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tv   Timothy Snyder The Road to Unfreedom  CSPAN  June 24, 2018 3:30pm-5:01pm EDT

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on c-span 12. >> best selling author brad thor will be the guest on indesk fix edition live. his latest book, spymaster, will be pushes jewel 3rd. his other books, use of force, the lines lucerne, black list, state of the union and 14 more thrillers. enter act by phone, twitter or facebook, our special series, dep "in depth" phoenix edition with author brad thor, sunday, july 1st, live from noon to 3:00 p.m. eastern on booktv, objects c-span2.
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>> good afternoon. it's my very great pleasure to welcome today timothy snyder to the indocument. tim any snyder this richard levin professor of history at yale university. over the last 20 years, almost 25 years, he has established himself as one of america's -- in fact the world's for most historian's 'modern europe, done so through a series of landmark books, the reconstruction of nations, bloodlands, black earth, about he holocaust, books that combine an extraordinary range of breadth with an extraordinary penetration of department. very unusual synthetic ability that leads to explanatory accounts. all of the books are a search for explanation, deeper search for meaning, a search for truth. they're conditions that fuse a focus on people, on idea ideas,
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on plattal -- politicalactors. books that are unflinching, penetrating and they're searing. i permitly have a memory of reading blood lands and reached a point in the book where i actually thought i could not turn the page, what people can do to people in the name of ideas or the name of other causes. i felt i couldn't go on. but i also felt i had to and i did. those are the kind of books that timothy snyder writes. turn his attention now in his new become, the road to unfreedom, russia, europe, and america. he turned his attention to the 21st century after having plumbed the debt depps of the 20th century and the road to unfreedom is an account of the political trajectories of russia, of europe, and the united states, how they intersect with each other, how
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they affect each other, and how they're informed or driven by common historical patterns and narratives and ideas. one feels the weigh of the 20th century in his account of the 21st century so far. and it's ona heavy weigh, about the realities of fascism, the power of unpleasant ideas and unpleasant actors and i'd say he mobilizes what i found to be remarkable insights about events i already thought i knew pretty well. actually, but he brings to them a lens that provides still greater illumination. so disturb book, but clearly an important one. so it's our very, very great player to have your here. he's going to peek for a while, probably 30 to 45 minutes, and then we'll have a short conversation, and then bring you into the conversation through questions as well. so, let's have a round of applause for timothy snyder.
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[applause] >> thank you very much for being here, thank you, tom, for that kind introduction. they can that the image of not wanting to know what comes next but nevertheless deciding to know what comes next is very important and touching and i think appropriate to the moment that the last time i spoke in d.c. it was right after i had come back from europe, in 2013-2014, and my obsessions then as i was finishing the book about the holocaust, my obsessions then were russia and the protests in ukraine and the russian invasion of ukraine and i was spending time during that sabbatical year in ukraine trying to explain russia and ukraine in particular the north
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carolina which cyber and propaganda were structuring the way we in other words what straightforward events like revolutions and wars. and i remember hitting the town back then about four years ago, a little bit less, and thinking, wow, these people don't know what hit them. i have to say i still think that. and that's one of the reasons why i wrote the book and one reason why i'm here now. so, it's -- i think this is one of these moments where you bring what you got, and what i have is history, what i have is historyingography, historical analysis so she road town freedom in every single respect, except for the fact it's about 2010, in every single respect is an degree aggressively traditional, aggressively conservatives history book. it's based on a huge amount of primary source research across
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five or six or seven languages, obsessively an know tated and it makes an argument that takes place over time. now, i emphasize that because it seems to me that what is going on in our present moment is that we're all having a hard time putting things together. we're overwhelm day-to-day by news that is surprise organize revelations from a year ago or two years ago that are shocking we ever can be elated and outraged and very strong emotional reaction to whats is happening to us but there's a sense in which it's very hard to put it together. so what i'm trying to do in this book is very assertive use use the method of support analysis, moving forward through time to try to make all this make sense. so my first point is actually about time itself. this whole business of historical time, it's not a straightforward as its seems. it's very -- it's very possible to live in other kind time us.
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in fact i start the book by trying to point out that for the past 25 years or so, i think we america e -- a lot of people in the west have been living in a form of time which is a little bit wrong, and extremely misleading. i think let me start it out with a story when i worked at the carnegie endowment. i was working there in the summer of 1990, and there were still soviet guests in washington and i remember in d.c. that summer a building went up, and one of my soviet colleagues suspected or at least told me that he thought that the fact that a building had been built in one summer was a propaganda effort. right? that this kind of thing didn't really happen. itself was for show. how to what that recalled is a different moment, a moment where we and she soviets were in it
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together. we still thought it was about racing forward, building things faster, who was move interesting the future faster andes then it seemed like they lost, right? the soviet union comes part in 1991. the united states continues, declare the cold war is over and we won and declare more grandly, more suicidally that history itself has come to an end. we declare with a kind of mental and political anesthesia that there are no alternatives, right? and what we do and what we have done to the younger generation and the people under 30 who we raised in this environment, we have done is establish something which i call the politics inevitable, and we know rules rs and sequence know the rules we don't have to know the details. history it's a kind of machine where, for example, capitalism just produces democracy, and therefore you don't have to know a whole lot about anything else. that's just the way it is and
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there's no alternative to that democracy. now, there are a couple of problems with this. which you might have already anticipated. obviously history never does come to an expend obviously always are alternatives but more particularly than that, i want to notice that some of the specific claims that we made or that we absorbed or the axioms we took for granted have come back to bite us, and that underneath the russia story or the thing which makes makes thee russia story possible -- i'll returned to this -- our own politics of inevitablity, the idea that capital system must bring about democracy. would lead you to the notion that you shouldn't interfere with capam jim because it would be more democracy, about what is capitalism in the 21st 21st sentence? generate des of neck inequality for what is unregulated capital
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limp greats gray vonn russians and others can offshore company and alliances are formed that are ultimately antidemocratic. pat or or politics was the idea that technology in general and internet in particular had to be enlightening. we now i think are beginning to see just how wrong that assumption was and had to be. then the very idea that there are no alternatives, which we have been brain crashing ourselves with, that hat the consequents we didn't see alternatives. alternatives have been emerging are for some time. we only now see them as the cross the shores and enter into our cone country but they've been emerging for a while. the major alternative, they thes are tilting now in this country and elsewhere is something what i call the politics of eternities, which is, again, another way of living in time. the politics of the eternity doesn't say we know the rules of history, we know how the future will be.
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the politicians eternity says, forget but the future. there isn't a future. banish the future from your mind, we'll loop back to the past. we're going to loop back to a time when we were great, going to loop back to 1930s and 1940s for inspiration. we're going bring back fish ol' ferses and ideas, pat torches thought, from the 1930s and for the-from the 1940s. and what the consequence that this has is it forms a different sort of politics. all of a sudden because we're not think bought the first, everything is about us and them. if they're not a bigger, better future with more share, then suddenly polling ticks is tribal, becomes only domestic politics and domestic politics become only about ideas of us and them. i'm assuming that some of this sounds familiar. the case i want to make and the case die make in this book, is that to understand where we're going, that's my american we -- to understand where we're going we have to start with russia.
