BACK STORY With DANA LEWIS

PUTINS WAR, And 'THE DIVIDER' DONALD TRUMP

September 23, 2022 Dana Lewis Season 5 Episode 2
PUTINS WAR, And 'THE DIVIDER' DONALD TRUMP
BACK STORY With DANA LEWIS
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BACK STORY With DANA LEWIS
PUTINS WAR, And 'THE DIVIDER' DONALD TRUMP
Sep 23, 2022 Season 5 Episode 2
Dana Lewis

On Back Story this week Dana Lewis interviews former Russia Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who says Putin IS bluffing and his regime is in its final chapter.

And, NYTimes reporter Peter Baker and his new book on Trump, The Divider. It's all  about American democracy in decline.

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Show Notes Transcript

On Back Story this week Dana Lewis interviews former Russia Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who says Putin IS bluffing and his regime is in its final chapter.

And, NYTimes reporter Peter Baker and his new book on Trump, The Divider. It's all  about American democracy in decline.

Support the Show.

Speaker 1:

Let us speak plainly a permanent member of the United nation security council invaded its neighbor attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the court tenants of the United nations charter. No more important than the clear prohibition against countries taking the territory of their neighbor by force. Again, president Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe.

Speaker 2:

Hi everyone. And welcome to another edition of backstory. I'm Dana Lewis this week, Russian president Putin's war in Ukraine. It just gets more miserable, more money, more intense, more dangers because he is bent on winning as his army is worn down and in danger of losing more ground, he rattles a nuclear saber. The former prime minister of Russia Al says he's bluffing. And the regime angering Russians now with the mobilization is beginning to collapse. And Trump is he coming back in 2024, a new book on the divider. We talked to New York times reporter Peter Baker. All right. Michaal OV is the former prime minister of Russia. He served under president Putin, uh, and since then has been, uh, in opposition in Russia. And now out of Russia, Mihael I know you left Russia several months ago. I would bet that there are thousands of people now that are wishing they had left a long time ago when you did as well, given the announcement by president Putin today.

Speaker 3:

Yes. Uh, I think it's absolutely the case. In fact, when I left Russia and, uh, some, uh, other people just, I would say many other people left Russia on the first month because just, we were all critics of MIS Putin and some of us just, I would say, uh, very noticeable critics of MIS Putin. And, you know, just since that time, many people already put in jail and the sentence for, for 10, whatever, seven years in, in jail right now, as a result of today's MIS put announcement of mobilization, he call it partial mobilization, but I read it as a, as a, a general mobilization because just, uh, just all people, all men, uh, who entitled to, to soft army should, could be, could be mobilized immediately. And there is just another part of law already enforce, which, uh, prevent men from 18 to 60 years old to leave Russia. That's already cases just confirmed by some examples already. People just put in the, in telegram and the channels just that's already the case. And of course, right now, even those people who were, uh, I would say, get a loyal attitude to Mr. Putin or just neutral right now, they creating or they coming to anger. And I think that's, that is in general terms. I say, I would say Mr. Putin made a critical, uh, I would say decision, which I could say as a beginning of Mr. Putin's end, because just right now, uh, those people who before, uh, uh, just behave neutrally, they, they, they right now would of course, uh, have a negative, absolutely negative that you attitude to Mr. Putin. And they'll try to escape of being sent to the war. And, uh, we shall see how the situation, the whole situation will develop.

Speaker 2:

It's one thing to support a war sitting on the sofa, uh, of your house. Uh, but it's quite another one when you may be cold to the military or your sons, or your daughters may be called to go and fight in a war, you probably don't even understand

Speaker 3:

Exactly. Then I just, I would like to emphasize that, uh, before, before there was just, uh, uh, people who battlefield just those people, uh, officers who officers just saw as officers and those people are regular army contractual army who wanted to solve that was soldiers and surgeons. But right now there is mobilization. It means just all those poor families and lower sector of middle class right now. Just those people who supported Putin right now, they put in the position they obliged to, to stop what Mr. Putin and offices, um, uh, senior offices and, um, uh, junior offices right now just called formal mobilization that is already middle class and a big cities. It means just, just a considerable part of population who before, uh, kept neutral position right now would reconsider the attitude to the war and reconsider the attitude to Mr. Pu himself,

Speaker 2:

If a professional army couldn't win in Ukraine, what is mobilization gonna do?

