The former NPR Moscow correspondent gave a first-hand look at a resurgent Russia, Vladimir Putin and America’s biggest challenge as part of the School of Journalism’s “My Life As” speaker series.
Corey Flintoff has no idea what the relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump will be like.
“He is someone who can turn very quickly if the situation changes and he feels like he’s been crossed,” Flintoff said.
Flintoff, the recently retired international correspondent for National Public Radio, spent four years based in Moscow, Russia and was at Stony Brook University on Wednesday, Nov. 16 as part of the School of Journalism’s My Life As Speaker Series.
The former correspondent spoke at Frey Hall to a room so crowded that people were standing against the back wall. Flintoff discussed a number of timely topics, including the impending Trump presidency, the Russian media and whistleblower Edward Snowden.
While he was reporting, Russians told Flintoff that a Trump presidency would create a more chaotic situation in the United States.
He also addressed the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email server. He said he believes that Russian hackers are responsible, and that it might have been “a direct attempt to support president-elect Trump and his campaign.” He considered the fact that if Trump lost, hackers might have tried to delegitimize the election.
Flintoff said the environment in Russia is capable of changing drastically over a short amount of time.
Leslie Weitzner, 70, attended the event and can attest to this, as she’s visited Russia twice. The first time, she was in the Soviet Union for around three weeks in 1974 with her husband.
“You did not have the freedom to move around at all,” she said. “You knew that your rooms were bugged.”
Weitzner visited Russia for a second time ten years ago. “It was very provincial,” she said. This meant that during the trip, her biggest problem was that she could not get a cup of coffee outside of Moscow.
Another part of life in Russia is dealing with the constant stream of propaganda created by Russian officials. Often times these officials don’t talk to the media. Flintoff learned why the hard way.
“I finally made it a policy not to talk to Russian media because I found every time I did, I was misrepresented,” he said.
According to Flintoff, there were newspaper headlines stating that Hillary Clinton would surround the country with nuclear weapons if she were ever elected president.
Another American in Russia is Edward Snowden, whom Flintoff requested to interview multiple times. He never received a response.
“At the very least he’s in close contact with the Russian government,” Flintoff said. “Did he give up all his secrets? The fact that he is still there says yes.”
Adam Freeman, a freshman at Stony Brook University, is from London. He said Britain’s relations with Russia are not that different from America’s.
“To be perfectly honest it’s about the same as America,” he said. “There’s always that slight distrust with Russia.”
Freeman also said when Russia goes against NATO and the desires of other countries, they alienate themselves even further.
When asked about the future, Flintoff said that Putin wants to return to a multi-polar world.
“I think he means Russia at the center of it.”
Reported by Korinne Utting
Photo by Anamaria Salobo