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The guest was Edward Lucas, a scholar who spent his life steeped in Eastern Europe’s fight for freedom and democracy, and knows the region better than almost any other expert. Thanks to his career as a foreign correspondent and editor for top global media, Lucas is also a fantastic conversationalist, full of entertaining anecdotes and powerful analogies illustrating his often intransigent points of view – especially regarding the Putin regime, the long-term threat from Communist China, and the decline of democracy in the West due to greed, corruption and complacency.
It was an honour to have him on the podcast. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the highlights.
Lucas believes Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is “the worst thing to happen in my lifetime, probably in the lifetime of almost everyone listening to this podcast.”
That is a strong and sobering way to drive home the historical importance of the times we are now living through, with Eastern Europe at the heart of events.
He also says Romania is becomng a regional military power thanks to its size, continuing economic development and integration with the West and NATO, and that it will be playing a key role in NATO’s Black Sea strategy which is currently under development.
However, Lucas doesn’t see Romanian President Klaus Iohannis as the right fit for the leadership of the Western military alliance, despite media speculation that he is being considered for the job after Jens Stoltenberg leaves in September 2023. Lucas would rather see a woman leading NATO, he told Reportercast, pointing to Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas or Canada’s Chrystia Freeland – with Iohannis only his third choice.
Meanwhile, he calls for a radical overhaul of the U.K.’s laws governing the use of shell companies and offshore assets, with a view to tackling not only money laundering but all forms of opaque finance, which Lucas warns is corrosive for democracy. Among his proposals would be that the British courts system mustn’t accept claims from companies with intransparent ownership structures, and that beneficial ownership is made public for all forms of legal entitites and real estate. The sweeping changes to the financial system should also include a bar on high donations to political parties, he said.
In regard to one of the subjects he cares most about, namely the Russian threat to global food security, Lucas advocates for a Western armed coalition to protect grain exports out of Odesa, even at the risk of open battle with Russia if its fleet interferes.
Lucas is campaigning for parliament in 2024, and if he wins, it’s not out of the question that he enters government in a potential alliance between his party, the LibDems, and Labour. In any case – given that he’s one of the earliest experts to warn about major problems the world is facing now years before they happened, he is certainly worth your time.
A personal comment as a host of this podcast: Lucas is one of those very satisfying interviewees for a journalist, because while he is eloquent and erudite, he is also fiery and critical – no-one is left unscathed by his analysis, including Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, the UK, US, Germany and France in general, liberal Russians, NATO, Turkey and many others mentioned in the recording.
Yet he always ends on a positive note. “So, we’ve got a lot of problems, but in the end, you know, we have to cook with what we’ve got in the kitchen,” was one of the several memorable lines.
Bonus: an informed comment on a key line from John Le Carre’s cult novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Check out these and many other important ideas in our new episode. If you are a journalist considering writing about this podcast, or just the type who prefers reading instead of listening, you may download the transcript here.
Special thanks to the multi-talented P.F. who helped produce this item and had to work especially hard to fix the unforced technical errors created by the host – who apologises and promises to take better care next time around.