Speaker 3:

Uh, I, I'm not an expert in, in a, in a, I would say tactical, uh, things in, in the bottle field, in, in a military operations, but it is clear that there is a lack of the lack of, of, um, uh, human resource on the bottle field. And, uh, Mr. Putin needs to have just some kind of advantage in this, in this field. And that is, that is the only, the only measure he left in his saw just mobilization, because he has nothing to do nothing else, how to, how to better just, um, uh, offensive operation over army. He has nothing to, to, to, to counter. And that was the only thing just that is manpower people

Speaker 2:

That becomes quantitative, not qualitative.

Speaker 3:

Exactly. That's exactly the case, but Putin has nothing more than that,

Speaker 2:

Right after Putin spoke, the defense minister Shogo spoke and he said, uh, we've been killing. We've been killing we're killing. And that the time has come. We are at war. He said with the collective west, this is no doubt a war now.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's absolutely the war. It was the war, very, the beginning in right now, just they themselves put on his inner circle, have to reconsider the attitude to that. Now just they, they, they even have some kind rallies inside just to be, to be close. And, uh, because they understand the responsibility they had just taken and they're all in one boat. And in fact there is no way for them to get out. And in fact, um, uh, the only thing interesting, what uhgo said today, just they intend to mobilize three, uh, hundred thousand people that is exactly to get the decisive advantage on the manpower on the battlefield. Not more than that, they're already lacking on the, on the equipment. They're already getting equipment from North Korea and Iran, because just they're already just have nothing in the store and the production, just not so fast because just the operation, the war goes very, very fast and very intensive manner that was they're facing problems, and they have nothing to counter.

Speaker 2:

So right after the announcement now, which is one of the opposition political parties, uh, announced, uh, calling for protests across Russia, calling people to come out into the street and not be caught up in this meat grinder of a war that was started by president Putin. Do you think there is a chance that Russians will stand up, uh, and refuse to support this war?

Speaker 3:

Uh, as I said before, many times, I'm sure the Russians will stand up, but the issue is, well, the question is, well, not now. I think as I, as I predicted before, just by December, the situation will change dramatically. And that's what Mr. Puddle made decision today. That's one of these measures which would mature the whole situation to, to, to be changed. And by December, just right now, just mobilization will start. And of course that will be some kind with the, uh, corrupt system of mobilization. Some people will be mobilized. Some not corruption will grow up immediately on a, on a level of senior offices and, and, uh, sectors of this military military system through over the Russia. Um, uh, I would say mobilization centers, uh, and, and in fact, just people of course angry would, were angry, angry, growing this in this case, just the whole situation will material by December. Uh, but December, January, both on the battlefield and internally because of this factor of mobilization and, uh, people's anger.

Speaker 2:

Some people say that if president Putin wasn't there, we could get somebody worse. Can you give me some idea on how you measure what's taking place in the Kremlin is president Putin a moderating factor in any way, compared to some of the ultranationalists, uh, that may be around him, like, you know, Patrick Chev and some of these other characters, or do you think he is leading the charge and that, that he, uh, is absolutely ultimately responsible for igniting this war?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, of course he's personally ultimately responsible, but, um, uh, few people in his, in the circle too, because just, they all just in permanent consultations, it's not a huge, um, set of people, but few of them, of course, just, they they're discussing this every day and discussing just how to, how to operate further on. And that's why they, they, the whole leadership is responsible for this. I mean, those who, uh, involved in decision making process on the military side,

Speaker 2:

How serious do you take Putin's threat of nuclear war that, that he says the west is the one that was threatening Russia. I don't know of anybody. That's used a, a nuclear threat against Russia, anybody credible, maybe if, if you do tell me, but how serious do you take, uh, his pledge to use nuclear weapons? And do you think that he would then consider mother Russia to include these territories that are about to vote, to join Russia in these, uh, in, in these, uh, votes that will take place over the next week?