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that the russia story is not just some strange thing that erupted in 2016 to our surprise. it's not that this exotic thing just happened by chance. it's rather that in certain ways russia got to where we are going first, and the way to understand the so-called russia story is russia beckoning us to move to where they already are. so what i want to say is that -- where i start is this thing i'm calling the politics of eternity, the idea there isn't a future but instead there is nostalgic cycle back to the past and a soil of spectacle but way of television or internet which drives the future from your mind, drivers the idea of policy. that russia got there first. this is mr. putin's style of governance, that russia got to this place first and we can see
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how this happened historically. so in the 1990s, when we say there are no alternatives, history is over, capitalism will bring about democracy, the russians moved through that story much faster than we do. russia experts can agree or disagree to the year but by the end of the '079s, at the very latest no one in russia is talking in that way anymore. that story is over. russia reaches another place. what russia manages to do or the place that russia reaches is it finds -- it's present leader leadership finds a way to govern when its looks like nothing can change. another way and a very material and relevant way that russia is ahead of us is in terms of inequality of wealth. so, we're not used to think offering inequality of wealth as a trend or mattering. it's hugely important. there is only one country which
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has greater levels of well inequality and that country is the russian federationment what russia has didn't is find a silo governance in condition office extreme wealth and equality and one clan controls the politics. what i do in chapter 2 of the book is i try to explain how russia has taken old ideas to address an even older problem, but used post moder technology to do so. so, what is the even older problem, the traditional problem that russia faces? the central problem in political science, is the problem of succession, how to keep a state going that is arguably the central problem of political science or political theory. how do you separate a leader from the state?
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a man can form a charismatic enter the after gathering wealth and can distribute the. we but how do you go from there to some kind of political institution that endures when that person dies? a very hard question, actually. that problem of succession is every mow presenter as democracy fadeses and authoritarianism comes back. we'll leave in the years to come sparkling succession cries is around the world because democracy is weakening. that's the good thing about democracy -- it would be good but one thing that is good is that it's a second session principle and allows you to see the future. russia has a problem with succession, the standard succession principle is dem ways what mr. putin did was make it very clear that democracy was just a ritz to all. that it -- ritual, that it was fake and nobody knows what is going to happen when mr. putin dies and nobody in russia can pronoun a sentence which i just
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pronounced or at least without being mobbed on the street. there was a modern answer to succession and that's called fascism. they say forget bet the laws and institution ask and the future because we'll have a leader, a leader who comes from somewhere outside of history, to whom the rules do not apply, who somehow physically or charismatic include embodieses a whole nation and does away with the annoying problems about time and the future. it's striking that mr. putin has since 2012 in particular revived a hold0s after russian fast fascist think ares to help him to solve this problem or address its or pose it in a different way. evan, the most important fish ol' fer, russian philosopher, we don't notice him because we don't think ideas matter, but i
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think the most important philosopher who say three very useful thing. one is that democracy should be a ritual exercise, which if you're running authoritarianism state is a very convenient view. the second thing is that there should be no social advancement where, like many fascists he spoke of politics as being core importantal and we're all part of a body, we're like cells. so there's no reason why to move about. we have a fixed playing. and freedom means knowing what our place is, realizing our rowling in the larger national body. this kind of idea is very convenience if you govern a place where social advancement is impossible. it's always convenience if you're making social advancement impossible because you control all the wealth. the third thing which he says is that there's no such thing as fact allity -- factuality. that god created the world but made a mistake the only truth is russia's profound innocence, but the actual facts of the world don't matter, which means --
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which has the interesting implication which is very convenience for for post modern sensibility you can't lie. there's nothing wrong with lying. this whole world is already fictional. therefore you can't lie. which pings to us post modern. you have a cob vex jag succession problem, modern sedes of ideas which you adapt them to a post moder situation where the leader, mr. putin, really does come out of nowhere. he comes from a realm of fiction and remains in a realm of fiction. where you fake elections, you ritz to allize them with the help of cyber, at home and abroad. and where use you cyber, especially abroads to try to spread the idea that nothing is true and to use that idea, this extreme welltivelyism or skepticism to undermine institutions in other countries and to this has a beautiful logics, a under 21st century form of nationalism.
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don't trust me, don't trust your leaders. we understand you don't believe our press is true. you think our media lies. we just want you to know that everyone lies. don't trust anyone. and if you don't trust anyone, then the new form of nationalisming prefer your own lies to everybody elses lissor. approximate prefer your own truth which is human. you do prefer your lies to other people's lies. don't you? so, if you do away with factuality then you can get to a politics whichs that kind of negative nationalism. so what this allows for on the scale of europe and the u.s. -- i'll get into the particulars in a moment -- what this allows for is a kind of stark globalization, not the bright gonzalez where a person merv democracy will radiate out and others will copy it which never happened. but rather a dynamic
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globalization where what you're able to do is you're able to take these problems, to take this very weak hand you have, and transform them into a weapon. they're able to weaponize your own anxiety, your own weaknesses, your own distrust but spreading them out into the world. you're able to -- this idea that nothing can be made any better than it is. that you should distruss everything, nothing is true. you can spread that idea and spread it with success. now, let me try to be specific. what russia has done is (a european history. what the basic european history was that empires break, and the
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metropolitanster of empires then takes up a project of european integration. that's the main pattern. ant any nation states in the story because they never exist. the british empire, round in the mid-60s starts trading more with europe than the commonwealth, and the british empire joins the european union, that's the core story. there is no story of european nation state, never happened, there is a story of european nations trying to have or in fact having farflung empires and those empires breaking and then joining the european project. that's the story. why aim stressing that? because this where is russia is interestingly different. russia is the first european empire to break and then to say, no, we're not going to join this larger european project. in fact we'll try to get inside and its undo it from wichita, which is the story of 2013. it's the story of something which in the book i call
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strategic relativism. so, you know your own limits and not going try to beat the europeans economically. insay. not trying try to beat enemy technology cliff. that's crazy. if you're russia you can play a weak hand well by changing the game. you play a weak hand well by changing the game. you redefine european civilization as not being about law, predictability and prosperity. you redefine european civilization as being about civilization, virtue, and in particular, heterosexuality. try to change it from the traditional objective 20th 20th century powers whicher economy and technology to he 21st century core of power which is how are you feeling? do you trust people? what is the enter the e jerrett doing -- internet doing to your head? you try to change the game. the europeans are vulnerable to
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this for the same reason we are. i'll land on us, this is largely american audience but i think a lot of places are just countries. so, the -- what is interesting here is the way that your politics of inevitability, your sleep walk story how things have to happen is a vulnerablity. so, the europeans have a story. they have their own politics inevitability which is -- which i call the fable of the wise nation. the europeans story goes like this. european nations are old, european nations states are wise, european nation states looked on at the second world war and realized that war was bad. european nation state started trading with one another and form the european anyone and now look at america and say the
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americans have not learned that war was bad. if you have ever been a european or ever datessed a european, you will have heard some version of this story. it's a very comfortable story. especially translatticly and also completely wrong from the beginning to end. it's entirely wrong. it is just not true that europeans learn from the second world war that war was a bad thing. were that the case then the russians, the ukrainians, pollings and jew would be the most peaceable people on the planet because they suffered the most in the second world war. can we just generally agree that maybe that wasn't the lesson that was learned in the place where the second world war was actually fought and were people actually died in very large numbers. it's not true that the european nation states have existed. they haven't. what is true is that there have been empires and when empires
