Deeply suspicious, you know, of people and of information. And I think, you know, part of the problems that, you know, we see with Putin now, I mean, I've come from isolation during COVID. I'm really convinced that, you know, like many of us, you know, a lot of Putin's views have hardened. And the way that he looks at the world have been shadowed in very dark ways by the experience of this pandemic. You know, obviously he was in a bubble, different kind of bubble for most of us. I mean, most of us are not bubbles with multiple, you know, kind of policies and, you know, kind of the Kremlin. But, you know, we've seen, you know, so much, obviously a lot of this is staged, that isolation, you know, that kind of make it very clear that he's the czar, the guy who is in charge making all the decisions, you know, one end of the table and everybody else's at the other end. But, you know, it's very difficult than to bring, you know, information to him in that way.

Press Silver Circle (Once Again All Together) (01:55:04)

He used to have a lot of information bundled for him in the old days by the presidential administration. I mean, I know that because it was a lot more open in the past. And I have a lot of meetings with, you know, people in the presidential administration who brought outside, you know, it's all source information, you know, for him and, you know, kind of funneled in information from different think tanks and, you know, different viewpoints and maybe kind of more eclectic, diversified sort of information he would meet with people. You know, you've heard all the stories about where he had once called up Mashagessen, you know, and had to, you know, come in, you know, obviously, you know, very different characters as a journalist and a critic. You know, we've heard about Benedictive from Echo Moskvi, the, you know, the radio program, the editor, who Putin would, you know, talk to and consult with. He'd reach out people like, a little bit like Siva, for example, the head of Memorial. He had some respect for her and would, you know, sometimes just, you know, talk to her, you know, for example, all of that seems to have come to a halt. And I think a lot of us worry, I mean, us who, you know, watch Putin about what kind of information is he getting? You know, is it just information that he's seeking and gathering himself that fits into his worldview and his framework? We're all guilty of that. They're looking for things, gets to our social media preferences. Are people just bringing into him things that they think he wants to hear? Like the algorithm, you know, kind of like the Kremlin working in that regard, or is he himself in a tapping into source of information that he actually wants? And remember, he is not a military guy. He's an operator and he was sort of trained in operations and, you know, contingency planning. So he goes, "Shoy good, the defence minister, "as a civil engineer, was the former minister of emergencies." He wasn't a military planner. You know, somebody like Gerasimov, the chief of staff, maybe a military guy, you know, in this, you know, case from the army. But he's also somebody who's in a different part, the chain of command. He's not somebody who would spontaneously start, you know, telling Putin things. And Putin, you know, comes out of the FSB, out of the KGB, of the Soviet era. And he knows the way that, you know, intelligence gets filtered and works. He's probably somebody who wants to consume raw intelligence. He doesn't probably want to hear anybody else's analysis. And he's thrived in the past of, you know, picking things up from people. You know, I've taken part in all of these meetings with him, gone for hours, 'cause he's just collecting information, he's assessing people out. He wants to know the questions they ask.

He cuts off the top leadership (01:57:39)

He learns something about the questions that people ask, the way that they ask them. You know, so he's kind of soliciting information himself. And if he's cut off from that information, you know, because of circumstances, then, you know, how is he formulating things in his head? And again, getting into, you can't get into his head, but you can understand the context in which he's operating. And that's where you worry, because he clearly made this decision to invade Ukraine beyond the back of most of his security establishment. - You think so? - Oh, I think it's pretty apparent. - What, what would the security establishment, what would be the- - Well, that would be the larger, you know, thinking of the funneling in information from the presidential administration, from the national security council. It looks like, you know, he made that decision with a handful of people. And then, you know, having worked in these kinds of environments, and it's not that dissimilar, you filter information up. So think about, you know, you and I are talking for hours here. If you were my, you know, basically, you know, senior official and I'm your briefer, I might only get 20 minutes with you. And you might be just like, you know, looking at you, watch the whole time and thinking, hang on a second, I've got to go and I've got this meeting and I've got that meeting. And yeah, your point, you're not gonna wait there. So I give this long explanation. I've got to get to the point. And then I've got to then choose for myself what's the information I'm gonna impart to you. Now, to the 20 things that I think are important, you know, okay, I've got 20 minutes. Maybe I only seem to get two minutes.

No one really wants to give information to Putin (01:59:10)

Maybe, you know, you get called out. And somebody, you know, kind of interrupts. Something happens. I'm gonna get one minute, two minutes. I mean, I wanted to remember I had to give a presentation when I was in government. - It's too real. - You know, to Henry Kissinger, you know, for that defense policy board. And we planned bloody weeks on this thing, you know, power points were created, teams of people were brought together and, you know, people were practicing this. We had all these, you know, different people there. And I said, look, Henry Kissinger's an academic and a former professor and, you know, I've got to watch him in action. He's gonna like, you know, five seconds in if we're looking, we get that far. Ask us a question and just throw off our entire presentation. What is it that we want to convey? And that's exactly what happened. And then, you know, people aren't really prepared or they wanted to convey. And they're, you know, they're prepared, you know, a nice sort of fulsome, you know, power point-like approach. I mean, they've even got there. And so God knows what, you know, he took away from it at the end of it. And that's, you know, think about Putin. He's gonna be kind of impatient. He's, you know, we see the televised things where, you know, kind of sits at a table a bit like, you know, people won't necessarily see us here. And he puts his hands on the table and he looks across at the person and he says, so, tell me, you know, what's the main things I need to know? And of course, the person's mind probably goes blank, you know, with the kind of the thoughts of like, oh God, what's the main thing? And they go, and they start, well, Vladimir Vladimirovich, you know, they start the kind of, you know, they're revving up, you know, to get to the point and then he cuts them off. So you think about that and then you think about, well, what information has he got? And then how does he process it? And is he suspicious of it? Does he not believe it? And what, what inside of his own history then, you know, leads him to make one judgment over another? He clearly thought the crannies would fall apart in five seconds. - We don't know if he clearly thought that, but that there was a high probability maybe. I mean, I think he pretty much thought it because I think he thought that, you know, kind of his influence, he wasn't very popular. There was an awful lot of, you know, pro-Russian sentiment in whatever way he thinks that is because people love Russian speakers. And that, you know, they're kind of, you know, in polling, they, you know, they express the affinity with Russia.

The role of french secret service in the invasion (02:01:15)

I mean, certainly in Crimea, that worked out because a majority of the population had, you know, higher sentiments of feelings of affinity with Russia. And, you know, obviously, you know, that kind of they got traction there. But it's more complicated. They talked about Donbass before about being a, you know, kind of melting pot when, you know, they tried the same thing in Donbass, Donetsk and Lukanska, they tried in Crimea in 2014, didn't kind of pan out. In fact, you know, a whole wall broke out. They tried, you know, to kind of in, you know, many of the major cities that are now under attack, including a desert to kind of ferment, you know, pro-Russian movements. And they completely, you know, leave fell apart. So Putin was thinking, you know, pretty sure based on polling and the FSB having infiltrated, you know, an awful lot of the Ukrainian hierarchy has been now seeing as quite apparent with some of the dismissals in Ukraine. He was pretty sure that, you know, kind of he would get traction. And that it would be like 1956 in Hungary or 1968 in Czechoslovakia. Remember, he comes out of the Andropov levee, as it's called, the kind of cohort of people who come into the KGB under Yuri Andropov. And you're Andropov has presided over a lot of these anti-distant, you know, kind of movements inside of Russia itself and how you suppress opposition. But also over, you know, how you deal with, you know, kind of the uprisings in, you know, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. And there's all these lessons from this that, you know, you can put everything back in the box. And yeah, there might be a bit of violence and a bit of fighting, but ultimately, you think you've got the political figures and you decapitate the opposition. So they thought you've let Zielenski would run away, Yadakovich run away, but, you know, that was kind of a bit, you know, sort of a different set of circumstances. And they thought that all of the local governments would, you know, kind of capitulate because they had enough Russians and inverted commas in there. Again, mistaking language and, you know, kind of positive affinity towards Russia for identity or how people would react in the time and not understanding people's, you know, linkages and, you know, kind of an important place, the way that people feel about who they are and a certain set of circumstances of place. - But the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is unlike anything that he was ever involved with.