Speaker 3:

Um, first of all, we, I haven't heard any, uh, any statements from Western leaders just in terms of potential application of non nuclear weapons. That's absolutely lie from Mr site, but till may, as a, as far as I remember putting, and some other people just trying to, to, to BA blackmail just by, uh, possible application of nuclear weapons, but since may, there was absolutely silence on that. Now, Mr. Putin decided to play just the final, the final card on this game. And again, trying to, trying to blackmail the west, but what I already seen yesterday's reaction of the Western leaders, people already realized that it's bluffing and they, it's not possible because Mr. Putin knows, as soon as he, he, he pressed the button, he will immediately be, be eliminated himself and he's in inner circle. And, uh, that's why, that's why that's one of the simple, important reason Mr. Putin keeps in mind, but right now he trying to raise the stakes. And in fact, um, um, the referendums of those occupied territories, that is what the, the issue he wanted to demonstrate to the west, I'll get them in and they become the Russian territory. And I have just a legal inside Russia, a legal right to apply, to use nuclear weapons. The, the question is whether he would use this, I think not, this is bluffing the, the last, last car to put in. He, after that will be absolute collapse of the regime. If, if the west will continue the, the intensive supply of, um, uh, necessary equipment, I would say just the, um, military, um, potential of Ukraine army would grow, grow up and will be equal. And, uh, um, uh, right now just, we already see this, this, this problems that Putin me radio facing with that's. I think just, we very soon we'll see the, I would say the, the complete change, dramatic change of the situation.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Last question. Can you imagine that the Ukrainians may in the position soon as they advanced on the battlefield to start striking Crimea itself, which was annexed in 2014, and can you imagine the Kremlin's response to that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, for me, it's put the most sensitive of course, Ukrainians will do, will try to liberate the erritory also in territory of independent state. Uh, they fight for their T integrity and they promise to, to all people. And I think just the, according to the social physiological pulse, just 95% Ofra support such as strategy of the leadership of Ukraine. That's why just it's inevitably that they will start dealing with thera soon. But for Mr. Putin, that's the most sensitive point. And that's one of the reason he started the war. That's what I'm saying. Just be coming to a very dramatic, uh, uh, time period of time. That's why the Western position right now is crucially important just to have more make intense support of, of Ukraine, uh, both on military and the financial side, so that they could provide necessary support for the army.

Speaker 2:

You're saying the west shouldn't blink shouldn't back away.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely not. Should stay strong

Speaker 2:

Al the former prime minister of Russia. Always. Great to talk to you, sir. Thank you.

Speaker 3:

Thank you very much.

Speaker 2:

Peter Baker is a reporter of the New York times. Uh, he is an author. He is dish published a new book called the divider. Congratulations, Peter on another book. Thank you. Appreciate it. You know, I know when you and I talked before you started writing this book, as you were just a, you were in research. Yeah. And I said, you know, are you really, after so much has been written about Donald Trump, uh, do you really expect to find much that that is any more enlightening and any more bizarre than we've already heard? And, and I see in the chapters of the book, I mean, there's a lot of really interesting anecdotes there, but is, is there something that jumps out at you that you've suddenly digested that maybe you, you hadn't quite understood before writing the book?