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failed, europe, deeuropean union, european integration, was the safe landing point. that's the truth but an awkward truth why talk but your empire failing? why talk about losing wars in indo-china or algeria or the associated atrocities when you can talk but a progression overarm nation idaho from ain't sent times through ancient to the present which is what they do. that story makes no sense but it's the european story. now, why aim stressing the us? because getting history wrong or forgetting history entirely makes you vulnerable. what happening in the european union the last few years is a politicians eternities has reemerged where people look back to 193s and '40s with nose tall gentleman. not just in russia but hungary, poland, france, britain in different ways and what russia has done is it has weaponized this. the way that russia intervened in europe has a pattern, and the pattern is not just to say, the
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european union is a bad thing because it promotes immigrants and homosexuals and terrorists and immigrant home hoe sexual terrorist is. there's another logic which says, that, yes, you're right, you did have a nation state and it was glorious, and those were the good old days. right? so in russia intervenes on the internet as it does havefully central europe, it's helping the pollings and the slovacs and hungarians to imagine 1920s and and 1930s that never were. when it supportses france, which is does, and helping the french to imagine the 1930s which never were. when 20% of the conversation about brexit over twist irs organized from russia, what is being sold is a version of -- which is zero percent of british citizens knew at the time, a vision of britain which never happened. russia is taking advantage of a basic european mistake, which is
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we eave always had the nation state, it show chose europe and there it could choose itself out of europe but they've never had the nation state. so, leaving the european union is a huge leap into the unknown. britain has never had a nation state. not in the moder period. it's had an embut never had a station state and won't have one after brexit either. so getting history wrong, being in the candidate of sleepwalking version of time, opens you up to people who see your vulnerabilities. now, where their all begins to come together mow most profoundly is ukraine in 2014. because in ukraine in 2014 we have the clash between a very -- i mean, prosake reality, frankly, and an extraordinarily interesting russian politics of
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the eastern the extraordinarily prosaic reality is many ukrainians, especially young people and business men and women, wanted ukraine to be closer to the european union because that would mean it's more likely they would have european lives, would have the rule of law, which the main probable policemen in ukraine. the only problem in ukraine that matters, even includes the war is corruption, aisle ethe absence of the rule of law. so many ukrainians thought a closer relationship with the european union would be more predicabilities politics and economics and life. that's prosaic. the reason why ukrainian students who processed when the leader pulled them away from an association with europe bogey. the way that russia tells the story is much more interesting. it's fascinating. the way russia tells the story to itself is that it's all but homosexuality. from the first day, the first
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day, and this is the kind of thing try lay out in the book because these things flash and then we forget them. from the first day of the students protests in ukraine, russian television coverage is but home hoe sexual, our the european union will make all the ukraine men marry one another, and that is whats they hit for their domestic audience, our bowel homosexuality. trying to make it repulsive and about civilization. can't be about or he rule of law. now, what they do for us is if anything more interesting. ...
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>> with respect to us, maybe the most interesting thing that they did was that they tried to use cyber to hack a presidential election. 2014 in ukraine, russia got into the ukrainian central election server and tried to produce a result artificially in which a candidate who, in fact, got less than 1% of the vote would be shown as the winner. this hack was caught at the last moment. but the notion that you going to -- you're going to hack a democratic election in a country that's critical to you is interesting, right? what they did in 2014 was rather primitive compared to 2016, but it is a sign that we didn't pay enough attention to. second tactic, which is also interesting and which will sound familiar, and that is what i call in the book implausible deniability. so a head of state denies something that everybody knows. so when russia invades ukraine, the reporters know it, right?
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not just the ukrainian and russian reporters, but the few western reporterrers who are there know it. it's pretty obvious. but what mr. putin does is he just denies it. he says, those people, they bought their uniforms in, like, army surplus stores. he told lies that are so extravagant that you're meant to know that he's lying. and the question is what do you do about it, right? and that's a hajj challenge to reporter -- that's a hajj to reporters. do you then cover this charismatic, larger than life figure who seems to be able to defy reality, right? mr. putin. not only mr. putin. or do you choose to cover a war, right? which do you choose? most of us prefer to read about or write about the charismatic, larger than life figure who is turning this thing into a reality television show, because that's what the press cooperated in. when you don't cover the actual war but instead cover the figure
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who's lying about it, you're turning the news into reality television. that's the same dilemma -- i don't have to spell this out, do i -- that american reporters now face. do you cover the larger than life figure, right, who generates unreality, or do you cover the wealth inequality, the opioids, the things that are actually happening in the country. it's very tempting to do the reality television. third thing that was evident in ukraine which again appears in the u.s. in a much more sophisticated way in 2016 is targeting to susceptibilities. so you'll remember this. if you were on the left and you were on facebook or some other social platform and you were trying to read about ukraine, what would appear on your feed was a whole bunch of tough about how the ukrainians were gnats -- nazis and fascists and so on. if you were on the far right and you did the same thing, what you would read on your internet feed
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was that ukraine was part of the international jewish conspiracy, the ukrainian state was a jewish construction, jewish oligarchs were behind the entire thing. now, that might seem contradictory, but it doesn't matter because the way that our cyber world works these people and these people never contact one another. not in cyber and probably not in the real world either. and so by spreading two stories which are both wrong and mutually contradictory, you make it very hard for there to be a reasonable discussion about what's actually going on. and so russia could invade ukraine and they a discussion of the actual invasion for about nine months just by crissmatically denying it was true -- car hismatically denying it was true and also disagreeing with one another rather than addressing the facts on the ground which, of course, is what happened to the united states in 2016. the messages that hit american voters were tailored to their
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pre-existing and revealed sutt sent abouts. if you were afraid of muslim, you got messages about muslims, right? if you were afraid of oligarch key, you got messages about oligarchy. prevent a rational conversation about the world from taking place. final thing which was evident in ukraine is what i call in the book cacophony. so not everything can be controlled by propaganda. every once in a while an event will take place, as it were, out of a clear blue sky. like, for example, russia invades ukraine and shoots down a civilian airliner. what do you then do? you don't deny it. you don't deny it because if you deny it, then you're setting up a conversation, you're framing a conversation in which the question is did you do it, didn't you do it. you don't deny it. what you do is you surround a fairly straightforward event with multiple fictional versions. so you say the ukrainians were trying to shoot down the russian
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presidential plane which was similar in the sense that it had two wings and was also in europe at the time -- [laughter] or you say there were various ukrainian aircraft, there was a ukrainian ground to air missile trial or you say there was a ukrainian -- you far-right guys -- an oligarch who controls the air space, and he shot it down, and you can tell by the shape of his nose which actually happened on russian television, that narrative i just gave you. you create a bunch of versions which crowd out the original, straightforward version, the original, straightforward event, right? and at the end of that -- and you do it right away. so when mh-17 was shot down, by that afternoon these versions were already out there. that's the access hollywood tape. you might remember the half an hour when you thought it was going to have some kind of political significance. why didn't the access hollywood tape have some kind of political significance? because a real event in the real
