Podcast: THE CABLE


Tune in to THE CABLE - the transatlantic wire on security and democracy.

The Cable is a podcast production of the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group (TDWG) and the Institute of Current World Affairs in Washington.

Join us every other week as host Gregory Feifer, with TDWG’s Susan Corke, take you behind the threats facing democracy in Europe and the transatlantic relationship to tackle thorny questions, such as:

Why is populism popular?
How and why does propaganda work?
Who defines patriotism and how?
Will the transatlantic alliance survive?

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episode 20: The Kremlin cracks down

 In Russia, people have taken to the streets in their largest numbers in years to protest the barring of opposition candidates from local elections next month. The scope and brutality of the crackdown has marked a new level of repression. Journalist Karina Orlova talks to Greg about what it says about the Kremlin’s direction and Russia’s current political climate. Karina Orlova is a contributing writer to The American Interest magazine and Washington correspondent for Echo of Moscow radio.

Episode 19: The Kremlin kleptocracy: A conversation with Anders Aslund

Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging a cold war against the West to boost his popularity at home and legitimize his inner circle’s appropriation of Russia’s state industry. Anders Aslund joins Greg to discuss his new book, Russia’s Crony Capitalism, in which he investigates how many tens of billions are being stolen, where they’re going and what effect it’s having on democracy and rule of law around the world.

episode 18: Creating democratic transformation

Greg Satell—author of the new book Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change—talks to our host, Greg Feifer about what’s behind successful political movements, and Susan Corke raises some democratic breakthrough moments amid backward slide in Central Europe.

episode 17: Belarus and the Kremlin

It’s no secret Russia is using campaigns of influence to confront Western democracies and their allies. But it’s also intensively seeking to undermine one of its own closest allies: Belarus. Greg speaks to the country’s leading opposition politician, Andrei Sannikov, about what’s going on in Belarus. Then he’s joined by Olga Zakharova, Uladimir Kobets and Jonathan Katz to discuss a new report detailing what they say is a major Kremlin campaign to coerce the country to give up its independence.

Episode 16: Moldova, A New Era?

Moldova is under fresh leadership following a serious political crisis this month when the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc tried to force the new government out. The country’s richest man, he had captured government institutions for his own purposes, ultimately uniting the pro-Russian Socialist Party and pro-European ACUM bloc against his ruling Democratic Party. But can the ideologically opposing partners deliver on their promise to root out the country’s deep corruption and establish democratic institutions and rule of law? Victoria Bucataru, Stephan Gligor and Jonathan Katz join Greg to discuss the start of a new political era for Moldova and what’s at stake for Russia and the West.

episode 15: Poland: the press and rule of law getting squeezed by government

Today Polish President Duda meets with President Trump in the White House. yet, Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice Party has attacked democratic institutions, the judiciary and the free press and sought to criminalize criticism of Poland’s role in the Holocaust. Still, the country’s democracy remains more robust than Hungary’s, and even critics back a US military cooperation agreement that would put more troops in Poland to deter Russia. Harlan Mandel discusses press freedom, then Irena Lasota makes the case that Western observers hold a simplistic view of Polish politics. Susan also joins Greg to discuss the Globsec security conference, the Czech Republic, Moldova and the Russian reporter Ivan Golunov.

Episode 14: Hungary for All, a discussion with Peter Marki-Zay and Zoltan Kesz

Last year, Petr Marki-Zay won election as mayor of a medium-sized Hungarian city, defeating the candidate from Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party after pulling off the feat of uniting all other opposition parties behind him. He went on to found the movement Hungary for All to replicate his success across the country. He and co-founder Zoltan Kesz join Greg to discuss their strategy. Greg and Susan also discuss last week’s European Parliament elections and a new congressional resolution on Hungary.

episode 13: Europe goes to the polls

Voters across the European Union go to the polls next week to elect representatives the European Parliament. The elections come at a pivotal time, with right-wing parties seeking to build on their national successes in a number of countries, part of the populist wave sweeping the continent. Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Europe Program, joins Greg to discuss predictions, the elections’ significance and how they’re likely to affect the European agenda. And Greg and Susan discuss Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s meeting with President Trump in Washington and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Russia.

episode 12: Ukraine’s Future

The election of the comic actor Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukraine’s president is prompting widespread speculation about the country’s future. Can the brand-new politician finally tackle the country’s massive corruption as he promises or will he become a tool for financial oligarchs? Can he help resolve the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the east? And how long will he remain popular with Ukrainians? Jonathan Katz of the German Marshall Fund talks to Ukraine Analytica editor Hannah Shelest and Chatham House’s Anna Korbut about the role of the media, the conduct of Ukrainian democracy and how it shaped the elections. Also, Greg talks to Susan Corke about Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s planned meeting with President Donald Trump next week. And a few voices - Congressman Keating, Congressman Kinzinger, and Michèle Flournoy - from a TDWG talk on Capitol Hill this week on NATO, security and democracy.