Why Putin Invaded Ukraine (02:03:29)

- But I don't think he thought it would be, you know, because it's this kind of, if he looks back into the past, you're right though, he wasn't involved in '68 or '56 or what happened in the 1980s in Poland. - But there's a very wide front and it's the capital. And I mean, this isn't going for-- - This isn't Chitney, or this isn't, you know, kind of Syria or, for example. - This is the major nation. - Exactly. - Like it's large to the size. - It was more like Afghanistan, but they didn't realize that because again, Ukrainians are us. There's this kind of inability to think that people might think differently and might want something different and that 30 years of independence actually has an impact on people and their psyches. And if I look back to the 1990s, I mean, I remember being in seminars in the Talvat at the time and we were doing a lot of research on what was happening in the former Soviet Union at the time, because in the early 1990s, just after the whole place fell apart. And there was already under yelts in this kind of idea of Russians abroad, Russians in the near abroad, Russian speakers, and they need to bring them back in. And I remember, you know, we had seminars at the time where we talked about at some point, there'd be some people in Russia that would actually believe that those Russian speakers needed to be brought back into Russia, but that the people who spoke Russian might have moved on because they certainly had other opportunities and other windows on the world. I mean, what's happened in Scotland, you know, for example, most people in Scotland speak English. The Scottish language is not the standard bearer of Scottish identity. It's just, it's almost a civic identity, different identity than not just national identity, just like you see in Ukraine. And there's lots of English people have moved to Scotland and now think of themselves as Scottish or Brazilians or Italians and, you know, all kinds of people who've moved in there. I mean, it's a smaller population, obviously, and it's not the scale of Ukraine, but, you know, people feel differently. And there's been a devolution of power. And when Brexit happened, you know, Scotland didn't want to go along with that at all. And they wanted to kind of still be, you know, having a window on Europe. And that's kind of historic. And lots of people in Ukraine have locked west, not east. You know, it depends on where you are, not just in Lviv, you know, or somewhere like that, but also in Kiev. And Harakhiv, you know, was kind of predominantly Russian-speaking city. But Harakhiv was also the centre of Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian literature, you know, at different points. People have different views. I grew up in the north of England. We don't feel like the south of England. There's been a massive divide between north and south in England for millennia, not just centuries. So, you know, people feel differently, depending on where they live and, you know, kind of where they grew up. And Putin just didn't see that. He didn't see that. - Well, hold on a second. Let me sort of push back at the fact that I don't think any of this is obvious. So, first of all, Zelensky, before the war was unpopular.

Global Political Controversies

The calculation is very difficult (02:06:37)

- Oh, it was, what was it, 38%, something like that? But best in the popularity? Yeah. - Let me sort of make the case that the calculation here is very difficult. If you were to poll every citizen in Ukraine and ask them, what do you think happens if Russia invades?

Putin, Russians, Ukrainians, the Soviet Union, history (02:06:50)

Just like actually, each put each individual Ukrainian in a one-on-one meeting with Putin and say, "What do you think happens?" I honestly think most of them will say, they'll agree with the prediction that the government will flee, will collapse and the country won't unite around the cause because of the factions, because of all the different parties involved, because of that popularity of the question. - You might have said the same thing about the Soviet Union when Hitler invaded in 1941. You see, the problem is, Putin always reads history from one perspective over another. I think most countries basically rise to their own defense. So, this is actually one of the first times that Russia has been on the offensive, rather than on the defensive. So, there's a bit of a flip there.

Chechnya Afghanistan Syria (02:07:52)

Obviously, Afghanistan, but that was more complicated because it was also supposed to be an intervention rate, and it wasn't supposed to be to annex Afghanistan. It was to try to prop up, reinstall, a leader there. Syria, you were in there to help your guy, Bashar al-Assad turn away the opposition. Chechnya was a debacle. The Chechens fought back big times. It was only by dint of horrible, violent persistence and ruthlessness and nasty, dirty tricks that kind of Putin prevailed there. But then he wondered, did he prevail? Because what happened? Chechnya sometimes describes the most independent part of the Russian Federation, and Ramzan Kadirov in a player's power games in Moscow. His predecessors, even his father, and others wouldn't have done that. Akhmet Kadirov, and before that, Dedayev and Moscow. They were willing to make a compromise, but they wouldn't have had the same position that Kadirov has had.

After 6 years, Nader braves the Concorde: #Putin sate of knowledge" (02:08:51)

So, I think that, again, it's your perspective and where you stand and which bit of history you start to read. And that's why I said that, I think, Putin, again, it's the information, the way that he processes it. I think most Russians also can't believe that they've done something wrong in Ukraine. I mean, maybe at this point, things are changing a bit. But that's why there was so much kind of support for this, right, where I mean, I have Russian friends, again, it's about what's happening in done yet. Look what was the Ukrainians were doing to our guys. Look what was happening to Russian speakers. We were defenders. We were not invaders. I think, again, the special military operation idea. Now, I think it's flipping, obviously, in the way that with the war going on there. But Putin wasn't, you know, kind of looking at what would happen. I mean, most of the kind of glory parts of Russian history when you kind of go in, you know, you chase Napoleon back to Paris, or you chase the Germans back to Berlin, you put the flag above the Reichstag. That's a very different set of affairs. When you've been fighting a defensive war, and you've been invaded from a war where you invade someone else. And even the most fractured populations, like you had in the Soviet Union, the point running around, and, you know, World War I, that fell apart. I mean, the czar didn't manage to rally everybody around. I mean, the whole thing fell apart. And World War II started out to, you know, revive nationalism, including in the republics in Central Asia and elsewhere to revive nationalism. And Ukraine suddenly found nationalism, you know, in a kind of sense of-- That's really interesting, because it's not obvious, especially what Ukrainians went through in the 1930s. It's not obvious that that, I mean, my grandfather was Ukrainian, and he was proud to fight a Ukrainian Jew. He was proud to fight and willing to die for his country. It wasn't like-- His country then was the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, right, sorry, clarified. But he might fight now for his country Ukraine. Yes. But I'm just like lingering in the point you made, it was not obvious that that united feeling would be there. No, and again, it wouldn't have been obvious with the Soviet Union. That's-- Yeah, last one I'm saying. Sorry, I was referring to my grandfather as a Soviet Union. We're both saying the exact same thing. Yeah, we know, yeah, we are-- You're saying it's a really powerful thing, because I take it-- because you take history as it happened, you don't realize it could have happened differently. It's kind of-- it's fascinating. It's that whole counterfactual, right? Yeah. Because I mean, if you've kind of-- that's why we all need in the United States to really examine our own history. Because, you know, there's a lot of lessons from that. That we should treat very cautiously. It doesn't mean that, you know, history repeats or even rhymes, you know, they all doxy moly the time. But there are a lot of things that you can take away differently from putting a different perspective and a different slant on the same set of events. I mean, I was used to wondering, like, how many books can be written on the French Revolution? Or even on the Russian Revolution?

Leaving 355,000 innocent Vietnamese dead, (02:12:08)

You know, I studied with Richard Pipes. I remember he was really offended after he'd written his grip, Mike DeSöppus on the Russian Revolution II volumes, so the people would, you know, kind of write about the Russian Revolution. He said, I've written it all. And I thought, well, actually, maybe you haven't. It's like, there might be some completely different angle there that you haven't really thought of. And that's Putin. You know, I remember Pescov saying, Putin reads history all the time in Russian history. And I thought, well, maybe he should read some world history. You know, maybe he should, you know, kind of read some European authors on Russian history, not just, you know, reading La Manosa for, you know, Russian historians on Russian history, because you might see something from a very different perspective. And look, in the United States, made a massive mistake in Vietnam, right? I mean, they saw Vietnam as kind of weak, manipulated by, you know, kind of external forces, China, Soviet Union. But the Vietnamese fought for their own country.

Isolated by Cutting Edge Tech, SpaceX Beckons doubling down. (02:13:00)

They suddenly became Vietnamese. And Ho Chi Minh became, you know, going to Bessipia, kind of a wartime fight to a leader, you know, in a way that, you know, perhaps people wouldn't have understood either. You said, the United States made a massive mistake in Vietnam, in that for some reason, sprung a thought in my head. As the United States since World War II had anything that's not a mistake in terms of military operations abroad. I suppose all the ones that are successes, we don't even know about, probably. So it's like very fast military operations. I mean, Korea is divided. I mean, I don't know if it's successful, but, you know, kind of, I mean, there was a solution found that, you know, some people are promoting, you know, in this case as well, of a sort of division and a, you know, the DMZ and, you know, one side over the other and, you know, kind of perpetuating a division, which I think is particularly successful. But if you think about World War I and World War II, the United States came in, you know, into some very specific sets of circumstances. And World War I, they did kind of come in to help, you know, kind of liberate parts of Europe, France, and, you know, kind of, since the UK and, you know, everything else, Great Britain in the world towards the end of it. World War II, you know, there was that whole debate about whether the United States has actually even been part of the war. I mean, we know it wasn't thought to, you know, overturn the Holocaust and all of the kind of things you kind of wish it would have been thought for, but it was because of Pearl Harbor and, you know, the Japanese pulling in. But, you know, ultimately, it was easy to explain why you were there, you know, particularly after Pearl Harbor and what had happened. It was harder to explain Vietnam and Korea and, you know, many of those, it wasn't, that's kind of going to be a problem for Putin. That's why there is a problem for Putin.