Speaker 4:

Yeah. Well, first of all, Dan, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. And it's great to be with you again for listeners who don't know. Uh, we were Moscow buddies back in the day, two decades ago, I guess now. And, uh, one of the things that struck us was, was, uh, that some of the themes you and I and Susan Glasser saw in Moscow 20 years ago, we're now grappling with here. You know, we always thought this can't happen here. Threat to democracy. Wouldn't work in America. It's too, too ingrained in the system. But in fact, uh, one of the things that writing this book, the divider really taught us is that they grew from the early days of Putin's Russia to today, which is, you know, what is the future of this country? Is it going to be continued to be the, the, you know, the, the liberal democracy, small L that, uh, that we have always thought it as, or are we heading in different direction? And so you ask what's new. What we found. I mean, on the one hand, it turns out there is more to learn, right? In terms of individual storylines, things that we thought we knew, but we learned a whole lot more about things that we never heard about that we have in this book that have never been out before. But I think the broader stroke, the big through line of it, the history, the reason to write this book is to try to look at what happened in the broad sense. And January 6th was not an outlier. It was not an aberration. It was the, it was the inexorable culmination of a four year war on institutions in Washington. It starts on January 20th, 2017. And it goes all the way through the end. And that's what we wanted to try to do with this book is the only book that tries to capture all four years of his presidency and make sense of them.

Speaker 2:

You know, we spoke about president Putin at the beginning because we were in that we were in the Kremlin together 20, 21 years ago, 20 years ago. Um, why do you think that that president Trump who grew up in the greatest democracy on the planet has this weird attraction to leaders in North Korea, or, you know, Putin himself he's spoken very admirably about

Speaker 4:

Yeah, he has. He has he, no question. He has an affinity for strongman, uh, Erdogan, Xian ping Kim Jong, and of course, most famously about Armir Putin. And I think he admires strength. He was taught by his father from the beginning that you had to be strong and never show any weakness. Don't apologize. Don't retreat, always counter attack. His father's highest compliment to anybody was you're a killer. And that's what he told Trump, Donald Trump, he should be, you should be a killer. And so in some ways, therefore it's not surprising that he would admire people that he, that is Donald Trump, that he saw in that light Adamir coup Putin of course, would, would fit that bill. Yeah. Um, and it's a, it's a rather striking, uh, thing for an American president. In fact, the Helsinki summit, which was so famous back here where he stands to Putin says, I basically believe the leader of Russia over my own intelligence agencies was so startling, not just to reporters who were in the room, but to the head of national intelligence back here in Washington, a guy named Dan Coates, Republican, former Senator appointed by Donald Trump who watched what happened to Helsinki and was shocked by it and thought to himself, well, gosh, what does Putin have on him? That's what coach told other people later. So even, yeah, I'm,

Speaker 2:

I'm sorry. There's a lot of us that wonder about that, you know, does that videotape really exist or what,

Speaker 4:

But it, it's a remarkable that the, that the Trump appointed ahead of intelligence thought that the president of the United States could be compromised in some way. Now we don't have any evidence that he was in a tangible, specific way, but that's how unexplainable this relationship has always been. Okay.

Speaker 2:

So he admires strong men. Why do Americans admire not all of them, but why do millions of Americans admire him? I mean, you take a look at this case this week. He's being sued by the attorney general in New York. Yeah. For knowingly, allegedly knowingly inflating assets, millions and millions of dollars of these big BU buildings to appeal to banks to get more money. Swindling banks is, is the allegation how in the world to, you know, some guy out in Idaho or, or some lady in, in Montana suddenly identify with Donald Trump as, as their president?

Speaker 4:

Well, it is remarkable, right? Because here's this guy in New York, billionaire clearly part of the elite by any real definition, you know, owns, you know, a private plane and, and, and jets around the world yet he has successfully made himself into the voice of the self perceived oppressed, right? A lot of Americans have a sense of grievance or, uh, resentment. And he has tapped into that in a visceral way that no other, I think president in my lifetime is ever done. So

Speaker 2:

It, it doesn't matter if the political leader is the one that was aggrieved or oppressed, which he's not, it just matters that he's able to tap into that and do that pretty effectively.