Episode 11: Press Attack! A conversation with Tom Melia on World Press Freedom Day

Journalists are under mounting pressure not only in countries like Russia and China but also Western democracies. PEN America’s Tom Melia talks to Greg about the threat from fake news, social media and rising autocrats ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3. We also hear from journalists Emily Schultheis, Anastasia Kirilenko, Roman Badanin, Karina Piser and Karine Orlova about their work and what the date means to them.

episode 10: Confronting the Kremlin in Eastern Europe: A talk with Vytis Jurkonis

The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are a bulwark against Russian attempts to undermine democracy and stability in Europe. Why did they follow different paths than other former Soviet republics of Eastern Europe since becoming independent in 1991? Greg speaks to Freedom House’s director in Lithuania, Vytis Jurkonis, about that and the challenges they all face from Kremlin aggression and corruption with the rise of nationalist populism. Greg also talks to Susan about Russia’s new ‘Digital Curtain,’ Notre-Dame, and the latest from Hungary, Ukraine.

episode 9: Congress and Citizen Diplomacy, with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur

The fatal stabbing of the liberal mayor of the Polish city Gdansk earlier this year sounded alarms about the effects of hate speech by populist politicians. Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur joins Greg to discuss that and others threats to democracy in Europe, and what Congress and ordinary Americans must do to push back against the White House by shoring up the transatlantic alliance.

episode 9: NATO at 70, with Former NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow

As NATO marks its 70th anniversary this week, the world’s preeminent military alliance faces threats from the backsliding governments of some member states as well as attacks by US President Donald Trump. Former NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow joins Greg to discuss the danger to the alliance from inside, as well as its external challenges from Russia, China and elsewhere, and how NATO must adapt in the future. First, Susan and Greg discuss other events of the past week, including elections in Ukraine and Slovakia and the latest in Brexit madness.

episode 8: Ukraine’s challenge, a conversation with Jonathan katz and Evelyn farkas

Ukraine faces a pivotal moment with a presidential election next week, the first since the events surrounding the 2014 Maidan revolution. Evelyn Farkas and Jonathan Katz of the German Marshall Fund join Greg to discuss the leading candidates, corruption, Russian aggression and what the West must do. A major battleground between the Kremlin and Western democracies, Ukraine remains a litmus test for the liberal world order’s commitment to the common values of democracy and self-determination.

episode 7: What’s the MAtter with hungary? A conversation with Zselyke Csaky

Transatlantic Working Group Director Susan Corke and host Gregory Feifer discuss the latest Brexit developments, bipartisan Congressional resolutions on Russia, and Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s standoff with the European People’s Party.

Then Zselyke Csaky of Freedom House joins Greg to explain Hungary’s downgrading from “free” to “partly free” in this year’s Freedom in the World Report. Why is the authoritarian Orban popular? Why is the opposition weak? What must Western democracies countries do to discourage democratic backsliding? What is Hungary’s connection to Russia?

episode 6: everything you wanted to ask about Brexit, Amanda sloat has the answers

Transatlantic Working Group Director Susan Corke and host Gregory Feifer start by discussing recent developments, including a new Brookings report on the rise of illiberal states, protests in Montenegro, and the Russian Troika Laundromat scandal money-laundering.

Then Amanda Sloat of the Brookings Institution joins Greg to explain the uncertainty over the looming March 29 date for Britain’s exit from the European Union. With shifting positions in parliament and the government, will the deadline be extended? Could there be a second referendum? What are the technical issues and stakes, deal or no deal?

episode 5: Why is Populism Popular? With Bill Galston

Will postponing the date for Brexit change anything? Host Gregory Feifer and Transatlantic Democracy Working Group Director Susan Corke discuss the latest developments along with Sunday’s elections results in Moldova, when the pro-Moscow Socialist Party won the most votes but not enough for a majority. Then the Brookings Institution’s Bill Galston joins Greg to talk about the nature of populism. Populist nationalist parties in Europe on the left and right have more than tripled their support in the last two decades, winning enough votes to put their leaders into the governments of 11 countries and challenging the established political order. But does that mean liberal democracy is really facing a crisis or simply experiencing part of a regular cycle?

episode 4: The POland paradox: A discussion with Leszek Balcerowicz

The Munich Security Conference was a new low for relations between the U.S. and Europe; Susan Corke and Greg Feifer sift through the wreckage. Then, joining the podcast to discuss seeming paradox in Poland is Leszek Balcerowicz, the former finance minister who was the main architect of Poland's so-called "shock therapy" in the 1990s. Poland was recently the poster child of success among post-Communist countries of the former Soviet bloc. But with the rise of the right-wing populist wave sweeping Europe, Poland's election of the Law and Justice Party in 2015 has thrown into question the country's previous commitment to open society and the rule of law. But what is driving this change ? Immigration is negligible and GDP per person has nearly tripled since 1990.

episode 3: battleground Moldova

Join host Gregory Feifer as he discusses the little-known former Soviet republic of Moldova, one of the important battlegrounds in the mounting confrontation between Russia and the West. Joining Greg are Jonathan Katz of the German Marshall Fund, Corina Rebega of the Center for European Policy Analysis, and Valeriu Pasha of Watchdog.MD.Elections next week will be a key determining factor for whether the country can push ahead with democratic reform or slide back into Moscow's corrupt orbit.


Join host Greg Feifer as he speaks with Joerg Forbrig of the German Marshall Fund and Wojciech Przybylski, of Visegrad Insight, the authors of an important new report called Central European Futures, on their forecast of 5 possible scenarios for the future of Europe.

Episode 1: Is 2019 pivotal for the democratic world order?

Join Greg Feifer as he speaks with Transatlantic Democracy Working Group Director Susan Corke and founding steering committee co-chairs Jeff Gedmin and Norm Eisen for a discussion of the working group’s mission—prioritizing a core value of the transatlantic alliance: that our democratic foundation is our security—in what may be a pivotal year ahead.

about this podcast

Democracy is under attack in Europe as the assumptions that underpinned the development of the E.U. and NATO during more than six decades following World War II are now under question. Illiberal governments are burgeoning in Poland and Hungary. A nationalist, populist wave has seen right-wing governments come to power in Italy, Austria and other countries. The European project’s previously stalwart leader, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, is on her way out, and her would-be successor, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, is unpopular and confronted by protests. And the main guarantor of transatlantic security, the United States, is led by one of the alliance’s most bitter critics.

Seeking to address these issues, the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group (TDWG) was launched last year as a bipartisan platform for discourse and coordination. We felt that the discussion needed deeper context. We needed The Cable.