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world, that is, a presidential candidate advocates sexual assault, is quickly drowned out by fictions; the fiction that hillary clinton is a pedophile pimp, the fiction that john podesta, what was it, consumes bodily fluids at these very odd dinner parties. those things, those fictions came out of a russian hack of mr. podesta's e-mail, and they were spread by russian bots. not incidentally, by the way, the same russian bots that worked on brexit and the same that worked on ukraine and the same russian bots that support the german far right. this is not just all philosophically and strategically one story, it's also technically one story which brings us, which brings me to the u.s. so much of the book, i mean, the whole book in some sense is the russia story. but i'm trying to tell it in a way that's going, that makes sense of it all. and what i'd like to do in the last five minutes or so here is to referee what i take to be a big disagreement about russia,
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you know, in the country in general where on the one side folks say, well, we shouldn't talk about russia because there are deep problems in america, right in and on the other side, people say we have to talk about russia because russia violated our sovereignty and chose our president. what i want to suggest is that in a way everyone's right. and that we have to be able to bring those two points together. so on the one hand, of course russia intervened very substantially, right? they knew, they chose -- and i use the word carefully -- who the republican nominee was going to be well before republicans had any notion that he was going to be their nominee. not to even speak of the general election. but on the other hand, the only reason this could work is because of the weaknesses in our own politics of inevitability. so let me try to spell this out. so some of this i've already mentioned. so if you think that capitalism
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produces democracy, then naturally more capitalism is more democracy, and freer markets mean better democracy, so it's great that companies can register anonymously in delaware, right? like, that's cool that there are 285,000 corporate entities registered anonymously at a single address in delaware, right? that's cool. it's great that companies can do business anonymously with major u.s. banks. that's cool, right? and farming out 7-$21 trillion of america's wealth offshore, that's fine, right? that's cool because that's unlimited capitalism. that's good, right? i'm expecting more resistance or something from you people. [laughter] the point is that, obviously, when you think that, when you allow that, those mechanisms i just named plus anonymous real estate purchases are the peck nhls that allow -- mechanisms that allowed russia to put mr. trump in the american public sphere in the first place. without our attitude towards the, quote-unquote, free market, it's impossible for this kind of
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synthesis of russia and trump. or, for that matter, some other foreign country and some other american, right, to take place. so without the way we look at the world, right, in tech, you know, the notion that technology had to bring progress or, you know, as facebook put it, that internet access is a basic human right. it's made it very hard for us to see that it mattered or that it could happen that a whole political party could be hacked. it made it very hard for us to see that, you know, that hostile actors, corporate or national, could substantial hi change our conversations, which they did. it made it very hard for us to see that russia could target, for example, voters in michigan and wisconsin who happen to be hostile towards muslims and the critical few days before the elections, right? we didn't see that as it was happening not because we didn't have the facts, we actually did have those facts, but because we
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weren't capable of imagining this kind of thing was possible. and, by the way, it's worth stressing that this is a war, right? i mean, if you spend your time either physically or mentally -- that is to say reading russian sources -- the russians called this a war all the way through. even when they invade ukraine, the russian commanders are quite clear about the fact that they regard this as part of the larger offensive against the united states which in 2014 you can kind of dismiss or laugh it off. but remember in 2014, that's when the internet agency in russia starts working in the united states, right? it's all one story in this respect. so, you know, this is war. this is the thing that i think we just don't get. i know, i think it does say something special about america that america can be subject to a war and lose it without noticing it either the former or the latter, right? many but we just lost a war, right? when a country intervenes and changes your will and leads to an outcome which you didn't
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expect for very good reasons you didn't expect it, you've lost a war. and that's not just russia's exotic 2013 military doctrine which declares that you can win a war without engaging in combat. that's what clause visits says. war is about breaking the will of the enemy. combat is a means to that end. combat's not the thing in itself. and what the russians conclude ared and said openly in 2010 is we think we can win a war without engaging in actual combat. right? and that is, you know, welcome to where we are. so and then to make the most obvious point, our whole -- our notion that there are no alternatives made it very hard for us to understand what was happening in 2016. right? but there were alternatives. they were already there in the world, and now one of them has arrived in our cup. okay. so let me close with just one more word about history. as i said, this is a very, it's a very assertively conventional
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history book in almost every way. and one of the, one of the like exuberantly conservative things i think about history is that at the end of the day history's about virtue; that is, that it's about good and evil. so these other ideas about time, these ways of sleep walking through time, inevitability and eternity, these are the things which make us laugh about good and evil, make us cynical, make us dismissive. if you believe in the politics of inevitability, if you believe in progress, you don't have to ask about what's good. the present's got good stuff. in the future there's going to be more good stuff, so you don't have to ask what's good. if you think that history's a big cycle that the outsiders are always coming for you, that you're innocent and they're guilty, you don't have to ask what's good, it's obvious that you're good and they're bad. you don't have to ask. but history makes you ask. history forces you to ask. because if you -- if what you do
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is you say, well, i'm going to try try to understand the structures that are around me as they move forward in time, i'm going to try to see those structures and see my own place inside those structures, then you have to ask, well, what can i do? and the attendant question to what can i do is what should i do? right? and one of the things, one of the most impoverish things about our impoverished -- i'm sorry to say -- american discussion about where we are, is that there isn't very much talk about what's good, what should be, right? how things would look if we got off the this mess. so history for me is that. it's when you write a history about how institutions are being challenged, disrupted, destroyed, you're reminded of the virtues that those institutions animated or are meant to animate. and when you see their place inside those institutions, this would be a good place for me to thank the institutions which allow me to be here today -- [laughter] the carnegie endowment for
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international peace and freedomhouse, when you see where you are in those institutions, then you can ask, well, what kind of agency do i have, what kind of power do i have, what can i actually do. and then you have to ask what's good, right? and i think i'm going to end on that note. i think that question of what's good is a very important one. and like in general, i think this is a time to try to put things together, to try to make sense of things. and part of making sense of things is saying, yeah, i think some things are true and some things are false. i think some things are good and some things are evil. and that's where i'm going to end. thank you. [applause] all right. >> tim, thank you very much. that was magisterial, just like the book. i'm going to start, actually, with a very general question that takes off right from where you left are us, but then i want to go back and give you a chance to bring out a couple of things that you mentioned.
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given the limits of time, you weren't able to go into too much, to develop them a bit more. the broad question was as i was reading it, i -- it took me a little while to get into the power of the framework of the juxtaposition or the dialectic of the politics of inevitability versus the politics of e eternity. but once i did, i saw the power of it and i appreciate it. but i also left the book asking myself what's the third alternative? the politics of what? >> yeah. >> what would they be that would be in a better, healthier place for us or for other countries that would like a better future >> yeah. i do a loft things that i think -- a lot of things that i think are a little risky. who wants to hear about the ideas of time, you know? who wants to hear about that? we want to be shocked, we want to be surprised, we want to be outraged, elated, we want of to
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have the latest revelation. one thing that historians notice is that ideas of time are actually variable, and they only seem like they're not variable when you're in them. the politics of inevitability, this notion that history is over and the yada, yada, that seemed normal for a lot of people for a long time. for a lot of americans it broke in 2008. for a lot of other americans it broke in 2016. it breaks, and then when it breaks, you're vulnerable to other things. and one of the things that i think is very important is the way that eternity beckons, right? because eternity also allows you not to have responsibility. it also allows it not to be your fault, right? so the future goes away, and the future went away, and that's somebody else's fault. it's the immigrants, it's the refugees, it's the blacks, it's somebody else's fault. it's a very tempting shift, and we've seen a lot of americans make that shift and a lot of people around the world. so i'm trying to turn time into a variable, which is a hard thing because we all want to say, oh, what's time?
