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Putin: How much opposition is there in Russia?

This is a digital-only ThinkInIs Putin’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union and obsession with Ukraine shared by fellow Russians? For months, Russia has been sending troops and equipment to the Ukrainian borders. The original stated aim was to limit the expansion of Nato, but after weeks of outfoxing western countries with performative diplomacy, Vladimir Putin finally ordered his troops into Ukraine.Countries around the world are turning to increasingly tougher sanctions. And sanctions are likely to hit the poorest the hardest: Russia’s average annual per capita income is around one fifth of that in the U.S. So how will Putin’s actions, and the West’s economic responses play out locally? Does the invasion of Ukraine mark the beginning of the end of the Putin presidency, or is this the start of an aggressive new chapter? editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Melinda HaringDeputy Director, Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Centre Professor Sam GreeneDirector of King’s Russia Institute & Professor of Russian Politics Sir Roderic LyneFormer UK Ambassador to Russia


Sensemaker Live: What does Russia want?

Long stories short Top US and China officials held “substantive” talks in Malta ahead of a possible Xi-Biden summit. Japan’s government said more than 10 per cent of its population is now aged 80 or over. The US military asked for help finding an F-35 fighter jet after the pilot ejected in a “mishap” over South Carolina. Russia’s European front Last Friday, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary imposed unilateral bans on agricultural imports from Ukraine. Hungary admits it opposes Ukrainian membership of Nato and the EU, and Slovakia’s Smer-SD party, frontrunner in elections due on 30 September, objects to supplying Ukraine with weapons.    So what? These faultlines may affect Ukraine’s counteroffensive and even the outcome of the war.  Hard soft power. Russia has no equal in terms of the sheer scale of its covert operations. Their impact on Europe is growing and consists of economic influence; energy investments;local political alliances;the Russian Orthodox Church; and Kremlin propaganda, including via mirror websites and YouTube channels for Sputnik and RT, enabling them to continue broadcasting freely even though they’re banned in the EU.  These factors mean negative attitudes to the UK, the US, the EU and Nato are growing in the EU, albeit from a low base, while sanctions against Russia and weapons supplies to Ukraine meet objections from some EU states.  By the numbers: Up to 70 per cent of Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians and Slovaks think providing Ukraine with weapons “provokes Russia” and drags their own countries closer to the war (a similar percentage in these countries thinks helping Ukrainian refugees comes at a cost to their own citizens).50 per cent of Slovaks consider the US a security threat to their country (as do 33 per cent of Bulgarians and 25 of Hungarians). 32 per cent of Bulgarians have a positive perception of Vladimir Putin, as do 36 per cent of Xi Jinping. Hungary, Slovakia and Romania are also in this club. So to a lesser extent is Latvia, thanks to the significant Russian minority that stayed after the Soviet collapse. More than 20 per cent of Romanians, Czechs, Bulgarians and Slovaks would like their countries to leave the EU. Look right. Ultranationalist sentiment in Europe is growing. Right-wing or far-right parties are significant players in Switzerland and North Macedonia;ruling in Italy, Hungary and Poland;  members of governing coalitions in Finland and Latvia; andsupporting governing coalitions in Sweden and Serbia. All this loosens EU political unity. Look West. After February 2022, far-right parties in Italy and France distanced themselves from Russia, condemning its war in Ukraine. But the far-right Alternative for Germany party, supported by 21 per cent of Germans, remains the most pro-Russian in Europe. And Russia has allies not just on the far-right but in all parties, says Anton Shekhovtsov, director of the Centre for Democratic Integrity. Case in point: Germany’s “centrist” former chancellor Gerhardt Shroeder, whose pro-Russian influence Shekhovtsov says can’t be overstated.   Look out. Ruled by an ex-FSB officer, Russia attaches huge importance to espionage, as evidenced partly by its high spy attrition rate. Its recent track record includes hundreds of Russian spies expelled from 29 countries, including Poland (45 expelled), France (41), Germany (40), Slovakia (35), Slovenia (33) and Italy (30);   dozens of Russian spies arrested since the war started in the UK, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Albania and Norway;spyware installed on the iPhone of Galina Timchenko, owner of the exiled Russian language Meduza news outlet, while she was in Germany meeting Russian journalists. Look up. In addition to pumping up pro-Russian and anti-EU moods in Europe, Russia is managing to find ways around sanctions and making even more weapons. Smuggling in the microelectronics and other sanctioned Western materials needed for cruise missiles, Russia is now producing 200 tanks and two million artillery shells a year (twice as many as before the war). Russia’s ammunition production exceeds the West’s by a factor of seven and is 10 times cheaper: a 152-millimetre artillery shell costs $600 in Russia while a 155-millimetre round costs $5,000-$6,000 in Western markets.  Look further. Russia’s main strategic goal is the destruction of the EU, Shekhovtsov says. Its tactic is to undermine EU support for Ukraine and to stop arms deliveries, and the data from Eastern Europe suggests Kremlin propaganda is still effective there.  But ultimately the future of Europe will be determined on the battlefield in Ukraine – where it’s hard to win without weapons.  Also, in the nibs Starmer breaks cover Listen to the children Lampedusa crisis Thin tankers Brand news Thanks for reading. Please tell your friends to sign up, send us ideas and tell us what you think. Email sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com. Choose which Tortoise newsletters you receive NEW from tortoise


