BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

RUSSIA - "SHADOW STATE"

July 03, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 1 Episode 15
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
RUSSIA - "SHADOW STATE"
Chapters
00:03:52
Luke Harding / Shadow State Author
00:33:12
Colin Clarke/Soufan Center
00:44:14
Nigel Nelson/Sunday Mirror
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
RUSSIA - "SHADOW STATE"
Jul 03, 2020 Season 1 Episode 15
Dana Lewis

President Putin is here to stay until 2036.   Russia is deep in shadowy covert operations designed to drive a wedge between Western powers, and even divide Countries internally. 

Is Donald Trump in Putin's pocket?  Did Russia sponsor paid bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan?  Britains departure from Europe, encouraged and paid for in part by Russia?

And what will Putins never ending Presidency mean for The West?

In this edition of BACK STORY former Moscow Bureau Chief/Correspondent Dana Lewis talks to the author of "Shadow State" Luke Harding.  An incredible story about The Russian G.R.U. and operations across Europe and in America.  Plus the Steele dossier.

Colin Clarke, is a senior research fellow at The Soufan Centre and guides us through Putin's sponsorship of 'cash for kill' on American troops and the astonishment President Trump has taken no action. 

And Nigel Nelson, The Political Editor at The Sunday Mirror on why a British intelligence committee report on Russian interference in BREXIT is under lock and key.






Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

President Putin is here to stay until 2036.   Russia is deep in shadowy covert operations designed to drive a wedge between Western powers, and even divide Countries internally. 

Is Donald Trump in Putin's pocket?  Did Russia sponsor paid bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan?  Britains departure from Europe, encouraged and paid for in part by Russia?

And what will Putins never ending Presidency mean for The West?

In this edition of BACK STORY former Moscow Bureau Chief/Correspondent Dana Lewis talks to the author of "Shadow State" Luke Harding.  An incredible story about The Russian G.R.U. and operations across Europe and in America.  Plus the Steele dossier.

Colin Clarke, is a senior research fellow at The Soufan Centre and guides us through Putin's sponsorship of 'cash for kill' on American troops and the astonishment President Trump has taken no action. 

And Nigel Nelson, The Political Editor at The Sunday Mirror on why a British intelligence committee report on Russian interference in BREXIT is under lock and key.






Speaker 1:

Well , he's very good at and classic KGB style is sort of sniffing out weakness, identifying Cleveland isn't divisions in Western societies and trying to explain them , hi everyone, and welcome to backstory. I'm your host and the creator of backstory. Dana Lewis, as we speak, president Vladimir poop has cemented his rule in Russia until 2036 NUS seek that for life, at least until he's 83, the Kremlin managed to referendum vote , which by most observers accounts was a fraud votes, rigged Russians pressured to vote by employers, the illusion of democracy and the longterm promise of stagnation in Russia for years to come led by an old KGB spy whose head is in yesterday's cold war. Okay. So what, in this podcast, we try to answer a little bit of the, so what for the West, the answer is disturbing from American elections to Britain's departure from the EU Russian influence jaw dropping mind , bending meddling first, the U S let me read you what John Brennan said earlier this year, he served as chief counter-terrorism advisor to us , president Barack Obama, and was former director of the CIA quote.

dana lewis :

We are now in a full blown national security crisis by trying to prevent the flow of intelligence to Congress. Trump is a bedding, a Russian covert operation to keep him in office for Moscow's interests, not Americas unquote. Now could an American president be in the pocket of Russia. The idea sounds ridiculous. So preposterous, it's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea, but others think so in news , we like to begin not at the beginning, but with the latest president Trump recently suggesting Russia kicked out of the GA should be allowed back in.

donald trump:

I'm not for Russia, I'm for the United States. But as an example, if Latin mere Putin were sitting next to me at a tab instead of one of the others, and we were having dinner the other night in Canada, I could say we do do me a favor. Would you get out of Syria? Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of the Ukraine? Get out of Ukraine. You shouldn't be there. Just come on. I think I'd probably have a good relationship with them, or I'd be able to talk to them better than if you call somebody on the telephone.

dana lewis :

And this, while there are reports that Russia's G R U military intelligence put out paid bounties in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers. This came from intelligence briefings to Trump. It was leaked to the New York times and others, but it came from us intelligence reaction. Here's democratic for us, president Joe Biden, Shocking revelation that if the times report is true, I emphasize again, is that president Trump, the commander in chief of American troops, serving in a dangerous theater of war has known about this for months, according to the times, and done worse than nothing. Not only is he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia or this egregious violation of international law. Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debating himself before Vladimir Putin. I'm quite frankly outraged by the report. And if I'm elected president make no mistake about it, glad ever Poot will be confronted and will impose serious costs on Russia. Okay . Now let's start to roll back from the headlines and remember just because you're paranoid, that doesn't mean you're not being followed. You can write a book on the Russia, Trump conspiracy theories. In fact, we need an expert author journalist to walk us through it all. And we have one on backstory. All right , joining me now is Luke Harding. He is a journalist a writer. He was a correspondent in Moscow around the time that I was at correspond .