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of course it's minutes and hours. no, that's actually not the case, right? you get shocked. and then the question of the book is really just what you say, tom, what do you do when you are shocked? what i mean by the road to unfreedom, the title, is this package from inevitability to eternity. that's the road i think we're on where the exit is what i call the politics of responsibility which is what i very briefly alluded to in the end where you take for granted that the time does flow in a way which you can see and understand. you take for granted there is factuality though you can never get to it, and you can take responsibility for a policy over a range of one year, five year, ten years out knowing things respect predictable over long spans. so the alternative that i try to sketch out in the book, and it's just a tiny book of, like, faint light, i know, at the end of a very dark book is this idea precisely of a politics of
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responsibility. >> okay. let's go back to a few of the sort of points along the way in in the analysis. you have a very arresting analysis of how president putin, in 2011 and 2012 returning through the duma elections and the presidential elections, returning to power as you say with no succession planned having sort of frozen democratic politics into an empty ritual, although one, you know, pursued with a lot of spunk. he needs legitimacy. in the early 2000s he was able to use the chechnyan wars, various form toss build his legitimacy. then he was able to use the price boom of oil, benefits to the economy. but then his deck is a bit them empty -- bit empty at that time, and he turns to enemity with europe and the united states. he says i'm the defender of russia but only in 2011 and '12.
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and you note points in the 2000s before where he didn't have that view, where he actually had not yet arrived at this state of very great hostility with the united states. >> what's interesting is we had an event here last week where mike mccall, the foreman ambassador to russia -- former ambassador to russia talked about the attempted reset with russia and how it went. and they were both architects and implementers of it. and it's interesting because a they also both said, you know, we started in 2009 and '10. we were making some progress, and then in 2011 and '12 as putin returned to power, we hit a wall, and it stopped. the reset stopped. and they didn't really pinpoint it so much as to the evolution that you describe. they had other ideas. they emphasized, for example, putin's shock at the arab spring and his being convinced that this might be the united states orchestrating regime change in other places as a warmup to russia. but given there's this deep
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structural condition of putin's rule, you know, he's not going to change the nonsuccession nature of it at least for the time being and, therefore, the need for this enemity with the united states and europe, is the united states then stuck in this relationship with the united states and russia? >> thank you for the question. i just want to address a couple of the premises. the way that i try to run the first couple chapters is by following the russian sources very respectfully and in particular following what mr. putin himself says very respectfully. so in the runup to the presidential election of 2012 and also in the runup to the december 2011 parliamentary elections in russia, mr. putin publishes a series of articles in which he lays out, essentially, what i'm telling you. he doesn't use exactly the same terms. he doesn't talk about the politics of eternity, for example. that's my general concept for the whole worldwide phenomenon. but he talks about how russia is a civilization state, and by civilization he means something which is defined by a past as he
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defines it. so russia and ukraine are a single entity because borders and law and things like that don't matter. what matters is the baptism of vladimir and what matters is the russian empire, what matters is the second world war. and one of those two articles he closes on a very combative note saying, you know, for those of you who would wish to separate us -- he means russians and ukrainians -- you know that will never happen. and he's referring to the second world war and the camaraderie in arms of soldiers in the red army. and that was at a moment when no one in the u.s. thought that we were doing anything to them, right? it was a moment where no one in europe thought they were doing anything to russia. but in the way that mr. putin is changing the nature of international relations normatively, suddenly we are because if it's supposed to be about historical culture and you can change it to that, then europe and america -- even if they're not doing a thing --
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suddenly become threats. and in some sense really are threats if that's what you think politics is all about. and then again i try to follow what i think the basic problems in russian domestic politics are rather than just flashing to points where there's some kind of clash between the u.s. and russia, because i think we sometimes do too much of it. and for me, like the basic problem in russia is wealth inequality and oligarch key. if -- oligarchy. if you are mr. putin, by the time you get to round two with, you've basically got the oligarchal situation cleaned up. you've got to stay where the security services are basically your security services. and in that situation, you can't promise a future. you just can't because there's not going to be rule of law under you because there's not going to be rule of law under you. and so you have to do something else besides promising policy. and the thing that you can promise is a foreign policy of spectacle which is what the war
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in ukraine largely is, and syria too. there's this interesting moment, i don't know if you noticed this in the russian press where in the last week of september 2015 in the russian press the subject changed literally from one day to the next. i think it was the 28th to the 29th. one day from the next -- one day to the next from ukraine to syria. bang. hey, look at syria. and then roughly speaking the same storyline, right? we're defending the right and the good, the legitimate leader against overwhelming power of the west. and also russia's other basic problem which i think we just don't pay enough attention to was europe, what to do with europe. europe is so much more important than we are if you're russia, frankly. one thing we share with the russians is we really like for everything to be about geopolitics. it's about d.c. and moscow and we're the great powers. that's a weakness that we share with them and which i think leads into our dialogue or our conversation about them.
