The Putin Files: Julia Ioffe


MICHAEL KIRK – …the sort of discovery that
these guys are in hacking Podesta’s email, and the FBI is trying to warn. Tell me that story in a kind of condensed
form if you can. What happened there? JULIA IOFFE – … In the spring of 2016, CrowdStrike,
which is a private cybersecurity firm that was co-founded by a Russian-American, is called
in by the DNC [Democratic National Committee] to analyze what happened to their servers. And CrowdStrike finds out that there are two
entities associated with the Russian government that they dub Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear. One of them has been in there for a year. Another one has been in there since—for
the last couple months. But they don’t know that the other Bear
is in there rooting around. They don’t seem to be aware of each other. They realized that they have taken all the
basically self-oppo from the DNC server. Self-oppo is the research that a campaign
does on itself to find its weak spots. Now, all the Bears are in the DNC servers;
they also stumble on a link to another server. They see the DNC server is communicating with
another server, and that’s the DCCC server, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
that helps Democrats get elected to the House of Representatives. So through that, they stumble into that server
and find a bunch of self-oppo on regional House candidates, and that information somehow
ends up in the relevant blogs and radio stations and newspapers in the specific districts that
Democrats are trying to flip from red to blue in the 2016 election. MICHAEL KIRK – So does anybody know this is
happening, anybody at the DNC, anybody in the intelligence community, while it’s happening? JULIA IOFFE – Well, they were told—CrowdStrike
told the DNC—they were called in by the DNC to do an analysis. This is after the FBI has been calling and
calling and calling the IT guy at the DNC, who seems to not realize anything is wrong. At one point, I think he hangs up on them. You know, it’s a comedy of errors. But in the meantime, all of this very valuable
information has been discovered by the Russians and then magically ends up in the hands of
WikiLeaks, which has long been associated with the Russians. The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange,
was visited by Margarita Simonyan, who is the founding editor in chief of Russia Today
(RT), which is the entirely Kremlin-funded, English-language—I don’t know, for lack
of a better term, propaganda channel. She visits him in the Ecuadorian Embassy,
where he is hiding from extradition requests, and visits him there in September 2013 to
talk about renewing his show on Russia Today. Julian Assange’s lieutenant was with NSA
leaker Edward Snowden from the time he left Hong Kong to the time he arrived in Moscow,
and the entire time he was in the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. WikiLeaks is even said to have bought the
ticket, the plane ticket, for Edward Snowden. So it was not a coincidence that Edward Snowden
ended up in Russia. And it is no coincidence that the materials
found in the DNC servers ended up on WikiLeaks. The Russians and Assange have a very cozy
relationship. MICHAEL KIRK – … Is there any doubt that
President Putin knows this is happening? JULIA IOFFE – Of course. There’s always doubt. Doubt is built into the system on purpose,
to give Putin plausible deniability. Putin operates by a system of signals, essentially. Very rarely does somebody like Putin in, for
example, another large Russian organization, a bank, a state company, give very specific
orders. That person wants to insulate themselves. I mean, this is a system handed down from
the 1990s, when oligarchs wanted to insulate themselves from dirty things that their subordinates
were doing. So Putin will give a signal and say, “We’re
going in this direction,” and the system will interpret it. It kind of trickles down the pyramid, the
bureaucratic pyramid under him. And at each level, the bureaucrats try to
interpret what that signal means, try to please their immediate bosses who are trying to please
their immediate bosses who are trying to please their immediate bosses. It’s not a very efficient way of governing. It often results in errors. It’s like a game of broken telephone, essentially,
with much higher stakes. But Putin may have given the order, but he
may have also just said, “You know, this is kind of the general direction we’re going.” I think we’re not going to find that out
for a while yet. If you look at what happened, for example,
with the invasion of Crimea, Putin denied for a long time that the “little green men,”
as they were called, the polite people who showed up in Crimea wearing uniforms, with
the latest weaponry, that they were Russian soldiers. They weren’t wearing any insignia. Everybody assumed they were Russian soldiers. They sometimes kind of let things slip when
they talked to reporters or to locals, but Putin repeatedly denied that he had anything
to do with them, that Russia has anything to do with them. Then, a year later, The Road Home to the Motherland,
which is a state-sponsored documentary, airs on Channel 1 [Rossiya-1], which is the main
Kremlin TV channel, and Putin says, “Yeah, I gave the orders.” But he may not have given the orders. That’s the thing. He may be taking credit retroactively. He may have given the orders. I think we won’t know for quite a while, until
Putin’s dead and the archives are opened. MICHAEL KIRK – But of course he’s presided
over the creation of a cyberforce in the world that we’ve watched grow through Estonia, through
Crimea, through Ukraine, and now a United States presidential election that has grown
up under his leadership, whether he said go or not go. JULIA IOFFE – Absolutely. Again, there’s always plausible deniability
built into the system. So a lot of the hackers that are working for
the Russian government, they’re not necessarily wearing epaulets and uniforms. They’re not necessarily sitting in GRU [military
intelligence] bunkers in Moscow or somewhere in Russia. A lot of them are freelancers. They’re hackers that will hack for the highest
bidder. They will hack anybody for the highest sum
of money. Some of them were blackmailed into working
for the Russian government. And at any point, the Russian government can
deny that they had anything to do with them. These are just, as Putin said, patriotic artistic
spirits who get up in the morning and Lord knows what they’re going to hack or what they
feel like doing that day. Ultimately yes, the state is responsible for
this. But again, they try to be very sneaky about
it. They try to have plausible deniability built
into it. Whether or not we agree that it’s plausible
is a different question. MICHAEL KIRK – … Let’s go back into his
life just a little bit. … He’s in Dresden. He’s not participating or even has much
of a sense apparently. JULIA IOFFE – He is participating. MICHAEL KIRK – I understand. But the Glasnost Perestroika changes are happening
in Moscow. He’s over there in that part of the world. So place him there for me, will you? Tell me who this man is, what the ethos is. JULIA IOFFE – … Putin is stationed in Dresden
in the late ’80s in East Germany, and by all accounts, he’s kind of a middling KGB
officer. He’s not exceptionally talented or of exceptional
promise. But the collapse of the Berlin Wall catches
him in Dresden, and there are accounts of Putin frantically shoveling documents, sensitive
documents into the furnace as Germany is changing around him and the Iron Curtain is essentially
evaporating before his eyes. He calls. There’s also a famous story about this. He calls home. He calls Moscow, trying to understand what
he is to do, trying to get orders. And Moscow doesn’t respond. And this is, according to many biographers
who have chronicled Putin’s life, a massive, massive trauma for him, that this massive
historical event is happening. Soviet influence is collapsing before his
eyes, and he calls home; he radios home, and home isn’t there. And this is something that he has been trying
so hard never to repeat. And I think what he learned from Glasnost
and Perestroika, watching it from far away, is that you don’t do this. As soon as you start loosening the controls
a little bit, start letting oxygen into the system, it starts to rot. It starts to rust. It starts to fall apart from the inside. And you see this—you see this in his own
experience as president, when he let Dmitry Medvedev, his very close lieutenant, take
over for four years while he was prime minister. Because of the way the Russian Constitution
was written, you can’t have more than two consecutive presidential terms. He steps back a little bit. He lets Medvedev, a trusted lieutenant again,
run the show for four years. Medvedev, who is relatively liberal, at least
compared to Putin, allows more oxygen into the system. He starts letting people talk about corruption. Official people, deputy prime ministers are
talking about corruption openly at investment forums to Western bankers. It’s very similar to Glasnost. We’re talking about our problems openly. We’re not hiding them; we’re not whitewashing
them. He’s letting the media flourish. He’s letting the media ask questions and
investigate, right? He’s not cracking down on them as Putin
would have. And what happens? Massive protests in 2011, who are calling
for Putin to resign. And they’re happening as the Arab Spring is
happening. They’re happening after a whole wave of color
revolutions in Russia’s near abroad, in Georgia, in Kyrgyzstan, in Ukraine. And what Putin sees here is American regime
change coming for him, finally. He had long suspected it starting with the
ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and continuing into Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, then Egypt,
then Libya. He knew that the Americans would eventually
come for him, that they would try to oust him. And here he sees that his replacement, the
guy kind of warming his chair or holding his spot, has let it come home to Moscow. And he, I’m sure, was reminded of these moments
in Dresden, when openness eventually brought collapse of the empire. And he was going to do everything he could
to stop it. … MICHAEL KIRK -: … Backing up just for a
moment, the way it’s described to me, the thing that happens to the KGB and the KGB
people, [is] they were shipwrecked after—at the end of it all. Explain. JULIA IOFFE – …When the Soviet Union collapses,
ironically one of the few things to survive the collapse are the security services. The KGB is, on one hand it’s dismembered. It’s renamed as the FSB [Federal Security
Service]. Parts of it, various directorates end up as
other security service entities, but it kind of survives more than other parts of the Soviet
Union. So they’re able, later, to reconstitute themselves
and grab more power. On the other hand, they’re also missing out. They’re missing out on the privatization of
the 1990s. They’re seeing these young guys who were in
the Komsomol, the Communist Youth League in the Soviet Union. These young college students used their connections
to become incredibly wealthy and snatch up the jewels of the Soviet industrial empire. They’re either stripping them down and shipping,
getting their money overseas, or they’re building these huge companies out of it, and they’re
becoming fabulously wealthy. And where are the former KGB guys in all of
this? With very few exceptions, they are the bodyguards;
they’re the security directors. They have gone from the elite, the so-called—the
Russian expression for it, the “white bone” of the aristocracy of the Soviet regime. You know, they had the best education; they
had the language training. They were allowed to travel when few others
were. And they’ve gone from that, from the top
of the pyramid, to basically the valets, the security guards. MICHAEL KIRK – The deputy mayors of St. Petersburg. JULIA IOFFE – Right. MICHAEL KIRK – So how does Putin in that context
become prime minister and then eventually, of course, president? … What was happening during the Yeltsin
years that Putin was watching? JULIA IOFFE – Putin never disappeared. He was active in various government roles. He was working for the mayor of St. Petersburg,
the first post-communist mayor of St. Petersburg. … He’s a master bureaucrat. Here is the thing. Russia has always been a bureaucratic autocracy. That was the case under the czars, that was
the case under the Soviets, and that’s the case in Putin’s time. This is how, for example, Stalin became the
general secretary. He was an amazing bureaucrat. He out-bureaucrated all the other bureaucrats. And Putin does, too. This is one of the ways he has continued to
rule. He is very good at the bureaucracy of all
of it. He can out-bureaucrat all the other bureaucrats. The other thing is, he is quite unremarkable. He’s very gray, very vanilla, and he seems
like the safe candidate for the oligarchs to put in place in order to guarantee everything
that they have accumulated in the ’90s and everything that the Yeltsin family has accumulated
in the ’90s. And he makes a promise to Yeltsin and the
Yeltsin family that he will not go after them or their holdings when he comes to rule Russia. And he never does. He never does. One of the issues with Putin is, this is a
man who’s getting older. He’s about to run for his fourth term in
office. That ends in 2024. If he lives that long, he’ll be 72 when
that’s done. Can he find somebody like a Putin who will
promise that he will not go after his holdings, his family’s extensive holdings, and the
people around him? Can he find somebody who will guarantee that
he will not cannibalize his empire? MICHAEL KIRK – … How important, do you figure,
the apartment bombings were to him and the furtherance of his career, independent of
whether he had anything to do with it or not? The way the story goes, he strikes; he acts
with strength. JULIA IOFFE – … When the apartment bombings
happen, it gives him the excuse he needs to finally go after what has become a morass
in Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan. They’ve become incredibly violent centers
of Wahhabism on Russian territory, and Putin goes after them full force. It’s also important because he finally emerges
in the public eye for the first time. He is seen on TV as a doer, a man of action. He goes down there. He’s talking to the troops. He is in command. And not only his recognition, but his popularity
ratings just skyrocket for the first time ever. And it puts him in a fantastic place for the
2000 presidential election. Remember, he was just named kind of a placeholder
for Yeltsin in 1999, on Dec. 31, 1999. He now has to win a presidential election
as somebody who’s barely known to the public. And this image of him as a defender of the
homeland, a fighter of terrorism, a man of action, a man who can get things done, really
