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tv   Author Discussion on Russia  CSPAN  October 17, 2021 4:02am-4:34am EDT

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or persuaded doctors to start prescribing objection cotton and it's created one of the biggest health crisis in -- in west virginia history and in u.s. history. that's all i'm going to say about that? >> eric is the author of this book, deaf in mud lick. he has been our guest on book tv. mr. eyre, thank you for your time. >> thank you very much for having me on, i appreciate it. >> and you're watching book tv. this is our coverage of this year's national book festival and that coverage continues right now. >> hello, and welcome 2021 national book festival. my name is rob casper, head of poetry and literature in congress.
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our moderator chief justice and correspondent for cbs news was called in to work today so i will be here as your moderator with our amazing pear of authors, katherine belton author of putin's people, how the kgb took on the west and joshua, author of between two fires, truth, ambition and compromise in putin's russia. joshua and katherine, welcome to the program and to the national book festival. >> thanks for having us. >> so my first question is for you, katherine. tell us what prompted you to write this book about vladimir putin. >> that's a big question. i began a long time ago when i was still working for the ft as moscow correspondent and seemed that i was in a position of
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great privilege where we had access to lots of government officials and russian billionaires and it seemed to me that it was time really to kind of leverage those contacts and the relationships that we have been able to build over the years to try really delve on how putin came to together and what happened to security services, the soviet collapse and how they were able to accumulate so much power once pit inrose to the presidency. these were the aspects that i wanted to spend time delving into instead of security rise under security services of putin. >> what do you think enabled putin to hold onto power for so long and maybe how the security services helped enable that. he
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worked as presidency by security forces and by the former kgb and kremlin and we've seen first of all the era billionaires who were once known as oligarchs and so much power and 90's and putin essentially by putting the richest and the most powerful one of them in jail for ten years and piece by piece and doing so he was subverting the russian court system to the kremlin's will and essentially signaling to all the oligarchs that they to tow the crime line's line and they would have the same fate. this is a system which is now extended further and further into the russian economy. he put his loyal allies in charge of most strategic sectors of the economy and when you have a law enforcement machine and court system that's fully under
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control of the former kgb, then essentially, you know, everything is now putin's command as one former kgb ally put it that putin can access the entire cash of the country so it's quite an effective system that they've managed to built but it's based on fear and it's based on having trouble of the organs. let me turn to joshua and let me remind you in the audience that you can ask questions if you go to our website policypog/bookfest and click on this program and you'll see on the right-hand side a q&a so please do ask questions. we will get to your questions towards the end of this segment,
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so joshua given what they said about survival in russia, can you talk about what motivated you to have the system if you do want to survive and even drive in contemporary russia. testify met quite harshly and listen to the protest that we have seen but starting in the time and moving forward i was struck by how the dichotomy and we often saw reflected in the news coverage of russia wasn't entirely and didn't entirely capture the most nuance nature of reality here. in other words, the story on russia isn't always one of cruel
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repressive state versus brave descent protestors or opposition movement. that dichotomy exists and it's real and it's not the best, doesn't reflect reality but most of reality, most of the reality i've observed in the people i interviewed and the people i've met and my personal tides in russia existed somewhere in the middle in a gray zone where people adjusted their lives, adjusted their ambitions and goals according to the ever changing and the shifting interest and requirements of the state and people oftentimes set out with understandable ambiguouses and goals to themselves and what they wanted to achieve and to american readers of what they wanted and to see for themselves and their careers and their private lives but they had to go out and construct those realities and pursue those realities in the shadow of a state that was
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becoming increasingly demanding, increasingly intrusive and repressive and it was that dance of compromise that really fascinating me because i understood or could see myself reflected in it. these were very human universal dilemmas and impulses and situations that people often face and i wanted to bring those to life and maybe it wasn't reflected in the news coverage or even news coverage of russia and i wanted to bring that interesting to me that really fascinating gray world of -- of compromise and the nuance moral dilemmas to the pace because the second part of your question, i think that putin state from its outset 20 plus years ago, the rise of that system and the construction of that system is something that katherine so eloquently and such reptorial, fire power brings to life in her book and one of the ways that it's proven so durable it's
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brought so many people on board. i guess you could say to coopt some people to entice some people whether it's business people or feeder directors, human rights workers, it found ways to attract many of the best and brightest into working with the system and along the way making small compromises that often turn to big compromises and that allows or at least one of the factors that allowed the putin system to remain external and stable for so long and as i said, t brought so many people under its big tent and brought them through carrot or stick. number of subscribers, can you tell us about those folks and how you found them and what you learned from them? >> some of the people that i wrote around in the book and
