This week we're doing something different at Departures - Robert Amsterdam surrenders the host chair and joins as the interviewee to discuss Amsterdam & Partners LLP engagement on behalf of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is facing an existential threat following the Rada's passage of Draft Law 8371. Amsterdam discusses how the draft law represents a blatant violation of basic human rights and how this persecution conflicts with Ukraine's EU ambitions.
Oct 24, 2023
In the weeks following the October 7 Hamas terror attacks against Israel, Departures with Robert Amsterdam welcomes special guest Prof. Ron Robin, the President of the University of Haifa in Israel, who provides an assessment and analysis of what the country is going threre and what paths we see coming ahead. Amsterdam and Prof. Robin discuss the absence of governance which has taken root in recent years, the challenges facing a society under strain, as well as the rising tides of international anti-Semitism we've seen in response to the terror attacks.
Oct 22, 2023
In October of 1973, Israel's existence as an independent state was shaken to its core when Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed into the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights, triggering a conflict of sprawling geopolitical scale. This week, in October of 2023, following an unprecedented series of violent terror attacks against Israel by the Palestinian group Hamas, the nation once again finds itself in existential crisis - with similarities to the past conflict too numerous to ignore. Five decades later, public understanding of the conflict, its causes, and its protagonists is evolving as more and more materials and archives are declassified and made available to researchers. Taking advantage of these incredibly valuable resources comes the first new book on the Yom Kippur War in decades, authored by Uri Kaufman, titled, "Eighteen Days in October: The Yom Kippur War and How It Created the Modern Middle East." Speaking with Robert Amsterdam on the Departures podcast, Kaufman explains how the book represents a culmination of 20 years of research, including deep dives into English, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and German archival source material to draw exceedingly detailed and unforgettable portraits of the main characters who found themselves at the center of the war. Kaufman also shares his perspective and analysis of the current turmoil and commentary on the complicated political scenario making further escalation likely. The author points out that "the first casualty of war is not truth, although that is a close second. The first casualties are the assumptions you had going into the conflict."
Oct 11, 2023
As Russia's catastrophic war in Ukraine lurches its way toward another winter, an interesting debate is emerging regarding some of the fundamental ideas of Russian nationalism which has underpinned Vladimir Putin's casus belli, often including specifically misleading characterizations of history being used as a mobilizing force. In considering the relative complacency if not broad support for the war among the general public in Russia, there has been a consistent narrative spun out by the state - one of Western conspiracies, distrust, and patriotic duty. This week on the podcast we welcome Dr. Jade McGlynn, the author of the excellent new book, "Memory Makers: The Politics of the Past in Putin's Russia," who has accomplished a seminal work of research on the subject. In her conversation with host Robert Amsterdam, Dr. McGlynn argues that peope's understanding of the past is becoming a core part of their identity, and this in turn becomes a security issue. "A historical disagreement is not just a historical disagreement, but instead is seen as almost an existential attack," Dr. McGlynn says, and this is a type of mobilization that can be observed in many countries outside of Russia as well. "Most people want to belong to a community, they want to feel like they have somewhere they belong that can trace its heritage into the past, and feel good about that belonging," McGlynn argues. Unfortunately, many of the more traditional political figures appear to have lost touch with the importance of belonging, she argues, and left this space open for manipulation by demogogues and other extreme forces.
Sep 6, 2023
Eastern Europe, from the northernmost reaches of of the Baltics and down to the Balkan statelets strung along the Adriadic Sea, is one of the most perplexing, conflicted, and interesting regions of the world which still today remains the subject of myths and misunderstanding. Since the end of the Cold War, one could say that the region barely exists as a concept except in historical memory - but it also stubbornly clings to numerous shared cultural features and experiences that continue to bind it together. In historian Jacob Mikanowski's fascinating new book, "Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land," the author tackles a subject of almost impossible proportions and approaches it with a taut, elegiac personal history, painting an unforgettable portrait of the region. In this conversation with host Robert Amsterdam, Mikanowski discusses how he approached the research of such a challenging and diverse geopolitical subject, sweeping from the dark ages to the more modern political faultlines which have seen bloodshed, barbarism, and incredible human resilience and innovation.