helps him coast to victory in 2000. … MICHAEL KIRK – … So Putin is elected. He becomes President Putin. And how does Russia change? What does he do? JULIA IOFFE – So it’s important to remember,
as much as the West hates and loathes and fears Putin now, they were kind of hopeful
when he came to power. The Western foreign policy elite was writing
about how maybe this is the guy who’s going to bring order to Russia. Russia had a very weak central government. It was effectively run by oligarchs in various
clans, and it was extremely corrupt and violent and chaotic. The population was quite poor. It had gone through one massive economic crisis
after the other. Remember, he took power after the August 1998
meltdown of the Russian economy. And the hope in the West was, he’s finally
going to stabilize Russia. He’s finally going to get these crazy oligarchs
under control. And he does start to do that. He starts sending very clear, unmistakable
signals that if you want to keep your ill-gotten gains, and often they were ill-gotten, you
have to play by the rules. And the rules are new, and they’re my rules. So what he does is, one of the first things
he does—actually, actually no. Let me backtrack. Before he goes after the oligarchs, though,
he goes after TV. He is a man who is obsessed with TV. He watches tapes back when they were tapes. He watches tapes of the evening news over
and over and over again to see how he’s portrayed, to see how he looks. He realizes that, much like the Bolsheviks
realized in 1917, that the first thing you go after is the telegraph, the means of communication
with the population. And he goes after TV first. He sends his lieutenants to take over the
big holdings, for example, ORT, which is the main—it’s become Channel 1. He—it is owned by [Boris] Berezovsky, the
guy who essentially put him in power, suggested to Yeltsin that he become his replacement. And Berezovsky, like many of the other oligarchs
who control mass media, is given an offer, is made an offer he can’t refuse. And he hands over the TV station. Vladimir Gusinsky, an oligarch who owns NTV,
which was one of the most vicious critics of the Kremlin, especially in the 1994 war
in Chechnya—NTV also has a comic show called Kukly— Dolls, or Puppets—and features,
when Putin comes to rise in public life, features a Putin puppet as well. And he’s never portrayed very flatteringly. Putin apparently was driven to madness by
the show and by the way he was portrayed on it, the way he was mocked on it. And NTV, of course, becomes a major target. Gusinsky is imprisoned. And while he’s in jail, one of Putin’s
lieutenants comes to visit him in jail and says, “You know, you could get out of this
mess if you sign over NTV.” Gusinsky eventually does that, hands over
NTV to a Kremlin-friendly oligarch, or was it Gaspar Media, David? DAVID HOFFMAN – Same thing, yeah. JULIA IOFFE – Same thing, yeah. And flees the country, where he continues
to be in exile. Berezovsky also goes into exile and died in
exile a few years ago. So one of the very first things Putin does
is he goes after anybody who can criticize him and undermine him. And to this day, TV remains one of his main
levers of control over the Russian population. Over 90 percent of Russians, even in the age
of the Internet, over 90 percent of Russians get their news from TV. Most of them trust TV. Most of them think that it’s OK for the
TV to lie to them if it’s in the service of the state. And again, even in the age of the Internet,
it is their main source of news, and they believe what they see on it. And the fact that it’s either directly controlled
by the Kremlin or controlled by oligarchs who are friendly and loyal to Vladimir Putin
and owe everything to him is not a coincidence. … MICHAEL KIRK – … He’s managed a personal—all
the way back to when he had a documentary made about him when he was deputy mayor in
St. Petersburg, he’s managed this kind of “I’m a healthy, virile, shirtless occasionally,
man in the world.” … JULIA IOFFE – … One of the narratives about
Putin when he comes to power is that he’s a total novice, that he’s come out of nowhere,
and that’s not true. He is an experienced bureaucrat, and he is
also experienced at dealing with people outside of Russia. If you talk to anybody who was in U.S. government,
European government in the 1990s, they will remember a young gray kind of KGB kind of
guy sitting in the back rows that they then realize was Putin. He was there at lots of very important meetings
with foreign officials, learning, listening, figuring out how to deal with these people. So he is, by the time he takes power, not
only has he mastered the Russian bureaucracy, he also knows how to communicate with Western
leaders. He is not a novice at all. MICHAEL KIRK – Let me ask you this question. Is he an intellectual? Is he a smart guy or just a crafty guy? JULIA IOFFE – That’s different. He’s what in Russian is called khvatkiy. It’s like somebody who grabs information
and kind of internalizes it. So he’s not an intellectual. And you know this because he’s constantly
gratuitously quoting random poets, or like he once randomly quoted Rudyard Kipling for
no reason. He wants to show that he is literate, when
in fact he kind of isn’t. But he is very able to adapt. He’s very flexible. He’s very clever. He’s smart, but he’s not intellectual. …When Americans see these images of Vladimir
Putin shirtless on a horse, harpooning whales, tagging tigers, going to the bottom of the
sea in this weird, round, submarine-like contraption, getting ancient Greek urns from the bottom
of the sea, putting out forest fires—what else has he done? Flying with storks. I mean, there’s the—you know, how much time
do you have? I can tell you about all the heroic, manly
things he’s done. To us it seems very comical, like he is not
a villain out of James Bond but a villain out of Austin Powers. But with Russians it has the intended—the
desired effect. He is a man who is about to turn 65. Over 60 percent of Russian men do not live
past 60. They often succumb to disease, to alcoholism,
to violence. And here is a man who doesn’t drink, who
is athletic, who leads a healthy lifestyle, which is a big propaganda point of his. He is manly; he is virile. And it’s not coincidental that Putin’s
strongest, most ardent base of support is women over the age of 55, women who are on
pensions, whose mates have either dropped off somewhere along the way, because they’re
unreliable, alcoholic, couldn’t provide for their family, or because they have succumbed
to disease. So he is the man in their life that they never
actually had in their life. And it’s a very potent symbol. I remember, actually, when I was in Sochi
covering the Olympics, I was on the little train connecting the various parts of the
Olympic Village. Sitting across the aisle from me was an older
woman and a younger woman, and the younger woman was showing the older woman these little
magnets she got of Putin shirtless on a horse, Putin swimming the butterfly stroke in the
waters—famous shot—and they’re talking about how amazing he looks. I mean, I was shocked, because I thought they’d
be laughing at him, because Americans laugh at him, because people in the Russian opposition
mock him. But they were saying: “Look at how amazing
he is. He’s so healthy; he’s so strong. He’s a real man—not like that guy Obama
that the Americans have. He’s so thin; he’s so weak; he’s so
nerdy. This guy is a real man. This guy is a leader, unlike the weakling
the Americans have.” MICHAEL KIRK – So that’s not an accident. This is something he— JULIA IOFFE – Absolutely not. MICHAEL KIRK – —fosters, nurtures. So let’s bring George W. Bush into the picture. It’s 2000. Bush is elected. They have a little bit of a romance or a bromance
when Bush looks in his eyes and sees his soul, allegedly. But it doesn’t last very long. He, Putin, makes an overture after 9/11 where
he offers assistance and is kind of rebuffed or something. Take me into that, the psychology of all of
that, between these two leaders, and what it means to Putin to appeal to the president
of the United States. JULIA IOFFE – So the key moment here for Putin
is Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. is hit with a massive, theatrical,
over-the-top terrorist attack, something that Russia is not a stranger to. Russia has been subjected to lots and lots
of terrorist attacks, mostly because of their war in Chechnya. And Putin thinks, here is something that can
bridge the gap. This is something we can agree on, that terrorism
is bad and that we can fight it together. And he is the very first foreign leader to
reach George W. Bush on Sept. 11 and to empathize with him—not commiserate, but empathize
with him—that “You are finally feeling the scourge of terrorism that we’ve been
feeling forever. Let’s work together on this.” And at first, Bush is very responsive. It triggers as lot of counterterrorism cooperation. And all of this falls apart in 2003 when Bush
decides to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. This is something Russia was very much against. Saddam Hussein was an old ally of the Kremlin. And this is where we first start to see this
ideology of stability that comes out of the Kremlin, where the argument is, OK, Saddam
Hussein might be a dictator, he might have a terrible record on human rights, he might
suppress dissent and protests in his country, but even more importantly, he suppresses terrorism. There’s no terrorism coming out of the country. There’s order; there’s stability in Iraq. If you topple, if you decapitate these states,
as the Kremlin says, if you decapitate a state like Iraq, and you remove the strongman keeping
it all together with thumbtacks and glue, it all falls apart, and you get even more
terrorism. And terrorism is the thing we’re fighting. Of course that’s the argument. But partly Putin feels threatened because,
with all this democracy promotion that’s coming out of the Bush White House, all these
NGOs that the Bush White House is sponsoring in Russia’s near abroad, these former Soviet
republics—Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, the Baltics; these countries that Russia hasn’t
fully realized, on a visceral level, are now independent countries—technically yes, but
really in their guts, not quite—they’re promoting democracy there. They’re trying to promote democracy inside
Russia, too. And now, what is democracy promotion becoming? It becomes removing a leader who suppresses
democracy. And Putin knows what this means for him. It means that, at some point, it’s going
to be his turn, especially as the U.S. starts criticizing him, as he starts cracking down
in Russia, starts cracking down on protesters, on the free press, he starts getting lectured
on all of this stuff by Washington. He’s not stupid. He makes the connection that, at one point
they’re going to go from lectures to removing him from power; that regime change is going
to come for him, too. And this becomes the driving fear of the Putin
regime. MICHAEL KIRK – So that when the color revolutions
appear, no wonder he acts forcefully. JULIA IOFFE – He freaks out. He’s terrified. It’s one thing to go after the leader of
Iraq, which is in the Middle East—and it’s on one hand, it’s closer to Russia than
it is to the United States; it’s kind of just under Russia’s underbelly—but it’s
another to go into the former Soviet republics. Again, Russians understand intellectually
that these are new countries, that these are separate countries, that they’re not rulers
of Estonia and Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, but on some visceral level, there is not that
recognition. You know, a friend of mine was flying to Kiev
from Moscow back when there were direct flights. This was in 2014, and his taxi driver asked
him where is he flying? He says, “Kiev.” And the taxi driver takes him to the domestic
departures exit. He’s like, “God, I keep forgetting that
they’re a separate country.” And this is, you know, up and down, this is
all across Russian society. So if you’re toppling Moscow-friendly leaders
in countries that you know, wink, wink, you understand they’re separate countries, but
not in your heart of hearts, that’s scary. And you know that they’re going to come for
you next. Or you assume they’re going to come for you
next. So Putin really cracks down on dissent and
protest at home. He really cracks down on what’s left of the
free media at home. A man named Vladislav Surkov becomes his kind
of “gray cardinal.” Tellingly, he used to run PR and advertisement
for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oil magnate that Putin jails in 2003. So he recruits this guy very clever, very
kind of bohemian, very cynical guy, to work for him. And he develops this concept called sovereign
democracy, which is saying: “Look, we agree democracy is great. Everybody should be democratic. But we have our own type of democracy. We just got out of the Soviet Union a hot
minute ago. Give us some time to figure our way out, to
figure out our way toward democracy. We’re not ready. We’re getting ready. We have sovereign democracy. It’s our own special thing. Don’t teach us how to do it. We’re doing it our way. Russia has a special way. It’s not a one-size-fits-all model.” And Surkov, this is all in response to the
color revolutions. Surkov also forms various youth leagues, including
Nashi, which means “ours”; the United Russia
Young Guard, the Youth Guard. These are youth groups that are sponsored
by the Kremlin to rebuff any attempts at fomenting color revolution inside Russia, because again,
Putin, the guys in the Kremlin, they’re not stupid. They look at what happens on the streets in
Kiev, on the streets in Tbilisi, in the streets of the Kyrgyz capital. They see that there are young people on the
streets demanding change, demanding democracy, so why not co-opt it? Look, we have young people, but they support
stability; they support Putin. And they are deployed this way in the years
after 2006 and the years after the color revolutions sweep various countries in Russia’s near
abroad. They’re deployed as counterprotesters that,
whenever young people come out to protest, Nashi is right there countering their protests,
saying: “Look, we’re young too, and we support Putin. And we support stability.” MICHAEL KIRK – Now, let’s move the conversation
in the following direction. Around this time and later, this thing called
the Web starts to move from the West into Russia. I think if I were Putin, I’d be really worried
about this force as soon as he kind of hears about it and knows about it and sees some
evidence of it. We’ve talked some about the story in Estonia
as a sort of trial balloon, some of the color revolutions. Talk to me about the development of the defense
and the offense to the Web, how much he might have feared it and how that wall got created,
