FROM Julia Ioffe
The Russians were coming. Did anyone listen? Yesterday's Senate testimony by former Obama Administration officials was as much a warning about elections to come as it was about last year's campaign. But the focus was on how former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told the Trump White House that its National Security Advisor had been compromised. She thought action was needed, but General Michael Flynn was not fired for almost three weeks — after he'd attended high-security meetings. Democrats want an independent investigation, but President Trump still calls it "fake news." How real is Russia's threat to democracy?
U.S. Seeks Alliance with Russia to fight ISIS in Syria Secretary of State John Kerry is in Moscow to talk with Valdimir Putin about a U.S.-proposed alliance to cooperate on military operations in Syria. Julia Ioffe is contributing editor to POLITICO and columnist at Foreign Policy magazine.
Could an Exiled Russian Oligarch Be Planning a Revolution? Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once the richest oligarch in all Russia, but running afoul of Vladimir Putin cost him the Yukos Oil Company — and 10 years in prison. Now, he's trying to start a revolution from exile. Julia Ioffe is a Russian-America journalist and well-regarded critic of Vladimir Putin. Next week's issue of the New Yorker magazine features her extensive interview with Khodorkovsy who now lives in Switzerland.
Ukraine Election Separatists in Donetsk declared victory in an independence vote held yesterday. Today, they declared their region of Eastern Ukraine a sovereign state: the Donetsk People's Republic. And they asked Russia to annex their territory, just as it annexed Crimea in March. The Ukrainian President called Sunday’s independence referendum a “farce.”
The Temperature Rises in Europe's Latest Hot Spot Russian troops are poised on the Eastern Ukrainian border as the US and Russia trade charges of manufacturing political crises in that troubled country. Pro-Russian demonstrators are holding government buildings in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, and a crackdown by the interim government could be the pretext for an invasion. Vladimir Putin has been scornful of economic sanctions imposed by the US and Europe after Russia annexed Crimea. How has such tension developed over Ukraine's industrial heartland? If Russia resorts to military action, what could the US do then? How dangerous is the situation?
Homophobia and Gay Rights in Putin's Russia The Sochi Olympics have focused attention on Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws, but homophobia runs deep in Russia and elsewhere around the world. Putin is not the only autocratic leader targeting gays to mobilize political supporters, sometimes to the point of deadly violence. And, increased approval of same-sex marriage in the US and parts of Europe is cited as evidence that the powerful West is “decadent.” Today we’ll hear what it’s like to be gay in Moscow—and what’s likely to happen when the Games in Sochi are over. Will pro-gay demonstrations have an impact in Russia? What about Africa? Will they make life even more dangerous for gays and lesbians? A photograph in the latest GQ magazine shows two men kissing with a Russian church in the background. The caption says, “What the two men… are doing is now illegal in Russia.” The article is called, “Inside the Iron Closet: What It’s Like to Be Gay in Putin’s Russia.” We speak to the author Jeff Sharlet, an English professor at Dartmouth College and a fellow with the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund.
Human Rights in the era of Donald Trump President Trump’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, said today the US might pull out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. Serious violators of human rights are members of the Council itself–and a US resignation could make things worse. Later on today’s show, now that he’s into his second term, comedian turned US Senator Al Franken is telling jokes again.
Trump plays scolder-in-chief with NATO allies At the opening of NATO’s dramatic new headquarters in Brussels today, President Trump acknowledged that Article 5 — promising that “an attack on one nation is an attack on all” -- has only been invoked one time: in the aftermath of September 11. But the President failed to provide what 27 other Alliance members have been waiting for: a re-commitment by America’s new leader to Article 5. Instead, they got a scolding.
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.