Sensemaker Live – What’s in the Russia Report?

Make sense of this week’s major news stories in a live editorial conference with Tortoise editors. Our daily digital ThinkIns are exclusively for Tortoise members and their guests.Try Tortoise free for four weeks to unlock your complimentary tickets to all our digital ThinkIns.If you’re already a member and looking for your ThinkIn access code you can find it in the My Tortoise > My Membership section of the app next to ‘ThinkIn access code’.We’d love you to join us.If there’s one document that seems to represent the Tories’ questionable taste for secrecy, it’s the report on alleged Russian interference in UK politics prepared by the Intelligence and Security Committee during the last parliament and still not published. Why not? Boris Johnson says he’s cleared it and it’s up to the ISC – but the ISC hasn’t sat since the election. Now it has a new Tory chairman and a Tory majority. Will they do the right thing and publish? Or does the government have something to hide on interference, or Russian money?Chair: Giles Whittell, Editor and Partner, Tortoise Sensemaker Live is hosted in partnership with Santander.Our special guests include:Edward Lucas, a writer and consultant specialising in European and transatlantic security. His expertise also includes energy, cyber-security, espionage, information warfare and Russian foreign and security policy. Formerly a senior editor at The Economist, he is now a senior vice-president at the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). He writes a weekly column in the Times.In 2008 he wrote The New Cold War, a prescient account of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, followed in 2011 by Deception, an investigative account of east-west espionage. His latest print book is Cyberphobia. He has also written two e-books on espionage: The Snowden Operation and Spycraft Rebooted. He has contributed to books on religion, on media ethics and on the significance of Andrei Sakharov’s legacy.Marina Litvinenko, a public speaker and a campaigner for justice. Following the murder of her husband, Alexander Litvinenko, in November 2006, Marina began a decade long fight to get at the truth behind his assassination which resulted in the publication of a comprehensive public inquiry report in January 2016. Through this tragedy she found her own compelling voice, one that speaks with strength and conviction. Appearing in newspapers, magazines and on television screens, Marina has appealed to the public to heed the warning of her husband’s death. In her own way, she uses her public platform to continue what her husband started. In 2007 she co-authored ‘Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB’ with Alex Goldfarb. In 2011 the two also published an updated version in Russian, ‘Sasha, Volodya, Boris: The Story of a Murder’. She attends and speaks at international seminars and conferences in the UK and abroad, participates in roundtable discussions and is involved in human rights causes.Bill Browder is founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign and author of Red Notice: How I became Putin’s No 1 enemy. Browder was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005, when he was declared “a threat to national security” for exposing corruption in Russian state-owned companies. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered a massive fraud, testified against state officials and was subsequently arrested, imprisoned without trial and systematically tortured until he died in prison a year later. Browder has sought justice outside of Russia and started a global campaign to impose targeted visa bans and asset freezes on human rights abusers and corrupt officials. He is working to have similar legislation passed across the European Union and countries worldwide.How does a digital ThinkIn work?A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on.The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world. Members can enter their unique members’ access code to book tickets. Find yours in My Tortoise > My Membership in the Tortoise app.If you have any questions or get stuck, please read our FAQs, or get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.comWhat is a Tortoise ThinkIn?A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. It is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.How we work with partnersWe want to be open about the business model of our journalism, too. At Tortoise, we don’t take ads. We don’t want to chase eyeballs or sell data. We don’t want to add to the clutter of life with ever more invasive ads. We think that ads force newsrooms to produce more and more stories, more and more quickly. We want to do less, better.Our journalism is funded by our members and our partners. We are establishing Founding Partnerships with a small group of businesses willing to back a new form of journalism, enable the public debate, share their expertise and communicate their point of view. Those companies, of course, know that we are a journalistic enterprise. Our independence is non-negotiable. If we ever have to choose between the relationship and the story, we’ll always choose the story.We value the support that those partners give us to deliver original reporting, patient investigations and considered analysis.We believe in opening up journalism so we can examine issues and develop ideas for the 21st Century. We want to do this with our members and with our partners. We want to give everyone a seat at the table.


