tv Putin Country CSPAN September 24, 2016 11:00pm-12:01am EDT
modern presidents are so obsessed with talking and campaigning and going places that they fail to talk about the estatstate of leadership that is implementing policy. in fact i start the book with a quote of thomas jefferson, the institution of the law is more important than making them. if you think of that leadership as three tests, getting the answer right, the policy right, communicating that and then implementing it the argument i makmade in this book is that
presidents spend so much time on communication that it leaves them little time to think about how they are going to implement the policies they are going to implement into that involves understanding something that in the business schools they call organizational capacities. in other words in the federal government is the piece of the federal government that you are getting this job to is a capable, is u it up to the job that you are asking the president to do. good evening everyone. welcome to the overseas press club of america.
i am the executive director and of course you know tonight is our birthright for the journey into the real russia. i'm just going to give you a brief promo before we get into the program. the foreign correspondents are dedicated to promoting and honoring the journalism. we hold both nights like the one tonight in the annual awards dinner and other programs. some of you here attended the union months ago where there were over 80 people that used to cover russia and the soviet union. we did that with the institute at columbia and we all know that covering the world has become ever more dangerous. that is why last year they joined the register the committee to protect journalists
and other advocacy groups and 95 news organizations to sign the principles protecting freelancers on the dangerous assignments. if you are not already a member, please consider joining a. of its applications on the table and we also have a website where it is easy to join. if you are 29 and under it is only $20. [laughter] now on to the program. the speakers here tonight hardly need any introduction. the senior correspondent for 23 years until 2011 and before that she was the state department correspondent for nbdepartmentcd chief correspondent in moscow for abc news. putin country is the second book.
the first was in baghdad. numerous awards including the journalism award by the international men's media foundation in 2003. but it was on to her before that. she won the award in 1998 that recognizes international environmental reporting. bill keller is the editor-in-chief of the martial project who worked for "the new york times" from 1984 to 2014 as a correspondent editor and columnist. as a correspondent he covered the collapse of the soviet union which we all know was a great time. and then also wrote about south africa. in 2003 to september of 2011 he does thwas the executive editore new york times."
>> we are going to chat for a while and then i will open up questions from the floor. if you see me going like this it's because i'm trying to figure out how much time we have left to squeeze in questions from the audience. i was struck the other day when i ran across this quote from the 2015 nobel prize winner which i'm going to read for starters and then put on the shelf. people demonize putin. they do not understand that there is a collection consisting of millions of people who do not want to be humiliated by the west. there is a little peace and every one. it seems to me that isn't a bad summary of your book. we ought to use it as a blurb on the paperback. let's leave putin aside for now and the start i heard you quoted
somewhere saying that we threw a dart at a map. if you did it was a lucky throw. >> it became clear to me when we were there in 92 when i went back and was traveling widely all the time that i was dropping in on places i wanted one place i could follow the evolution of peoples viewpeople's views and w people officials so that it wasn't just a cursory one issue trip. frankly it became much more important than i had imagined when in 2011 and 2010 when the opposition protests began in moscow and i think the western media focused entirely on moscow and was distorting.
if you were looking at -- if you were reading, forgive me, "the new york times," you would have thought the country was up in arms but in the provinces that wasn't the case. it's true people were scared or at least cautious. but also there is a bit of putin in everyone. people gave guided benefit of high oil prices and gas prices when he came in, he gave people a sense of economic prosperity for the first time but i'm jumping ahead. that was -- i didn't start thinking i would write a book but as it went on, it became clear that this was something that was missing from what people were seeing about russia.
it was middle russia, middle america. we have been focused too much as if washington was america and as we now know, there is a strange beast out there that we may not fully understand. understand. spin it one thing i was curious about, a little more isolated than the provincial cities because it was the home to the soviet nuclear program and had extra layers of security. >> it could have been anywhere. it could have been any number of places and i couldn't decide that as it turned out, it was a pretty good choice because i didn't just cover the city but the region and it had all o the
marks of detroit and pittsburgh, birmingham, everything all wrapped up. it had been the home of the soviet weapons. that hadn't been my intention initially, but it was a nice addition if you will. >> with a more conservative than you would find? find? >> guest: knofind? >> guest: node is actually the weapons program was quite isolated from the. they didn't know anything about it until 88, 89. people couldn't talk about it. >> give us an overview. what kind of a place is it?