Global Politics: Putin And Biden

Woe Is Globalist Joe... hunter Biden Leninist cult exposed (02:14:45)

All of these explanations have been questioned, you know, sort of off on NATO or this or that or the other, and, you know, kind of all liberating, you know, Ukraine from Nazis or, you know, kind of basically stopping the persecution of Russian speakers and all of this has now got lost in just this horrific destruction. And that's what happened in Vietnam as well. That became, you know, a great degradation of the Russian military with atrocities and people wondering why an Earth the United States was in Vietnam. I mean, even that kind of happened in Britain in the colonial, you know, kind of pivot as well. Why was the United Kingdom doing, you know, committing atrocities and, you know, kind of basically fighting these colonial wars? Northern Ireland. Why was the United Kingdom still, you know, kind of militarily occupying Ireland? Cyprus, there's all kinds of, you know, instances where we look at this thing. So what Russia is doing now, Putin is trying to occupy another country, irrespective of, you know, kind of the historical linkages and, you know, the kind of the larger meta narratives that he's trying to put forward there. What role did the United States play in the lead up and the actual invasion of Ukraine by Russia? A lot of people say that, I mean, obviously, Vladimir Putin says that part of the reason the invasion had to happen is because of security concerns over the expansion of NATO. And there is a lot of people that say that this was provoked by NATO. Do you think there's some legitimacy to that case? Look, I think the whole situation here is very complicated and you have to take a much longer view than, you know, what happened in 2008 with the open door for Ukraine and Georgia, which actually, by the way, I thought was a strategic blunder just to be very clear because it wasn't any kind of thinking through about what the implications of that would be and, you know, what would actually mean for Ukraine's security.

What Eva thought about Blue origin! 4,520 Fake Profiles Removed Youtube Bot Threat! (02:16:36)

And also bearing in mind what, you know, Putin had already said about NATO expansion. They came on the wake of the recognition by the United States, pretty unilaterally, of Kosovo. And it also comes in the wake, as I mentioned before, the invasion of Iraq, which really begins very important for understanding Putin's psyche.

Putins psyche (02:17:04)

So I think, you know, we have to go back, you know, much further than it's not just talking about kind of NATO and what that means. NATO is part of the whole package of Ukraine going in a different direction from Russia. Just as so as the European Union. Remember, the annexation of Crimea comes after Ukraine has sought an association agreement with the European Union, not with NATO at that particular point, even though, you know, the EU on the security, common security, fence policy, basically has all kinds of connections with NATO, you know, various different levels in European security front. It was all about Europe and going on a different economic and political and ultimately legal path because if you have an association agreement, eventually you get into the Aqi community tear and it just transforms the country completely. And Ukraine is no longer the Ukraine of the Soviet period or the Russian Empire period. It becomes, you know, on a different trajectory like Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, you know, another country. It becomes a different place. It moves into a different space and that's part of it. But if you go back again to the period at the very beginning of the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, well, there's no discussion about NATO at that point and NATO enlargement, there is a lot of pressure again, as I've said before, by nationalist elements on Ukraine trying to bring it back in the field. I'm wanting to make what was then, you know, this mechanism for divorce, more of a mechanism for remanded commonwealth of independent states. And in the early 1990s, when Ukraine became an independent state, it inherited that nuclear arsenal from the Soviet Union. Basically, whatever was stationed or positioned in Ukrainian territory at the time became Ukraine's. Strategic and, you know, kind of basically intermediate and tactical nuclear weapons. And, you know, in the United States at the time, you know, we had all this panic about what was going to happen with all of that. So, I mean, I think, you know, as a scientist and kind of technically it would have been difficult for Ukraine to actually use this. I mean, the targeting was, you know, done centrally. They were actually stationed there, but nonetheless, Ukraine like Belarus and Kazakhstan suddenly became nuclear powers. And, you know, Ash Carter, the former U.S. defense secretary who's just died tragically, and most Dave was talking about, you know, talking together today, was part of a whole team of Americans and others who, you know, tried to work with Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan to get them to give up the nuclear weapons. And back in the early period of that, '93, '94, you go back, and I mean, I was writing about this at the time. I wrote a report called Back in the USSR, which is, you know, kind of on the website of the Kennedy School with some other colleagues. I mean, we were monitoring how there was all these accusations coming out of Moscow, the defense ministry and the Duma, the parliament and others, that Ukraine was trying to find a way of making a dirty bomb, using its nuclear weapons, you know, becoming a menace. And, you know, Ukraine might have to be brought to order.

The rumblings of a dirty bomb (02:20:16)

So, a lot of the dynamics we're seeing now were happening then, irrespective of NATO. Basically, the problem was always Ukraine getting away. Yeltsin himself, when he unraveled the Soviet Union, didn't really want it to unravel, but he didn't have the wherewithal to bring, you know, the country's back again. Russia was weak after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its economy imploded. It had to give sovereignty to all of these constituent parts of the Russian Federation in terms of a sort of devolution of authority. It had the war in Chechnya, which Yeltsin stupidly sparked off in 1994. You had Tata Stan, one of the regions, the old rich regions, basically resting out a kind of a bilateral treaty with Moscow. The whole place was kind of seemed like it was falling apart, so that you couldn't do anything on Ukraine because you didn't have the wherewithal to do it. And then when, you know, kind of basically Russia starts to get its back together again, all of these security nationalist types who had never wanted Ukraine or Belarus or Moldova or anywhere else to kind of move away. They didn't worry that much about Central Asia to be frank, but they know they did want, you know, the core states in their view to come back. And Moldova was part of that, even it's not Slavic, but, you know, they wanted Belarus and northern Kazakhstan and probably Kazakhstan as well, which wasn't really thought about being part of Central Asia back in the fold as close as possible. So anything that gave those countries an alternative was seen as negative. It could have been an association with China, you know, them joining, you know, kind of an association with Latin America or Africa or something else like that. But of course NATO has all of those larger connotations of it being into the Cold War opposing entity. And Putin has always seen NATO as being the direct correlation of the Warsaw Pact, which is, in other words, just something dominated completely by the United States. Now that, of course, is why, getting back to Trump again, and all those going, you know, Europeans, if this is really supposed to be collective security in a mutual defense pact, why are you guys not paying? You know, why does the United States pay for everything? But, you know, NATO was actually conceived as collective defense, you know, mutual security. And it was set up by, you know, the United States, along with the UK and France and, you know, Germany and Turkey and, you know, other countries. And we see that now with the entry of Finland and Sweden. They didn't have to join NATO. They didn't want to join NATO for a long time.

How Russia sees NATO (02:22:40)

They wanted to partner with it, just like Israel and, you know, the country's partner with NATO. But once they thought that their security was really at risk, they wanted to be part of it. And so, you know, kind of you're now really seeing, you know, that NATO is something other than just being, you know, a creature or an instrument of the United States. But that's how Putin always saw it. You know, what this debate about NATO is all about, or Russia being provoked, is wanting to kind of return to an old superpower by polar relationship, where everything is negotiated with the United States. It's to try to deny that Ukraine or Belarus, while Belarus has been absorbed by this point, you know, by Russia or Moldova or Kazakhstan or any of the other countries have any kind of agency, like Poland or Hungary or, you know, kind of France and Britain. For years and years and years, senior people like Putin and people around the Kremlin have demanded a return to the kind of what they call the old "comsitive Europe" or the "comsitive Vienna" where the big guys, which now means the United States and Russia, just sit down and thrash everything out. And so, I mean, Putin by saying, look, it was provoked, it's the United States, it's NATO. It's a proxy war or or it's this or it's that or this is going to be a nuclear confrontation. It's like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Euro Missile Crisis is basically just saying, you know, I want to go back to when the Soviet Union, the United States, work things out. I want to go back to the whole, you know, period of the 1980s when Gorbachev and Reagan just kind of got together and figured things out. Or even better, back to Yelta Potstom and Tehran and the big, you know, meetings at the end of World War II, where we resolved the whole future security. We've had a war, we've had the Cold War. Now we've got another war, we've got a real war, a hot war, we've got a war in Ukraine. It should be the United States and Russia that sought this out. So this is where we see the United States waffling about as well, trying to kind of like figure out how to handle this because it has to be handled in a way that Ukraine has agency. Because if Ukraine doesn't have agency, nobody else has agency either, nobody else has any kind of decision-making power. And, you know, we have an environment in which Putin thinks that there's only really three players, there's the United States and Russia and China. And maybe occasionally it might be India and perhaps Brazil or some of the South Africa or some other country, maybe the bricks at some point. But, you know, ultimately, it's like the oldest big powers resolve everything. And so this war is also about Russia's right, Putin's right, you know, to determine things, you know, strong man to strong man, big country to big country, and, you know, determine, you know, where things happen next.

Is Putin right? (02:25:21)

That's why he's talking about things being provoked, it's being the United States' fault. Are there parts of the United States establishment that likes that kind of three-party view of the world?