Speaker 4:

He works for the guardian newspaper and he's just written a great book called shadow state. Luke. Thanks for talking. Any doubt in your mind that Donald Trump was pushed into office by the Kremlin ? Uh , no . That that's the short answer. I think every single American intelligence agency , um , has concluded that Russia Bladimir Putin , uh , helped Donald Trump win in 2016. He was very much most guys candidates , uh, and Robert murder . The special prosecutor said the same in his report last year, which I actually, I have a few problems with, but what was very clear was that Muller talks about sweeping and systematic interference, but by Russia, and this was a kind of multi level thing that was traditional espionage, all that Ngoc intermediaries who are buzzing all around the sort of Trump people. And of course there was a huge social media campaign, which Miller laid out involving trolls sort of professional Russian state bloggers sitting in some his back pretending to be real Americans when, of course they weren't.

luke harding:

Um, but, but actually the camaraderie of that is, is that that operation was viewed in Moscow as a terrific success. Uh , and I've got no doubt that the Persian and his kind of team or of spies and hackers and sort of troll bots will be back if they're not back already in time for November to try and keep jumping in the white house. Why? Well, because I think they see them as, as a pretty damaging guy. I mean, we have these little care person isn't responsible for all of America's woes , but he's, he's not responsible for, for the term while we've , we've seen recently ever black lives matter or , uh , you know , Trump's response to the coronavirus epidemic or so on . But what he's very good at in classic KGB style is sort of sniffing out weakness, identifying cleavages and divisions of Western societies and trying to explode them. And , um, Trump is perfect for that because , um, in my , to my mind, there's no doubt that America is much reduced on the international stage. It's , it's more America alone than America first. Um, and some, some of the long held strategic goals of the KGB throughout the cold war have , have come to pass. For example, the U S now has pretty lousy relations with, with Germany , uh, w w with France, with the European union , uh , which Trump seems to regard as a kind of enemy , uh, while at the same time falling over of autographs and desperate . So, yeah,

dana lewis :

I mean, honestly, a lot of, a lot of your books seems like a ridiculous, a ridiculous farfetched fiction book. Uh , if we didn't already know that it's not, and that we are living a very strange area ,

luke harding:

Dana , that's so true. And , and, and you , I sort of almost, almost sort of thing , you know, why, why write novels when, when our reaction , it says strange and disturbing and gruesome , uh, and containing shocking incidents. And , and, you know, I, I never planned to write three, or I think I've done four books on Russia now, but it just so happens that , that Russia , so playing this outsize role in international affairs, which is disproportionate to its economy, small , uh, or its real reach, but it, what it's very good at is it's good at spying. And it's good at these kind of crude, clumsy, bald . Um, you know, we don't care if you, if you catch us all operations light ,

Speaker 5:

I ask you about that because you, obviously, the first part of the book is about Salisbury and the poisoning, a nerve agent of Sergei scribble for people who don't remember. And he was a former GRU spy who then was given over and in a prisoner swap, he was released from prison. He settled in

Speaker 4:

The UK, suddenly something bad was wiped on his, his door of his house. And he almost died along with his daughter. And you paint a picture of a spice service, which by the way, the GRU is much bigger than the FSB. I mean, this is the one that's sows discord carries out assassinations in Europe. You paint a picture.

Speaker 5:

Sure. Have a GRU that , um ,

Speaker 4:

Is not exactly while notorious is, is not very , uh, not very effective and bungled that assassination. Well , well , that's right. I mean, I think you have to be sort of careful what tone you use when talking about the screw pile , um, assassination.

Speaker 5:

I thought you were going to tell me I'd better be careful about the tone I used when talking about the GRE .

Speaker 4:

Well, I mean that Diana that's , that's a kind of that's to do with your own kind of personal risk assessment. But , but no, my point, my point is, is, is many that that's , I mean, I, I compare the GRU Russian military intelligence to instant relief, but shambling Golem . In other words, it's, it's pretty dim, but if it's it's ginormous fist , if it comes down the street and it smashes your house, then that that's it, that is a sort of terrible thing. And so certainly the, the, the GI you assassins, and we now know there's this top secrets unit based in Moscow, that's been doing a lot of this stuff. Um, it, it it's, it's got a rather promising name. It's it's its units, I think two nine one five, five. Uh, and it has, it's basically building a Northwest Moscow and it's the sort of diversionary unit of, we think maybe 15, 20, 25 offices who like in the couple of times was sort of sent behind enemy lines sudden they were hanging out in the French Alps, traveling to Switzerland shadowing, American ambassadors , um, going to Bulgaria to [inaudible] two of these, two of these kinds of assassins from this unit slew into Soulsby using fake Russian passports, which said that AM's a Petro from the sheriff. And in fact, we now know that they were called Mishkan , uh , and Chapeak um, and yeah, I mean,

Speaker 5:

Public publicly on CCTV video that was released then by the prime minister, Theresa May at the time.

Speaker 4:

Well, that's right. And there's , there's a kind of, I mean, when do you try and tap it ? What happened in Seoul spray? Um, uh, in , in spring of 2018, I mean, it's clear that there were not very good spies and in fact that target survive and another woman , uh , British women don't status tragically died , um, after picking this stuff up by, by accident. But , uh , at the same time, it is quite offensive . I mean, they were carrying a nerve agent. It's the first time that nerve agent has been deployed , uh, in, in Europe since the second world war and the civilian area. Um, and I think ultimately that the message of Saulsbery from Moscow to London was a kind of gigantic V sign that kind of appeals to the British government to MSX the British to the spine service. But, but ultimately I think what sells me was all about was reminding people inside Moscow, that if they buy people, I mean, the Russian and leads and people inside Russian security agencies, that if they blabs the America is about 2016. And Trump about Russia's secret operations that the long hand of , of Moscow will catch them maybe some years later. Uh, and when they're not looking, it will smash them from behind. And it's a pretty chilling message. And I think quite an effective one,

Speaker 5:

A former, a very high ranking intelligence official on the American side told me technically that doesn't necessarily break one of the unwritten rules because scribble was still considered to be one of theirs. But these bounties that were placed on American soldiers in Afghanistan and intelligence that GRU was, was paying cash to kill , uh , that does absolutely cross over red lines in this unwritten code.