>> it is an industrial city where the industry is in the center of town because in the early days it represented and became a great way to describe the effects of world war ii because it's on the far side so it was safe and it was where they send suspects of the germans to work because it was far away from so they could be collaborators. it's where the factories planned in order to build tanks during world war ii and when the population exploded people were in the unspeakable positions. it took a while for all of that to resolve.
and the legacy of that is there was a kind of pride. but it didn't make it more conservative actually. when they opened to the west did 92 and 93, there was huge excitement. it was like i described in the book going about a month every night they were in the communist party theater and every night they packed it out. 500, 600 people. not that they all came away saying yes, and they gave people american flags when they clicked smoking after a while. most of the women, and only a
few saying this is interesting. they were exploring ideas and that they had a delusional idea of what the west was and they had the answer to everything and if only russia could be like the west everything would be wonderful. it began to be more of what the rest was like. they felt betrayed that they were moving closer to the borders and relations were not going so well and that is where putin played on people's feelings. first of all they felt like
e*trade offers because they had delusional ideas about the west. second of all the began to treat ignoring it. it was a toxic combination. >> a lot of your characters including the most sophisticated of them come across as walking contradictions. you have a magazine editor that dresses like something out of vogue about something that they are aspiring you have a lot of characters who idolize western culture. he becomes more popular by the day. it is a total contradiction and one of the most poignant characters is someone who wants to make changes and he supports
passionately to make the necessary changes and you can't argue with them. you sort of reach a dead end. things have to stay the way they are and i think there's an element of putin may not be the best thing that came down the pike, but it could be worse and in fact what's going on now i hope i can go back. friends think i am unlikely thereabout on the one hand you do have this very strict vertical where it would appear anyone who goes against him and
anybody that puts their head against it becomes too popular their head gets chopped off. but there is a very nasty war going on and the governor's office and it's all about power. it's all about money and ideology. you think putin is bad it could be a lot worse we could have ultra nationalists here and one of the things i kept saying is where are the red lines. where is that the kids will say no the kids are utterly apathetic and putin is very
cleverly played the internet they can download whatever music they want, whatever movies they want. the economy was doing pretty well until 2012, 2014. now he's turned it around saying the economy isn't doing so well. it's because of the west and we are going to become self-sufficient because of this and stronger. there's no evidence of that and it's a big challenge, so we will see if that happens. on the other hand, someone who says i don't believe in god suddenly gets a sentence. why is he singled out for posting this and if there's any
scientific. there wasn't as much presence as some other towns because they were highly academic. it was caught and had no ideas to be a committee activist. a lot of missionaries. they did a lot early on. they were the first ones to set up any kind of addiction centers. they were better than the state ones. so they made a lot of inroads and then the church earned a lot
of money because it was getting tax-free cigarettes and liquor and managed to at the end gradually it became popular and the right thing to do if you wanted to influence the right people to support a church and build a church and that has continued. they asked the kids in his class how many of you are believers and two thirds raised their hands and said how many of you can name the four evangelists? two out of 40.
but that isn't to say that it is necessarily powerless by any means. it is a knee-jerk protestant churches had a fair go in the '90s it is hard for them to open up new churches. the orthodox church increasingly is becoming more sophisticated in its propaganda and they have a tv program now so it's building. >> wha >> what does the programming look like? probably boring. >> i wanted to hear you talk more about this in part because putin has been an article in
strategy that we are trying to show homosexuality among the youth of russia during the olympics what's it like? spec probably better than most of you would think that not as great a life as they would like. and it's gotten more difficult. unquestionably. but there is one in particular a very popular well attended gay bar and restaurant where it is
packed and it has the best entertainment in town. the first night i didn't understand most of it but it was so funny and none of the words were in my dictionary. [laughter] and they were also very careful. they checked people, they make sure there are cameras in the bathroom. they don't want to be shut down. and curiously, i'm sure they could find if they want to tax police, anybody can find a reason to shut anyone down and they haven't.
they have a predilection for liking those things and so a lot of them are moving where it's more even better. it's possible if you want to adopt and have in the past where things were a little easier and people were afraid their kids would be taken away from them the law as it stands doesn't than homosexuality per se but that's probably i know many of you know all of this. it essentially means you can't talk publicly about homosexuality because a minor might hear it and so it shuts down any discussion. the upshot of it is everybody is back in the closet.
you don't say if eight years ago you might have said it worked or people might have knownit, now you've are much more careful about that sort of thing. and the interesting question is was there a feeling about americans or western europeans coming in and pushing the movement in russia many of my friends and acquaintances i got to know said to back off. you are assuming we can move as fast. remember it was illegal until 91, 92, i can't remember the year that it was.
the attitudes are very conservative even among liberal russians who i talk to who are away on the political end of the spectrum. i would say what do you think about this and it was unlike the conversations i had with my parents 40 years ago. the question is how hard to press because things were doing okay until people people were coming out and able to live openly until there were big demonstrations and everybody was pushing the agenda too fast for not just the government the populace at large.
>> was my favorit >> was my favorite characters in the book he was one of my favorites because he represents what i think of as a kind of peculiar dissident calculates how far he can go and ask off but doesn't give up. >> he was a forensic scientist. >> i want to leave a little room for people to ask questions.