the offensive capacity. JULIA IOFFE – So it’s important to keep
in mind when we talk about the Web, Putin does not use a computer. He still does not use a computer. He does not use the Web. Most of the guys around him don’t use the
Web. Even young oligarchs like Mikhail Prokhorov,
who’s pretty friendly with the Kremlin and is often trotted out as the kind of palatable
side of the Kremlin to the urban, plugged-in intelligentsia, he doesn’t use a computer. This kind of complicates this view, I hope,
or let me put it this way. Putin is not all of the Russian government,
and the Russian government is not a monolith. So some parts of the Russian government wise
up to the Web and start trying to figure it out, and figure out how to weaponize it. Other parts have no idea what it is. For example, in 2010, a very prominent Russian
journalist and blogger, Oleg Kashin, gets beaten nearly to death, and while he’s in
a medically induced coma undergoing operation after operation, the police and the investigative
committee are questioning his colleagues and friends. They’re asking them, “What is a blog?” So on one hand, you have the hacking attack
against Estonia a few years earlier by the Russian government, and then a couple years
later, the Russian government doesn’t know what a blog is. And that’s all the Russian government. It’s a massive octopus, where one tentacle
doesn’t know what the other tentacle is doing necessarily. So it’s important to realize that. … MICHAEL KIRK – When do you figure it becomes
anything that matters to him, if at all? JULIA IOFFE – The key moment is the 2011 protests,
which take everybody by surprise, including the Kremlin and including the opposition. Those protests were organized largely online,
on Facebook, on the Russian analog of Facebook called VKontakte, on Twitter. And this also takes the vast majority of the
Russian government by surprise. This is when they figure they have to—again,
they’ve been doing stuff. They’ve been trying to figure out how to
monitor Web traffic; they’ve been trying to figure out how to monitor cell phone traffic. But 2011 is the big wakeup call for them. This is when the color revolution finally
comes to Moscow. This is Putin’s biggest fear. Remember, this comes at the end of a year
in which Muammar Qaddafi is toppled from power and is killed in a very public and humiliating
way. And it started, again, as peaceful protests,
but ends in Muammar Qaddafi being killed publicly. Putin watches that tape over and over and
over again. It’s all he can talk about for quite some
time. And here come the peaceful protests, just
a few months later, to Moscow. They’re at the walls of the Kremlin. He did not expect this. I mean, on one hand, it was his greatest fear. On the other hand, he didn’t expect this. He had done all this stuff, sovereign democracy,
the youth groups, suppressing the press. He had done all this stuff, and yet here they
were. And this was the biggest wakeup call to the
Kremlin and to the security services that they have to start taking the Web seriously. And this is when they start really cracking
down at home. They start forcing providers to turn over
data, to keep data. They start trying to force foreign companies,
like Facebook and Google, to keep Russians’ data on servers inside Russia as opposed to
in the U.S. They start passing all these laws that regulate
behavior online. So now you get to a point where, you know,
we keep hearing about Putin weaponizing the Internet against us, but he’s been weaponizing
it against his own citizens for much longer and much more severely, much more acutely. There are people in jail in Russia right now
who are in jail for liking things on Facebook or sharing somebody else’s post on Facebook. There are people in jail for that in Russia. Nothing happens in Russia that doesn’t have
a mirror image at home. This is Putin taking what was happening domestically—he’s
exporting what happened domestically to the West. MICHAEL KIRK – … There’s a story that when
people go seeking the motivation for Putin’s attack on America, that some of it is in response
to Hillary Clinton at that time, encouraging free speech or whatever she actually did. How much store do you put in that? JULIA IOFFE – This was her response to the
Duma elections? MICHAEL KIRK – Right. JULIA IOFFE – That was significant. It was very important. She was, in Putin’s eyes, meddling in internal
Russian affairs. And this is like—Putin sees red when this
happens. This is an irritant left over from the ’90s,
when American consultants helped Russia write its constitution. It’s an irritant from the days of George
W. Bush and democracy promotion and lecturing the Russians. And here are these protests that terrified
Putin at the walls of the Kremlin, and here comes this woman, the secretary of state,
saying, “You should listen to these people.” Who the hell is she telling him to listen
to the Russian people? We’ll figure this out just fine by ourselves,
thank you very much. He does not want to hear this. But the other thing that people don’t pay
attention to is that winter, Obama sends a new ambassador to Russia, and that ambassador
is Michael McFaul, who used to be a professor at Stanford, and used to run Russia affairs
at the National Security Council in the White House. He is, on one hand, the architect of the reset
with Russia and this idea that we can get business done on one track, and we can talk
about human rights on the other track. But one doesn’t have to hamper the other. But in his prior life, Michael McFaul taught
about revolutions when he was at Stanford. He taught about how revolutions work, how
color revolutions work. He was a grad student in Moscow during the
days of Perestroika and collapse of the Soviet Union. He’s friends with a lot of Russians who
were once ardent liberals and now are ardent Putin hawks. He has deep ties to the country and deep ties
to the revolution that made the Soviet Union collapse. He’s a democracy promoter, and Putin and
a lot of the guys around him are conspiratorially minded, like most people that come out of
the security services world. So you have on one hand all these years of
democracy promotion and foreign NGOs funding the Russian opposition. You have Hillary Clinton suddenly saying something
about these contested parliamentary elections, and then you have Michael McFaul, the primary
expert on color revolutions in the U.S., suddenly arriving in Moscow, and one of his first meetings
is with the Russian opposition. So Putin, being paranoid and conspiratorially
minded as he is, sees this as not coincidental. They’re coming for him. They have been saying they were going to come
for him in much more veiled terms, but now that day was finally here. And that was it. He decided to take the gloves off. MICHAEL KIRK – And then what did he do? JULIA IOFFE – Then what did he do? He waited until he was elected in March 2012,
and when the last of these big protests happened the day before his inauguration, the police
organized a provocation, essentially, and the protests became violent. The police cracked down really roughly, beating
protesters, plucking them out of cafés and subway stations when they tried to run away. The morning of Putin’s inauguration, they
raided a café that was where a lot of the dissident intelligentsia hung out, turning
over tables, breaking coffee cups, arresting people just sitting and drinking coffee on
little streetside tables. What else did he do? There were searches of opposition figures,
people coming in with buzz saws at 7:00 a.m. in the morning to opposition leader Alexei
Navalny’s house. Ksenia Sobchak, who was his mentor’s daughter,
and some say goddaughter, who had gone over to the opposition, her home was searched. This was a clear message that it’s over;
you’ve had your fun; you’ve had your little block parties with your funny signs and your
white balloons and your white ribbons. It’s done. It’s over. The election is over. I am the president. You are not toppling me. I am the law. And the arrests start. At this count, somewhere like three dozen
people have done jail time or are in jail now. And this case, the Bolotnaya case—Bolotnaya
is the name of the square where the opposition first comes out in December 2011. It’s still going. It’s been five years since that protest
in 2012. People are still being arrested, to show that
the state never sleeps. They try to arrest and imprison people who
came out for their first protest, where that was their first and only protest, to show
people: “Maybe you think it’s harmless. You’ve never been out before; you just want
to go and see. This can end in a jail sentence for you, which
means you can never really work again. You have a big black spot on your résumé. It’s not harmless. And we see you.” MICHAEL KIRK – You were there for some of
that? JULIA IOFFE – Yeah. MICHAEL KIRK – When? JULIA IOFFE – All of it, 2011 to 2012. MICHAEL KIRK – What happened? JULIA IOFFE – Should we start from the beginning? MICHAEL KIRK – Start where you want to start. The reason that it matters, of course, is
here you are talking about it, and the extent to which you have evidentiary material— JULIA IOFFE – This was his biggest fear. [Dmitry] Medvedev’s presidential term is
running out. He either has to stand for re-election in
March of 2012 or Putin has to come back. And because Putin hasn’t decided what he’s
going to do or what Medvedev is going to do, the whole Russian government grinds to a halt
in 2011. Everything is in suspension. No decisions are made. Everybody is waiting for Putin to decide,
which of course undermines Medvedev’s authority, because if Putin is the one deciding, people
start asking, was he ever really president? So for the entire spring and summer of 2011,
all anybody in Moscow is talking about is whether Medvedev serves a second term or Putin
comes back for a third. And on Sept. 24, 2011, the United Russia Party,
which was created to support Putin when he stood for election, has a convention. It’s designed like the RNC or the DNC, like
the big American political conventions, because, of course, the Russians are doing democracy,
too. It’s just sovereign democracy. So all these old white men in glasses who
look like they’re from the Soviet Union gather at Luzhniki, the big stadium on the outskirts
of Moscow. And everybody is waiting. They’re not sure if they’re going to find
anything out that day. But Medvedev takes the stage, and he says,
“I’ve done a lot of thinking.” … And immediately people can tell something’s
wrong. He looks like he’s been up all night, either
drinking or crying. He doesn’t look good. And then people start listening to what he’s
saying. Nobody usually listens to what he’s saying. People start listening to what he’s saying,
and he says, “I’ve decided that I think Vladimir Putin should run for the presidency
in 2012.” And jaws drop. You could hear them hitting the floor across
the whole convention center, because what kind of president gets up and says, voluntarily,
“I’m not going to run for a second term; some other guy should”? And that was it. Twitter exploded. Twitter and Facebook is where the urban elite,
the white collars of Russia live. And immediately people start doing the math. If Putin is re-elected, and he will be in
March 2012, that means he serves a six-year term, because in 2008, he helped amend the
Russian constitution.… So a presidential term is now six years, and
not four years. So 2012, that means his first term will end
in 2018. That means he’ll probably do a second term
from 2018 to 2024. How old will I be? Oh, my God, I’m going to be in my 60s. I’m going to be in my 50s. Some people were saying: “I’m going to die
with this guy in power. I’m never going to see anything else.” Some people are saying, you know: “I’m in
my 20s now. I’m going to be retirement age by the time
he retires.” And furthermore, they’re realizing that the
last three years of Medvedev being in power, and this kind of Glasnost 2.0 and this flowering
of the media, of the system having more oxygen and things feeling freer, kind of a new thaw,
that this was all a joke; that this had all been fake and that they had been fooled, and
Putin had been in charge the whole time, and that they’re going to turn the screws, which
is the Russian expression for tightening the controls on civil society, on the press, on
expressions of dissent. And they’re right. So all this anger, all this resentment, this
feeling like they’d been duped, like they’d been played, is bubbling and bubbling and
bubbling. And then, on Dec. 4, 2011, Russians go to
the polls to vote for their parliament. Most Russians don’t vote because [Vladislav]
Surkov and sovereign democracy have engineered elections. They know exactly how to do it, how to get
the right result in every place, how to keep turnout low, so only the right people come
out and vote. Suddenly people are angry, and they go out
to vote. And this time they have smart phones, and
their smart phones are connected to the Internet, to YouTube, to Facebook, to Twitter, to VKontakte,
and they’re filming these grotesque violations that used to happen behind closed doors. Nobody would ever see them—ballot stuffing;
carousels, which is where a group of voters is put on a bus, and given a stack of ballots,
and then they’re taken to one precinct and they vote; then they’re taken to the next
precinct, and they vote again, and in a third, and a fourth, and they vote a third and a
fourth time. Suddenly people saw this evidence with their
own eyes, and there was no explaining it away, and people were angry. And a protest was called for Dec. 5, this
was the day after the parliamentary elections. And everybody thought it was going to be like
every other protest—200 grandmas, 300 journalists, and that was going to be it. But when people got to Chistoprudny, or Clear
Ponds, in the center of Moscow, this old beautiful boulevard, it was packed. People were hanging off the railings. People were packed on the sidewalks because
there was no room. And it was all young people, mostly young
men. What does that look like? The young men who had been gathered on Tahrir
Square [in Cairo] a year before, looks like the young men who had come out in Syria, like
the young men who had come out in Libya, like the young men who had come out in Kiev and
Tbilisi. And on Dec. 10 they come out again, and this
time, there aren’t 5,000 of them like there were at Clear Ponds; there’s 50,000 of them
at Bolotnaya, right at the Kremlin’s walls. And they’re angry. They’re angry. They’re angry at Putin. They’re saying Putin is a thief; Putin has
to go. The chant was, “Putin skis Magadan!” Magadan is where some notorious camps in the
Gulag were. They’re quite openly calling for him to go,
and maybe to go to jail. And again, to Putin, this looks like—let
me put it this way. Putin is the man of the secret services. He doesn’t believe in organic protests. He doesn’t believe that anything happens
