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tv   Interview with Steven Lee Myers  CSPAN  December 17, 2016 1:30pm-1:46pm EST

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and human rights emerge only in western europe at about 1400 out of the judeo-christian tradition. >> host: yep. >> guest: and so those rights, we argue at least, that the founders precede the existence of government. so do you want a separation of that, right? so do rights exist, yes or no. and so i kind of wanted to push the thinking a little bit. we're at war right now with a part of a tradition who has a hard time with the first amendment and religious toleration. >> host: right. >> guest: so i wanted to push the ideas out there in public and get a good debate going, and so that's part of what was going on. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> host: and now joining us is stephen lee my ors who works for the -- myers who works for "the new york times" and has written this book, "the new czar: the rise and reign of vladimir putin." mr. myers, why to you call him a czar? >> guest: that's an excellent question.ll it stemmed, i think, really from the kind of leader he's become.
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a good friend of mine once described him as a czar of democracy, which i thought was a nice irony because, you know, he does preside over what is officially a democratic system,y you know, a constitution that's very democratic. , a constitution that's very democrat, but in reality his style of leadership more and more has become autocratic and he is reaching, i think not just to the soviet past, but the russian imperial path as well and even some of his aides started calling him czar, leader at some point during his presidency fairly early on, so i think it captures the kind of leader he has become in at almost total control he has over the future of his country. >> that's what i wanted to ask next is does he have total control over the political reins of power? >> political reins, absolutely. the system he has created is very much dependent on a strong
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presidential administration and he has eliminated all other potential opposition that could emerge, even places where optima-- opposition could occur. for example, parliament or regional office governors around the country. they call that a power vertical in russia controlled very much from the topic it to does it mean he controls every decision made by the russian government and certainly not everything in the country. the country is large and can be controlled by one man, but at least politically it's for pretty firm power? host: your day job as a washington course on it for york times, but you worked on election 2016. how involved are the russians with e-mail hack etc. this election? guest: you know, i could not have told you a year ago that russia would play such a large role in our election and it is still surprising to me. some of it has to do with donald trump and his admiration for
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vladimir putin and for russia, you know, they have never met, the two leaders, but there is an affinity in terms of leadership style that trump has ordered putin. as for the russian role in the election, our intelligence agencies assessed that these hacks that took place were conducted by two russian intelligence agencies and i think it was very much an effort by the russians, not officially, of course, they have denied they were involved, but i do think that the russians were eager to discredit the american electoral process. this is what they believe the united states is doing to russia, by the way, and if you will remember and putin's last election the protest that surrounded them and he talked about hillary clinton then secretary of state ordering the protesters into the street for revolution and they believe we did
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that in the arab spring, we have done that in ukraine, in georgia and soda way it felt a little bit like payback. the russians wanted to show that, yes, they had the capability and most importantly the desire to disrupt things. host: there was a reset, so-called reset of russian us relations a couple of years ago. what happened to that? guest: you know, the reset-- by the way, the obama administration officially dubbed that we make into office, but every new administration since the collapse of the soviet union has come in and tried to reset relations with russia and so i think you will see that again with tromp. in the case of obama, relations between putin and bush had taken a dive at the end of bush's tenure and obama came in thinking, no, we have work we can do at the russians. there are things we can cooperate on and they
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did and the most important thing to remember is this is a period i sometimes-- you know president putin stepped out in gate tower, handed off officially at least to the president for four years and while putin remained on the scene very much still in charge and very much the paramount leader, but nonetheless, there was a different sensibility, if you will and if you listen to the obama people they will tell you that in the early years they made significant progress in improving relations with russia. the nuclear agreement, russia's secession to the russian trade organization and the sentiment in moscow you could tell was different. there was-- we want allies, but at least it was a warmer relation than we have now. what changed is that vladimir putin connect to the presidency and as i already mentioned
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there were protests that they greeted that in russia that he believed were stoked by foreign powers, principally as and at that point relations began their downward descent that continued all the way through the arab spring, the war with libya, the syrian civil war, edward's noted showing up in moscow after the leaks here and just one thing after another, even obama's decision not to attend the soviet olympics which was a important event for putin, personally. that has left relations at the lowest point really since the cold war ended. host: we are talking about a personal antagonism between the two leaders speak to guess, and short. i don't think it was obama felt that much antagonism towards putin, but putin does feel slighted. is very sensitive to that end i think there
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was even a point when relations began to a bad where the obama administration decided they would ignore russia and that seemed to even irritate them more work they don't want to be ignored and they believe they are a world power and they at the center of a .-dot-- international dialogue. host: in your book you talk about dimitri, but you also talked about black pr. guest: it's a great phrase. it's really-- when people talk about fake news or post truth politics, this is part of what we're talking about and they say black pr is essentially dirt, defamation, it's the way that they attack opponents, on tv. particularly, the liberal opposition, democrats in russia are
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eviscerated on tv on a rig the basis. the united states, in particular, right now is take a beating russian television and it's essentially the use of information, sometimes very real information to discredit people and it's an old soviet tactic as well, but it is something that has become modernized and is very persuasive, not just to russians at home, but also increasingly abroad. you see this with their international network, russia today the english language network and it's proved to be quite useful in helping cement this power we were talking about earlier. host: is steven lee myers is spent several years as a moscow correspondent and bureau chief for the "new york times" as well as being baghdad bureau chief and currently in the washington bureau. you open your book with a story about vladimir putin senior.