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head of channel 1, the national federal intelligent channel with the most reach in russia and so his position makes him a minister propaganda of the russian state and certainly carries out the duty both with great loyalty but also with great creative flair i would say and that's because at his core at least or in his past was kind of art house tour and he had pace that really swung toward the off wait and left field compared to what else was available in soviet and post soviet culture and someone with cultural creative taste and uses the than as platform to indulge and air programming on channel 1 that you won't find on other russian-state channels and i don't think that you would find on other channels if it wasn't for particular or esthetic
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vision but at the same time he also uses channel as a very willing and effective instrument in propagating all of the official messages and signal that the state wants to transmit to the public and doesn't transmit what the state doesn't want the public to know. so he's very much a loyal member of the putin system while also using the channel and using the resource under his command to indulge his own personal as i've said art house, sometimes odd interest of certainly would not be the kind of thing that the rest of russian officials would be interested in airing or transmitting to the public or even know about airing the american black humor series fargo, for example. putting that on -- on channel one. i don't think that's the kind of thing that otherwise you see on russian-state television and the other thing that they were interested in and therefore he put on the channel. also in charge of the acting
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quite successful and opening ceremonies of the olympics, really rich pageant that displayed russian history and russian art and russian science through the years and he did that with really great creative and esthetic applause but, again, that was in a way ernst, someone displays creative and esthetic vision and uses the creative and esthetic vision in the service of kremlin with great loyalty. >> katherine, let's turn to you. i'm curious to know what you would say putin's ultimate ambition is. this is a question that came from marian and i'm throwing to you a little bit early and i'm curious to understand how his ambitions may have changed and what they may be looking forward from now.
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>> yeah, his ambition by now unfortunately is to hold onto power and we see in the deepening power of his regime and interested in joshua's book very much betray incredibly this system in which kind a cohort of elites have been forced to adapt to this group of security servicemen whose acquired power and gripping onto it by all means necessary and they must adapt to survive and they can also seek opportunity through working through and that system right to joshua described so well now and it's kind of interesting. i feel like the system has reached this kind of point of inflection where you have this sort of two systems, group of kgb men around putin intent of acquiring and accumulating power and the more liberal, moderate
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moscow elite to see how to hold onto wealth and must adapt and seek opportunities through working with the security servicemen who have so much power in the kremlin and for a long time many of them have been able to do so and acquire through doing so and adapting and demonstrating their loyalty to kremlin and the economy hasn't been growing now for a long time. people disposable incomes are down 10% from 8 years ago. i think people are now looking around and wondering do we share putin's vision, putin has been claiming this vision of returning russia to its great power state on the world and he wants to kind of try and attack the west who he still sees as main adversary and do so through undermining democracies and boosting russia's stature that way but it seems the people and in particular the elite moscow
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are no longer on board for this and you can see them now beginning to chase the increasing reach of the security services because that's the economy stops growing the pie is smaller and those who are bent this way and fitting with the kremlin and so do favors for the kremlin and finding that businesses are being seized from them too and it's not enough anymore to be just loyal to the putin regime. you actually have to be one of them, you have to be one of putin's closest allies from the kgb or you have to know them personally in order to keep business safe and there's been a whole string of businesses and banks have been taken over in in the last couple of and owned by precisely these type of people that joshua has been describing and trying to adapt so what this interesting inflection point now in the power structure and
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dynamic because it has been quite stable and now the growing numbers of the elite who may not be able to see ways to survive anymore and fit into the system and i think putin also feels that and you can see the growing paranoia of the regime, you have seen that and what happened to alexander valney and political mitt --putin was also facing unprecedented protest in the far east and navalny was keeping kicking off resistance in siberia. we saw him get poisoned and jailed when he dared to returned mo moscow this year and
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crack-down of protests that followed his jailing. it was the case in previous years, the kremlin, adapted response to sit in with the more liberal moscow and adapt to the wishes but no longer came lip service of trying to have an image of remotely dramatic anymore and all we have seen is the crack-down and will continue to see that following the elections where they've certainly eradicated any chance for the opposition to -- to move in on their power. so i think unfortunately putin only has one name in life now and that's to hold onto power. i think he would continue to divide and disrupt the west. obviously he faces a bit of a different picture now that there's joe biden in the u.s. he's still making overtures to
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the kremlin following geneva in june. we have to see. it's quite simple for putin now. he just wants power. when he first came to the presidency he might have been a little bit reluctant president but the security servicemen around him certainly wanted to make sure he held onto power and accumulated as much as possible and then to a degree that stability would be returned to the russian political seen and then they could remove all of position and once that reached a critical mass, once the commander of the economy reached a critical mass, they were able to divert cash flows to begin undermining democracies in the west and corrupting officials and -- and so on as we seem and what happened in -- with trump and the u.s. and far left and far right across europe.