by chance. He believes that all these protesters have
been paid; that they’ve been paid by the Americans, by these NGOs that are really fronts
for the American security services; that they’ve been paid by the State Department. And this is the line that the television,
which he now controls—I mean, it’s no coincidence that he decided to control the
TV. But television, which he controls, puts out
this line, that the protests are organized by the State Department, that they’re paid
for by the State Department and the CIA and all these Western intelligence agencies, and
the point is regime change. They are broadcasting to the Russian population
that Putin’s worst nightmare is coming true. MICHAEL KIRK – That’s an unbelievable saga. Can we move to 2014, the worst year in Putin’s
life, and maybe the best year in some ways? Sochi, followed by Crimea, followed by eastern
Ukraine, followed by the long 300-hour press conference. JULIA IOFFE – Yep. MICHAEL KIRK – What a year. What does it say? JULIA IOFFE – One of the first things the
Kremlin did after the May 2012 protests that ended so violently is to pass a law where
NGOs, Russian NGOs that get foreign funding now have to either cut themselves off from
foreign funding or label themselves in all their materials as foreign agents, which is,
of course, the kiss of death, because when Russians hear foreign agent, it means spies. It means they are unfriendly and hostile to
Russia. So he has cut off the opposition from some
of their main sources of funding. It’s dried up. They’re penniless; they’re fighting with each
other. They’re in complete disarray. Things look good. Stability restored. All of a sudden, in the fall of 2013, people
gather on the Maidan in Kiev. Just like they did in 2003, which was the
first color revolution that hit closest to home for Putin. They gather in the Maidan, and they don’t
go home. They get beaten up, and they stay, and even
more people come out. And the protests grow and grow and grow. And the Russian opposition is taking notice. And the social networks fill with jealousy. “How come the Ukrainians can do this but
we couldn’t? Why couldn’t we do it? Maybe we can do it. You know, the Ukrainians aren’t that different
from us. They’re basically the same. We should be able to do this, right?” So it stirs all these memories of the protests
of 2011-2012, not just for the opposition, but for Putin, too. He thought he had had the threat under control. And here was the CIA and the State Department
again, in his mind, fomenting regime change next door. And the Americans kind of help him out here. You have Victoria Nuland from the American
State Department, big promoter of democracy, on the Maidan handing out sandwiches. You have the American ambassador to Kiev,
very friendly with the Maidan opposition. So for Putin, this is confirmation of his
worst fears. They’re going to topple a Moscow-friendly
regime in Kiev, and again, they’re going to try to come for him. His worst nightmare popping up again. He thought he’d had it under control. He had restored stability, and again, it’s
next door. They’re coming after him, and they’re doing
it right as he’s getting ready for Sochi, the Olympics for which he had personally lobbied,
for which he had expended enormous political capital, capital capital. You know, he has called on pretty much every
oligarch and said: “You know, you’ve got to build me a stadium, or you’ve got to
build me an ice rink.” … He’s basically emptied the pension fund
to host the Olympics. He has turned a blind eye to militants in
the neighboring Caucasus region, where there’s still a restive Islamist insurgency. He’s turned a blind eye to them going to
Syria. He’s encouraging them to go to Syria just
so that Sochi will not have a terrorist threat associated with it. It’s very close geographically. MICHAEL KIRK – Why does it matter so much? Why does it matter to him that much? JULIA IOFFE – He’s a Soviet person. Remember, in the Soviet Union, the Olympics,
it’s the old kind of fascist mold, right? Like we can compete on the battlefield, or
we can compete on the racetrack or the hockey rink. It’s just another way to show dominance,
to show superiority, to show prestige. Putin is a Soviet person, and he puts great
stock in these international events and victory in these international events. It’s just another way to show dominance
and to show that the Russian state is strong; that it has resources; that not only can it
build roads and weapons and have a great army, it can also devote great energy and resources
to sport and kicking your butt. MICHAEL KIRK – So while the world is watching
slalom skiing and ski jumping and ice skating, he’s meeting with generals. JULIA IOFFE – He’s doing that in the fading
days of the Olympics, because things in Ukraine are getting more and more serious. And increasingly, he can see that Viktor Yanukovych,
the—I mean, this is also amazing, right? Yanukovych is the guy who was ousted by the
first Orange Revolution in Kiev in 2004. Moscow helps him get elected again in 2010,
and he gets ousted again by the second Orange Revolution in 2014. Why couldn’t Moscow find a more palatable
candidate? I mean, Ukrainian politics is very different
from Russian politics. There are actually politics there. There are lots of figures they could have
gone to if they wanted to install a pro-Russian leader. The fact that they went with somebody that
was so loathed by a certain segment of Ukrainian society was their mistake. MICHAEL KIRK – What’s the answer to that? JULIA IOFFE – This is the thing, we think
of Putin as this perfect villain; that he has everything, that he’s thought of everything,
that he has everything planned out, and that he can implement those plans perfectly. He can’t. He makes blunder after blunder after blunder. And the things that to us look like big victories,
they’re victories in the moment; they’re tactical victories. But strategically, they’re a disaster. … MICHAEL KIRK – The Nuland phone call. What happened there? JULIA IOFFE – … This was the first time
really that the Russians used this kind of—not just the hack, but the hack and dump on Americans. Of course they’re listening to everything. But usually they’re just collecting it for
themselves. This is the first time they have gone out
and weaponized that information against the U.S. to try to delegitimize the forces of
democracy, the forces of Westernization, to say that they are just as corrupt and chaotic
as you say the Russians are. And this is something that we will see again
in 2016 in the American elections. … MICHAEL KIRK – We’re hoping to talk to Navalny
when we go over there. … Just give me a little thumbnail on him. … JULIA IOFFE – Alexei Navalny starts his career
as a lawyer, as a real estate lawyer, but he very quickly gets a taste for politics. He’s known in the West as an anti-corruption
blogger, but that’s not quite accurate. People started paying attention to him when
he started blogging about corruption, but really, he has a long political résumé. He tried to find, for a long time, tried to
find a home politically in the anti-Kremlin opposition. In large part, because of his nationalist
views, he is shut out of one organization after another. What he starts doing is he picks a theme. He picks a pervasive topic in Russian politics,
as long as there have been Russian politics, for centuries—corruption—and he starts
blogging. He starts using the Internet, which the authorities
have not really caught on to at this point. The Russian Internet is called Runet because
of the RU suffix. It’s the Russian-language Internet. It is freedom absolute, freedom incarnate. You can find anything there because the state
hasn’t figured it out at this point yet. This is the mid-2000s. They haven’t found a way to police it, regulate
it. They barely know it exists. And in this atmosphere, Navalny establishes
a LiveJournal blog. This is the primary way Russians are communicating
and sharing their views, LiveJournal. He starts a blog where he starts buying shares
of giant state corporations, minority shares, and he starts being a minority shareholder
activist. Very familiar to Westerners. … So using his status as a minority shareholder,
he starts asking for accountability. He starts asking for reports from these giant
state corporations, Gazprom, Rosneft, the state oil monopoly, the state oil company,
the state gas company, all these big companies that the state runs. And he gets their reports, and he says, “How
come you spent 10 percent of your profits on charity, and what are these organizations
that you’re spending all this money on?” And he starts investigating, and he starts
putting up his investigations on his blog, with detail, with documentation. He starts making videos, and people start
reading him, more and more and more people. … People know the state is corrupt. It’s like in Russia saying, like, the sky
is blue, or it’s snowing in the winter. The state is corrupt. Everybody knew that. But he starts detailing, in very precise ways,
how the state is corrupt. Dmitry Medvedev does him a huge favor with
his anti-corruption initiative and his initiative to put everything up online; every state tender
has to be done online, which gives Navalny access to a huge trove of information. And he can highlight even more grotesque corruption,
about how an insane asylum in St. Petersburg ordered millions of rubles’ worth of fur
coats, or the governor’s office in a city in the Caucasus ordered insanely expensive
Mercedes cars for their officials. Why? Why do they need such luxury? And he puts it up there for everybody to view,
and he starts getting a following, a very big following. And when the protests of 2011-2012 break out,
he’s kind of caught unawares. He wasn’t quite ready to make the transition
from being a blogger and using the blog as his political front to being an outright politician. At this point he’s still kind of looking
for how to get back into politics. He toys with the nationalists, which continues
to haunt him, or these flirtations with Russia’s nationalists. He’s still trying this on for size. He gives a few speeches at these opposition
rallies in 2011-2012. He tries the really aggressive route; freaks
people out. He tries the slightly less aggressive, lawyerly
route; people are bored. So people were looking for a leader in 2011-2012. They wanted him to be the leader because they
were reading him online. And this was the first time, really, that
they saw him in public. And they saw that he’s a young guy; he’s
tall; he’s good-looking; he has a beautiful wife and beautiful kids. In the West, he would have had an astronomic
rise, and he probably would have held office by now. In Russia, this attention brought criminal
case after criminal case after criminal case, most of them doctored, most of them basically
just compiled to go after him politically. One interesting thing: The Kremlin, in 2013,
decides to—they saw what happened when they overtly doctored an election in 2011. In 2013, they need to have mayoral elections
in Moscow, and the Kremlin-appointed candidate, who had not stood for election before, was
up for re-election. What were they going to do to make these elections
look legitimate and not have protests again, just two years after the first protest? What they decide to do is, they decide to
let Navalny run for mayor of Moscow. And this is very risky, because he’s very
popular in Moscow. Moscow is his base of support. It’s a city that’s online, a city that’s
well educated, that understands economics and corruption and is affected by corruption
every day. It’s a city that really likes him. And he starts running for mayor and doing
really, really well in the polls. The Kremlin freaks out. There is a case against him out in Kirov,
in one of the regions of Russia, and he’s found guilty and thrown in jail for five years. He’s handcuffed in the courtroom and led
out of the court—very dramatic images of him hugging his wife goodbye. They ricochet around the opposition Internet. And that day, about 15,000 people spontaneously
come out into the streets in Moscow. The Kremlin quickly learns that he’s too
popular to put in jail, and they immediately let him out and let him continue running in
the mayoral elections. And the Kremlin has to doctor the elections
a little bit, because he does really well, but he doesn’t make it into forcing the
sitting mayor of Moscow, the Kremlin candidate, into a runoff, although some figures show
that he did if not for Kremlin doctoring. But ever since then, they have not really
been able to put Navalny in jail for a long time. So when another court case rolled around,
what they did was they gave Navalny a suspended sentence, probation, essentially. But they put his younger brother in prison,
who has two little kids, had nothing to do with politics, but they needed some lever
over Navalny, some kind of hostage to keep. And they knew they couldn’t put him in jail,
because again, 15,000 to 20,000 people would come out in Moscow. So they threw his brother in jail. MICHAEL KIRK – Too big to jail. JULIA IOFFE – And he’s still too big to
jail, and they don’t know what to do with him. So he has already declared that he’s running
in 2018. Putin is being coy and said he’s not running,
even though he’s going to run. He’s going to win; he’s going to have
a second term. And in the Kremlin they don’t know what
to do with him. I was just in Russia. They were saying, “We’ve basically decided
he’s not going to be allowed on the ballot.” These convictions help, by the way, because
if you’re convicted of a crime, you can’t run for office. He has tried to appeal this decision to the
European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court, whatever. This is in the weeds. But they’re scared of him, but they don’t
quite know what to do with him. He’s still too big to jail. And people close to the Kremlin will say:
“No, no, no, he’s not a threat. Of course he’s not a threat. Look at Putin’s approval ratings. They’re 80-some percent. He’s a national leader. The people love him. He’s not threatened by some blogger.” But every time now Navalny calls a protest,
they don’t just protest in Moscow, which is the city that always protests Putin. Putin lives in Moscow, he governs in Moscow,
but Moscow hates him. Sound familiar? But every time he calls a protest now, dozens
and dozens of cities around Russia protest, which is remarkable. These cities don’t protest. They are less connected to the Internet. They’re more reliant on Kremlin TV. They believe Kremlin TV much more. They’re more reliant on the federal budget
and the local authorities for money, for livelihood. They are generally more conservative. They like Putin a lot more than the big cities
like St. Petersburg and Moscow or even Novosibirsk in Siberia. And yet in March, in June, when Navalny called