Tortoise Festival of ThinkIns – Democracy: Zuckerberg and Putin, partners in crime?

Democracy: Zuckerberg and Putin, partners in crime? Facebook didn’t intend to trash western politics, but it’s certainly been an enabler for those who have tried to do so; what started as a digital prank by Harvard students has become the arms manufacturer that unwittingly weaponised Russia’s information wars. Our democracies urgently need protection from bad actors and foreign interference: immunisation against the virus of fake news and post truth. There’s a growing consensus that we must regulate social media –  and a growing clamour to break up the big tech companies. But will such measures be enough to address what is increasingly becoming a crisis of national security? Our special guests for this ThinkIn included: Peter Jukes, author, screenwriter, playwright, literary critic and blogger. Orysia Lutsevych, research fellow and manager of the Ukraine Forum at Chatham House. Rowland Manthorpe, technology correspondent, Sky News. The Readout  Technology and Democracy: Putin and Zuckerberg, partners in crime?  Deliberate disinformation is in a category of its own. It’s intentional, often criminal, and, as proven by the experience of Ukraine and the evidence of the Mueller report, international. It raises questions about the effectiveness of police powers (the legislation was passed pre-Facebook) and the competence of Government cyber-authorities. As the databases governing health, land and education are digitised, we are more open to disinformation attacks.   Disruption to democracy – polarisation, exaggeration, false promises, alternative politics conspiracy theories and victim politics – is pervasive, but much harder to moderate. It’s all very well to point the finger at Mark Zuckerberg and ask him to restore trust, but what, exactly, are we asking of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram? We got to the beginnings of an answer: to take responsibility for content on the platforms. That means a version of the kind of legal liability that now covers established media to cover new media. It means authentication of the data it collects and then uses to sell advertising. It means self-reporting on the information paths that algorithms send us down. And it means meeting a public standard – i.e. a standard of accuracy, safety and accountability – for content.    The social media landscape is deliberately being redrawn by Facebook. The emphasis on groups or private social networks is giving many people what they want – a room of their own to chat with family and friends, fans and fellow travellers, neighbours and colleagues. But it will also make it much harder to regulate a private, fragmented, clustered internet for lies and extremism online. The pivot to groups is the next challenge to the health and safety of democracy.     What next?  –       Huawei – we took a long look at it earlier this year; we should look again –       China social credit system – data, who owns it, what government does with it –       Replacement theory and other conspiracies – how prevalent are they and where?  –       Fakes – data analysis on fakes, deep fakes, where they are and who runs them


Has Putin won?

Twenty years ago Vladimir Putin became Russia’s sixth prime minister in two years. Political chaos was the norm. The economy was on its knees. Internationally, the rump of the former Soviet Union was humiliated. In the generation since, Putin has ruthlessly consolidated power, co-opted the economy and harnessed the media to his message of Russian nationalism. He has invaded two neighbours, disrupted western democracies and suffered only the pin-prick of commercial sanctions. Russia is a world power while Europe argues with itself. Has he won? He certainly hasn’t lost. Special guests include: Sir Andrew Wood, Associate Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme; British ambassador to Russia from 1995 to 2000 Dr Samuel Greene, Director of King’s Russia Institute & Reader of Russian Politics What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 6.00pm, starts promptly at 6.30pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our Thinkins so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership.