(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

In a recent article on the Ukraine crisis, journalist Masha Gessen calls Russia President Vladimir Putin a “playground bully” and says that his use of intimidation is nothing new. The author of a 2012 critical biography of Putin, Gessen’s new book “Words Will Break Cement,” takes a closer look at Pussy Riot, the female punk rock group whom Putin imprisoned in 2012. She talks to us about Russian politics, protest movements, and LGBT rights overseas.

Guests:
Masha Gessen, journalist and author of "Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot" and "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin"

  • Guest

    Putin kills with Polonium, and Obama kills with drones.
    Putin roughs up Ukrainians, and Obama roughs up Arabs.
    Putin cozies up to Syria’s despot, and Obama is chummy with Saudi despots.
    Putin incarcerates feminists, and Obama incarcerates whistleblowers.
    Putin records all phones calls, and Obama records far, far more.
    Putin worked for the KGB, and Obama worked for the CIA, as did his mother.

  • thucy

    These women are so tough, they could only be Russian. When I consider the risks Gessen took as an activist in such a profoundly conservative environment – Gessen who is a woman, a lesbian, a Jew – I am in awe. And Pussy Riot…! Bigger stones than Putin himself.

    Gessen and Pussy Riot are up there with their US counterparts Snowden and Manning. They’re taking risks for the greater good.

    Whatever makes any of them think we’re worth all their sacrifice?

  • Livegreen

    According to the government of Estonia, Russia is now preparing to invade more of the Ukraine.* This was likely from the start & if true, little will stop Russia except a (limited) show of force & massive sanctions. As much as I agree with many who don’t like the idea of spending more money overseas, it will cost more in the long-run if nothing is done. Especially if this leads to a new Cold War with remilitarization.

    Doing nothing is simply not an option.

    * Source:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-14/russia-is-preparing-to-invade-east-ukraine-estonia-says.html?cmpid=yhoo

    • Bob Fry

      Doing nothing (or little) most certainly is an option. Let Russia take Ukraine. Nobody’s explained why that matters to me, or America, at all. Too bad for the Ukrainians I guess, but why don’t we worry about ourselves?

      • thucy

        I have to (reluctantly) agree – what Snowden has revealed indicates we have our own Augean stables to clean before we take on bullies who are not ourselves.
        Ironic how easily we took on petty tyrants like Saddam Hussein. It wasn’t without cost. The notion that we engage the toughest country on earth, Russia, is mind-boggling. We have not won a conflict since… when? I would even argue we barely fought WWII – our 500k military casualties were dwarfed by 20 MILLION dead Soviets. We just won’t admit it.

        • Livegreen

          I agree the U.S. shouldn’t have invaded Iraq. However,
          a) two wrongs don’t make a right; b) there’s a fundamental difference: Hussein was a dictator. Ukraine is a democracy.

          You are not being accurate about Snowden: what he revealed is the NSA was gathering information. He did not reveal that anyone was arrested with that information, that they were arrested illegally OR that the heads of the various branches of our government has been reducing freedom of press & expression (individually or collectively).

          Finally, Russia is the one who’s started the military action in the Ukraine. Not the U.S.

          PS. It is both a non sequitur and untrue that the U.S. has not admitted the Russians lost millions of people during WWII.

          • TrainedHistorian

            Ukraine is a democracy…except that its elected leader was ousted from through the street not voting booth.. Now that everyone knows how corrupt he was, he’d never be elected again, but that does not alter the fact that the right way for democracies to oust corrupt, bad leaders and get new ones is NOT by street protests but new elections. Ukrainian “democracy” is sadly a work in progress at best..

      • Livegreen

        Because then Russia won’t stop at the Ukraine.

    • TrainedHistorian

      We could “stop” Russia with a “limited” amount of force? Please. The US is not going to start WWIII over Ukraine. Since Russia has more interest in maintaining a neutral Ukraine (due to its enormous, porous border with same) than we do, there would not a be alot we could or should do militariliy to keep Russia out of Eastern Ukraine if Russia really wanted to roll in.

      And, making it a bloody battleground would not help Ukraine anyway.What it needs is internal economic and political reform, and this you CAN do with a deal to be neutral towards Russia. Look at Finland. Despite neutrality with Soviets during the Cold War, its leaders were able to develop it into a strong democracy and economy during the Cold War. But that would require Ukrainian leaders to take their minds off nationalism, irrendentism, and stealing from their own people, and instead focus on the economy, stupid.

  • Ben Rawner

    What are the possibilities of actually ousting Putin? What was ur favorite protest performed by pussy riot? Does pussy riot have any backing from politicians in Russia?

  • Steve

    It seems from Masha’s comments that the Russian people, because of the state control of Russian media, do not realize the extent to which they lack information about their own country and the world. I’m surprised that they are willing to accept such restrictions. So, a question for Masha – does she think the availability of the Internet will eventually bring more openness to their media?

    • 1zzy

      Steve: “I’m surprised they are willing to accept such restrictions.”

      I don’t think they have a choice. Their memories of Soviet times probably are still quite fresh.

  • Pete

    In regards to Ukraine, why don’t we judge others with the same standards we set for ourselves? People talk of breaking international law – where was that law ten years ago?! By our own American standards, Putin has more than enough justification to intervene in a bordering country.
    The people in Crimnea are going to vote soon – why is this considered such a crisis and not a peacful resolution? What more could a democracy-preaching West desire?

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Following on to my call to today’s show: the American Administration, with many supporters, failed sufficiently to respect Saddam Hussein’s power and role in Iraq; his positives as well as his negatives. U.S. and allied soldiers, citizens, and taxpayers have all paid a huge price as a result, with very mixed social and political outcomes to date.
    Just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in his interview with CBS’ Dan Rather, President Hussein invited President Bush to a televised debate, but he was snubbed. Are we now to make a similar mistake with Vladimir Putin, albeit with different details?
    I believe we should invite President Putin and other world leaders to a series of global televised town meetings to deal all together (if not altogether) with the structural immaturities of world governance. For example: the lop-sided current U.N. veto, which unlike the U.S. Presidential veto, has no legislative override. This and other major immaturities of the current U.N. (such as no population-based house) leave nations to invent new means of conflict resolution with each crisis.
    Regarding contemplated sanctions on Russia, they may be more subtle and certainly less physically violent than fighting with bullets and bombs. But to the degree that the INTENT as well as the effects of sanctions are to hurt rather than help heal and include the Russian people in the administration of the world, such sanctions could open the fighters [in this case: the “sanctifiers”] to hurtful tactics in return.
    In today’s cyber-dominated world, with those old-fashioned but no less awful nukes in the skies above and the seas below us, are “We, the People” willing to take that risk? Should “we?” — any of us — take such immense risks if it is possible to avoid them?
    The Russians are a very intelligent people (albeit with limited information flows in many cases; just as our information can be limited in different ways.) I believe they will respond well if they are treated with dignity and respect as a whole people. And no one should deny that Putin is very powerful politically, not only in Russia, but on the world stage.
    So let’s have the courage to wish only long-range good for the Russian people and its leaders as we continue to reason — the more publicly and together the better — toward evolving healthy world structures of governance and dispute resolution for everyone.
    If sanctions on the Russians are applied soon, let them be very smart and limited, and let’s deal with the consequences of such specific actions, delivered with love for all the people of Russia and Humanity, rather than risk far worse consequences from words and actions delivered with disrespect, hubris, and worst of all, hate.

  • Chris OConnell

    Excellent analysis on the situation in Russia. And not reeking of the stench of hypocracy and (false) moral righteousness that we have been bombarded with for weeks, really years, regarding Russia and Putin.

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