protests, thousands came out in scores of cities around Russia. And this is just Navalny flexing his power. He’s saying: “You think it’s just the
eggheads in Moscow who like me? Take a look.” … MICHAEL KIRK – OK, here we go Julia. We had touched last time on Sochi being the
false front. The front of the screen is the Sochi Olympics. Meanwhile, things have been happening in Kiev
and obviously in Moscow. Tell me what’s happening behind the scenes,
what’s happening in December and November in Ukraine as a sort of prelude to what’s
going to happen during the Olympics and afterward. JULIA IOFFE – … What happens is, Mustafa
Nayyem, who is an investigative journalist in Ukraine, the pre-eminent investigative
journalist in Ukraine, posts on his Facebook and says: “Enough is enough. This is crazy that we’ve pulled out of this
agreement because of the Kremlin’s influence. I’m going out on the Maidan. If you think this is enough, then you come
with me, too.” And that Facebook post launched the second
Orange Revolution in Ukraine. He went out onto the Maidan. People followed him. They stayed. That was very crucial. They didn’t go home. When the police tried to beat them and force
them to go home, they stayed. And even more people came out. Every time the police tried to crack down,
they stayed, and more people joined them and started setting up camp on the Maidan. If you walk around at the Maidan that winter,
there were tents everywhere with the towns of Ukraine, mostly central and western Ukraine
on the tops of them, and guys hanging out inside the tents around campfires, eating
sandwiches, drinking hot tea. There was a stage where people would read
poetry, priests would bless the crowd. MICHAEL KIRK – Tahrir Square all over again. JULIA IOFFE – That’s right. And— MICHAEL KIRK – Were you there, by any chance? JULIA IOFFE – I was there for part of it. I was in Sochi. Actually, I was watching, because there were
also live feeds set up, so for people who weren’t there, you could watch what was
happening. I know a lot of my friends in Moscow who had
been at Bolotnaya in 2011-2012 were watching on the live feed of the Maidan. They couldn’t tear themselves away. … MICHAEL KIRK – Putin must be sitting there
absolutely freaking out about it. You know, I was there the day—I was in Sochi,
and I flew the day the shooting started. I said: “Screw Sochi. It’s time to go to Kiev.” And I got there the day after. MICHAEL KIRK – Tell me about the shooting. JULIA IOFFE – I’ll tell you a bit about
the shooting. But if you—if you watch the Maidan, if you
watch the coverage of the Maidan or the live feed of the Maidan, you couldn’t watch it
and not think, this is Vladimir Putin’s worst nightmare, absolute worst nightmare,
because it’s the central, most iconic square of Kiev. It’s Independence Square. That’s what—Maidan Nezalezhnosti means
the Independence Square, is deeply symbolic. It is now—one of the buildings on the corner
of the square is burnt. It was the [trade] union building. It was burnt early on [during] the protest. It’s filled with these dirty tents and trash
can fires and tire fires, and there’s barricades made out of random things all over the square. There’s all these dirty young men walking
around with baseball bats.… It’s not like the Kremlin didn’t see this. It’s not like they didn’t hear this chatter. It’s not like they didn’t see the tents. So in 2013, in Kiev, they set up their tents,
and they did not go home. And Putin also saw that Yanukovych was not
dealing with this well. There was a lot of frustration in the Kremlin
with Yanukovych’s weakness, that he wouldn’t just crack down and make everybody go home,
that every measure was a half measure, that he never went all the way. … So one morning, one morning in late February,
I believe it’s Feb. 21—I’m trying to get the sequence of this right—the Berkut, the
Ukrainian special police, opened fire with live ammunition on the protesters, and it’s
a bloodbath. There are snipers on rooftops picking protesters
off. The footage from this is absolutely horrible. Moscow correspondents are down there, from
the independent opposition protesters, posting pictures of literally brains on the ground. We found out later that it was Putin that
had pushed Yanukovych to open fire, to go all the way. The same way that the protesters went all
the way, he pushed Yanukovych to go all the way. This was the key moment that changed everything. That night, the shooting stopped. I actually got there the day of the shooting. I got there. I finally managed to get to Kiev that night. It was extremely tense. I remember walking around the Maidan in a
flak jacket and a helmet. It was dark. There were fires everywhere. … I had to get an escort take me through
the lines of the protesters, and these were scary guys. They’re wearing helmets. They have baseball bats, crowbars, whatever
they can get their hands on. They’re wearing shin guards, helmets. It was a very motley crew, but they were ready
for violence. They had been shot at all day. There was a kind of cease-fire that was called
by both sides. An agreement was signed saying that Yanukovych—I
don’t remember exactly what it said—yada yada. But every side agreed to it, including the
Russians, including the Americans, the opposition and Yanukovych. But the protesters were saying: “If he doesn’t
resign, there will be shooting tomorrow. There will be violence tomorrow.” Everybody was getting ready for it, these
young men lining up again in their mismatching helmets and shin guards and whatever weapon
they could get, lining up and marching around in the small spaces they could. They were getting ready for war. It was very tense. And walking through that hotel to get up to
the top floor where CNN was set up, their live shot was, you’re standing on the roof
with the Maidan behind you, dark, full of fires. But in the lobby of the hotel was the hospital,
the makeshift hospital that the opposition had set up. You’re walking through white sheets that had
red crosses on them. You could see all the wounded lying on the
floor, with IVs, kind of haphazardly put up. It was very, very tense. I remember I stocked up on water and food,
because my hotel room was very close to the Maidan. I was like, if they’re shooting, it’s not
worth the story. I’m going to stay inside and watch it on Twitter
or something. I was staying with a boyfriend at the time,
and there was one flak jacket between the two of us. Then the morning came, and there was no shooting,
because the news came that Yanukovych had fled. He had fled, and nobody knew where he went. We went out onto the Maidan, and it was a
party. It was a totally different mood. It was a 180. There were families out there with children,
with flowers. Everybody was lighting candles and setting
up makeshift memorials to the—they were called the “Divine [Heavenly] Hundred”
that had been killed the day before. People were crying, paying homage to these
people who were killed the day before. At the same time, you’re seeing in the Russian
media that they’re fascists. There’s a fascist junta that’s taken control
of Kiev. And you’re like, that grandma is a fascist? Really? But it was very tense and very dramatic. You could see that, especially given the rhetoric
of the Russian opposition, you knew that there was fear in the Kremlin, that this was it. This was the red line for them. When you talk to people now, well, now that
a couple of years have passed, the feeling was this really was the breaking point. Putin and the people around him really believed
that it was the CIA, that it was people like Toria Nuland and the CIA who toppled a legitimately
elected government, because they saw the Yanukovych regime, as imperfect as it was, as legitimate. This was a coup sponsored by the West in order
to put in a more friendly president into power. The feeling was: “We’re next. And if the U.S. can be so brazen as to do
something so violent and so theatrical next door to us, f— it. The gloves are off, and we’re going to do
whatever we want.” Before there were some rules; there were some
restraints on both sides. But again, in the Kremlin view, this was America’s
doing. This wasn’t any kind of organic protest. In the Kremlin, they don’t believe in organic
protests. When you see letters being unsealed that Yuri
Andropov, who was at one point the head of the KGB and then later became the general
secretary very briefly of the Soviet Union, saying, “We can bankroll a protest of the
American Embassy in India for X amount of money and bring out X amount of local Muslims
to protest the Americans,” you understand that, when somebody comes out of the KGB,
and they’re surrounded by people who also came out of the KGB, they don’t believe
that any protest is organic. It’s organized by somebody, probably the
security services of the enemy side. They’re paying them. … I just want to tell you a story about
this. At the first big protest at Bolotnaya, on
Dec. 10, 2011, I was just walking around, interviewing people to see who they were,
what their background was, why they specifically chose to come out that day, and why they weren’t
scared to come out that day. I came across a young man who was wearing
a scarf with the nationalist colors, the nationalist movement, black, yellow, and white. I started talking to him. I said, “Why are you here?” He said, “Oh,” and he said he’s affiliated
with Nashi, with the youth movement, the Kremlin youth movement. I said, “Well, why are you here?” He said: “Oh, my friends are here. They’re here protesting, and I just came along.” I said: “Well, so you’re hearing all the
same stuff too, right, that the State Department paid the protesters. Surely you don’t believe that. You’re here with your friends.” And he was like, “Oh, my friends were definitely
paid.” I was like, “They told you they were paid?” And he said, “No, of course they deny it,
but I know they were paid.” I said, “How do you know that?” And he was like: “Well, I’m paid to be here,
so of course they must be paid to be here. Nobody comes out for free.” So that’s how—extrapolate, that’s a
very micro level. But extrapolate up, so they don’t believe
any protest is organic. They believe that Maidan was orchestrated
by the CIA and Toria Nuland and the State Department. So the gloves come off. We can do whatever we want now. If you do something this brazen, we can do
whatever we want. … MICHAEL KIRK – So the way some people who
come here tell the story, emboldened and happy with the progression of his cyber capacities,
starting with Estonia and [in] fits and starts moving to this moment, the attack is initiated
on the United States in 2015, heading for 2016. Is that a way you see it? … JULIA IOFFE – I never paid much attention
to the hacking stuff or to the cyber stuff, because my eyes cross when I read about it. But it was clear that it was moving from East
to West in a way that a lot of other things were moving from East to West. And in that, there is a big victory for Putin,
too. Before Russia was, even since before ’91,
since before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was always the recipient of Western
ideas, Western modes of conduct, modes of running a country. By the time they got to Russia, though, and
worked their way through the Russian system, they’d become badly distorted and warped. But it was always a West-to-East transmission
belt. What you start seeing around 2014 is the transmission
belt kicks into a reverse. You start seeing, on one hand, the methods. These kind of dirty, asymmetrical methods
start working their way from East to West, starting with Ukraine, moving into Eastern
Europe. You see, for example, protests popping up
in Bulgaria against shale gas, against fracking. Fracking is a big problem for Vladimir Putin. It tanked the oil price. The Russian federal budget is pegged to a
specific oil price. So shale oil, fracking deeply undermines his
economic foundations. All of a sudden, you start seeing these protests
popping up in Bulgaria against fracking, and some people traced the protests, their funders,
to the Russians. You start seeing these kind of Astroturf movements
of the kind that you saw inside Russia, like Nashi, or the Young Guard, popping up in Eastern
Europe, see the same kind of rhetoric popping up in Poland and Hungary and Bulgaria, in
Serbia. And then it starts moving west, west, west,
west, west. And it finally gets to us. Of course it was always going to hop the pond. What I think is interesting, most interesting
about the 2016 election, though, if you read the DNI [Office of the Director of National
Intelligence] report that came out in January 2017, it mentions the “Illegals.” The Illegals were about a dozen spies, deep-undercover
Russian spies on whom [the TV show] The Americans are based. Anna Chapman was the most visible member of
this group. They were rounded up in the summer of 2010. The FBI caught them. They were swapped. This was the height of the reset. They were swapped for four alleged American
spies from Russia, and that was that. It didn’t escalate into a big international
incident. But the DNI report said that these guys, these
Illegals, were here spying on the 2008 election, which for me, I remember reading that and
thinking, really? Those guys? If you read the DOJ complaint against the
Illegals in the summer of 2010, and the things they were doing, it read like a script for
Pink Panther. Anna Chapman, at one point in the complaint,
meets with an undercover FBI agent, and she realizes that they’re onto her, … so she
walks across the Brooklyn Bridge and buys a burner phone in Brooklyn, and in filling
out the little form to buy the phone, she fills in an address, and the address she puts
down is 99 Fake Street. The other things the Illegals were doing that
are described in the complaint, they’re going to think tank events and wiring home about
them. They’re reading press clippings and wiring
home about them. They’re talking to real estate agents about,
you know, what the real estate market is like, which is what Anna Chapman was doing. And you just think, this was clearly a model
that was developed before the Internet, because think tank events and press reports— really? Then fast-forward eight years, and they know
what the DNC is, and they know that they should hack it? Then they discover the DCCC server, and they
know what to do with the information on that for these tiny House races? What happens in those eight years? That’s my biggest question. What happens in those eight years that they
suddenly get so good? … They ramped up their capabilities. I don’t know what the trigger for that was. I know that, for the army stuff, 2008, the
war with Georgia was the big wakeup moment for the Kremlin, because to us, it looked
like the Russians crushed the Georgian army. They could have gone to Tbilisi in two days. They would have reconquered Georgia. From the Russian perspective, it was kind
of a disaster. They realized how outmoded their army was,
how bad the soldiers were, how poorly trained, how young and malnourished and bad they were,
and they started heavily reinvesting in the army, updating their systems, training their
special forces in a much more sophisticated way, replacing old weaponry, modernizing their
nuclear arsenal. What was that point for them for this kind
of—the asymmetrical stuff? When was that wakeup call for them? I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that. MICHAEL KIRK – For sure they had it, though. You’re not questioning, or are you, whether
it was actually Russia that was hacking in? JULIA IOFFE – Oh, no, it was definitely Russia. It was definitely Russia. I just, when I first heard about it, I was
incredulous, because the picture that the American press draws of this Russia operation
doesn’t sound like the Russia I know. I talked to a Russian military analyst who
has very close ties to the Russian Defense Ministry. He said: “You read these reports, and they
write about us like we’re Germans. We’re not Germans. We’re messy. We’re Russian. Where is the Russian mess?” And I think that’s key. I think that’s what we’re missing in the
American descriptions of it; that it’s a much messier, opportunistic, kind of throw
things at the wall, see what sticks, see how strong the wall is. I think a lot of it is also how the Obama
administration failed to respond and underestimated the threat. This is the key thing. Strong countries don’t do things like this. MICHAEL KIRK – What do you mean? JULIA IOFFE – Because there’s a reason this
is called asymmetrical warfare. It’s asymmetrical because you’re using leverage
as strength as opposed to strength as strength. MICHAEL KIRK – Your president is a judo expert. JULIA IOFFE – Yeah, yeah, but he is also from
the world of the secret services. He’s also exposing the—I don’t know
how to put this. You know, it’s guerrilla warfare, right? Like, it’s guerrillas fighting a massive,
well-trained, high-tech army to a standstill or getting them sucked into a decades-long
war. You might not be able to win outright, but
you can sure inflict a lot of damage and draw a lot of blood. But you’re still the guerilla force in the
jungle with, you know, five AK-47s between the two of you. MICHAEL KIRK – And if you’re fighting with
cyber, nobody’s dying. You’re just causing chaos and disruption. And it is true that when—you know, speaking
of Russian messes, what mystified the early discoveries was that they left their fingerprints
all over the hackings. I mean, everybody knew who they were. Usually, great hackers try to hide and all
this other stuff. … JULIA IOFFE – I think that’s on purpose. Leaving fingerprints is on purpose. It’s kind of analogous to what the Russians
do inside Russia to foreign journalists and foreign diplomats. Do you know about all this stuff? MICHAEL KIRK – No, but I’m about to. JULIA IOFFE – In Russia, the Foreign Ministry
owns a lot of property that it then rents out to foreign embassies and foreign press
organizations, so a lot of foreign diplomats and foreign journalists live in buildings
owned by the Foreign Ministry. They are, of course, bugged to the hilt. The Russians then start toying with the people
who live there. … When I lived in Moscow, I was friends
with a young woman who worked for USAID, which the Russians never believed was an aid organization. They believed this was spies masquerading
as, you know, agriculture workers, which sometimes they were, but anyway… So this friend who works for USAID calls me
one day in a total panic and says: “Oh, my God, I came home to my apartment. My rug is gone, and somebody has taken a s—
in my toilet and didn’t flush.” I mean, it’s clear who those people were. She said, “Oh, and they also smoked in my
bathroom, too.” MICHAEL KIRK – Sending a message. JULIA IOFFE – Right. So I said: “Leave. Go to a cafe. Calm down. Have a glass of wine. It’s fine.” She does that. She comes back. The rug is back. They have flushed the toilet. They’ve opened the window. It’s just to let you know that they can. MICHAEL KIRK – So that’s the hacking? JULIA IOFFE – No, it’s not quite—that’s
why they left the fingerprints. … It’s to show you that they can and that
they will. All these journalists and diplomats in Russia
have similar stories. They come home in January, and all the windows
are open, or everything is rearranged. It’s just to show you that they can go into
your home, that your home is not your home; your data is not your data. They can access it at any time, and there’s
nothing you can do about it. They’re kind of your master. MICHAEL KIRK – … The hack is identified
as Russian. The intelligence services know it, but they
don’t really—they think maybe it’s just a plain old-fashioned espionage. They’re gathering information, but they’re
never going to put it back out. It’s not going to hit WikiLeaks; it’s
not going to do any of that. So they sort of know it, but they don’t
really want to talk about it aloud, and they don’t want to warn anybody, and they don’t
really know what the implications are. That’s all the way into the summer of ’16. But by the fall, certainly— JULIA IOFFE – Oh, the alarm bells are going
off. MICHAEL KIRK – Yeah. Describe. What’s happening? JULIA IOFFE – Well, first of all, there’s
that intelligence report that says, unambiguously, in October, a month before the election, that
the Russians are doing this, and they’re doing this with nefarious goals in mind. In September, on the sidelines of the APEC
[Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation] conference in China, Obama pulls aside Putin and says:
“Cut this out. We know what you’re doing. Cut it out.” Some people want to believe that things stopped
after that, and some of the operations did kind of calm down. Others escalated. The other problem is that the Obama administration
was looking at different things. They were worried about the infrastructure. They were worried about voter rolls. They were worried about voting machines and
about the voting infrastructure and vote tallies being manipulated. They weren’t looking at the misinformation,
the disinformation campaign that was being channeled through WikiLeaks and then unintentionally
weaponized by the American press. They were zigging when the Russians were zagging. So that was a big problem. The other thing is that the Obama administration
expected Hillary to win, and then it would be her problem, and she would deal with it. They were afraid that if they weighed in now,
it would look like they’re really putting their thumbs on the scale of the American
election and that they would just be helping the Russians delegitimize the integrity of
this election. This is a classic case of the Obama administration
overthinking something while the Russians were just kind of punching them in the gut. MICHAEL KIRK – … So what should Obama have
done? What could he have done? You know Putin; you know the Russian ethos. What does the president of the United States
do at that moment? JULIA IOFFE – I think the things he did in
the winter, the sanctions, the DNI report that really spelled things out, that should
have been done in the summer. I think it would have had a totally different
effect. MICHAEL KIRK – Why didn’t he? What’s your guess? JULIA IOFFE – I think they thought it wasn’t
going to have a real impact, and I think they thought Clinton was going to win. The Russians thought Clinton was going to
win. They didn’t expect Trump to win. We’re projecting backward. We’re projecting strength backward onto
the Russians. The Russians did not think this was going
to—you know, my father who grew up—he’s only seven years younger than Putin. [He] grew up in the mean streets of the Moscow
suburbs, and he’s like: “I recognize this type. I know this type of guy that Putin is.” … The analogy he drew was, you’re the young,
scrawny kid on the block, and the big, strapping jock is walking down the street, and you stick
your foot out to trip him. You’re not thinking several steps in advance. You don’t know what the point of tripping
him is necessarily, but boy, is it funny when he falls down and busts his nose, and it’s
bleeding everywhere, and he’s in pain. And you can laugh at him, because he sure
looks ridiculous now. But then he doesn’t expect that when he
sticks his foot out, the guy is going to fall over, break his neck, end up a quadriplegic,
have massive medical bills, crippling the soccer team or whatever he was on. You were just trying to bloody his nose a
little bit, but now everybody thinks that you’re this big, strong guy, and you have
this really elaborate plan in place. You were just sticking your foot out to trip
him. I think the danger here is overestimating. You don’t want to underestimate their strength,
but you also don’t want to overestimate their capabilities and their ability to plan
and to inflict damage. A lot of the damage is self-inflicted. MICHAEL KIRK – … When they see each other,
what does Putin see in Trump, and what do you imagine Trump sees in Putin? … JULIA IOFFE – They see him as not Hillary
and not the Republican establishment, both of which hate Russia, assume the worst about
Russia, and frankly see through Russia, see through Putin and know what he’s up to,
and know what he will be up to if he had his druthers. Trump is unsophisticated about Russia and
seems to like strongmen—the things he said about the Chinese and Tiananmen Square, the
nice things he said about Putin, that he’s a strong leader, unlike our guy. Putin probably sees him as least—I mean,
at least it’s not those people. Plus there’s a lot of sexism toward Hillary
Clinton. You talk to people who are close to the Kremlin,
and they say, you know: “That crazy old bat? We know her. We don’t want to deal with her anymore. She hates us with an irrational hatred. This guy at least has a fresh perspective. He’s a businessman. He respects strong men. We could do business with him.” Now, I think Putin sees him as a profoundly
weak and gullible president, weak because he can’t seem to wrest himself from the clutches
of the establishment that’s swallowing him whole with this Russian investigation. … In the spring and summer of 2017, even
as Trump is sinking into the morass of this Russia investigation, the Russians are still
hoping, hope against hope, that they can arrange a one-on-one meeting between Putin and Trump,
knowing they have a good read on him. Trump calls through the whole campaign, calls
China a currency manipulator and [says] that the first thing he’s going to do when he
gets into office is label them a currency manipulator. He meets once with Xi Jinping over a beautiful
piece of chocolate cake, [and China’s] no longer a currency manipulator. NATO, obsolete through the whole campaign. They’re not paying their fair share. It’s obsolete; it’s terrible; it’s outdated. Meets with Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary
general of NATO, no longer obsolete. He seems to be very susceptible to these personal
meetings. If somebody’s simpatico, if they can talk
mano a mano, it will all be OK. The Russians are hoping, at this point, that
they can achieve that with Trump; that they can meet him, flatter him in person, give
him some gifts, do whatever the Russian analog is of the Saudi sword dance, and that they
can get whatever they want from him. MICHAEL KIRK – Anything else? JULIA IOFFE – Then I gotta go. MIKE WISER – The last one: So what happens
after the election? And what is the feeling? Is it surprise? From the Kremlin, what’s the view on Election
Day and in the days that follow? JULIA IOFFE – It’s shock. They didn’t expect—again, they just thought
they were going to bloody Clinton’s nose; they didn’t expect to break her neck. They didn’t expect Trump to win. MICHAEL KIRK – Plain and simple. JULIA IOFFE – Plain and simple. They did not expect it. Then the Russians—I mean, it’s just such
an interesting dynamic. The Russians then grew into our narrative
of them as big and strong and having installed our president, picked our president. By the time the inauguration rolls around,
they’re having parties all over Moscow and inauguration-watching parties with champagne
toasts, … Minor Russian politicians tweeting: “Trump is ours. America is ours. We got this.” They didn’t expect to win, but then they
really bought into our narrative, too, that they’re so big and strong. So this is a symbiotic psychological relationship. JIM GILMORE – Just one thing. Victoria Nuland, did you have—did you meet
her in Ukraine? JULIA IOFFE – No. JIM GILMORE – What did she represent to Ukrainians,
the importance of her in the Ukrainian [story], and the importance of why the Russians used
her specifically? JULIA IOFFE – The Ukrainians in general—the
Ukrainian opposition in general saw the U.S. as an ally. They had been promoting democracy all these
years. They had stood behind the Orange Revolution
in 2004. They had all these think tanks and NGOs operating
in Ukraine, helping train Ukrainian journalists, Ukrainian politicians. They saw the United States as an ally in bringing
democracy to Ukraine and defending democracy to Ukraine, and Americans in Ukraine played
that up. They wanted to show that they were sympathetic
to the Maidan. So you have Toria Nuland going out and handing
out sandwiches on the Maidan, which was a gesture of “We’re with you; we’re with
you in your fight for democracy,” which is not different from the American stance
traditionally all over the world when democratic revolutions break out. [Egypt’s Hosni] Mubarak must go. [Syria’s Bashir al-]Assad must go. Yanukovych must go. … This is the other thing that Russians
don’t understand about Americans, is why Americans like revolutions so much. From the global perspective, America had maybe
the one successful revolution that really made things better. Everywhere else, revolutions tend to become
extremely violent and veer off course and eat their young. Russia had two in the last 100 years. This year, remember, marks the 100th-year
anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Actually, it’ll be three in 100 years: the
February Revolution; the October Revolution; and then 1991, the democratic revolution that
toppled the Soviet Union. Every time, there was hunger; there was chaos;
there was violence; there was bloodshed. The Russians are like: “Why do you guys
like revolutions so much? Why do you insist on pushing them everywhere
in the world and in our backyard and in our country? Don’t you know what revolutions are? They bring chaos and violence and death and
hunger. Why do you want that for us? Leave us alone.” I think that’s what she was to the Russians,
that she was a harbinger. It made it easy for them that she was a woman. But she was this harbinger of revolution,
which is a priori in the Russian mind a bad thing, and for the Ukrainians she was a supporter,
an advocate for revolution, which they also saw as a good thing.