Speaker 4:

He does. And he says, basically, I'm one of you. So when he explains away these various investigations and lawsuits and allegations by saying, Hey, they're just coming after me the way they are trying to keep you down. And it's not policy based, there is a racial component to it, a cultural component to it, uh, uh, ideological component to it. But broadly speaking, it's this idea that somebody else is getting ahead at my expense. And he is fighting for me. He is giving us, he is giving voice to my feelings of, of, uh, disaffection

Speaker 2:

Donald Trump's, uh, white house, chief of staff. Kelly is, is that's part of that is in your book that, um, he bought a book that was written by mental health professionals. Um, that basically warn that president Trump was psychologically unfit for the job. And then in your book, he tells you that he used it as a guide in dealing with the president.

Speaker 4:

Well, he told other people this, right, John Kelly was the second chief of staff at the white house. And he was so perplexed by this commander in chief. He was trying to, to serve that he did by this book to try to understand the mental pathologies that he was dealing with in the president. He did tell people this was a helpful guide to him to try to understand Trump, try to figure out how to manage him, to try to work for him. And it tells you something. And this is something that he wasn't the only one who felt this way. A number of people who worked for Trump told us after he left office, all this research, by the way in this book has been done after he left office, nothing was held back while he was in office, which I know some people wondered about, but a lot of people after he left office told us that they too were concerned at the time cabin office would even debate each other. Is he crazy, crazy, or just crazy like a Fox. And so this is a common concern inside the halls of this, uh, presidency

Speaker 2:

And John Kelly. Also, he complained to Kelly, why, why are my generals not like German generals?

Speaker 4:

Exactly. And Kelly, a four star retired Marine general was stunned by this. He said, what generals do you mean the German generals in world war II? He says, well, those are the Nazi generals for Hitler. They tried to kill Hitler three times, you know? And Trump's like, no, no, no, no. And his view of the German general as he calls them is that they were phenomenally loyal. And that's what he wanted. And that's really an Anthem of the American system of an apolitical military. That, and is bothered, not just general Kelly so much but general Joe Dunford, who was the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, his successor, mark milli, any number of generals, one general Paul Silva even told him when Trump was pushing to have this military parade down the streets of Washington, that's not what we do. That's what dictators do. The general told Trump, which didn't convince them otherwise.

Speaker 2:

And by the way, they're talking about the Republican party. He's talking about if they come back to power about grilling and going after mark milli, correct.

Speaker 4:

That's exactly right. Millie to them has become a symbol of the opposition of the resistance. And, and Millie was appointed by Trump, but he found Trump. So disturbing that at one point he writes him a letter of resignation. Doesn't submit it, but writes a letter of resignation that we get hold of first time ever published in this book. And he says, remarkable things. I think you're doing grave damaged grave harm to this Republic. He writes, he says, you're rooting the international order. He says, he says, you don't understand or agree with the values that America fought for in world war II. It's an astonishing letter. I've never seen anything like it written to an American president before he didn't send it. Instead. He decided to stay in his job and quote, fight from the inside as he put it to his staff, not to out disobey legal orders, but to try to maintain the integrity of the us military and keep it from being used as a political paw.

Speaker 2:

We're not, we're not gonna get a second round like that right there. Isn't going to be other people in the white house next time. If there is a next time that are gonna be in the position to moderate president Trump,

Speaker 4:

This is why this book is important. It's not just a work of history, but actually in some ways, uh, you know, a live action, uh, account that will tell us what the next term might be like. And one of the things that we were told by a, a senior national security official, which was really interesting is that Trump learns, he learns to adapt, not he learns an informational sense, not in a, he's not a policy Maden by any stretch. He still doesn't really understand healthcare as he wants admitted, but he learns how to make things happen the way he wants to. So this national security advisor was in the oval office almost every day for quite a while, compared him to the Velo Raptor in Jurassic part. And you remember in Jurassic park, the velociraptor, this very scary scene, the kids are hiding in the, uh, industrial kitchen behind the closed door. And the velociraptor has learned how to open the kitchen door, handle something a dinosaur you would think would not be able to do. And this national security advisor liken Trump to the velociraptor. He's learning how to use, uh, the appra of government in a second term. He wouldn't have a John Kelly. He would have more people like Mark Meadows who were more willing to go along with him who agreed with him who were more deferential.