Speaker 4:

Would you, what would you comment on them? Well, I mean , I think that's a really interesting question data , but I also think that , um , I'm not sure the rules are the rules anymore. I , I fear we may be in some kind of post rules age, and in a way to understand what Russia Putin does. You have to try and figure out what, how Vladimir Putin thinks and his thinking is absolutely KGB. Uh, it's , it's zero sum. What's bad for the West. It's good for Russia and America as before, as , as in Soviet times is the main enemy. And , um, there's a kind of famous quote from Lennon who said that, that, that Moscow relations with the West where a state of partial war that's how, how Putin sees it. He sees himself in a kind of semi war with America, and Afghanistan is just an extension of that. Uh, and this, this is all grudge driven. He remembers the Soviet humiliation and Afghanistan in the 1980s, when the CIA excuse me, to supply the Mujahideen with stinger missiles, and then a lot of Soviet soldiers were killed. He thinks in his conspiratorial way that America is trying to remove him from power and interferes and rushes internal affairs and so on. And it's this paranoia , um, and , uh, uh , sort of sense of, of, of victimhood , which was drives what Russia does internationally. And if they can outsource a murder operation to a few Taliban operatives that they will do that. That's, that's what the GRU does.

Speaker 5:

So you believe it has the hallmarks of the, of the GRU it's it's believable intelligence, and you believe in the end, you keep saying Putin, you believe that Putin has a , would have to approve something like that or approve the Salisbury poisoning. Do you believe in both cases let's think of Guinness Dan first, do you think that he would have been ,

Speaker 4:

I don't know . I think that's right. I mean, it , it's not that Putin , um , makes every single decision in the Russian Federation, big country unwritten 48 million people, 1213 time zones, of course not. But what you have to understand is that both inside the spy agencies and inside government, there is a sort of absolutely Soviet bureaucratic culture where if something difficult needs to be decided, position has got to the top. And when you're talking about extra territorial assassination of, of people like script Paul or Alexander nipping yang , I killed with a radio. I took a cup of tea London in 2006 or a bouncy operation to try and rub our American soldiers in Afghanistan. That then, then basically only Poussin camp can authorize that because if it goes wrong, no one wants to take responsibility. Um, and, and you just, without being too macabre, you just look at the GRU and they have a very high turnover of, of directors. Uh, and I think the last two, or maybe the last three have died very rapidly and mysterious circumstances.

Speaker 5:

The, the, the head of the GRU who was in charge , uh , during Salisbury , uh , suddenly came down with an illness and passed away. And

Speaker 4:

62 and 60 something

Speaker 5:

Feeling was by gee , are you members that, I mean, he was, that was a message to everybody else. You bungled an operation and you're out, you're out.

Speaker 4:

I think it's, we have to be Catholic. You know, we, we , we don't know for sure, but one of the people I interviewed in my book shadow state is Victor Savara who himself, after the GI year , he was a star , uh , military foreign intelligence guy based in Switzerland who defected back in 1978. And as far as I know, he's the only GRU person who will discuss this sort of secretly. And I told you about the death of eager Karaba he was called , um, dot , dot , dot , as you say, at the age of 62, and Savara said, I said, you know, what are you being bumped off? And Sabera said, well, you know, it's speculation on my part, but everybody inside the GRU will understand 125% that he was murdered. And he just said, they know the nature of this organization. In other words, it's , it's a sort of brotherhood. It's a kind of secret fraternity, but it's also a place where , uh, if you mess up there, there is no forgiveness.

Speaker 5:

We talk about Salisbury. We talk about Afghanistan. Those places are far away, but people don't realize that in your book, you also talk about the GRU , hacking the DNC and then giving that to Wiki leaks . So, I mean, they've had direct impact on the,

Speaker 4:

On Hillary Clinton's campaign. And again, it comes back to Trump being elected. Yeah. I mean, I mean, that's right. I mean , the jail , you are the heart of this. We know there were two hacking teams, one from the FSB w w which is primarily the domestic intelligence service in Russia. The other from GRU, which has a global mandate and traditionally war and complex and sabotage, but has, has gotten into hacking in the last decade and Sandy American intelligence to being tracking , uh, these hackers quite closely served the breaths . And, and actually, you just have to read the motor report to see what happened, which was , uh , GRU offices, technical people based both, both of the main building and Moscow, and that kind of tower hard , hard in early 2016, systematically hacks into the DNC with , with the results that we know. And, and they , um, they also set up this fake persona Gustafer that was interacting with, with very many American jealous and of leaking stuff to try and sabotage and block the votes . It was, it was pretty , um, affective . And I think what's interesting. I mean, we talked about the spies being rather incompetent, but one thing that rather good at is that they understand America. They've learned English, whoever was writing the lands for crucifer sounded more or less like, like you do data pull , I mean, I'm Canadian now . I'm so sorry. Okay. Well, they sound North American, North American and quite a plausible way. And when someone cold called out do suffer and said, you're a Russian spy. He wrote back total fail, exclamation, Mark explanation . My explanation . And, and I guess my substantial point is this as a sort of cultural imbalance here that , you know, America , North America , uh, it's a language the world speaks and understands. It's a culture of Hollywood and movies that people get, whereas actually, Russia. So most people haven't worked there. I don't speak Russian is a kind of mysterious, far away land. And this has been instrumentalized by Russian spy agencies to their advantage. And you might say that that the U S was, was really taken for a ride by foreigners . It didn't understand four years ago.

Speaker 1:

We talk about the Steele dossier on Trump a little bit. And I'm surprised you went back to that because a lot of people have raised questions about it. Uh , he is a former British spy who put together a , a dossier , uh, with a number of different sources that you talk about at length in the book, not who the sources,

Speaker 4:

But you talk about how solid

Speaker 1:

His sources may be. And , um, and essentially the, the allegation is that there is compromise. There , there is the Russians knew that Donald Trump did something in a hotel room with a couple of prostitutes. And that, that is one of the , the , the colors that they have on the, on the highest office, in the land in America right now. And

Speaker 4:

In your book, you , you suggested it's still considered, or at least steal things

Speaker 1:

That it was never a proven wrong, despite Trump's denials. And it's still about 80 to 90% true .

Speaker 4:

Yeah, no, I mean, I think that's right. I mean, because, you know, I mean, Trump has, we know it's not a man with a great relationship with it , with the truth and because he denies something repeatedly and , and , uh , attacks whoever that , that doesn't actually make something inaccurate. So it wasn't discredited well, so I haven't actually talked to anyone who knows Russia, who either lived there, or what , what does you and I did as correspondence or who worked for, I've obviously talked to various people in foreign detective sentences who don't think that the FSP has a file on Donald Trump. Um, which if it's in paper, form is bigger than your house and on my house, but together, I mean, Trump first visited Soviet Moscow back in 1987 . There's no doubt the KGB spied on him when there were discussions about building a Trump tower and so on, and checking sergeants were spying on him and his wife, his then wife , uh, Czechoslovakia,

Speaker 5:

No living in Russia. That's that's routine. If you are a foreigner, especially a high profile profile, one like Donald Trump, or you're a journalist, or you're a businessman. If you go to a hotel room or you go out somewhere, you are most likely going to be videotaped.

Speaker 4:

Yeah . If you, if you stay in the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton that Italian in Moscow, where president Obama stayed on you are a well known, well, very well known American businessmen, then everything will be recorded. Anyway. I mean, it's just what , it's, what the FSB does is what the KGB did. And also, I know from personal experience, I mean, I spent four years in Moscow as the garden's correspondent from 2007, 2011, we had a series of really spooky, nasty break-ins by the FSB , into our apartments, where they move stuff around and they left stupid clues that anybody could find open windows. And I talked to the British embassy and I said, look, what's going on? And they said, well, confidentially. Yeah. At CFSB they say they treat them Americans the same way, diplomats the breasts as well. Unless

Speaker 5:

When I was, when I was there, the American diplomat told me how Ray on a regular basis, he used to come home and there would be something left in the toilet, or there would be a cigarette burning in the ashtray. And the message ,

Speaker 4:

You know, we are on you, we are watching you all the time. We're watching you all the time. And basically they said that your flashes, your apartment is bugged . And I said, well, what about the bedroom? Well , I said, yeah, that's all set bugs . Then I said, well, you know, her Majesty's government do something about this. And they said, sorry, I'll chat. You don't have a cup of tea and a biscuit, you know, because basically, first of all, I never worked for them. And secondly, it would be counter productive because the FSP would break in again anyway, and just reinstall the bugs . So if, if they bothered with you and your friends and me, I imagined what they will do with people. Who've got real insides . It's funny like Trump. So, so ultimately Trump says, it's not true, but he's made multiple visits to Moscow. There'll be a very large file. There'll be a psychological profile of him, but his weaknesses of, of , um, you know, w w read out of his phone calls and so on. Um, and I mean, Trump could tonight , but it's that it's , I mean, with a few caveats. Yeah. I mean, I don't think the dossier is immaculate. It was raw intelligence produced, produced as speed. But I think the basic premise, the basic pillar is that the Russians wanted Donald Trump to win. It had been cultivating for some time . It's true. Uh, and I think the kompromat is, is there's definitely kompromat whether it's two prostitutes or three or something else, it's the best explanation for why Trump behaves the way he does with Putin. And he doesn't

Speaker 1:

No , the maze , you sort of did the jump in here though, but you have every meeting being recorded and constant surveillance. And yet when the two presidents meet, you have these tremendous gaps and where we're president Trump went to great lengths that the meetings with Putin were not transcribed the recording.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. And we also have the latest report from col Bernstein with CNN saying that , um, he , his understanding is that that , uh, Trump is unbelievably slavish folding before Poussin , whenever they speak on the phone, while at the same time being demeaning and pretty awful to get a Mac , all the German child said to Theresa May when she was British prime minister and so on. And clearly he doesn't want this out. And I suspect if , uh , if we ever get to see the transcripts of that conversations , that's actually, it won't be Vladimir Putin saying, you know, Donald's do what we say or we're released the tape. It's it's Putin using silky KGB flattering saying, don't rely on your true friend, your beset by enemies, by fake news, by the media, by people who hate you. But I recognize your greatness and I will stick lowly with you to the end. And this seems incredibly crude, but it seems to work with Trump. It seems to work with Trump and actually any self-respecting foreign dictator is , um , able to manipulate him

Speaker 1:

Page three Oh one, I'm going to read your book now, sorry, I'm stealing your book. A quid pro quo chapter as Trump geared up for the 2020 election. His relationship with Putin was still not fully explained. Russia didn't invent Trump or the isolationist forces he represented, but it certainly encouraged him that Putin had leverage of some kind over Trump seemed indisputable. So this isolation is forced. He represented. Then you, you start building a bridge between what Putin did in America , uh , in the election and with Trump to the Brexit vote in Britain and the election victory of Boris Johnson, which was linked.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I mean, there were, there were two, there are two major that's going on as operations in 2016, one was Trump, which we talked about and the other was actually supporting , uh , the Brexit side in the, in the referendum that we had here. Now, it's pretty clear that that, especially after 2014 in the morning crane, when the European union and by the sanctions on Russia, that's bruising was extremely clear keen to do anything that would damage the EU. Uh, and , uh, so, you know, brands , it was a kind of ideal vehicle for that. And as we've seen, it's a strange LA London from Paris and Berlin. It's, it's reduced diminished the UK. It's not great for our economy or international reputation and so on, but what I try and lay out and shadows fate States are the interactions between Russian spies based at the Russian embassy in London and key people from the levy U campaign, such as Aaron Banks, bristle , businessman, his psychic Andy Wigmore, and so on. And this is important because British politics, it's not the same sums of money as in, in , uh, North American politics and bang escape , almost 9 million pounds to the leave campaign. It's the biggest nation in British political history. And there's been a big question Mark, about where he got that money from. He has a Russian wife. He , uh, we nano , he , he visited the Russian ambassador on multiple occasions in the run up to the vote. He was offered gold deals by a friendly , uh, Russian tycoon from Siberia than a diamond deal than another gold deal.

Speaker 1:

Okay. So you're not, you're not the first person to raise any of these question marks. I mean, you, you do it very eloquently, but there was an all party investigation here, the report as we speak. So people don't understand that this is some kind of historical loose end . I mean, this is an ongoing discussion in the UK about what influence the Russians may have had over the Brexit campaign. And that report has been locked up in number 10, Downing street, prime minister, Boris Johnson wants to keep it secret. Why?

Speaker 4:

Well , um, we, we, we then in tiny , you know , because he basically stuffed the report on his sock , uh, in October of last year. And , um, as you say, it's kind of refused to publish it ever since. Um, but I think , um, I'm not expecting a kind of huge smoking gun by the way, from this report, but I suspect it's the sort of serious and discuss it document it's about 50 pages long, apparently with a secret annex, which lays out some of the ways in which Russia has tried to intervene, but it's politics

Speaker 1:

Unlikely , likely, likely Trump.

Speaker 4:

Well, yeah, that's part of it is that that's , um, this is actually a story that I kind of broke for the guardian last week, but Christopher Steele was one of the group of expert witnesses advise you to give evidence. And he , um, produced a sort of seven page strategic overview memo, which, which I've read. It's actually a very good document . Um, one accusation he makes is that the British government of, of Theresa May, who was prime minister at the time and, and Johnson, who was the British foreign secretary were basically warn , they were told in late 2016 that the Russians most probably had leverage over Donald Trump and instead of investigating or getting their best spies to try and chase this down and asking that the secret sources in Moscow, they threw a blanket over it and putting to steel because they were, they were terrified of Trump basically knowing what a notoriously volatile guy here is. Um, uh, but they were also afraid that if they investigated him, this, this might jeopardize the sort of post-Brexit trade deal between the U S and the UK and steals allegation. If you like is that they put party politics before British national security. Uh, and that's a pretty grave claim.

Speaker 5:

I want to just ask you about this referendum. Um, obviously we , we now have a , a president in Russia who's going to be there potentially if he chooses to be

Speaker 4:

The usual 20, 36 til he's 83

Speaker 5:

Years old, I think president,

Speaker 4:

What , what does it matter?

Speaker 5:

First of all, for Russia, and a lot of people are saying it's just it's stagnation and it's , it's probably not very good news.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. I mean, there are sort of two, two broad aspects of this one is it's a disaster for Russia because Putin strikes me as Todd. Uh, I , I'm not even sure he necessarily wants to go on as long as 83, but essentially it's, it's a sort of, it's a soft dictatorship if you like , uh , political, real, genuine political opposition was extinguished long ago. Um, and he, as of today is effectively kind of president for , for life. I mean, he's going to out Brezhnev Brezhnev and outstanding Starlin . I think he doesn't Ivan the terrible Ivan , the tablets , you know , I have the travel there's somebody that he doesn't know. Um, but, but the point is that it's going to be more of the same. It's going to be this kind of phony political landscape. It's going to be a deeply corrupt often sort of brutally repressive regime. So that's not great for ordinary Russians. And then for the worst and for the West, it's, it means that we're going to have more of these misadventures that we've seen in the U S UK and across Europe , um, over the next few years, because the brain is still there. And as we discussed, he, he sees the West as the enemy and is doing everything in his power to undermine. And it , so we're going to get more exotic murders down the road . We're going to get more election interference , not just independent , but beyond a clandestine support for far right. Xenophobic, populist parties , um, and, and , and more kind of social media stuff , um, which never really kind of let up. So , um, I , it's a pretty depressing day for anyone who believes if it's possible to still believe in democracy and transparency, transparency, and, and just in the idea that government should change that it's a good thing that you change your leaders from time to time.

Speaker 5:

Yeah. I , I covered him in, in the year 2000 on , on the night where everybody thought the computers were going to crash on Y two K is suddenly we had the surprise announcement by Boris Yeltsin. I cannot believe we're talking about it 20

Speaker 6:

Years later, and we're going to be talking to him about president Putin for a long time. Lou Harding , a great journalist and the book shadow state. I think , uh , if, if you don't know about a president Putin, you will certainly know more about him after reading it. And I think it also ties how it is affected the West, whether it be the United Kingdom or America. It's a great book. Thank you. Thank you, Danny. Ready ? Real pleasure to talk to you. Thanks very much. And now let me

Speaker 1:

Ticket to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and introduce you to Colin Clark. He is a senior research fellow at the Soufan center, a resource and forum

Speaker 6:

Or research analysis, strategic dialogue related to global security issues and emerging threats. Call them first, next round .