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100 Responses

  1. Jesse Drew says:

    The US has to stop trying to be the POLICE of the world!

  2. Gabe Anderson says:

    She's sexy. Protip: that haircut means she will do anal

  3. Bo S Olsson says:

    What a embarassing composit of SMEAR this is. Holy Crap – re-using "The Russian Narrative" to c-r-e-a-t-e antagonism and hostility towards a WANTED enemy.

    Just as the old Big Boy of Europe – named Hitler – used Leni Riefnstahl to produce anti-russian, anti-slavic and anti-jewish PROPAGANDA – the Fascists still at bay within Global Corporates and their dear NATO are once again trying to turn Europe – and the US – into a new Neighbourhood Bully of Russia.

    To INSTIGATE yet another profitable World War the minions and press-agents of the Corporate Oligarchy running the Global Finances – keep producing one LIE after the other. PLANTING false information, seductive accusations and deceptive narratives to stgmatize each and every Head of State that don't let the Corporate Banksters run their country.

    Claaiming that "Putin works for the Russian Oligarchs" Mrs. Ioffe makes a ingenious grand-stand, as she herself is under direct guidiance and reward-system of the WORST Oligarchs known to the historiccal records – neatly seated within Central Europe – from where they have been orchestrating strife and upheavals, terror-campaigns and revolutions, wars and conquests, fascism and communism…

    Time to blame the RIGHT Oligarchy for the DANGERS threathening the Civil Societies of the Western World – as well as the rest of the World. The young democracy called Russia is FAR from sufficently experienced in the shady business of war and conquest to be even close to a threat – to anyone but the most sinister Oligarchs who still tries to STEAL the entire country – by "regime-change" and some completely MAD Strangelovers within NATO, the present Military Machine made to serve the Global banksters and THEIR NWO.

    Whoever carry water for these Global Warmongers is nothing but a QUISLING to ones own countrymen. Mrs Ioffe is an iteresting example of a female renegade serving the same purpose, and just as Quisling explained himself, as he sold his country down the Nazi-Drain; as a "patriot" and a "protector" of his countrymen – against the Russian Ghosts anno 1939-40.

  4. Honk Honker says:

    FREE ASSANGE AND FREE WIKILEAKS Snowden was a patriot, I can’t believe that people condemn him for exposing corruption in our own government

  5. Dennis Rivenburg says:

    She's very knowledgeable about Putin and also has nice looks and very soothing feminine voice.

  6. Brad Charlton says:

    She is a spy.

  7. leandro baluyotjr says:

    I'm very impressed by the interviewee's depth of knowledge and analyses of various subjects pertaining to Putin's persona in all aspects of his life.She's admirable as a professional in her field of expertise as she is fascinating in her feminine demeanorr. She's captivating!

  8. Don Palmer says:

    Avery dangerous woman – thank goodness for common sense….

  9. Thomas Curry says:

    I can see American pride in your eyes and you are very smart. I am a former Paratrooper i feel your pride and look at a person eye to eye born leadership obviously

  10. Thomas Curry says:

    I watch documentaries on The Soviet Union almost everyday when i found this video i kind of thought i would be entertained by you and we are aware of Russia in the same way. I could listen to you and debate forever

  11. R.R.P says:

    That is not what happened!

  12. Maxim Monster says:

    I am not sure u people know she is a russian journalist and everything u hear is hear say, trust me i was born in Moscow and been living in Toronto for the last 20 years while closely following russian news channels – everything, or almost everything, she says has been written in blogs and liberal opposition newspapers.

  13. Maxim Monster says:

    The interviewer is Oliver Stone(!) .Yea. After this interview he went to Russia and spent almost a year interviwing Putin – Check out his 4 part documentary on Putins Russia

  14. donnan huggler says:

    Great interview

  15. Gerald Fourie says:

    "It is not a very efficient system……" she says. Why are you having the discussion my dear, your commander in chief is probably in the pocket of this not very effective system. Western arrogance will lead to your downfall, wake up!!!!!!

  16. Thomas Curry says:

    Putin should always remember 1917 maybe this time they will want a 4 year President and "Let's do it again" hell that would like their enemy with all of that freedom and real checks and balances and military thats the real right hand of of the people

  17. Thomas Curry says:

    Or 1 year presidency hell out do us show real change be the first like the space race.

  18. Tee Con says:

    That whole thing about controlling the air ways/ television sounds an awful lot like Justin Trudeau controlling the media and social media with tax payers money and making them portray him in only a good light.

  19. joe momma says:

    PUTIN IS THE BEST …CANADA LOVES HIM !!! HE IS A REAL MAN & GREAT PRESIDENT

  20. DB Cooper says:

    Pot calling the kettle black

  21. Grey Goose says:

    ¡Híjole! We need her in the White House. She's very intelligent.

  22. Tiempo Nuevo says:

    HUM… I have to listen to this again. My gut tells me she is a CIA asset posing as a journalist.

  23. Tiempo Nuevo says:

    Was this a set up for all the Russia Gate distractions during Trumps election. Obama and Friends were pushing for war with Russia. The Ukraine was a USA deep state take over. You see she has not yet mentioned the Concept of the New World Order – A technocratic, dictatorship… much worse than any communism.

  24. Tiempo Nuevo says:

    Ah I forgot PBS is now a supporter of the NWO. More propaganda.

  25. Naveen Das says:

    She is intellectual elegance personified…

  26. Tiempo Nuevo says:

    Fracking is horrible. Why? The process is connected to earthquakes.

  27. Greg More says:

    Where are the recordings, where are the letters, in so many words, where the hell is the evidence? Remember, a good lie always incorporates a certain amount of facts / truth. This chick can ramble on forever… bla…bla…bla. We can interpret events any way we choose, does not mean it’s accurate. Check out frontline…they backed the Iraq war and did a bullshit job of investigating. We had the UN inspectors and Joseph Wilson screaming that the Bush Admin was manipulating facts to get us into war. where the hell was Frontline? Sorry folks, Frontline is just another casualty in the war on truth. Keep lapping up this BS people! How many times does the US Government need to lie to you before you realize your perception of what is real is all a charade that is carefully orchestrated? I’m sure all you bone in the nose Americans think 911 occurred just as your government reported it. Please, go back and revisit your high school physics class and then try and shovel down and digest the BS your government fed you about 9/11! OMG people, how can you be so blind in the modern age with so many resources at your disposal??? God help us all!!!

  28. Double D says:

    All she did was repeat everything we already knew or have been told about the little fella. word for word this information is in every dumb documentary there is on tiny little Putin.

  29. John Hadleigh says:

    TRUMP WHY RUSHIA HATE SPEACH JUST BEFORE YOUR RE ELECTION # WE SEE THROUGH THESE LIES TO KEEP YOU IN POWER # YOU ARE A KILLER
    YOUR SANCTIONS DENNIED WOMAN AND CHILDREN MEDICATION, FOOD AND WATER
    YOU HAVE THREATENED EUROPE
    FOR LEGAL SALES OF ENERGY
    YOU DEMANDED UK TAUNTON
    30 MEN FROM 42 COMANDO
    TO STEAL AN IRANIAN SHIP YOU
    START PIRACY # NOW YOU START HATE RUSHIA BS # YOU ARE A MORON WHO WILL START WW3

  30. Conrad Lodziak says:

    An adult fairy tale without any pornography. Far better constructed than the Skripal fairy tale.

  31. Baassbooster says:

    Hey does anyone need a few cubic metres of manure ?? Listen to this bullshit!!

  32. Baassbooster says:

    EAST TO WEST hahahaha

  33. Dee Haigwood says:

    obama told putin to cut it out. I didn't know there was election interference prior to this last election.

  34. bobtailvw22 says:

    What a fantasyland she lives in.

  35. yomofoindahouse says:

    This woman has not seen a dick for a very long time. No wander she hates Putin and Russians. Being Russian herself…

  36. magovic says:

    She talks about Putin in a very emphatic and confident manner, as if she was living with him. Or she has some spokes or informants inside the circles of the Russian government, I started to feel she work in the intelligent community, and she is just spreading and purveying a certain image, to enforce an idea about Russia, and Putin.
    if we have such knowledge and information from this journalist or Russia expert.
    we should be able to beat Russia, and predict every move of them, and eventually defeat them, and Russia will be sliced and looted by western power, and Israel might have its share too.

  37. Gurbir Bhullar says:

    American ambassador Nuland distributing sandwiches to the protesters, it clearly states that USA is supporting those protests. How come Putin is cynical, when it is known fact that American military interference around the world has changed regimes and killed millions of people. Saddam and Taliban could never have been kill millions in 100 years but due to American interference, millions are killed during American war on terror and its aftermath. Saddam, even if a dictator maintained ordered in Iraq. Taliban supported by Americans to oust Russia also maintained order by their tradition. After American promoted democracies, look at the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya where people are killing each other like potatoes and tomatoes. America is flourishing its war industry by attacking other countries in the garb of promoting democracy. WMDs were their excuse to attack Iraq and WHAT HAPPENED TO WMDs? WTC was their reason to attack Afghanistan and there are plenty of conspiracy theories behind it.