Putin'S Strategy And Tactical Measures

Regime Change (02:25:34)

Oh, there's always going to be people who like that part, that approach of course there is. But then they don't necessarily dominate. That's the kind of thing that people kind of think about. I mean, you know, Putin can, you know, read, you know, all the various articles and either kind of pronouncements of people. But this gets back to, you know, the way that the United States operates. You know, Putin saw that, you know, Trump wanted to have a top-down, you know, vertical of power. And other presidents have wanted to have that, but the United States is a pretty messy place. And we have all kinds of different viewpoints. Now, of course, we know that in Russia, everything, even criticism of the Kremlin is usually fairly orchestrated, usually to kind of flesh out, you know, what people think about things. When we had these hardliners saying, you know, we needed more destruction of Ukraine, not less, and that the army wasn't doing enough. It was in many respects, you know, kind of encouraged by the Kremlin to see how people would react to that. You know, to kind of actually create a constituency for being more ruthless than you had before, because, you know, they wanted to clamp down. In the United States, I mean, I can say, whatever I want, it doesn't mean that I'm speaking on behalf of the White House. And, you know, even if I have been an advisor to this president, that president and the other, it doesn't mean I'm, you know, basically speaking on behalf of the U.S. government. But this is kind of always an assumption from the Russians that, you know, when people, you know, say this and people do advocate one thing or over another, that they're, you know, it's operating this. There's a lot of mirror imaging. Think of it, you know, we're operating in the same kind of way. So, yes, there are, of course, constituencies who think like that would love it. And it would be back to that. And there are many people out there with their own peace plans, all kinds of people, you know, out there. Yeah, but it does seem to be the engine of the military industrial complex seems to give some fuel to the hawks and they seem to create momentum in government. Yeah, but other people do too. I mean, there's always, you know, kind of a check, I mean, again. You believe in the tension of ideas. I think there was a lot of tension. I mean, I've seen it. I've seen it inside of the government now, you know, and people can push back. And that's why I speak out and I try to lay it out so that everybody can, you know, kind of figure out for themselves. I said the same to you as I say to everybody. This is how I see the situation. And, you know, this is, you know, how we can analyze it here. Now, look, do I think that we've handled, you know, the whole Russia account, you know, fears? Well, no, we haven't. I mean, we've, we've taken our eyes off the ball many times. We've felt to understand the way that people like Putin think, you know, you talked earlier about, you know, we need to have empathy for, you know, the people who like Trump or like Biden and some other thing. We've got to have strategic empathy about Putin as well. We've got to understand how the guy thinks and why he thinks like he does. You know, he has got his own context and his own frame and his own rationale. And he is rational. He is a rational actor in his own context. We've got to understand that. We've got to understand that he would take offense of something and he would take action over something. It doesn't mean to say that, you know, we are necessary to blame by taking actions, but we are to blame when we don't understand the consequences of things that we do and act accordingly, or, you know, take preventative action or recognize that something might happen as a result of something. So you've been in the room with Putin. Let me ask you for some advice. And it's also just a good philosophical question. For you or for me, if I have a conversation with Vladimir Putin right now, can you advise on what questions, topics, ideas to talk through to him as a leader, to him as a human? What would you like to understand about his mind, about his thinking?

Putin the Person, Trustworthy Strategy, Responsive Starting Points (02:29:12)

Yeah, remember, before the Putin always tries to reverse things, he wants to hear the questions that people have. Because remember, he himself, at different points, has been a recruiter, which is, you know, the way that you're operating now as well, right? You're asking an awful lot of questions. Your questions also betray, you know, often the times where you're thinking about things, you know, the kind of context. You know, kind of any kind of dialogue that this reveals a lot about the other person. Yeah. And I've actually often noticed in these settings that Putin likes to have a lot of give and take. So I think he would actually enjoy having a conversation, you know, with you. But again, he would always be trying to influence you, inform and influence. That's kind of, you know, part of the way that he always operates. So what you would have to, you know, be trying to think about. So what is it that you would want to elicit information from him? You're trying to understand the guy's worldview. And what we're trying to also understand is if there's any room there where he might compromise on something.

Counterterrorism Lower Blood Pressure (02:30:19)

You know, so if your goal was to go in there, you know, to talk about Ukraine at this particular moment. I mean, one of the problems that I've often seen in this sort of the meetings we've had with Putin, he just ends up in sort of mutual recriminations. You know, kind of know, well, what about what you've done? Oh, no, you've done that about, you know, and there's always this what aboutism. I mean, it often say, well, you're saying that I've done this, but you've done that. The United States and Verde de Iraq, what's the difference between, you know, what I'm doing and all of the things that you've been doing here? I mean, what you would have to try to do is kind of elicit information about why or what he is thinking about this particular moment in time and why he thinks it. Yeah, though, what aboutism is a failure case. I think that shows from all the interviews I've seen that with him that just shows that he doesn't trust the person on the other side. No, he doesn't. Right. But I'm not cynical like people's. They seem to think he's some kind of KGB agent that doesn't trust anybody. I disagree. I think everybody's human. And from my perspective, I'm worried about what I've seen is I think whether it's COVID, whether it's other aspects that I'm not aware of leading up to the invasion. He seems to be less willing to have charismatic back and forth dialogue. Yeah, an open discussion. You know, actually, you know, I said, you asked me before about, you know, that issue of trust, and he often says you only trust himself.

Putin changed from 10 to 20 years; (02:31:55)

And I said, you know, he's often in a distrustful of people, but he just trusts some people for certain things where he knows it's within their competence. Yeah. So he has people he trusts to do things because, you know, he knows they'll do them and he knows that they'll do them well, which is why, you know, he has his, you know, old buddies from, you know, St. Petersburg because he's known for a very long time and he knows that they want, you know, try to pull a fast one over him, but he also knows their strengths and their weaknesses and what they can be trusted to do. I mean, he's learning that, you know, some of the people in the military that he thought were competent or people on other things are not right, that they're, and he tends to actually have a lot of loyalty to people as well. Oh, he also kind of thinks it's best to keep him inside the 10th and outside. And he moves them around, you know, he kind of okay, you know, he gives them multiple chances to redeem themselves if they don't. Like he hasn't done in. I mean, yeah, there is a lot of that in the system, but the people that he's worked with for a long time, you know, he moves them around to something else perhaps where they can do less harm, although, you know, we've often see that he has quite a small cadre of people that he's reliant on and often, you know, they're not up to the task, which is kind of what's happening here. But he also in the past has been more straightforward, just like he was saying here, more pragmatic. And I think, you know, if you engage with him in Russian, while you're actually literally speaking the same language because there's so much lost in translation. I used to jump out, start up my skin listening to some of the phone calls, because, you know, the way that they kind of relate, you know, with an interpreter. Oh, because you listen to the translation. No, because I know I'm listening to the Russian and the translation happening, you know, in real time. And I haven't been at a translators institute, it's really difficult. Look, an interpreter is a trend in the moment to do something, you know, the synchrony pivot, the synchronised or the real time translation. So translation is an art as well as a skill. If you're doing simultaneous translation, that's the word in English, it's synchrony pivot in Russian. You're kind of focused in the moment on the fragments of the discussion, trying to render it as accurately as you possibly can. And when you come out of that, you can't relay the entire conversation. And often, you know, what translators do is they, you know, they take this little shot on note like journalists do. And afterwards, you know, they've just been caught up in the moment and they haven't got the big picture. Consecutive translation is different, you know, kind of you're trying to convey the whole mood of like big chunks of dialogue that have already been there. But, you know, sometimes you might not get that right either. And it breaks up the flow of the discussion. That's terrible. And often it's, you know, the kind of the person who translates, it's different. You know, some of our best translators are women. But, you know, hearing a woman's voice, you know, translating a guy who has a particular guy's way of speaking, and a macho way of speaking, and a crude way of speaking, you know, be that Putin, or I've seen that happen with Erdogan, the President of Turkey. You know, and it gets translated by a much more refined, you know, female speaker, you've just lost the whole thing. And, you know, many of the translators on the Russian side are not competent in English in the way that you would hope they are. They're not, it's not just that they're not native speakers. They're just not turned to the same high standards that used to be in the past. And you just get, you lose the nuance, you use the, you lose the feel.

When talking to Putin, be one on one. (02:35:18)

You know, you almost need, you know, kind of the interpretive actor, you know, doing, you know, the kind of the interpretation, you need to match it as much as you can in the way that you, you know, do voiceovers in film. The best way to talk to Putin is one on one in his own language. I mean, I have a really great friend here who is one of the best interpreters of Putin is often asked by the, you know, the media to interpret for him, it is just that he was at the Institute that I was, I mean, I know him from that kind of period. And he is just excellent, just like Pavel Plashenko was absolutely phenomenal interpreting Gorbachev. Now, we didn't always interpret him accurately because Gorbachev made lots of grammatical gaffes and sometimes was, you know, Gorbachev himself would joke that Plashenko, you know, spoke better for Gorbachev than Gorbachev could imagine. But Putin is actually quite precise and careful in the word that he speaks because a lot of menace sometimes to things deliberately, other times there's lots of humor and he's telling a joke for a particular reason. And all of it is, I mean, he actually uses the richness of the Russian language and the crudity of language that can't be conveyed in English. Those are facial expressions. Yeah, facial expressions, body language, the word that he sits back in the chair and slouches, the kind of the word that he makes, fun of people and he, you know, kind of uses irony. It's just some of it's just lost and it needs to be conveyed. The depth of humor and wit, I've met quite a few, like political leaders like that in the speak only Russian. When I was traveling Ukraine, I don't know how you translate that. I think it's almost, the other person that reminds me like that a little bit is Obama. Obama had a wit and an intelligence, but like he would smile and just said something that add a lot to it.