>> i probably left his office and apartment more drunk than sober. but he had been a forensic scientist when the russian economy or the union broke apart he and his wife and doctor were making the equivalent of $10 a month and couldn't live on it so he became a funeral director and the first and only one and he was very good at it. and then they finally demanded more and more and he finally said no. the deputy was shot on the way out of the funeral business.
so eventually he went back to become the first and for a while the only expert in russia. you would think it wasn't exactly something that there would be a huge demand but eventually they began to call on him. politically sensitive cases, no way. he tried when kids were killed in the military coming young kids were killed in the military because of the hazing he investigated the cases very successfully and if there had been an "-open-quotes system, he would have won but the authorities came to him and said don't go any further. the judges were also told don't
stop people from talking in the '90s and even in the early. then after i had retired and was able to go back for a long period of time i kept going back tbackto do this for a week or a. i thought everything was sort of okay and then they called me and said it's not okay actually, you have to believe. they said didn't he want a bride and i said is there a way to solve this problem?
and he didn't pick up on it. he apparently had taken them from everybody else and is paying for that. then the next year i had similar problems but they didn't ask tony that time. they took me into the police station. they said they could get my kicy computer and see what was on it and friends are called in and have been called in and said she's a spy. she's a very nice woman but she is a spy. [laughter] nobody in their right mind would go there on her own dime.
they said i would be able to go back things are just getting worse. it's not getting better. the crackdown and people that are working on things that had nothing to do with politics for the most part. >> what would you be looking for? >> i would want to know what the kids are thinking. >> you have a chapter where it was the equivalent of a charter school. >> dot just privilege but smart. >> they didn't instill you with a lot of hope for the next generation. >> they either knew they could get out because they were brilliant scientists, computer types winning the olympiads for all of the subjects in russia
and they would go to moscow and the stanford or mit or oxford cambridge. they knew they had a way out. and they were quite patriotic. there was an element of putin in all of them. >> so you would want to find out what came o became of those kidd their attitudes changed. >> there is a class of businessmen i got to know a few members but they were very leery of me although they all have kids who are in school here as 50 grand a year there is a raging business in miami for
those that have bee bbs fair ani never got a good explanation from the state department. when somebody comes here and asks for a visa is pretty clear that if you deceive them, that child can have their citizenship revoked. they don't do that. there's a business in miami that deals with russian, translators take them to the hospital, they find them there for the birth and translate everything. >> wait until donald trump hears
about that. >> please use the microphone. it's lovely to see you again. you said in the beginning stalin was getting more and more loved as time went on. communism isn't though, apparently and neither is the desire of the west so what explains that? the >> when the soviet union broke apart, they could claim them for everything and they didn't bear any responsibility, not even come even though they did. there was never really an
accounting and they could dredge up everything that had been buried. it was russia that was bad. just another reason they felt beaten up and if they didn't know what was good in their past. it was hard. for a while as you know in the late '80s and 90s people were revealing what had happened in their families and reading about to the point kids would say enough already.
so i think that's part of it. historians now, a friend of mine but as a historian he was going to a meeting at another conference and he was called in before hand to say you will not have anything that reflects badly on this country. so how do you discuss history? its shutting down. and if indeed you do want access to certain archives, will not be allowed to travel abroad so that limits academics in terms of
what they will look into or not. and the other thing i was lucky that i met with the archivists and got to know them in 2011 and 2012 because now when i see them icy than in coffeehouses and not the archives. they wouldn't b would be allowee me. >> how should we think about this t-tango? >> they are sort of peas in a pod aren't they? scenic you think they are equal negotiators?
>> i only feel comfortable saying i think that's the phenomenon is similar. he's playing to the will make the country great again. it's sort of ironic. >> i am not equipped to answer the question. it's a good one though. >> he held one thing did you come across these people? >> i'm sure they probably go to the same clubs.
similarly, not my area >> and the committee to protect journalists, my question is what would the american media do better than reporting russi rusa today? >> i think get out of moscow. seriously. when is the last time you saw anybody get out of moscow may be other than to go to ukraine? on a sort of give a shorthand. but i wasn't there and i was reading the media from iraq or wherever in 2010 and 2011. and if i had just relied on
that, i would have thought that country was in the opposition but that's not true. all of our friends are back in the kitchen talking. they said they would never go back. that's where they are because, or blogs where they are not putting their heads around. some important everybody's paying attention to them. but it can be for the craziest things. i think we need to explain why. it may be distasteful. we may not want to appreciate why people like putin. but did we make mistakes as americans and why is it that the russians are anti-western where
you described this one friend or acquaintance of mine as a magazine editor is this going to last and does this have staying power i think we need to keep asking those questions rather than just sitting in the kitchen listening to our friends. he has divided and conquered them because they had eaten themselves for lunch and so we need to look more critically at what happened rather than just saying it's putin. i'm sorry but it's also the opposition.
