Where Russia Fits In With Trump-Ukraine Affair NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Julia Davis of the Atlantic Council about Russia's connection to the Ukraine controversy.

Where Russia Fits In With Trump-Ukraine Affair

Where Russia Fits In With Trump-Ukraine Affair

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NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Julia Davis of the Atlantic Council about Russia's connection to the Ukraine controversy.


Ukraine needs the millions of dollars in military aid President Trump was holding back at the time of that phone call with Ukraine's president because of the threat from Russia, which took over Crimea in 2014. Julia Davis, a Russian disinformation expert at the Atlantic Council, says that she sees Russia's fingerprints in the unfounded charges President Trump makes about the Biden family in Ukraine. Julia Davis, thanks so much for being with us.

JULIA DAVIS: Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: What do you see that you consider to be compelling evidence of Russian involvement?

DAVIS: Well, it's undeniable in Russia's own words and actions and how much they align with President Trump's words and actions. And if you look at the objectives pursued by President Trump in his controversial conversation with the president of Ukraine, all of the aims that he articulated would not serve the national interests of the United States at all. But each one of them would serve Russia's interests and ultimately would lead to the lifting of the sanctions if those objectives were accomplished.

SIMON: A Kremlin spokesperson says that Moscow doesn't want transcripts of conversations between President Trump and Vladimir Putin released. The spokesperson says, we would like to hope that wouldn't come - that it wouldn't come to that in our relations. How do you read that?

DAVIS: Russia is understandably concerned because in the conversation with Ukraine's president, you could see him being in a subservient position to President Trump. And I think you would see the opposite in - if the transcripts of conversations with Putin were to be a released. And if you saw...

SIMON: You're suggesting President Trump would seem subservient to President Putin.

DAVIS: Absolutely, and that was clear from his public appearance in Helsinki, for example. And I'm sure that the telephone calls would be even more revealing as to the true nature of their relationship with - between the president of Russia and the president of the United States.

SIMON: I gather - you are a native Ukrainian speaker. You've been honored as a friend of Ukraine. Is President Zelenskiy, who's just been in office a few weeks, being put in a tough position by the events of this week?

DAVIS: No doubt he has been put between a rock and a hard place because by playing along with Trump, he is alienating the Democratic Party. If he were to go the other way, he would alienate the Republicans. And by the way, that already put a strain there because Ukraine is now prominently figuring in the impeachment proceedings. And Ukraine has traditionally relied on bipartisan support from the United States, which is now in peril. So he is definitely in a no-win situation.

SIMON: Are you concerned as someone who is an advocate for Ukraine on the world stage? Are you concerned that Ukraine interests might - that there are Republicans who might feel that Ukraine doesn't - they don't share an interest in the survival of Ukraine?

DAVIS: Yes, I've already heard some Republicans on television making statements that they have no confidence in Ukraine. So yes, it will definitely undermine the support for Ukraine. And it's very concerning.

SIMON: Do you see Russian fingerprints in the information about the Biden family?

DAVIS: Most certainly. Russian State Television, which is tightly controlled by the Kremlin, has been putting forward this narrative for a very long time period. And their main hope was that by exposing their so-called nonexistent dirt on Biden, the entire Obama administration would be discredited, and Russia would be cleared from the proven allegations of election interference, and all the blame would be placed on Ukraine.

SIMON: Julia Davis writes for The Daily Beast, also with the Atlantic Council. Thanks so much for being with us.

DAVIS: Thank you very much for having me.

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