Putin uses the richness of Russian language. (02:37:05)

Like that he's trolling you or he's being sarcastic or like me converting it towards. It's obvious that all English speakers, if they listen to Obama, but if you have to translate to a different language, I think you're going to lose a lot of that. And when I watched many of Putin's speeches, just in Russian, not looking at any of the subtitles or anything, and it's just watching the word that his body language is at the time when he's saying things, the way that you smoke, he'll sneer, he'll laugh, he'll add a lib, kind of from something that obviously wasn't there on the prepared speech. And it's really critical, and you know, kind of a lot, some people speak, you know, like Trump, it's just kind of just words. Putin, the words are very important. Trump is the atmosphere, it's the kind of the way you feel about things, it's the buzz you get, it's revving people up. It's the kind of slogans and Putin is, you know, he's conveying a lot in what he's saying that. But I think, I mean, of course I don't know much because I don't speak Russian in English, but I have in English or Russian have not met almost anyone ever as interesting in conversation as Putin. I think he shines not in speeches, but in interactions with others. Yeah, when you watch those interviews and things with him and I've been at many of these sessions, it's been hours of him parrying questions, and it's like watching a boxer sparring in a kind of training bout. Yeah, come on, give me another one, you know, and it's kind of like, and he prides himself and he's made mistakes often, but the breadth of the issues that he's often covered has been interesting, it's been fascinating, I used to just take, you know, kind of really detailed notes about this because you learn a turn, but it's not about his worldview again. I mean, he does live in a certain box like we all do. And, you know, again, his world experiences not as extensive as, you know, you would hope it would be, but that's why you have to really pay attention, that's where we've messed up. That's where we haven't really paid a lot of attention to what he's been saying, he's been telegraphing.

Pluralism, Coups, And Nuclear Tactics

Putin-Xi Dynamic (02:39:15)

This grievance is dissatisfaction, this, I'm going to do something for years. And the thing is during war time, the combined with propaganda and the narratives of resentment and grievance that you dig in on those. Like, maybe you start out not believing it, but you're sure it's all going to believe it eventually. Well, you convince yourself over time. Yeah, look, the longer you're in a position like Putin, 22 years now, come, it went 23 years, could be out there for 36 years. You become more and more rigid. I mean, this is, again, you know, something that you see in history. You know, you look at, you know, people through history, you've moved from kind of being kind of left wing and, you know, in the perspectives to hard right. You kind of have a, kind of a sort of an ossification or a rigidity emerges in the views. And again, I used to have these arguments with Professor Pius about Lenin, because he would talk about Lenin, but he didn't change his mind from being a team. Now, if you're not thought about that, I mean, it's like, we're not formed, fully formed individuals at 18. You know, we don't know anything, you know, something, but not everything. I mean, obviously the younger context, you know, the kind of the way that you kind of grew up, the players who grew up, the things that happened to the traumas you have. I mean, all of these have an impact, but if you don't grow beyond all of that, and Putin's been stuck in place since 2000, when it became president, he's not out and about, you know, kind of being a man of the people. You know, he, you know, he's not doing the kind of things that he used to do. Yeah, he gets out there and he goes to Kazakhstan and, you know, got him Tajikistan and he goes to China and he does this and that and then to COVID, he didn't go anywhere. I mean, very few places. And so he got stuck. And that worries me a lot because you could see before that he had a bit more of flexibility of thought. And that's why nobody should be in place forever. You should always kind of like get out there and go out there and learn a new skill. You know, kind of, you need some, you know, he needed to get out more and do something different. You had an interesting point. You've made that both Vladimir Zelensky and Putin are thinking about, they're just politicians. They're thinking about the 2024 election, which is coming up for both of them. Yeah, I've said that in some of the other interviews. Yeah, that's true. That's so interesting. I mean, I mean, because their elections going to be pretty much at the same time as the US election. Yeah. Oh, that's going to be before. I mean, because sometime in that, you know, early part of the year, the presidential election.

Putins 2024 Calculus (02:41:45)

Yeah. And also, I don't know if you know about US elections, but they actually last way longer than the year. Well, they go from it now, aren't we? You know, already. Already starting. So there's going to be a significant overlap. Yeah, you know, you're right. You think that actually comes into play in their calculus? I think it was one of the reasons why Putin invaded in February, 2022, because it was going to be two years. I mean, he thought it'd be over by March of 2022 and he got two years to prepare for, you know, the election. And you got a big boost, you know, not only he got a boost from Crimea. I mean, I didn't mention that before. I mean, one of the reasons for invading Crimea and Alex Singh, or invading Ukraine the first time I was in Crimea was what happened to his ratings. They went from kind of declining. It was still pretty good. You know, by anybody's standards to just rocketing off into the stratosphere. I mean, I didn't really meet anybody in Russia who thought that Alex Singh Crimea was, you know, kind of a bad thing. I mean, even, you know, kind of people who were post Putin on some of the other things, Crimea was, you know, a klimnash. They kept saying, you know, this is kind of, you know, we got it back. You know, she never have gone away. It was ours, you know, but, you know, this is more complex. And he wasn't, I don't think at the time, planning on annexing all of Ukraine when he went into this special mall operation, he was going to try to turn it into what Belarus has become part of a, you know, bring back the Commonwealth of independent states or the Union and then a new union with Belarus and Ukraine and Russia over time. But certainly, you know, remove Ukraine as a major factor independent factor on the world stage and, you know, consolidate Crimea and maybe, you know, kind of incorporate that Skalmalkhan, you know, kind of that was, that was also a possibility. But it wasn't, it wasn't in his intention any case to have something on this kind of scale. He wanted to get on with them preparing for what was going to be. He would think the cakewalk, the shoe in of the next president election. I mean, last time around, he had to invite him to a competition with this person who's reputed to be his goddaughter, Sydney subjack, you know, for a bit of, you know, kind of entertainment for people. And the next time around, you know, maybe he wasn't really planning on running, you know, against any other, you know, serious opposition. He was just going to have the acclaim of, you know, the kind of the great leader, like President Xi in China, you know, Putin, you know, was basically, I think, you know, he also helped you that he would be able to devolve some authority where, you know, kind of so he's more like the, you know, the Supreme Leader kind of figure, the Zalike figure, the monarch, and then, you know, other people get on with the chief executive prime minister or run in the country, and he could kind of like step back and just enjoy this. You know, maybe there was going to be again a new union of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine and some fashion and he preside over that. So speaking of opposition, you've criticized the famed Putin critic, Alexei Navalny. What's the nature of your criticism? Well, it's really been kind of a criticism in the way that, you know, people have implied, but more just reminding people that Navalny isn't some stooge of the West as other people have, you know, kind of depicted him in the Russian firm, but, you know, saying that this is kind of a pro-Western, he sees a Russian nationalist and a Russian patriot, you know, in the past, he's articulated, you know, things are not just similar from some of the people around Putin. And it's more just reminding people that, you know, just because you kind of see somebody, you know, as a kind of in an opposition figure or somebody who might be more palatable from, you know, your perspective looking from the West, they're not always going to be, you know, what you think they are.

Russia (02:45:14)

Alexei Navalny is a Russian, and, you know, in a particular Russian context, he's different from Putin, but he wouldn't necessarily, you know, kind of run, you know, the Russian system and words that we will like. So that's kind of, it's not a kind of a criticism, it's more of a critique of the way that we look at things. You know, I think it's a mistake to always, you know, say, oh, this is pro-Western, or this is a, you know, liberal, I mean, what does that mean, pro-Western? I mean, he's a Russian, he's a Russian nationalist in the Russian Patriots, and he's often, you know, being, you know, quite critical about immigration. He's had some negative views about, you know, one part of my mommy said don't feed the caucuses, you know, kind of played upon some of the, you know, the racial and ethnic tensions inside of, you know, Russia itself as well. Now he is a pluralist, and then he's kind of, and he wants to have, you know, a different set of political actors there, but he also isn't promoting revolution, he's not Lenin, he's not wanting to bring down the state.

Pluralism vs. Coup (02:46:11)

He wants to kind of, you know, change the people who are in charge, that's what he's being personally focused on, and, you know, he might have things, and do things that we elsewhere might not like. And I guess the bigger picture there is, it's not trivial to know that if you place another human in power to replace the current human in power, the things that can be better, they could be a lot worse, because there's a momentum to a system. A system is bigger than just this leader, even when that leader has a huge amount of power. That's absolutely right. And, you know, he grew up in that, you know, same system now he's younger than Putin, so he's got a different generational perspective. And he's not wedded to the Soviet Union, or, you know, kind of some concept of Russian Empire, he doesn't seem to spend a lot of time, I don't know what he's doing, you know, in jail, but he's probably not sitting around, you know, reading Lomonosov and, you know, the kind of the great kind of tracks of Russian history could be, actually. But I mean, I think, you know, Navalny has a different worldview on a different perspective, just like Medvedev was different, you know, in his time and presidency and made some, you know, changes and some innovations there. But don't think that they're going to be radically different because Gorbachev, I mean, he was so different from Andoropov and Chineenko and others as a person. But he was also constrained by the system. And he wanted to have change, but he wanted evolutionary change, he didn't know how to do it, but he didn't want to bring the whole system down, look at Khrushchev.