Speaker 2:

That's a hell of an analogy. You, you li tell me what Lindsay Graham called Trump when you were talking to him.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. And Lindsay Graham of course ran against Trump for the nomination 2016 then turned around and became like his best buddy, at least in the Senate and chief ally in so many ways. But he told us at one point, he says, yeah, he's a lying mother effort, but then he added the

Speaker 2:

Podcast. You're allowed to do it.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. Okay. Well<laugh> podcast.

Speaker 2:

Anyway, we get it. We get

Speaker 4:

It. Pardon my French. But he says, he's a lying. But then he added, he's a lot of fun to hang out with. And Graham, like others seem to be taken in by this notion of access that he was there with the, the, the king, if you will. And he said that people were so taken with him and they were,

Speaker 2:

I

Speaker 4:

Don't 50 people on our side. He said,

Speaker 2:

We're smart people. I think we've been journalists for a while. This is what I don't get is that you and I will sit here and fur our, our eyebrows a little bit and talk about, or as Susan Glasser said on, on, uh, CNN sitting next to you in your interview there, she said, you know, S five alarm fire on democracy, right? Yeah. But Lindsay Grahams of the world and members of the Republican party, what they think that it's, it's not so serious. And that it's just torque up by the left wing media or they, they don't, they don't see this dire threat to the system.

Speaker 4:

No, they don't. They don't. They think this is, you say, this is all of the Democrats and their friends in the mainstream media, all just sort of like being political. Um, now having said that a lot of Republicans do share the same concerns about Trump. Even if they're not willing to say it, they have been cowed in silence, if you will. But there's an awful lot of Republican office holders anyway, who believe that Trump is dangerous, hope that he won't get the nomination, hope that he does go away and they can kind of reconstitute their party, but they're not willing to say so. And why aren't they willing to say so because those who do have gotten punished successfully, Trump controls the party. And so people like, uh, Liz, Chaney who loses her primary election and, and then nine others who voted to impeach him in the house in 20 20, 20, 21, uh, all of them practically are gonna be gone in the next Congress.

Speaker 2:

Is he going to run again? Are we going to have potentially another president Trump term, if, if anybody's able to survive that

Speaker 4:

Well, it's very possible. He runs again. I mean, a lot of this just depends on the investigations and so forth. He may view that as a motive to run again, either because he thinks he's gonna provide protection for him, uh, or because he thinks he can rally the base as a, as a victim of this persecution. Uh, so that may encourage him. We we'll know more after the midterm though, it depends on part on how well the Republicans do. If they do really well in the midterms, which historically they should. Trump may view that as a validation and a reason to run. If they don't, if some of the candidates he basically hand picked, go down and they cost them their chance to take over the Senate. For instance, there may be something of a blow back in the Republican party who begin to think, maybe he's not worth the effort.

Speaker 2:

And do you think America can, the system can survive another term of, of a president Trump, if he is able to get there?

Speaker 4:

Well, it'll be a challenge the system and, and, and he will reinvent the system in a different way. And Americans will have to decide if that's what they're willing to live with, because it's not, it won't be what we recognize. It'll be a different system.

Speaker 2:

All right, Peter Baker. Great to talk to you, Peter. Thank you so much. The book is called the divider by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. Thank you.

Speaker 4:

Thank you, Dana. Really appreciate it.

Speaker 2:

And that's how our backstory this week, thanks to Peter Baker. And Michaal CA the referendum now in Russian occupied areas is underway to determine the future of those regions. Kind. The votes to join Russia will be successful because they are Kremlin run and they're a sham and the international community will reject the results. President Putin. Where are you leading your country? Thanks for listening to backstory. I'm Dana Lewis and I'll talk to you against him.