  38. Valery theus says:

    Rt is an propaganda. Its russian view. Just radio fre europe is funded by the US government, all the radio the US funded isn't propaganda US view. CNN, and a whole lot more

  39. Johnny Brownskin says:

    yes a great interview that many outside of American media could do. Julia brilliantly outlines Putin's rise to power over the last 20 years. Dear America it's called a smart phone for a reason, use it. All this information is there. But wait talking about the Un United States, right forgot Flint Mich still doesn't have clean water. The reason why Julia loffe sounds brilliant 2019 is because she layed out a history lesson, most of you should of already known.

  40. Nathan Lewis says:

    Don’t fall for western propaganda. The right wing and the left wing are of the same eagle. The eagle of war and corruption. There is no video/audio/photographic evidence. Open your eyes.

  41. Craig noneed says:

    I hate shows like this, that not a single thing can be proven, "I think" "might be" "assume" yadda yadda, what is the purpose of this show? where the hell is she getting all these so called facts from??? She is talking like she witnessed all these things first hand. Some are factual but the opinion is definite directive. but she is painting a picture that simply is pure speculation

  42. girum dereje says:

    Thanks for your propaganda ugly mother fucker lady 😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁.

  43. Bobby Paluga says:

    This lady is very impressive in her breathe of knowledge easy on the eyes as well

  44. chesster says:

    This interview is dated 2017. Even now they are saying the same stuff– Putin is not Russia, Russia is not Putin, 2011 was the most critical moment the righteous forces of "democracy" missed. Why not talk a bit about how Putin punched back almost immediately, in 2014, and finally in 2016, the greatest blow to the "free" and "civilized" world. Those are the critical moments. Putin is definitely a genius. This will be remembered. Anglo Saxons will not be able to belittle this or wipe out these memories, because they are in a retreat. Soon they will be done. They will lose their capacity to rule other nations and civilizations indirectly by wiping out their memory and manipulating their history.

  45. chesster says:

    39:20 — All major countries, India, China, not only Russia, want the servers in their own country. All of them realize the american potential to destabilize stable states or democratically elected governments. They are not weaponising against their own citizens, but defending against a rogue democracy bully that's on its last leg, and trying to claw back violently with whatever is left of it. This woman is just rebuilding the same narrative, keeping the perception and memory fresh in the public mind.

  46. Idir benferhat says:

    The whole russia story is fake news. Democrats are criminals, they keep on complaining that Russia exposed them, but they never address the issues that were exposed. Because they are criminals.

  47. Andreas Holzer says:

    Bullshit propaganda dont believe that! This is another stupid attempt to manipulate the decent American people, but Americans are no longer to become that easily manipulated anymore. They have already recognized that their country is controlled by a gang of criminals as it was once the same with Hitler Germany.

  48. Carolyn Neumann says:

    That was amazing.

  49. Max Durocher says:

    Yeah… that's exactly what you want us to think lolll with hindsight you kinda have to laugh at this fictional narrative she's paid to make you believe … She really knows her story though it's almost convincing…well done ma'am , but Your bosses ,are going to be indicted for peddling / fabricating this story lol …nice try though

  50. John Jorgensen says:

    Sounds like John Mearsheimer doing the interview >

  51. Stan SPb says:

    This interview is false in so many ways. She flat out wrong on so many levels. I have been in Russia during that entire time and she is distorting every topic. No wonder Americans are so ill-informed about other countries. Ask any of 100 Russians and they will tell you what is really going on, and all the positive changes in society, infrastructure, personal freedoms, opportunities. If this is sort of propaganda is passed off as reality in Russia than all decisions and policies by the west will continue to be poor or worse.

  52. Meir Horwitz says:

    It was so interesing! I think i have never whtched such an intelligent interview.

  53. Dusan Silni says:

    She thinks that she is smart because she graduated from princeton, maybe if she survived the fall of the soviet union she would be even smarter. Like Vladimir Pozner

  54. K Tom says:

    What a lot of one sided pr. …..Clinton Obama are saints to her, how deluded.
    It’s a shame as clever as she is is that she does not have a balanced view point.

  55. Johan Viskar says:

    what a crock! Snowden ended up in Moscow because the americans revoked his passport! This is total propaganda, what shameful propaganda

  56. educated Canadian says:

    She is absolutely gorgeous

  57. Urban Gardener says:

    She creates an impression that she knows something about Russia, but in reality she keeps using weird references which she claims "this is what Russians say or Russian's call". And of course to English speakers this sounds like she's got some credible info, but she talks total nonsense. A well rehearsed script she keeps promoting… I'd give her 2 medals for propaganda. But these will have to be plastic. That's all her content is worth.

  58. voodoo star says:

    What movie is this? Looks quite old, but I dont recognize the actress and the scene where she talks a lot of f*ng bs

  59. Wilfred Bakker says:

    Putin, I like him, smart guy, but he's just a doll just like the rest in one line with the NWO

  60. Rainy City Music says:

    shameful one sided propaganda ! You think the US does not do the same things she mentions to citizens ? Please wake up ! If she talked about all the bs US, Russia & China did THEN WE COULD TAKE HER SERIOUSLY !

  61. Jim Savage says:

    Great work -> We need better, accurate info. She has great ability to see the situations & see the leader's behaviors & psychological factors that make him tick.

  62. Craig Hill says:

    LOCK HER UP!!

  63. Andreas Andreotti says:

    Another Jewish crap. She tries to short-circuit her listeners with amazing facts, but in fact, absurdities such as dirt-throwing, lies and all the negative things you can imagine. The fact that President V. Putin has some sort of aversion against the internet and computer is so absurd that it does not have its equal! In Oliver Stones four documentaries, Putin shows Oliver through both computer and smart phone that he is in contact with his generals and his employees via these two means. He also shows direct actions into his mobile on how the Russian flights had their assignments the same minute while they were talking! Miss Julia is another Jewish mara as Nuland that´s all.
    They are both yellow piglets of the American evangelical establishment and their media!

  64. Tanya M says:

    It's really stupid to think that Snowden has planned to stay in Russia. He is not a psychic to know that US Government revoked his passport in that moment when he landed in Moscow. Poor Assange. If he just flew to Russia. He wouldn't become a prisoner in UK or anywhere else.

  65. Patrick Fealy says:

    What a sin that baby killing now is so disposed
    In the time of inocence it was once was so disguised.

  66. Scott Young says:

    Like America, the Jews rule Russia. Why no mention of this?

  67. frannie swannie says:

    cute albeit staged she is. not that i support PUTAin or the cia

  68. Sonia G says:

    PBS is a PPROPAGANDA media for the LIBERAL LEFT and has been for a very long time. Bush was useless doing his daddy's bidding while the war-mongers in both parties but predominently the Democrats then Hillary Clinton were selling USA out you morons!!! Putin did what he was given the go ahead to do by the US leaders of that time!

  69. Bato B. says:

    Wow, this looks like some casting porn. I expected Putins c**k to enter her mouth any second.

  70. Hydrocarbonman147 says:

    And Hillary Clinton and her righteous supporters operate on the basis of honesty and integrity!? Loooooooooooool

  71. Alexander The Great says:

    This is just same lies and allegations what we see on CNN and other media outlets about Russia and Ukraine crisis. Typical journalism of the west.

  72. Derk Noluck says:

    She is the perfect woman to me! She is gorgeous, articulate and extremely intelligent!!!

  73. Pete D. says:

    If people really want to understand Russia, they need to listen to Stephen F. Cohen.

  74. Ipsita M says:

    It's 2019. This still makes for a very interesting story. Julia Loffe is still beautiful and articulate. Putin still rules, so does Trump. After all the files, folders, novellas about Putin that the Western media has brought out, he's still the paranoid one. And Boris Johnson is the new player entering the scene. Sometimes I guess folks who sing accolades about the power of the internet should be the one who must dread the internet most. I've gone through almost 500 comments in this section, with around 20 complaining about "Russian trolls getting butthurt" by this beautiful, intelligent, honest, expert journalist, but am yet to find a troll comment. Guess they've all left in fear.

  75. Douglas Sirk says:

    god to fuck her

  76. Nuke Censorship says:

    Jump cut
    Jump cut
    Jump cut
    Jump cut

  77. Bruce Friedman says:

    Biggest bunch of hooey in the universe. Putin has been directly involved in laundering US dollars for the benefit of wealthy, connected US interests for a very long time via offshore tax havens such as Cyprus. There is no adversarial relationship with Putin. Never was. Never will be.

  78. Mantas Jaškevicius says:

    🤔

  79. Keo Hep says:

    Very Pretty but totally brainwashed, nothing like a good fairy tale.

  80. David Niggemeyer says:

    According to Robert Epstein's testimony before Congress, Google alone has influenced a minimum of 2.6 million votes in favor of Hillary Clinton with an upside of up to 10.5 million votes. Facebook has been shadow banning non-Democratic Party candidates and groups. Twitter is locking Conservatives & Libertarians out of their accounts. Yet, we're freaking out over leaked DNC emails which reveal that the DNC colluded with Hillary Clinton to steal the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination.

  81. Ann Juurinen says:

    Of course Trump and Putin have sympatico. Of course they are symbiotic. They are both criminals. Part of a collective cabal of misery designed to extract money and power by creating Chaos in the lives of ordinary people in both countries.
    Next? The relationship between Zuckerberg and Putin?

  82. Spygal92 says:

    Complete Mind Controlled idiot … liar

  83. Bear Soetero says:

    PBS and Julia Loffe are just state sponsored distractions.

    No mention of the rampant pedo rings revealed in John Podesta's emails.
    Government is mind control.

  84. Sunshine Patsoph says:

    so much beauty and intelligence….until she …"In December 2016, Ioffe issued a tweet aimed at then-president elect Donald Trump, implying that he was involved in a sexual relationship with his daughter, for which after being criticized she later apologized, deleting it and describing it as "tasteless and offensive". Ioffe was subsequently dismissed from Politico"""…how you can explain such a dark comment?..that something you can delete..

  85. Sunshine Patsoph says:

    the Russian horse…a modern version of that other horse..Trojan…

  86. mmgsundar says:

    Is she talk about the US or Russia? It can be both!!! She is probably a CIA operative, too.

  87. Yo Man says:

    This woman is such a liar ! We all know the truth about russia and indictments are coming for fbi cia doj operatives that tried their best to throw a presidential election !

  88. frank zamora says:

    thats what you get from listening to words. listen to the actions, not words! media is racking up huge money by spreading gossips and counter gossips at your expense. wake up, people!

  89. Ajisen Ramen says:

    Why do the Americans want to “go for”/“oust” Putin?
    What is the motivation?
    Why not the Oligarchs when they were stripping the Russian Federation in the 90s?

  90. Michael Moore says:

    Semion probably has never met his underling, Donald Trump.

  91. Critical Mass says:

    Obama allowing Putin to take eastern Ukraine in 2014 is just like Chamberlain allowing Hitler to take the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in 1938

  92. wayne Last says:

    Just riveting reporting. Well done.

  93. HathawayRose says:

    In the last three years I've read literally hundreds of thousands of Russophobic comments and seen thousands of anti-Russian videos on the internet, the vast majority of them American…it's a never-ending stream of bile. One thing is clear…It's NOT Russia or China that has to change, it's the USA.

  94. Tesfalem Berhe says:

    What about u.s oligarchy evil greedy corporates raping American people wealth and fortune u don.t talk about them but Putin to cover up ur masters criminals work because Putin right man is not followed devil worshiper evil idiots that what happen against him this is false flag Viva Putin Russia forever love mother Russian with out greedy evil corporates

  95. Tesfalem Berhe says:

    She is c.i.a messanger slave brainwashed smooth lairs false flag

  96. kalumnist says:

    After all of this how can Trump not be a Putin agent?

  97. Arman Potoyan says:

    She’s sexy

  98. down under says:

    refreshingly intelligent thank you miss loffe

  99. Steven Morrison says:

    US propaganda and Russian propaganda……very thin line

  100. Ryan lex says:

    Lefties propandaga

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