Radical Change & Evolution (02:47:40)

When he came in, you know, after that whole period of, you know, everybody trying to figure out what to do after Stalin had died and there was all this kind of back and forth and eventually Khrushchev emerges and, you know, he tries to make changes to the system, but he's also a creature of a very specific context, he's growing up in the same system, and he, you know, kind of brings all kinds of elements of chaos there into the whole thing. And, you know, gets into a standoff with the United States that we know is the Cuban Missile Crisis and eventually, you know, gets removed. You know, we're looking at what's happening in the United Kingdom right now. You know, they've just churned through three prime ministers and actually five prime ministers in, you know, kind of as many years, but all of those prime ministers have come out with a context of the Conservative Party and all, you know, kind of just shades of you know, the same thing, they've all come out of the same academic and, you know, kind of privileged backgrounds, even Rishi Sunak, the new prime minister's the first, you know, Indian or Anglo-Indian prime minister in British history. It was a kind of phenomenal, you know, kind of first child of Indian immigrants, but also a person of great privilege from the same academic and party backgrounds as the others. You know, so that there are always differences with those human beings, but those contexts matter a lot. What is the probability that Russia attacks Ukraine with a tactical nuclear weapon? Well, Putin's definitely been thinking about it, right? I mean, he's the kind of person, if he's got an instrument, he wants to figure out how to use it. You know, we look at Polonium, we look at Novichok, you know, we look at all kinds of things, you know, that he's also presided over in Syria. He has, you know, put in charge of the war in Ukraine now. General Sivarikin is known as General Armageddon, you know, the kind of person who, you know, pretty much facilitated the use of chemical weapons in Syria, you know, for example. So, you know, don't think that Putin, you know, hasn't thought about how ruthless he can possibly be. The question is really the calculation. It's his estimation of the probability that it will get the desired effect. We keep talking about this idea of escalate, de-escalate. That's not what the Russians, you know, how they call it, but it's the whole idea that you do something really outrageous to get everybody else to back off.

Escalate, De-Escalate & Tactical Nuclear Weapons (02:49:54)

Now, when you talked about the precedent that the United States set of detonating the nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what, you know, he obviously meant the precedent of using nuclear weapons, of course, which of course we would then say, well, we showed then how the impermissibility of overdoing that again. But what he's talking about is the precedent of escalating to such an extent that you stop the war, because he reads that saying, well, you know, the US dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war was brought to a quick conclusion. And of course, there's a huge debate in America about whether it was necessary to do that, whether the war was ending anywhere. Did that really kind of change the minds of the Japanese high command, I mean, there's all kind of books being written about that. And of course, the revulsion that people felt in the work of that was just the shock of what actually happened. And we've spent 70 years basically coming to terms of the fact that we did something like that, the fire bombing. You know, we've also looked at all the bombing in Vietnam and everywhere, and, you know, all these massive bombing campaigns and realizing they actually often had the opposite effect. Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have contributed, and there's a lot of, you know, it's got to suggest that it did to the end of the war. But a lot of the big bombing campaigns, the destruction actually prolonged was because they made people fight back as we're kind of seeing in the case of Ukraine. Putin has to calculate the probability that if he uses some tactical nuclear weapon that it will get the desired effect, which is get us to capitulate a new crane to capitulate us to capitulate meaning the United States and Europeans, not supporting Ukraine anymore, pushing towards the negotiating table negotiating Ukraine away.

Estimations On Putin'S Regime

Putin & His Estimations, Nuclear Weapons & Bluffs, Zaporitzia & The Double Hit (02:51:34)

And Ukraine saying, okay, we give up like happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki or in Japan. So it's his calculation, you know, as much as anything else, which is really important. He said, we have to show him that he won't get that out of it. It's kind of less our probability and, you know, kind of the odds of it. It's just how he calculates that probability of getting what he wants. And I guess that's how the game of poker works. It's your probability and your estimate of their probability and your estimate of their estimate of your probability. Yeah, so it goes on. I think he has two tools, right? So one is actually the actual use of nuclear weapons and then the threat of the threat. Oh, the threat is very effective. The more really you make the threat. That's right. So the more you approach the actual use, I get very close to using already using Chernobyl, Zaparizia, and then usional cranes, the other nuclear actors. So he's using civilian nuclear actors as a dirty bomb. So, you know, it's ironic that he has so good. So, I think, Shoyu, his defense minister calling people up to the Koreans are going to use a dirty bomb. They're already doing it. I mean, what is kind of more destructive and stirring up all the radioactive dust and Chernobyl as you send your troops through? For example, or shelling the Chernobyl plant and the sarcophagus and putting it at risk. And Zaparizia, you've got the International Atomic Energy Agency running out there in a tepanic and kind of also trying to intervene in the conflict. So you're putting, you know, civilian nuclear reactors at risk. I mean, that also has the greatest effect of cutting off Ukraine's power supply because Zaparizia in particular was what was it? The third of Ukraine's power generation or some really high percentage. I'll have to go back and take a look at that. But that's a two-fer, you know, it's kind of a double effect there of undermining power generation, also frightening Germans and others who've already been very worried about nuclear power and, you know, increasing leverage on that energy front, but also scaring people from the perspective of the use of nuclear weapon. Those reactors also become a nuclear weapon, tactically deployed. And as you said, the discussion of using a nuclear weapon. And engendering all the spheres. And he's already got an effect. Everyone's running around talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis and secret diplomacy and how we negotiate away Ukraine in return for Putin not blowing up a nuclear weapon. So he's got a lot of people are he talking about that?

Are We Prepared? (02:54:05)

So sorry for the difficult and dark question. It could be for you directly or more like, do you think we have a plan for this? What happens if he does? Drop a nuclear weapon. Do you have a sense that the United States has a good plan? I know we're talking about it. I think we probably have several plans because it depends on what, where, when, how. But that don't and also don't these things very quickly. Well, there's also signaling and signs and signs of movement there. I mean, I want to be very kind of careful about this, but in this thing is it's also very important that we do this with other nuclear powers. So the other thing that's different from how it might have been in the past and particularly different from the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Iran Missile Crisis, we're not there any nuclear players.

Dangerous Hydrocephalus (02:55:00)

China has emerging nuclear arsenal now. Less on the strategic side, but building it up, but very much on the intermediate range and tactical. Kim Jong-un is firing off weapons left, right and center at the moment in North Korea. We've got other rogue states, Putin's behaving like a rogue state just to be very clear. And this is what we've got with Kim Jong-un in North Korea. We've also got India and Pakistan. And we've got other states we're not supposed to talk about that we know have nuclear capacities and others that would like to have nuclear capacity. And the whole question here is about also proliferation. Getting back to that time when Ukraine had nuclear weapons, at least there on its territory in Saudi Belarus and Kazakhstan, you've got to wonder, was it wise for them to give it up? We were worried about kind of loose nukes, nuclear weapons, getting out of hand proliferation at the time. We wanted fewer nuclear powers. Russia wanted that too. Now we're going to have more. We've got more. And what Putin is saying is, well, that was stupid if Ukraine to give up the nuclear weapons. In fact, my colleagues and I back in our report and back in the US, I kind of suggested they shouldn't give them up. And that's why we had the Budapest memorandum. That's why the United States and the United Kingdom in particular have basically some responsibility and obligation going back to 1994 when they promised Ukraine that gave up the nuclear weapons that territorial integrity and sovereignty would remain intact. Some obligation to actually do something to step up. If we step back from that, this is the thing that people are not talking about. What about nuclear proliferation? If you're South Korea, Japan, you're any other country that's kind of worrying about your neighbors and what might happen to you. Just like India and Pakistan are both like, we've got to kind of keep our strategic nuclear violence here. Everything is up for questions. Saudi is the one to nuclear weapon. The Turks already want one. They've talked about one fears. Why should the Iranians be the only one with an Islamic nuclear weapon? And if we know that Iran has breakup capacity now, the Saudis and all the other states that are in opposition to Iran will also want to have some nuclear capacity in the United States before wanted to maintain everything into the nuclear umbrella. One of the reasons why Sweden and Finland are joining there is because of suddenly all of these nuclear threats. Sweden was actually the last country on the planet to want to have nuclear weapons. They were actually pushing for a ban on nuclear weapons in the United Nations now that Putin's doing the nuclear saber-addling. They're talking about joining and on the verge of joining a nuclear alliance. See what's happening here. So we have to make it more and more difficult for Putin to be even contemplated. That's why people are saying this is reckless. This is irresponsible. Putin is actually making the world less safe for himself down the line either, but he's thinking short term here. He's thinking, what can I do? What do I actually have? You can also destroy lots of infrastructures he's doing. You can use subversion. We're worried about all of the undersea cables or these weird things happening off of Orkney or in the Mediterranean or. All these other things that are happening, not stream to pipelines or the infrastructure. There's all kinds of other things that you can do as well here. It's not just, again, this is civilian nuclear threat of blowing up one of the reactors. Now it's going to be sure about where the wind turns and the wind blows. There's all kinds of things to factor in here, but Putin is definitely sitting around calculating with other people what can I do to turn this around. I mean, he still thinks that he can win this. Or in other words, he can end it in on his terms. Crimea, Donetsk, Lukansk, Heroson, Zaparija, and capitulation, or recognises being part of Russia. Oh, he can freeze it and then kind of figure out where it goes from there. What other pressure he can put on? I'm sure he's confident he can get rid of Zelensky and he can prevail over us. I mean, look, I'm in the UK is going through prime ministers faster than I'm changing my socks. So it's like, you know, he can prevail on the, you know, basically he can have an impact on the political scene in Europe and elsewhere. I mean, again, everyone's talking about winter coming and Putin's thinking, yeah, great. I've destroyed the infrastructure of Ukraine. I'm worried about the winter. Well, yeah, but I mean, look, the other thing is that we have to start preparing. I mean, we have to start thinking about this. We've got a wartime economy situation. That's where we are. We've got the home front to think about as well. Putin has declared war on us. He did that on September 30th. He's done it at other points as well. He's probably just not paid attention, but he pretty much pretty explicit in September 30th. I mean, go back and watch that speech. And, you know, he is gambling that, you know, people will go back, you know, to basically taking Russian gas and oil, but it's not going to be that simple as well. And do people, and then, you know, the question has to be, do we really kind of think he's going to play fair after that when he's kind of also shown that he can leverage that? It's such a complicated world. It's complicated. It's very complicated. And it's never, I mean, it feels like things are heating up, like, and China is very quiet right now.

