Episode 23: Elections in Poland and Hungary: Crucial test for state of democracy

Voters in Poland and Hungary are taking part in parliamentary and local elections this week that could add significant momentum to the right-wing populist movements in both countries. Joining Greg to explain what’s at stake, likely outcomes and the latest state of affairs in both Central European countries are Susan Corke, Melissa Hooper, and Dalibor Rohac.

Episode 22: Ill winds: A conversation with Larry Diamond

With the rise of mostly right-wing populism around the globe, democracy is in retreat. Last year, more countries became less free than freer for the 13th consecutive year, Freedom House says. Larry Diamond, one of the world’s leading scholars of democracy, joins Greg to explain what he calls a “global democratic recession,” his new book Ill Winds, and why he believes we may be approaching a new progressive era. Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and author of Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition and American Complacency.

Episode 21: 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 20: 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: 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 17: 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 16: 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 15: 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 14: 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 13: 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 12: 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 11: 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 10: 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?