Aug 23, 2023
In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, a sweeping transition took place across the international counter-terrorism space. Instead of responding to threats with law enforcement, numerous multilateral bodies instead respond with preemptive actions based on uncertain information - lists of names for sanctions are drawn up, very often directly violating basic due process and rights of individuals. This week on Departures we are proud to feature Gavin Sullivan, the author of "The Law of the List: UN Counterterrorism Sanctions and the Politics of Global Security Law." In his conversation with Robert Amsterdam, Sullivan discusses how his practice as legal counsel to individuals who had been unproperly listed by the UN Security Council informed his approach to analyzing and defining this sanctions list, and the often devastating impact the clumsy procedure can have on people's lives. Featuring numerous interviews with officials directly involved in the UN counter terrorism response apparatus, Sullivan's book presents a unique and valuable interdisciplinary study of global security law - law which is constantly changing and evolving before our eyes today.
Aug 4, 2023
For more than one thousand years, the Roman Empire ruled over a vast territory that was unprecedented in both scope and scale. When it finally did fall under pressure from barbarian invasions and internal political divisions (among many other factors), many historians argue that the Romans sowed the seeds of their own demise. Is the same set of processes now happening in the West? The historian Peter Heather and the political economist John Rapley have come together to interrogate this question in their excellent new book, "Why Empires Fall: Rome, America, and the Future of the West." In their discussion with Departures host Robert Amsterdam, Heather and Rapley explain how the forms of antiquity and modernity may have changed dramatically between the fall the of the Roman empire and the current buckling of Western hegemony, but nevertheless, how so many parallels continue to bear truth. Chief among them has been the global pivot towards nationalist populism, with the movement of labor and capital to the periphery, there's been a traditionally destructive rush to preserve the status quo ante. What may be done about the current trends, as much as they resemble the fall of Rome, remain quite unclear.
Jul 17, 2023
George F. Kennan is arguably the most important American diplomat of the modern era, whose "long telegram" and strategy of containment shaped the Cold War and postwar period. And yet, at critical moments later in his career, he was cast aside and shut out by the institutions he once led. In his new book, "Kennan: A Life Between Worlds," acclaimed historian Frank Costigliola draws attention to the very interesting and intimate details of his personal life and upbringing, drawing a much more complex and sometimes surprising portrait of America's top diplomat, bringing us inside his thinking and decision making experiences. In this podcast interview with host Robert Amsterdam, Costigliola explores the intricate web of politics, ideology, and personal struggles that shaped George F. Kennan's rise to prominence, and shares some of his thoughts about Kennan's policy visions which did not come to fruition, and what he might think of current global tensions.
Jun 29, 2023
As China and the U.S. increasingly compete for power in key areas of U.S. influence across the Middle East and African continent, competition has grown in linear succession, and is increasingly adversarial. Often cynical of Chinese involvement and intentions, the U.S. points to blunders of the Belt and Road initiative, fears of neocolonialism, and the support of nations of interest that might lead to the resurgence of terrorist groups, as justification for criticisms. But are Beijing's ambitions really so nefarious? In her new book, “China's Rise in the Global South: The Middle East, Africa, and Beijing's Alternative World Order,” Dawn Murphy posits that China’s growth in Africa and the Middle East in the post-cold war era, should be understood as evidence of its desire to develop an alternative world order that will allow China to interact with these two regions on its own terms; and that China is mostly cooperative with the liberal order—particularly within the security and military realms. In this podcast discussion with host Robert Amsterdam, Murphy highlights China's record as a business competitor, its foreign policy approach (including divergence in norms around corruption and political meddling), how its foreign policy plays out in public perception across the globe, and why US policy towards the country seems to remain mostly unchanged across administrations, even when ideologies vary greatly between Democratic and Republican administrations.
Jun 9, 2023
There is no historical precedent for a former US president who is facing a more complicated web of both civil and criminal liabilities than Donald Trump, let alone for a former president who again intends to run in the upcoming election. To help sort through this mess and understand what the cases mean and what kind of risks they pose to his candidacy, Departures is pleased to welcome special guest Karen Friedman Agnifilo. Friedman Agnifilo is a deeply experienced lawyer, the host of the Legal AF podcast, a guest legal analyst for CNN and other media, and formerly served as Chief Assistant District Attorney of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Jun 2, 2023