Both sides could compromise (03:00:21)

Because they're watching what happens. I mean, for President Xi, you know, he's trying to consolidate his power even further after the party congress, but he doesn't want to look like he made a mistake by backing Putin. I mean, he thought Putin was also going to be in out Ukraine would probably be open for massive Chinese investment. China was the largest investor in Ukraine before the war. The largest single investor, I mean, the EU was bigger, of course. How do you hope the war ends in Ukraine? Well, I mean, I do hope it ends, you know, with a ceasefire and a negotiated solution, but it has to be with Russia compromising on something. And that's not where we are right now. Do you think both sides might be willing to compromise? Most wars always end in that way. I mean, nobody's ever happy. But they don't seem to either side, like legitimately doesn't want to compromise right now. Yeah, because somebody looked, the thing is that for Ukraine right now, anything is a compromise at its expense, right? Fast devastation, unbelievable casualty rates, biggest refugee crisis in World War II. Russia's just said, sorry, this is our territory, it's not just Crimea. I think there could have been a negotiation over that. But, you know, Donetsk and Lukanska, we've got all kinds of formulas we've had all the way through history of, you know, putting things under a kind of guardianship, receivership of territory, the United Nations, all kinds of different ways of formulating that we could have easily been creative. But Russia's basically saying, sorry, we've taken this. And any other negotiations, just you recognizing this for us not doing moral destruction. I mean, that is not the basis for a negotiation. And, you know, having, you know, kind of people come and just sort of laying those terms down is not a starting position. I think Russia is also, you know, in a dilemma of its own making now, because Putin has made it very difficult, you know, to compromise, just by everything that he's set. Now, for Ukraine, they've already won a great moral political and military victory. It's just hard to see it, right, at the particular moment. They've done what the Finns did in the Winter War, which the Finns were devastated by the Winter War as well, but they've brushed them back. Now, the Finns lost a lot of territory, those corralia and, you know, huge spheres of territory, but they got to be Finland. And now they're, you know, joining NATO, but they've been part of the EU. The question is how to, you know, get Ukraine to be Ukraine in a success. But, you know, is, and that's the challenge. Again, they've already won psychologically, politically, militarily, because Putin hasn't succeeded in what he wanted to do, but he has succeeded in the future. But he has succeeded in completely devastating them. And this is the kind of the old Muscovite, the old Russian imperial, old servant mentality, you know, going all the way back to when the Muscovites were the bag men for the, you know, the horde, the Mongols.

Tracking (03:03:21)

It was destruction. You know, you don't play with us, we'll destroy you. You know, people talk about it, it's mafia, but it's older. You know, all you have to go down to see Tarkovsky's Andre Rublioff. I mean, I remember, you know, seeing that film when I was first as a student in Moscow and just being, whoa, this is so brutal. I mean, this is just unremittingly brutal, because the whole point is that you show people who's the boss. The destruction is the point of things as well, because, you know, you are emphasizing your domination. And that's what Putin is doing right now is saying, okay, you want to go in a different direction, so be it, but I'm going to make you suffer. Remember when Haudhikovsky got out of the penal colony when Putin let him out eventually? He said he suffered enough. But he suffered for 10, 11 years. I don't think Putin feels that Ukraine has suffered enough at this point. So there's a part of this invasion that's punishment for something. Yeah, it's medieval. I mean, look, we're all capable of the same things, right? There was all that destruction, and that's what Assad was like in Syria, like his father. You destroy, because you teach him a lesson. And look, Britain did that in the colonial era. I mean, all the history of British colonialism is exactly the same. I mean, all the Mao Mao, you know, in Kenya, you know, up until recent times, brutality. Teaching people, you know, you have to teach them a lesson. You have to suffer. The US did it. I mean, we did it with the Native Americans, you know, did it all over the place, you know, as well. This is kind of what big, you know, states do at different points in history, just that, you know, Russia has not moved on from that. And we've learned some lessons later. I hope, you know, we're fully internalized them of, you know, things that we've done, you know, kind of the past United States. Ideally, you're trying to do better, and most of Europe's trying to do better as well. Think about France and Algeria. You know, again, you know, we can see this in many different settings. But I think, you know, for Putin right now, he hasn't taught all of us sufficient a lesson. I just, I talked to hundreds of people in Ukraine, and the tough thing, they're inspiring things that there's a unity. The tough thing is a lot of them speak intensely of hate towards not just Russia, but Russians. Russians. That's how Europeans felt about Germany and Germans at the end of World War II. And generational hate, like, I don't think that hate is going to pass. Well, it might, it might well take a generation. I mean, I, when I was a kid in the '70s, I went on exchanges to Germany. And that was like, you know, 30 years, more than 30 years after the end of the war. My grandfather had fought in World War I, or wouldn't speak to my parents when they sent me on a, let me have him fought in World War II. We fought in World War I, and he hated the Germans. And he did not want me going, you know, to Germany as an ex-genestion, he refused to meet, you know, kind of the German kid who, you know, came to stay at my house. You know, for example, I mean, it takes a long time to, you know, it takes a long time to get over that.

The Hierarchical Nature Of Vladimir Putin (03:06:30)

But you do, I mean, and we have, we have in Europe. And that was the whole point of, you know, all of that kind of exercise of European unity after World War II. Now, the big challenge is, what do we do with Russia? Because a lot of people are talking, we can't have European security without Russia. The people are saying, we can't have a Europe, you know, kind of with Russia. You know, so how do we deal with this? We've got to basically, it's going to be like Japan and Germany after World War II after this. But the level of the atrocities that have been carried out, as you said, the level of hatred. But we found a way of doing it.

Advice And Personal Experiences

What gives Bill his hope (03:07:12)