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but europe matters so much more. europe's so much more of a relevant example for actual russians than the united states is. and europe's a bigger economy than we are, and the example of european democracy, frankly, is more important than the example of american democracy. i don't just mean now, i mean before 2016 as well. and a lot of mr. putin's evolution has to do with europe. i try to follow this in the things he says and writes, but there's a moment in 2010 where he writes an article for the german press where he says, okay, look, we admit we can't be like you, but we want to integrate with you anyway. we want a partnership with you, but we admit we can't have the rule of law, we're not going to do those things. we want to integrate anyway. and the next step from that is you change the meaning of the word integrate so it's no longer about following the same rules, and suddenly it's about culture or civilization or operationally
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it becomes heterosexuality and homosexuality becomes the big thing. europe becomes corrupt, and that's the difference between them and us. what does that mean for the u.s. and russia? it means i've already said my main conclusion which is we have to see how we are and aren't important for them. in some way we're not important for them, we're not important in the way we think we are. the europeans are actually much more important, and what follows is the best way for the u.s. to have a russia policy is to have a european policy. i realize i'm galaxies away from anything that is remotely think about -- thinkable right now, but toes to have a ukraine and european policy. it's hard for us to have a direct influence on russia, i think. and the second thing that follows is on questions, on operational questions of actual security there's no reason why the russians and we can't talk. and we do. like on things which actually have to do with nuclear weapons as opposed to nuclear weapons as a distraction on the internet or
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on sputnik. but actually have to do with, you know, hard core national security there's no reason why we can't talk to them and they can talk to us. there's no reason why that can't happen. >> that leads actually, naturally, to my next question. several times today and in the book you describe the united states as you used the term sleepwalking and some kind of partial awakening in the past couple of years. where do you think europe is on that same scale? europe was also sleepwalking to some extent and, of course, europe, many countries, a lot of diversity, and different european states are many different places, but can you characterize your opinion of the same message you convey hen you're con -- when you're conveying to european audiences your understanding of what russia is doing or wants with europe? >> boy, that's complicated because it is different in every place. a country like poland, the national security and political elite will in general say, of
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course, russia's our basic threat. but they won't necessarily see -- they're beginning to see it now, i think, but they won't necessarily see that the cyber and the psychological stuff is important. or in a country like germany there can be acknowledgment at least in the center and the center-right that russia is a threat and cyber and psychological operations work, but there's a deep current of guilt which is, i mean, the main theme, the main emotion the russians use with respect to germany is the guilt. you should feel guilty towards us. not towards ukraine where you actually kill more people, but you should feel guilty towards us. we want a monopoly on the guilt. and be that still works extremely well in germany. but that's very specific to germany. and with britain, i mean, they try to talk to the british, and they say things like, well, you know, you're a great empire, you don't need university i don't think the british are paying any attention to that. but the british, i think, carried out brexit in a kind of, you know, to coin a phrase, in
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isolation. they didn't realize that so much was going on. and like for them very much like for us, i mean, we are like them in a couple of ways. one is that our weird anglo-saxon legal traditions allow for all kinds of practices involving real estate which many russians find extremely convenient. but the other is that we really do kind of think that our politics takes place in a vacuum when the opposite is true. just because we only speak english doesn't mean other people don't speak english. [laughter] no, that's like a basic, logical problem that we and the british both have. it doesn't occur to the british that a whole lot of that conversation about brexit could be organized from st. petersburg, because it just doesn't occur to them that other people speak english. or, i mean, americans, right? the texas secession site which many notable people were retreating had ten times more followers in 2016 than -- sorry, it a had more followers in the texas republican party, in the texas democratic party n both of
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them put together. it was run by russians with really bad english, but it just doesn't occur to us, you know, etc., etc. tennessee gop did have ten times more followers and was retweeted by kellyanne conway and by michael flynn. that was run by russians. it doesn't occur to us that english is a two-way street. so, i mean, that's a special thing about britain and about us. the european story, the common story is one of how the nation-state has to sort itself out into this europe. and that's what makes them vulnerable. that's the one thing they all have in common, but then there are these specific differences. >> in the section in the book on brexit, you amass some quite damning facts which you put forward to the make the argument that you, i think you used the phrase brexit was a, quote, triumph of russian foreign policy. and you describe how that was the case, what they did. the account you give is not one
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that is standard wisdom in the u.k., and they're still struggling to come to terms, i think, with what happened. but i was picturing what you wrote, you know, in the british press or in the british public life, that isn't the standard narrative, the depth of russian engagement. what accounts for the difference between the account you put forward and where the british public and sort of how political life is on this issue? >> i mean, i sense in your question another question about the united states, because it strikes me that we're actually very similar to them. so, first, i think we are just not used to the idea of globalization being a two-way street, especially in the establish-speaking world. -- english-speaking word. we think globalization, if it's happening, it's broadcast outward from us to the rest of the world. our models, our language, you know, our magna carta, our constitution, our democracy, whatever. we just don't really have the idea, the british don't have the idea i don't think either that globalization is something which
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gets deep down into them, right? i mean, the sort of material corelative of this is how much of london is owned by russia which is a fact -- or russians -- which changes british life. but it's very hard to kind of get your mind around it. the second thing i think is it's hard for any country to imagine that certain kind of intimate forms of politics are actually subject to external intervention. the british, you know, as they always -- i mean, i get into debates with them all the time, and they'll say things like we've had a democracy for the longest time. yes. that's why you're vulnerable, because you couldn't imagine that it could happen, you know? you say magna carta as though that's going to ward off twitter. [laughter] but it doesn't. i mean, i've tried et e, right? -- it, right? i get up in the morning, and i paint a star and burp it and i say -- and i burn it and i say magna carta, it doesn't stop twitter. [laughter] i don't actually do that. [laughter] i think it's the very sense that
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this is intimate and this is ours, right, that made them vulnerable. and then, of course, now the brexit vote is not the most important thing in britain. the most important thing in britain is what's going, what form is brexit actually going to take, and it's very hard for them to examine. we've now, like the u.s. similar things have happened. there's a very questionable event in 2016, here as there, but people double down later, they morally commit themselves to something, and it's very hard to with clear eyes investigate what happened back then. >> i'm going to come do the audience in a minute. one more question. you mentioned a couple of times here the issue of homosexuality as a theme or an issue that the russians pushed in a number of ways. i was quite struck in the book the number of ways you describe that. i guess i had seen pieces of it here and there, but i'd never quite come to the realization of how systematic and central it was to the narrative. could you talk a little bit more about that? i thought it was powerful and unusual. >> yeah.
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so, i mean, first of all, just to confirm what you say, it does turn up all over the place. it turns up in russian domestic politics, as i'm sure everyone here will know. passing the law in 2013 against, you know, what's characterized as homosexual propaganda changes the political climate inside russia. it creates a sense of us and them. and like all of theus these, the way that it works is somebody in the country is not us, but that somebody is also linked to a powerful international conspiracy, right? so it's not just the gays and the lesbians in russia, it's the gays and the lesbian, you know, around the world who are notionally supporting them, right? it works very well in politics, and -- so it's in russian domestic politics. it was in ukraine. the alliance with the -- [inaudible] in france, right? marine le pen's party is formed in 2013 after france passes the
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partnership law. and delegates go to moscow and talk about how awful this all is, and that's when their relationship begins which then becomes a financial relationship. so it does turn up all over the place. and, you know, american evangelicals are -- well, this is one of the reasons why some american evangelicals admire russia, by the way. this thing is much more possible to do openly there than here. because it works and it also works because sexuality is just an inexhaustible source of anxiety, right? you can always kind of hit people with it. it's like the second world war, it's slowly losing its force in russia, slowly, slowly, but sexuality's always going to be there, right, as a way to make people try to define themselves one way or the other. and they, you know, they're pretty clever about how they do it. the other thing i want to say
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about this is so when when you redefine -- it's not about economics and law and, you know, social advancement and sort of objective national interest and you say international relations is actually about civilization and sensibility, you then have to have some kind of content for what that is. and that's actually quite tough, right? i mean, it is tough to say what american civilization, it's hard to say what russian civilization is. it's hard to say. but so for the time being at least homosexuality serves as a kind of proxy for that. like we're straight and they're not, right? we protect traditional families, and they -- and so in an odd way it's like the lowest common denominator. you can't think of to anything else, so you use this. >> turn to the audience. i'm going to turn to this side over here, and if you could state your question in fairly compact form and make it a question, if possible. i'll start here and work back. yes, sir, right here: >> dr. snyder, this is about the
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politicians of responsibility, and you decided in, to write a political pamphlet which went all over the world, and so you moved out of your really important role as a historian and so i guess my question is how do you view that, your role now? and i'm not asking it as a people magazine question, i'm asking sort of what is our role as we move out of just our day-to-day activity. >> okay. so you threw me for a moment with the people magazine reference. [laughter] margaret atwood did mention "vanity fair," i think it was. that's as close as i get to people. so with the politics of responsibility and being a historian, i actually, like, the way that i've been thinking about this is i said early in the talk we kind of have to bring what we got. and for of us, that's going to be a stretch.
