The Lawfare Podcast


Decoding Aleksandr Ionov’s Influence Operation with Thomas Rid and Brandon Van Grack

On July 29, the Justice Department announced the indictment of Aleksandr Ionov, a Russian national and president of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia. Ionov is charged with “conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government”—and the Justice Department alleges that he was essentially running a years-long influence operation within the United States on behalf of the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency. The indictment is a wild ride, with a number of Americans listed as unindicted co-conspirators.

To discuss, Quinta Jurecic sat down with Thomas Rid—professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and author of a book on Eastern bloc influence operations called “Active Measures”and Brandon Van Grack, a partner and co-chair of the National Security and Crisis Management practices at the law firm Morrison and Foerster and a former official at the Justice Department, where—among other things—he served as senior assistant special counsel to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. They talked through what to make of the allegations against Ionov: are they alarming, or evidence of clumsiness and incompetence on the part of Russia? What can we say about the Justice Department’s strategy in bringing this case and where the investigation might go?

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Rational Security: The “Mission Admonished” Edition

This week on Rational Security, Alan, Quinta, and Scott waited for a big shoe to drop by talking over the week's big national security news, including:“What Else Can I Get Away With on Fifth Avenue...” Donald Trump is expected to become the first former president to be indicted on criminal charges this week—if, that is, local authorities are not deterred by the public protests Trump’s supporters are preparing to hold in New York City at his request. What will this move mean for the country? And how might it end? “Territorial Refute.” After weeks of avoiding the issue, likely 2024 Republican presidential contender Ron Desantis adopted the position that supporting Ukraine—which he described as being involved in a “territorial dispute”—is not a vital U.S. interest, bringing him into alignment with former President Trump and signaling a strong lean towards isolationism in the 2024 Republican field. What will this mean for the likely candidates? And for U.S. support for Ukraine moving forward?“The ‘Blood, Treasure, and Regret’ Anniversary.” This past week marked the 20th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which set out to remove a dictator and welcome a new wave of democracy in the Middle East—but has instead resulted in an Iraq that is still recovering from years of sectarian violence and increasingly under Iran’s influence. What is the legacy of the decision to invade? And what does it mean for U.S. foreign policy moving forward?