Speaker 1:

If I can ask you a few

Speaker 6:

National security analyst , you wrote were surprised by recent allegations of Russian bounty payments to the Taliban and surgeons who killed Americans. You're saying very few were surprised. Yeah, I don't think many were surprised that this is something the Russians are capable of. I mean, this is the same country that , uh, sent agents into the UK to , to poison , uh , lithium Yanko that has conducted assassinations in Germany. So , uh, you know, I don't, I don't think the Russians are constrained in any way by international law for operate within the kind of confines of contemporary international relations. This is well within their wheelhouse to do so that the main surprise has been the fact that this made it into the presidential daily brief yet nothing was done about it. That's where the surprises , not that the Russians are capable of.

colin clarke:

Is there generally in the sort of intelligence community and analysts , uh , dismayed that president Trump has kind of passed this over now as saying , Well, it wasn't really substantiated intelligence. There was some debate and therefore we're not going to take any action. Yeah , there's just , that's probably an understatement. It's just yet another example of the president being soft on Russia. It seems like Pune is able to act with impunity , uh , that he's treated with kid gloves while other world leaders , uh , I mean more often than not, you hear Trump taking the hard line on Angola , Merkel and other allies yet he talks about Putin and Kim Jong glowingly. So it's just a bit bizarre. And here, let me just be clear. We're talking about very, very serious allegations. We're talking about bounty payments on us soldiers. I don't think it gets any more serious than that.

Speaker 1:

I know the general Patraeus, the former head of the CIA has come out and he said, you know, if true , uh, and it is certainly been leaked far and wide for the New York times or the Washington post and more , uh, and then basically confirmed by the white house that it was in some ways

Speaker 6:

And briefings whether Trump read them or not. But if true, then this is not normal statecraft. This is just breaks all of the written rules, the unwritten rules. And he, and he said that it should even go to NATO because it was, it was just not American troops. It was also British troops and it should go to NATO for possible action. It is that serious. It's that serious. But again, let , let me just say it is well without a well outside the bounds of international law, but this isn't the first time the Russians are doing this , uh, you know, poisoning people on British soil as they've done with impunity and conducting assassination campaigns in Europe, right. We know who Putin is. He reminds us very frequently. Uh, when is the West, the United States, NATO, et cetera , going to get serious about pushing back against what the Russians are doing when Putin ,

Speaker 5:

I guess some people would make an argument that , uh, the killing of Litvinenko who was a former

Speaker 6:

Or member of the intelligence service in Russia, or the poisoning in Salisbury, which, which was somebody who had left the GRU and had worked for Russia and was considered to be a trader that's a lot different than targeting foreign nationals , um , and Americans in Afghanistan. Well, it's also being done on British soil, right? This isn't happening. And absolutely , uh, and it's not like it could be contained as we saw just to , uh, you know, that the targets themselves there's second, second order effects, but it's, again, it's all part and parcel of this , uh, you know, Russian tactics to push the envelope and to take as much as we'll give them. And that's in the cyber domain, it's in the use of mercenaries, like the Wagner group , uh, in the middle East and in Africa, it's in the blatant use of disinformation to metal in elections all over the world. So when , when Putin smells weakness , uh , he becomes more aggressive. It's like blood in the water for a shark. And so, you know, constantly reassuring him and saying, well, I believe him. He , he told me that I didn't do it. Oh, okay . Um, it's just baffling to me. It almost feels like we're living in an alternative universe,

Speaker 5:

Was a lot of people. And, you know, before I talked to you, we played a sound bite of , of president Trump speaking on board of air force one where he said, essentially the truth

Speaker 6:

Putin should be back in the GA because then he could talk to them . Uh , you know, he could, he could, he should , he could say, Hey, you know,

Speaker 5:

Bladimir get out of Ukraine and get out of Syria and that it would be better to have that

Speaker 6:

Dialogue with him. Yeah. It sounds like a great strategy. Just ask him to leave. I'm sure it'll work. Um, look, you know, all seriousness, every time the Russians sense, a power vacuum or an opportunity, they seize it. Right. Um, we've seen it in Syria. We've seen it in Libya. We've seen it in Ukraine, Crimea, the list goes on and on. Uh, and , and so , uh, under , at what point will we craft a coherent strategy to deal with Russia, you have,

Speaker 5:

And quite a bit about Syria and the Russians we know are there and , and have been for a long time, Libya, they've moved to make fighters in there. And ,

Speaker 6:

Uh , and they are interfering in Libya. But one of the interesting things that you're now writing about is the fact that white supremacist training is taking place in Russia in st . Petersburg. Do I have that right, indeed. Uh, that was part of the designation of the rim, the Russian Imperial movement. Uh, there was training camps in st. Petersburg where Scandinavians and Germans were being allowed to train , uh, no violent premises. And then back into Europe , uh, we know that the, the leader of a Neo Nazi group called the base, who's an American , uh, Rinaldo bizarro also goes by the name of Norman spear is alleged to be st Petersburg. Uh, and that's only what we know about , uh, you know, my, my gut instinct tells me that the Russians are behind a lot more , uh , of fueling violent white supremacy at a transnational level. And I think with these types of things, there's always a lag effect, right? They're laying the groundwork now. And , uh, we're, we're only likely to see what we're likely to see is some real , uh , serious issues in the future going forward. Many of which my guess is, will be tied in some way to Russia. Although they're operating in the shadows, I don't get why

Speaker 5:

Country that lost 30 million people to the Nazis in world war II would now be trained ,

Speaker 6:

Uh , you know, Nazi groups in st . Petersburg, maybe the same reason why, you know, British protesters marching to protect the Winston Churchill statue would give Nazi salutes. People don't have a sense of history. Um, and , and it serves their current cause. Uh , there there's been a melding of ideologies. We see it in this country. Uh, there's a kind of blurring of the lines all across the board. And so it's, it's quite myopic. I agree, especially when you consider about the potential for blowback , uh, but at the same time, it serves an immediate need.