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the ambitions of putin and his men change and expand in trying to standing on world stage but trying to undermine rivals but it's all about just holding onto power. >> thank you for that. before i turn to my question for both of you, i just want to let audience know that in addition to asking questions in our chat, you can see the connection we are making not only with this event but with all of our adult national book festivals to the library of congress collections. we had a link you can click onto read more about putin's 2008 election in the libraries russian election. jack asked what you will think will happen after putin obviously he can't wait forever and it's apparent that he isn't
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grooming anyone in particular to follow him so what do you think will happen both in terms of leadership and in terms of the country. >> well, i think as katherine has laid out convincingly the whole plan for the near and medium future is to project the outcome and project outwardly to political elites close to the kremlin and the public at large and to the western government that putin is here to stay and putin would like as it were kick the can as listening as long as possible to avoid just exactly that kind of discussion. that's a conversation he doesn't want to happen inside his own kind of palace corridors as it were and doesn't want russian elite to begin to think about postputin future and this would headache as we call him in america a lame duck. will begin to look toward the
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future and what power might be nor does he want the russian public i think to begin to contemplate a post putin future because he wants to retain the singular roles as the figure head and chief arbiter of the internal clans and factions that katherine has talked about and documents in her book and so i think, you know, all resources have been directed towards exactly this question. we saw this with last summer's constitutional referendum, the point of which really for nothing more than to give putin the right to run again in 2024 and even in 2030 after that, so at least projecting the air of the kind of internal unquestion hold on power is fundamental to putin keeping power today. in other words, projecting power into the future is what allows putin to retain power in the here and now in the russian political system surviving until tomorrow really is the -- the chief's goal, tends to be a
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system, a very tactical system and not a strategic one. so for putin to survive another night in the kremlin as it were he needs both elite around him and public at large to think he will be here another 5, 10, or however many more years. that said, before turning it over to katherine and interest to what she might say about the hypothetical or not hypothetical at all, for reasons of biology, if not politics they'll be a post putin future for russia at some point. but the question i'm interested in and i address in the last chapter of my book is what will this transition -- generational transition passage of putin to office, it wasn't be putin leaving the political scene but the whole generation of men and largely men first and foremost who occupy positions of power in the political system, what happens when they fade from the political stage and young people, is t so-called putin generation, people who were born already under the putin
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presidency that putin's role has been going on for 21 plus years but there's a whole generation of young people who know only putin as their leader. what happens when they ascend to positions of power in not just politics but in the economy business society and will have the same habits and adaptive habits that i write about in my book and will they be as willing or kind of thinking first and foremost about how to attach themselves and insert themselves and adapt to the rules of the game and to try and benefit from those rules of the game or will they have a more kind of demanding attitude and insist that the demand in the system reflects their values and their ideals rather than adapting themselves to the system, will they expect the system to adapt itself to them. that's really still an open question as putin generation is quite young. for reasons, you know, human
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biology at some point, you know, putin and his generation will fade from the scene and the younger generation will take over and it'll be interesting sociological experience to see if they can transcend habits of mind and sociopolitical habits of ways of operating that very much came out of the last year of the soviet system that have the double think and the cynicism that were very much the late soviet and post soviet years. will they conduct themselves differently and that's an interesting question. it's a game that will have to runnet out for us to understand the outcome. >> yes, katherine, what do you think? in terms of the security apparatus that controlled so much of russia for so long? >> i mean, this is exactly the key question.