>> i hate to question the journalists about our job is what happened yesterday not what happens tomorrow. what you are saying suggests -- >> were to be worse quite possibly. several of the sort of successful upper-middle-class people are going along with it because it could be worse. i don't know what's going to happen tomorrow but that's why i said what can we do? we have to accept the fact it exists and it's not just -- there are these i'm just beginning to learn about them now, these new fights that are going on between different
groups. i don't know to what degree it is a threat or if it's just local. but it's pretty nasty and i think we need to look at those. >> there were things i loved in your book and a couple things i hated. speaking of american politics. what i felt was wonderful is when you are talking about amway as the soft power showing how people can take some economic entrepreneurial role in their own lives and i wonder if you
can talk just a little bit in the book about the example of that kind of limited entrepreneurship catching on and teaching people did not two kids so much as middle-class people, schoolteachers and people who have been bureaucrats changing how they saw what they could do with their lives. and in your book somebody has to stand up. i don't think he's about to have a corrupted version who knew what he was against the didn't know what he was for and i thought some of your sentences setting up the contrast were frankly wrong.
he understood that notion. >> that's what you call a mixed review. what was exciting was the emergence of the middle-class. to start with, they had all been scurrying around going to china and poland and then running to the bank. everybody became a currency expert. then this stability began to emerge and you finally get a mortgage, credit, begin to build
good food other than a cabbage, whatever. i thought maybe in 2012 when the economy began to shrink and people's income shrank by 30% at least and i thought that was going to be the red line. people said this is going to be good for us. we are going to become self-sufficient. even though putin and his government had made it easier to create and grow businesses, and
hasn't been that the generous to agriculture, nonetheless people believe it and want it and that red line has not been the red line i thought it might have been. >> thanks for the book. congratulations. it sounds like you have so many things going on that of those of us that have been in and out of the place for years have seen going on. so my question is if you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about russia today, what would it be? >> that's not my job. i would remove fear if i could because if it is too strong a word, caution has become a
byword and if that makes me sad as a friend of mine said in 88 and 89 i'm out of the kitchen and never going back. the conversations, that's where it happens. >> a little bit analogous to the question of media coverage what about american foreign policy and the implications of what do you think is the awareness and the understanding of the domestic popularity and positions and how does that relate to the american foreign policy i guess i'm talking about the current administration. >> tom graham wrote a pretty good piece today.
there are things we need to do. we worked with them in the soviet period when it was this bad on the key issues and we need to go back to that. we have so many problems of our own i think we have to be more nuanced and more careful. not that we should ignore those things but there are other issues where we can maybe work together.
graham points out a lot of the difficulties but i think we have to -- we can't just ignore their concerns. russia is a country with a huge nuclear arsenal. it's got enormous natural wealth. do we really want to push them towards china? there's lots of questions about what works for us and what does not that we have to be clever about how we handle it. >> one more? >> thank you so much for having dedicated tie them all this year. i want to go back to the sort of
day to day reality and i'm wondering if you had found much change in the education system from the rote learning approach of all those years until the sort of opening into breakup of the soviet union where more critical thinking was being introduced into some of the schooling that always strikes me when i think of the propaganda that is accepted. >> they are taught to think. a fulbright scholar was refusing
the talks to encourage development of english and she chose one in particular that was analyzing the educational changes in the system here and it was a great discussion. she then posed questions to the kids who were 19, 20, 21 and they said that's not for us, that's for the authorities and it was just this is 2014. it mighmight as well have been . it was so depressing. you see it again and again and
baton rouge at the capital and other downtown locations. the courts but proceeded had a kind of equality in the constitution and in the country. warren berger himself was judged on the dc circuit who was you might say running for a post on the court when richard nixon came in he had given a series of academic critiques particularly in the criminal procedure area but behind the scenes he wasn't quite so sober or discrete and
in the correspondence that he had with harry blackmun who was a judge at that time on the circuit back in minnesota. on labor day 1967 he wrote to his friend if i were to stand still for some of the idiocy is put forth, i am sure i would want to shoot myself in the later years. these guys can't be right. about four weeks before he was named to the court he was critical of the court referring to president nixon by his initials observed and he could only straight to that place out if he gets for appointments and of course he got for appointments. he was a very lucky man.
he got lewis powell and rehnquist all within the first three years of his administration and that change enabled the reversal of orientation that we see in the court. so i was signing books last week at the constitution society annual convention and the judge i won't name known to many of you came up and saw the stack of books and said okay nothing much happened and i said to me that the buck. >> you can watch this and other programs online.