Speaker 5:

The need is to what disrupt the West and send those people into the U S and into Britain and into Western Europe,

Speaker 6:

Absolutely. To disrupt the West yeah. To, to cause. And so , uh , havoc and chaos , uh, which they've been doing , uh, and as the West becomes more preoccupied with combating violent white supremacy, there's less time to keep an eye on what the Russians are doing and they're near abroad and elsewhere. Look, we have finite resources in the United States here. Uh, we're being crippled by COVID. Uh, the economy is bottoming out. And so there's only so many things we can deal with that. Uh, and I think as we are consumed domestically and internally , uh, you know, that opens up opportunities for a whole range of adversaries chief among them Russia, and as an American,

Speaker 5:

I mean , a lot of Americans don't watch geopolitical events too much there they're consumed with all of the things that you mentioned, including a pandemic yeah .

Speaker 6:

At home . What does Russia get out of this? I mean, why are they trying to destabilize America? Well, I think many people don't realize , uh, that, you know , revenge could be a significant component of this. Putin has gone on record saying that the collapse of the Soviet union is one of the greatest tragedies of lifetime. Uh, you know, I mean, if you look back to how the United States acted after the cold war , um , in many ways, some would argue that we rubbed it in , in Russia's face when we could have been a bit more helpful , uh, back to what the 1990s were like in Russia was the wild West. Uh , it was a free for all. And so the Russians haven't forgotten that we've pushed NATO up to their doorstep. Uh, and , and now the tables are turned a little bit where the Russians were able to kind of really, you know, take some actions on the cheap, I would say as well, this is a great return on investment for them, disinformation campaigns and , and the , the amount of instability that that's caused in the United States and in Europe , uh , they're having a field day with this and it's easy to do

Speaker 5:

Mean on the referendum result. I don't think anybody was surprised. And we knew that the Kremlin was going to put the fix in no matter what, but I mean, here you have

Speaker 6:

A Putin potentially in the Kremlin until 2036, if he decides to stay. Yeah. I mean, again, no surprise that he's kind of gaining control and consolidating power within Russia. Uh , what it, what it does signifies that, you know, the U S Russian relationship , uh , will continue to be quite Rocky. Uh , if he's at the helm , uh, you know, there's a lot of talk about Putin is 10 feet tall, and he's pinned actual chess . That , that might be going a bit too far for me. I call it the kitchen sink approach. I think the Russians do a lot of stuff. They throw a lot of stuff against the wall, and then some of it's , they figure out what sticks and then they do have that. Um , you know, we tend to focus on that stuff. We don't focus on things that don't work. And I still think when push comes to shove, you know, conventional military battle States is still the world's , um, you know, predominant superpower , but that's not the way Wars are fought in 2020 Wars are now being fought through disinformation through the mercenaries, through cyber attacks. Uh, really Russia it's figured that that's, you know, an asymmetric advantage that they've enjoyed and will continue to , to hone those skills

Speaker 5:

Clark at the Soufan center. Thanks, Colin. I think you're going to have lots to write about b ecause Putin's not going anywhere.

Speaker 6:

Yeah. Thanks for having me in London.

Speaker 5:

Nigel Nelson is the political editor at the Sunday mirror. Nigel. How are you today?

nigel nelson:

I'm all right . How are you, Dana ? I'm very well.

Speaker 5:

Well, I'm puzzled by the fact that

Speaker 6:

There was this report, Parliament's intelligence and security committee on Russian interference. John Boris Johnson came into power, the election. They didn't

Speaker 7:

Want to release it under the government of Theresa May. And then he is come . And he has said, well, in the, in the near future, we will release the report and it sits to this day, months, and months and months locked up. Why what's going on? Well, I mean, that is the, is the great mystery. I mean, no one seems to know that the report was finished in March, 2019 one suspects, there must be something embarrassing to the conservative party in it. But even the then chairman who conducted the report , Dominic greed says that there's nothing hugely that they should be worried about. Um, and he can't understand why it's not being published either. The problem with this, with this is unlike other parliamentary is to let committee the intelligence and security committee reports directly to the prime minister. So until the prime minister, that gives permission for a report to be published, there's nothing they can do. And that's the situation we've been in for more than a year. Now, there's obviously speculation, a variety of conspiracy theories . One of them is that it will contain information about donations from , uh , Russians to the Tory party, which would embarrass Boris Johnson. Another is that we are, we know that the Russians did try to interfere with the EU referendum back in 2016 now , um, that it , that was an objective of Russian foreign policy. The one thing they want to do is to stabilize the you the

dana lewis :

Well, I mean, that would be a big deal. I mean, that would Delit de legitimize potentially

nigel nelson:

The Brexit vote well, he would rather dependent on it . The way that the, the word has been put out is that yes, they tried to do it, but no, they didn't succeed. Now, should this report turn around and say, actually it did have an effect on the Brexit vote and bear in mind, the Brexit is only won by 52% of 48%. That would be a serious revelation. But the impression one gets from someone like Dominic group , having a former attorney general, who headed up the commitment is that kind of bombshell is not in that report.