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but it may not be a stretch which actually that deuces where you come from. so history really does depend on factuality, i think. history really does depend on putting things in order over time. history really does say that we can reverse entropy intellectually. we do say these things as a discipline, or at least some of us do, and that does actually have political implications at least in the present moment. like so one of the things i say in the book which i believe is history actually is a form of political thought. if you actually carry out that form of reasoning, you're doing something political given that the dominant climate in politics is that nothing makes sense, everything is scattered, it's just a matter of how we feel, we can't remember what came first and what came second, just being a historian starts to become political. and i think that's true about a lot of vocations and not just the obvious ones. it doesn't take much tweaking the show how being a reporter matters hugely, you know? the book is devoted to reporters
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who i call the heroes of our time which i sincerely believe, but it doesn't take much tweaking either about how being a lawyer or a physician, just a little bit of a turn, a little bit of thinking about professional ethics can move you out further into the public sphere than you were before. so what i, you know, on tyranny is at once an ambitious and at once not an ambitious book. we're in a moment where what we do actually matters a lot more than other moments, but it's also kind of simple. it says you can do this small thing, this small thing, this small thing, and it will change you and the people around you. i think the trick is to recognize, going back to tom's first question, that you're in a moment where the politics of responsibility matters. like that's the trick. saying, okay, here i am in history, it's happening around me. i see now what i can do. i think that's the trick right there. >> and right behind you there. right there, yeah. >> thank you.
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professor snyder, do you see what you're describing in terms of the politics of eternity going on in asia as well, or is this just a western phenomenon? >> yeah. you kind of got me on methodological realms there. so i try to work in sources that i think i understand, so when i try to sketch out putin's thought, for example, i'm trying to read him carefully and pay attention to what he says over time. and putin cites this philosopher, you know, who i mentioned briefly. he cites him in several parliamentary addresses, he cites him right after russia annexes crimea, he cites him in connection to the european union. and so i took the 40 volumes of the writings, and i read them, and i tried to make sense of them, and i tried to see what the connections and rez happens ins were between the passages that putin cited and the meaning in the work and our contemporary reality, and those are all things i can do because of language. he wrote in german and russian.
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i can read those languages. with china, you know, it's just harder for me because i don't feel like i have that same, you know -- [speaking in native tongue] i don't feel like i have, like i can get into it in the same way. my broad answer would be yes, and i think creating a succession problem for yourself which xi and the communist, the communist party of china have just done tends to reinforce the politics of eternity. because when you block out the immediate future, the temptation to then loop back becomes all the stronger e. but i don't think i'd want to go any further than that. >> come right here, and then i'll come over here. yeah, this gentleman right here. >> professor snyder, bill taylor. thank you. you say that europe is really the important geography for the russians. and you say that this is a war and the aggression against ukraine is part of that war, and
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they have attacked nonstates, and they've attacked european democracies as well. what's their, when's their priority -- what's their priority? if russia sees europe as the most important and yet they've in some terms succeeded more in the united states than they have in the battles that they've fought. >> that's a really good question. i just want to start by emphasizing that it's not just me who characterizes this as a war. i mean, that's -- this is something that you get from the russians. like, this is the kind of language which is kind of a matter of everyday discourse over there are. and following the war in ukraine from the russian sources, i found it extremely -- at first i was struck by it and surprised by it, and then i realized that in some sense these people meant it. i mean, not just like -- like the head of security who sent over in 2014 from the russian federation talked about how ukraine and the united states were very similar, they had divided politics, they were both
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disintegrating states, you know, the united states is artificial. he also said demonic. the united states is an artificial, demonic creation that one day will cease to exist. you realize this is a serious responsibility and who does think that he's part of this larger campaign. and, you know, the russian soldiers in ukraine, many of them -- some of whom were actually interviewed. you know, there's many things, there are more primary sources than people think. we have actual interview transcripts with russian soldiers in ukraine as well as ukraine citizens frighting on the -- fighting on the russian side, and they're saying things like i'm fantasizing about russian stealth fighters flying over the capitol, a red flag flying over the white house. and after a while -- at first it seems kind of whacko, but then you realize maybe what historians always do. what we're taught to do is when something strikes you, rath aerothan dismiss it, you're supposed to try to see it from
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the point of view of the speaker. and if you play that exercise enough times, you realize there may be some patterns here. maybe they're thinking et for a reason. and in retrospect when you put the sources together as i tried to do in the book, you realize if you look at the chronology, the annexation of crimea is followed within a couple of weeks by the internet research agency turning itself attention to the u.s. just by way of riffing on the premise of your question. i think there are two interesting things here. the first is i think the general idea which i call strategic relativism is not to make europe or the u.s. follow some model, right? it's not like the 20th century where we have some notion of communism which we think is going to be either, you know, inspiring or maybe we'll force it on you. even be we force it on you, there is a kind of template, right? there are ways this is supposed
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to work, a leninist system. we want to hollow you out from within so you're more like us in the higher levels of distrust, greater dysfunctionalty of the rule of law. not that we need you to have the russian orthodox church or anything like that, right? but we need for the things that are most functional in europe and the u.s., we need those things to be weaker. so i think it's entirely negative. you put your finger on something which i think is very important which is the relative failure in ukraine and the relative success in the united states. which is something i think we have a whole lot of trouble following over here. yeah, ukraine in military terms lost territory, but in terms of opinion, right, many europeans and many americans were, just to be very blunt about it, taken in and said all kinds of irrelevant things about the russian war in ukraine. but not that many ukrainian did relatively speaking, right?
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they have more practice with this kind of thing, and they're native russian speakers, and they knew that they were being invaded. but so an interesting thing happened. i said this back in early 2014, an interesting thing happened where there was this kind of branch where i think the russians realized the subjective psychological parts directed at europe and america was going much better than the objective, military operational part in ukraine, right? so when people asked me do you think russia's going to invade another country, i've always tended to think not because they realized that it was the psychological part of the hybrid war that they were clearly winning. the military part was much, much more ambiguous. they had trouble with ukraine which at the time basically did not have an army. but they won, i mean, let's face it, they won great ballots in what they call the psycho-sphere in the u.s. and europe. i think, i mean, this is just a-up. now. i think they've been -- a hunch now. i think they were surprised by
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how well that went, and i think they kind of followed it, you know, they followed success upon success to where they reached a point where they're much further along than they kind of expected to be. i think, i mean, there seems to have been a certain amount of talk in the fall of '16 about, well, wait a minute, is this really going to work? do we really want it to work? here we are. >> let's take this woman right here. i'm going to come to some people over here. thanks. >> thank you. when i think about the issues of inevitability versus responsibility, i wonder you seem to frame the politics of inevitability in the united states in a sort of sock vacuous hopeful sense, there's this having use hopefulness. what about the sense of inevitability in terms of fatalism? the fatalism that often
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underscores a lot of thinking in certain parts of the world compared to more sort of determinism in a way in the united states? how does that affect your construct, first of all. and secondly, when you talk about the politics of responsibility, i also think about the global refugee crisis. you know, we've almost stopped talking about trying to solve the problems at the point of origin. >> yeah. >> and people are only concerned when the symptoms arise in such a critical way as they did a few years ago in europe and still do the a certain extent today. >> [inaudible] no, but go ahead if you want to -- >> so the question there is, is that part of what you're
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thinking in terms of the differentiation between inevitability and is responsibility? >> absolutely. one of the ways that i got to this concept was by writing about the holocaust, in fact. i wrote a book called black earth which was about holocaust in which i made a couple of new arguments. and one of the new arguments was that we need to take hitler's thinking about ecology seriously, that one of the sources of the holocaust was hitler's idea that technology can't save us from problems of scarcity, therefore, we have no choice but to take land. and that was a kind of them poral notion. like -- temporal notion. therefore, we have to take what we can now. and that got me thinking, you know, i was writing in this in 2012, '13, '14, it got me thinking about climate change and, you know, what it means to say the science isn't true, the technology isn't going to make any difference. and what that means is that
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you're kind of collapsing time because technology and science, like democracy, can be ways of creating a sense of time, creating a sense of a predictable near-term future. if you say it's not going to work, it's not really there, the climate change is not really plausible, you're basically creating a future which is going to be much worse, and when it hits you, you're not going to be ready for it. so climate change, for me, is a very good example of the politics of responsibility. it's about the one-year, five-year, ten-year future. you have to do something about it now. and it relates directly to refugees. there are many root causes of refugee crises, but one of them is precisely climate change, the decertification of what used to be called the fertile crescent in syria is one of the causes of what's happening. i mean, it's a completely different way of thinking about like the whole issue of muslims and immigration. you can think, well, we don't like immigration, we don't like muslims, you know? that's the politics of eternity talking.