Now, a lot of it will require change on the part of Russia as well, and Russians, and really thinking about this. I mean, Gorbachev, before tried to do in the late 1980s with the black spots in, with glass nalls, with openness and talking about Russian history, just kind of never sort of withered on the vine as time went on. What gives you hope about the future? Well, my hope comes into the fact that we've done things before, that we've got ourselves out of tough times, and we've overcome stuff, and in people, because I meet amazing people. You just talked about hundreds of people that you've met within Ukraine. And, you know, people all think differently. Context and circumstances change, and people can evolve. Some people get stuck, Putin's got stuck, but people can evolve. And, you know, I do think that if we all pull together, and we've seen this in so many contexts, we can find solutions to things, just like we get back again to our discussion about scientists, and just the kind of amazing breakthroughs of, you know, what we did on COVID, or done on, you know, kind of other diseases and things. And look, there is some similarities. There's a pathology around war and conflict. Years ago, in the 1990s, I worked on, you know, a lot of projects that were funded by the Carnegie Corporation of the United States under the then presidency of David Hamburg, who was a scientist, and actually did see a lot of parallels between the sort of, like, the pathology of disease and, you know, kind of the pestilence, you know, conflict kind of idea. And, of course, these, you know, parallels have to be very careful because, you know, they're not neat. But there was kind of like an idea in there, and how do you sort of treat this? How do you deal with this? And we did come up with all kinds of ideas, and, you know, things that are still out there. We've created institutions that have helped to keep the peace. We just have neglected them, allowed them to degrade, just like the United Nations, and, you know, we've created problems inside of them, like the veto power of the permanent powers on the UN Security Council. We can change that. You're just going to have a will. And I do think, out there, there are sufficient people with a will, and we've just got to get people mobilized. I mean, I'm always amazed by how people can mobilize themselves around a crisis. Remember, Winston Churchill, I don't quote all the time because I can never remember half his quotes, but I do remember the one about never let a good crisis go to waste. And I always think that that, you know, yeah, that we shouldn't let this crisis go to waste. And something else can come out of this, just like in Ukraine, we've worried before about corruption in Ukraine, the influence of the oligarchs. We've got to run oligarchs here in the US. We need to, you know, deal with as well. But this is a chance to do it differently. Yeah, it really is a chance to do things differently. And a part of that is young people. I have to ask you. It is young people. I mean, I'm feeling a bit on the oldest side now, but I still feel I've got, you know, a bit of, you know, kind of youth within me at 57. I'm not bad at all, but I'm not that young. But we have to work together with younger and older people. You're right. We work together in coalitions of, you know, across generations. You remind me of kids who just graduated college and say, and I feel old. So, yeah, no. I don't actually feel old, but it is a number age. And, you know, when you kind of think about when I was. I thought you don't like math. Yeah, yeah. I know it's like things like that. Yeah. But I find it interesting. But, you know, when I was a rumor, when I was a little kid, I kept thinking about the year 2000 and I thought, Oh, my God, I'll be dead. I'll be 35. That's 22 years ago. You've overcome a lot of struggle in your life based on different reasons as you write about. Class being one of them.

Advice for young people (03:10:54)

Your funny sounding accent being another or just representation of class. But in general, through all of that, to be at the White House, to be one of the most powerful voices in the world, what advice would you give from grounded in your life story to somebody who's young, somebody who's in high school in college thinking of how they can have a big positive impact on the world? Look, we all have a voice, right? We all have agency. We all actually have the ability to do something. And you can, you know, start small in your local community or, you know, even in your own classroom, just helping somebody else out or speaking up and advocating on behalf of things. You know, when I was about 11 years old, I got involved with the kids on Save the Whales. You know, we had all this, you know, kind of, we were hardly Greta Sundberg, but we, you know, we kind of got together in the kind of network writing to people and, you know, trying to raise money to help save the Whales. Now, actually, the Whales of the Whales are doing somewhat better. I can't say that that was because of me and my network, but, you know, it's kind of a way of organizing and, you know, kind of joining in at a larger movement, everybody can be part of something bigger. The thing is, it's all about working together with others and giving other people a chance as well. I think, you know, one thing is that our voices have more impact when they're amplified. They don't have to be the voices of discord or the voices of hate. You know, you've been, you know, trying to do this with your podcasts, you know, kind of give people a broad voice, give them a kind of platform and, you know, get them to join in with other people. And, you know, one of the things that I've been trying to do is, you know, kind of go and talk to just as many people as I possibly can and say, look, you know, we can all do something here. We can all, you know, lend our voices to a cause that we care deeply about. We can be kind to each other. We can give other people a chance. We can kind of speak out while we see that, you know, something is wrong. And we can try to, you know, explain things to people. And what I'm trying to do with them all is just sort of explain, you know, what I've learned about things and, you know, hope that that helps people make informed judgments of their own and that, you know, kind of maybe take things further and learn something more. It's like kind of like building up on, you know, the knowledge, you know, that, that I have, you know, to try to impart to others and everybody can do that different ways. You can kind of write reach back. If you're 14, help somebody use seven for 21, help somebody use 14, you know, kind of, you know, the kind of my age. Now I'm always trying to, you know, reach back and, you know, work with younger people, listen to younger people, help them out, make connections for them, listen to what they have to say about something, try to incorporate that and, you know, things that I'm saying as well. The main point is that we've all got a voice. We've all got agency. And it always works better when we work together with other people. But sometimes it can feel pretty hopeless. It can feel. I mean, there's low points. You seem to have a kind of restless energy, a drive to you, where there are low points in the beginning when you're in your early days when you're trying to get the education where it may have not been clear to you that you could be at all successful. Yeah, there always, there always were. I mean, there were lots of points where I was just despondent.

Have a sense of Fairness (03:14:06)

But then, you know, I'd meet somebody who would just suddenly turn things around. I was this local. I was out there looking for it. Sometimes, you know, if you're open and receptive to, you know, kind of hearing something from someone else, I mean, you know, oftentimes I thought so despondent, you know, in such a black mood, I didn't think I'd be able to go on. And then I'd have a chance conversation with somebody. I mean, I once remember, you know, sitting on a bench, it was probably 11 or 12, just crying my eyes out, just really upset. And then all the lady just came and sat next to me, put her arm around me, said, "Oh, it's all right, pet. What's the matter?" You know, it can't be that bad, can it? And it was just this human embrace. It's like somebody, you know, just basically reaching out to me that snapped me out of it. And I thought, you know, here's somebody just, you know, she didn't know who I was. She just felt really bad that I was, you know, sitting, you know, crying. I mean, I can't even remember what it was about anymore. You know, now it just seems in consequence at the time. I probably thought my life was at an end. Just, you know, sometimes people making out contact within the street and saying something to you can kind of pull you out of something.

Inner Politics (03:15:12)

And, you know, it's kind of a, I think you would just have to open yourself up to the prospect that not everyone's bad, just like you were saying before, that there's, you know, good in everybody, even during, you know, that really difficult period of impeachment. You know, I was telling this very carefully to people. And I thought, we always, we still have something in common here. We need to remember that.

Something will always Pull You Back (03:15:33)

You know, kind of when people are kind of forgetting who they are or, you know, the context in their operating, there's always something that can, you know, can pull you back again. There's always that kind of thread. So I'm sure you were probably attacked by a lot of people and you were still able to keep that optimism that. Well, I kept it into kind of perspective. Like, when I was a kid, I mean, you know, things were going to mention before I got bullied, you know, kind of again, and I tried to when some, why they're doing this. One of the most amazing things that happened, you know, really almost my, my dad was a pretty incredible person and he would always open my eyes to something. I was getting bullied really nicely by a girl at school. And my dad's not asking me questions about her. And one day my dad's, we're going to go for a walk. And my town's very small. Remember, it's very depressed, really, you know, deprived area. And we go to this housing, public housing place that's not too far away from where I live. And it's really, you know, kind of one of the most run down places and not already run down place. My dad knocked on the door and I said, what are we doing that? And I said, we're going off to, you know, we're going to visit somebody, you know, a family friend. I think even though, you know, a distant relative knocking the door, this old man answers the door and he says, Oh, Alfie, my dad's name is Alf Alfie. You know, kind of fancy seeing you, seeing you, come on in, have a cup of tea, what are you doing? I'm just walking past my daughter, we're going for a trip. There we're going for a walk. And then suddenly I see that girl. And she's in the kitchen. And I'm thinking, Oh my God, bloody hell, you know, British expression. What's this? And it turns out that dad had figured out who she was. And he knew her grandfather and she was living with a grandfather and she'd been abandoned by a parent and she was living in, you know, pretty dire circumstances. And she'd been getting raised by a grandfather and she was just miserable. And the reason she was bullying me was to make herself feel better. And after that, she never bullied me again. I mean, we didn't even talk. Because there was a connection made. And suddenly she realized that her grandfather, who was the only person she had, knew my dad.

There is Always a Reason (03:17:34)

And there were some, they were friends or they were even family, some, you know, kind of relationship there. I mean, I was related to half of North of England. I had no idea how we were related. And everybody was some relatives. People have lived there for generations again. It's very small area.


Ill Keep Things In Perspective (03:17:47)

And that turned things around. So just remember, you might have. And that's kind of suddenly taught to me this always a reason why somebody's doing something. A lot of the times they're really unhappy with themselves. Sometimes there's something else going on their lives. Sometimes they just don't know of any better. And I shouldn't take it personally. Because I don't have a personal connection with half these people who are out there saying that they want this and that to happen to me. Well, thank you for the kindness and empathy you still carry in your heart. I can see it through all that you must have gone through in the recent couple of years. It's really inspiring to see that. And thank you for everything you've done for the work you've written and for the work you continue to write and to do it. This seems like a really, really difficult time for human civilization on a topic that you're a world expert in. So don't mess it up. No, I know. That's how I say to everybody out there. Let's just keep it together. Right? Yeah. Exactly. Your words have a lot of power right now. So it's a really, really tricky time. So thank you so much. Given how valuable your time is to sit down with me today. It was on honor. No, thanks. No, it's a privilege and a pleasure to talk to you as well. Thank you. Thanks for listening to this conversation with Fiona Hill. To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now let me leave you some words from John Steinbeck. Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts. Perhaps the fear of the loss of power. Thank you for listening. I hope to see you next time.

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