Speaker 5:

People are suggesting it, it may say less about the British government and may, may say more about Trump being compromised and that they don't want to embarrass the U S president, especially at a time

Speaker 7:

Even Brexit when the UK is trying to negotiate a trade deal with America. Yes, that's possible too. But then, I mean, we've had a lot of information coming out from NATO strap com HQ based in Riga, which monitors , uh , Russian social media and the various bots that are being put out. They've already said that the , the Russians did try and influence the 2016 U S election. Or there was something like 400 and thousand retweets of , um , president, president Trump's Twitter feed in the final months of the U S election . And again, all that was monitored by nature. Now that information is in the public domain. Yes, it's possible the , um , IRC came out with further information, but again, one doesn't get the impression from what has been said by Dominic grieve publicly. That's the case.

Speaker 1:

I don't want to be a conspiracy theory guy and I, I'm not that kind of reporter, but I mean, there was a lot of evidence of Russia

Speaker 7:

Just trying to, so , uh,

Speaker 1:

Up in the West, wherever they can. I mean, do you think that they were heavily involved in Brexit and do you

Speaker 7:

Boris Johnson,

Speaker 1:

Some things in his closet that he doesn't want out of it ?

Speaker 7:

Well, I mean , I mean, certainly I think that they made an attempt to influence the Brexit vote because obviously it was in Russia's interest to try and destabilize the EU. And in that sense that Russian foreign policy has not changed since [inaudible] was a young KGB officer in East Germany, or those are the days when we think that he was probably there to help support the bottom line of gas . So those kinds of foreign policy objectives seem to be a constant with Russia, whether the Soviet days or in modern Russia, the question obviously is in the event that they were , that they may have influenced the Brexit vote. Yes, that is, that is a real problem. But as I say at the moment, there seems to be no indication, the report contains that kind of thing. And the official line of the British government is, Oh, well, we never quite got around to it last year. And then this year, the report is not published because we'd been in lockdown. COVID-19 there were more important things to consider. Well , it's a good excuse not to publish it as well. Exactly. I'm not sure. I'm not sure , quite sure actually, by that, the other thing that is a bit suspicious about, and this is obviously, maybe in the interest of our intelligence agency is that , um, the ISC is the only committee that is still not got its members since the 2019 general election. So there is a big question Mark over , why are they not actually getting us to this committee up and running? We're going to get to the stage where if it's not up and running soon, and this report is not published soon, the information that it contains, it'd probably be out of data anyway. And why would the committee not be up and running? Well, again, that is something that Boris Johnson hasn't actually explained. There is a question about , um, uh, whether or not they were doing their job of oversight as well as they should before the 2019 election. Now , of course, when it comes down to the intelligence ,

Speaker 1:

If I can just pause you there, because that's a big thing, you just talked about oversight, I mean, oversight of intelligence and foreign threats, and the fact that the committee is not meeting at all.

Speaker 7:

I mean, that seems to me to be a major gap, then it is a gap. I'm not the point I'm making. There is not any that they're not meeting then not even fall . And so pretty much all the other select committees were up and running earlier this year, they're meeting now by zoom is we're doing , um, but they are, but they are, they are back, they are back and running.

Speaker 1:

Let me ask you, lastly, you know, that president Putin has won this referendum and he's going to be on the scene , uh , you know, maybe longer than you. And I, I mean, he's going to be there until 2036 till he's 83.

Speaker 7:

Um , I'm wondering,

Speaker 1:

You know , president Putin , uh , probably wouldn't mind rejoining the [inaudible] or the GA president. Trump has talked about some kind of reproach,

Speaker 7:

You know, why not sit around with Putin and try and tell them , Hey, let's get out of the, you know, please get out of Ukraine and leave the Crimea, but that'd be a good conversation around the GA. Canada says no way. And lots of others do too. What do you think Britain's policy on it? Well, I think that , um, when the same position with Russia in a sentence , as we are with China , um , the both with president Putin and with China, we have got to do business with, I mean, certainly in the post COVID-19 world, but there are areas where we still have major problems. I mean , we still have not got over the poisonings in souls , which we know were motivated, organized by Russia. Um , we're now we're now having problems with the Chinese over the world . They're doing in Hong Kong, the clampdown on human rights over there. And so we'll probably review , um , Walway taking over our five G network, which was a decision that had been made, but now it looks like it'll be reversed, but we all have to live in the, in the modern world, whatever actually happens in the post COVID-19 world . And so we're still going to try and keep dialogue open with both Russia and China. It just means we just carry on not being terribly good. Friend ,

Speaker 1:

Bill Nelson, political editor of the Sunday mirror, thanks night . And that's our backstory on Russia, the shadow state, by the way, many things, Russia pushed hard on this referendum because the Kremlin fears, social unrest, as early as this full in Russia, people unhappy with COVID-19 and a lack of government support, failing businesses, rising inflation and oil

Speaker 8:

Prices have tanked publicly. The Kremlin says Putin is loved . Just look at his support in the referendum, which others say was a fraud, the truth as a way of bubbling up, even in Russia, I'm Dana Lewis. And please don't just listen to backstory once, but subscribe. And we're trying to grow our listeners if you share our links. That's awesome. Thanks and talk soon .

Speaker 9:

[inaudible] .

Luke Harding / Shadow State Author
Colin Clarke/Soufan Center
Nigel Nelson/Sunday Mirror