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the one that joshua is asking. i mean, i guess -- in a way it's split because on the one hand you have a whole new generation who is only known for putin -- who have only known the putin era and many who have also grown up in the ranks of the security services are incredibly motivated, well educated and they also continue to perceive the west as the main adversary and as at the enemy and they have grown up in an era where the security services have had this all encompassing reach and power so in a way that's quite dangerous if one of them say come to power because we have seen the situations where kind of the ssb or kind of other members of their cohort considers going take over businesses, rate them and the proceeds for themselves without any oversight or scrutiny or kind of any resistance from society, so, you know, if it's one of -- that contingent that
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come to power, then probably we are going to be in trouble. on the other hand, if you look at attitudes across the population then, i mean, there was a recent poll that showed almost the majority, i think, 44% wanted russia -- russia to treat the west as an ally rather than a rival and it was a much smaller number of -- 33% that wanted the russian regime to treat the west as a rival. attitudes are changing in the wider population but it depends how deep now is the grip on power by the security services and certainly putin and those around him and the kremlin and to ensure some kind of stability once the biological call clock runs out and then they've been promoting their own children to -- to positions of importance in the economy and the power to
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themselves and they have sons in charge of the country's biggest banks and kind of the big state institutions without some of them having any business experience at all and certainly been getting grooming in these positions so they are trying to create this transfer from within their own ranks and if that happens, again, that's not gate for -- great for the country but it may be that we see somebody more moderate from the moscow elite whose intent on reestablishing relations from the west and that we will see one of these swings because i guess what we have seen in the history of russia over the centuries is that there can be sort of quite a sharp swings from antiwest and autocratic systems to more liberal prowestern ones and they do kind of occur with quite regularity and the country seems to have
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not found anything in between yet. >> thank you. and for my last question, i would like to talk about your comment, katherine, before we started the session russia follows you and what has it meant for both of you to write about russia both from inside russia and from the west? >> yeah, so quickly, i left russia in the summer of 2014. i left to finish my book and it was the case that many of my sources in moscow were more and more uncomfortable with speaking with me there because the ukraine crisis was at its height. the west had just imposed sanctions on russia so i flew back to london thinking i would finish the book quickly but turned out the story had really followed me into the west. this was a stage where the putin regime had already accumulated so much power within its own country and it was now seeking to acquire influence in the west
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and begin its influence campaigns to try and undermine democracies in the west and the rise of far left and the far right and it became almost for me an ever-ending story and i could not leave and write the notes that i had from my time reporting in russia but it became a much bigger story about how russia was -- was seeking to expand its influence beyond its borders and, indeed, many of my sources also followed me into london whether into forced exile or whether they were just visiting and more free to speak without looking over their shoulders. so, yes, the story does follow you whether that's for good or for the bad. .. ..
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go for cutting-edge projection and for a while he was able to come back in the largest of the state even though he felt as someone with liberal leanings who created avant-garde work. for while he was able to receive state support for that work at a time when the state was interested in this appearance of flirting with the experiment avant-garde and favored in this crisis moment that catherine decide -- described after he fell from grace.
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he was eventually charged with fraud and in a politically motivated case buddy wriggled out of those charges and was released on house arrest and it seemed to suggest he was in the states favor and then after the book had come out he was removed from his post as the head of a high-profile leader. following the twists and turns to someone at the time had found a way to insert himself and found himself on the outs of the putin system and gave them out again following the swift return of the characters in the book is really fascinating to me in a reflection of what's going on writ large. >> unfortunately we are out of time. they are more questions love to have the answer but i just want to say thank you to both of you catherine belton author of putin's people how the kgb took
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on the west and author between two fires, cherished ambition and compromise in putin's russia. thanks to you both and thanks to our audience and i hope you continue to watch the

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