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who is that? guest: putin's father, also vladimir was hard-working, you know, labor, communist party member, had been in the military, but when world war ii, the great patriotic where they call it began he was recruited to fight. of course, everyone was. ended up fighting at the beach of leningrad, which is where putin is from, today's st. petersburg and if you know your history of the war, the beat the beach of leningrad was horrific. 's father and mother were trapped inside the city. on older brother of his died during the siege and his father was terribly wounded on the battlefield that most people unless they are really history buff probably have never heard of. when they tried to break out of the siege and it's an amazing sight to
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see even today. it was a horrific battle, the soviet army lost 300,000 men during that battle and his father barely survived. he was previously wounded and limped as a result for the rest of his life and i wanted to begin the story there because even though the war is receding farther and farther into history , it's remains a something very much current in today's russia. it was used in the soviet time really is the great, schmidt of the soviet union was defeating nazi germany, but it also places history today of the great russia and the threats from beyond russia that you have to be ever vigilant for and they use this, the ceremonies remembering their greatest generation in a way that's much more powerful, much more immediate that it is in
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the united states. host: is vladimir putin president for life? guest: you know, i don't think so, to be honest. but, he is president for a long time. he stands for reelection in 2018. he will run again, i'm pretty sure unless something unforeseen happens. he will win because that's the way the system is created. they call it managed democracy there. there are no real free and fair elections and no opponents i would be allowed to challenge him, no real opponent. about communists will put someone up and went 13% again as they always do and then at that point you will have another six year term, so that will take us 22024 and we could be talking about the end of the trump administration or the beginning of the next administration before he leaves office. it was interesting when he stepped aside for four years, you know, he
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was following the letter of the constitution, not the spirit, but the russian constitution has a limited on to terms and based on our model, by the way. it was important to him, i think, to not be seen as the leader of a banana republic or seen as a torque carrying. he couldn't easily change the constitution. his popularity at that time in 2008, was such that he could have easily won another election and continued to do so. but, the-- it was important to him not to do that because he wanted russia to be seen as a democratic country and do so i believe that when we come to, 2024 he will face a similar decision and he might very well do what he did the first time, groom a successor who will officially become president and he will remain on as, you know, prime minister again or
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at that point a more informal role, but he is definitely not going away soon. host: did he sit down with you for this book? guest: he refused for this book and i tried very hard. i have interviewed him before the couple of settings and thought it would be great to talk to him about the things that i don't know, frankly, and that i could not learn. i would love to talk to him more about the war and the rest of his family's experience there and obviously there are a lot of unanswered questions to this day about his personal life is personal finances. what was interesting is that people who were close to him did agree to talk and i had to assume that was with his permission, so i'm surprised-- a little bit disappointed-- i spent time called invading the kremlin spokesman and pressed him over and over to try to make this happen and finally he said, you don't need to meet the president to
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interview him. you know everything there is to know about him. he has said it all. look on our website. there is some truth to that. he is somewhat-- he is very open. he talks a lot in the key is to read it all and balance what you can with other sources. >> this is booktv on c-span2. television for serious readers. here's our prime time lineup. tonight, starting at 7 p.m. eastern, a history of treason in america. at 7:45 p.m., historian h.w. brands on the contentious relationship between president truman and general macarthur. at nine, stuart stevens recalls his time serving you under seven different presidents. on "after words" at 10 p.m. eastern, georgetown university philosophy professor jason
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brennan weighs many on flaws in democratic systems. and we wrap up our saturday prime time lineup at 11 with the 37th annual american book awards. that all happens tonight on c-span2's booktv. >> 1776 was not a great leap forward for africans, nor was it a great leap forward for the indigenous population. it was for many europeans, that is to be sure. but europeans, as we well know, do not comprise the entirety of humanity. and i think what it set in motion is what, actually, we're seeing in 2016. that is to say, with 1776 you had the progressive expropriation of land from the indigenous population, and then that land was parceled out often times


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