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these people are different, and they come from there to here over and over again. the politics of responsibility says the crescent-shaped part of the world where most of the muslims live is the part that's most directly affected by climate change. so if we want to prevent instability in that part of the world, then we have to work on climate change. okay. so fatalism for me, i may not grasp what you mean, but i think it tends to play into the politics of eternity. because if you think it doesn't matter what we do, right, maybe we don't know what to do, we don't trust anything, we don't trust our leaders, we don't have any power, then it's just kind of the same thing over and over and over again. but i don't want the go into that so i can take some more questions. >> we've got four or five more minutes. going to take this one and then come back here. this woman right here. i'll do my best but won't be able to get to -- please keep your questions fairly compact.
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but speak up. that microphone is either not working, our you're not speaking directly into it. hold on, we have another one. >> okay, is this better? >> much better. >> elizabeth wilson. thank you very much for this really stimulating conversation, and i'll make these questions short. first, i just wanted to observe that you seem to work from a premise that russia is europe and that it def unites -- deviates from the european narrative, and i just wanted to ask you is that -- what's going on there. >> okay. >> and i really liked your economic approach to this, to the conundrums of the moment, and i'm just wondering where you situate yourself in terms of like economic theory and critique. you know, there's a narrative out there that you could say, okay, we have a capitalism versus command economy,
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communism, capitalism won, therefore, we were not able to imagine authoritarianism coupled with a free market approach which seems to be one of the things that is emerging right now. but what is the, what's the -- on the politics of responsibility, what's the economic alternative to this market fundamental -- >> i think two with questions. i want to just take a couple more, tim, and then we'll finish up. this woman right behind and this gentleman. yeah, this woman right here. yeah. >> so cryptocurrency has come into fashion in the past couple of years. can you share your thoughts on how or if this will affect the u.s. and its relationship to russia in the coming years? >> okay. this gentleman and -- no, right behind you. right there with the white shirt. thank you.
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>> where does the politics of eternity, what is the impact on natural physical scientists and biologists and people like that who are trying to make a career in russia. >> okay. >> one last one. here. >> yes. i'm bill courtney, rand corporation. following up on ambassador taylor's question about europe. i agree with you that europe is much more important for russia than america is, though russians sometimes behave the united states is more important. is this because they see us as a large superpower, because they overrate the importance of military power relative to political, economic and social power, or is there some other reason? >> great. out of that a, pick and choose. three minutes worth. >> okay. [laughter] so whether russia really is european, i don't have a, i have no view on that. what i, my view is that past empires in that geographical space, say the british empire, the dutch empire, the french empire, have followed a certain
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pattern invisible even to themselves in which they've joined this larger project called europe. that russia had to do that, i don't have a view on those things. my view though is that in that part of the world, russia's now the first country not to join that project and we don't want the say we couldn't do it because it was asian because, of course, the british empire was even more asian than russia was many many respects. -- in many respects. that's not exactly it. but it's striking that this move towards civilization is called eurasia, and there's a whole russian tradition old and new which is part of the subject of the book. and then you had a second great question which is what -- >> economics. >> economics. yeah. so hayek was wrong. it's just not true that intervention by state in capitalism leads to authoritarianism. that did not happen in austria, which is where he's from. it didn't happen in germany either. if anything, it's the contrary.
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in order to have these wonderful individuals that our libertarian friends fantasize about, you have to have a whole lot of state intervention especially when those people are young. so you can't do it without pluralism. you have to have some notion of what the sate is doing to create these individuals who will become the captains of industry and talk about how they don't need the state, right? so there's a dialectic this. and in the cold war, the welfare state won the cold war even in the united states. i mean, just look at the timing, right? we started breaking up the welfare state urn reagan. the welfare state won the cold war. by then the die were already cast. by then our model had proved to be better, but our model was not a pure capitalist model. between the '40s and about 1980, the difference in wealth between the top 1% and the bottom 90% in the u.s. was closing, right? it's since the '80s to the present that it's the opened up again. so if we won the cold war with the model, it was the welfare
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state model and not the pure capitalist state model which is a false, retroactive narration. okay. on, you know, on bitcoin, i'm going to puppet except to note that -- punt except to note that you grouped your two questions frivolously and say russian scientists are diverting supercomputer power in order to mine bit. but, you know, the fundamental link, you know, the fundamental link -- the okay, science, crypto, one other thing, i'm missing -- am i dropping somebody's question? >> it was the bit about europe. if europe was more important, why do they treat the --? >> yeah. the serious answer about science, i don't have the detailed knowledge, but serious answer is science, in my view, is part of a politics responsibility which constantly throws out facts and forces you to improvise new policies looking at a near-term future. we -- i quite agree with the premise of your question. but it's something that's kind of hard for us to grasp.
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we are more important than europe narratively, right? because we are a superpower. you know, that's how mr. putin refers to us. we're a superpower. how could we have intervened in your elections, you're a superpower. and i think for russian public opinion like that notion that russia and america are somehow comparable because we're superpowers with armies and so on, that's important narratively. in that particular sense. but i think politically europe is much more important over the long run. and i think we have to learn to distinguish our narrative function and also learn not to fall into this particular discourse with them about the superpowers and the geopolitics. i think can one thing which happened to us in '14 with ukraine is that we fell for that. this is about the superpowers and the geopolitics as opposed to being about the rule of law and the super boring association agreement with the european union. it's narratively important for
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them and also be a bit of a trap for us. >> i'd like to thank freedom house for partnering with us, but above all, thank timothy snyder for coming back to carnegie after 20 years. we've changeed buildings, but we've not changed our soul. your lecture's a very big part of that, so let's have a round of applause. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> there are books for sale out there. you saw them on the way in, i saw you buying them. buy some more. [inaudible conversations] >> booktv is on facebook. like us to get publishing news, scheduling updates, behind the
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