Julia Ioffe, BT Dahan Community School alum, offers assessment of Ukraine invasion on ‘Late Show’


When Julia Ioffe — the Washington correspondent for Puck news with more than 15 years of experience covering Russia — appeared on the Feb. 25 episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to offer her take on the unfolding invasion of Ukraine, she didn’t come with a lot of optimism.

“I always know that to get Russia right, you have to go with the worst-case scenario,” said Ioffe, a graduate of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, while sitting down with Colbert. “Imagine if everything goes wrong, and if the worst comes to pass, that’s usually what’s gonna to happen. That’s how you predict what happens with Russia.”

In response, Colbert asked Ioffe if this was because the Russian people are fatalistic, or because it’s necessary to be fatalistic while thinking about Russia.

“Both” was Ioffe’s succinct reply.

On Putin’s stated objective to “denazify Ukraine,” Ioffe said that during Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity in 2014, it was true that a right-wing, nationalistic and in some cases neo-Nazi contingent was present, but it was in the minority. In response, the Kremlin’s propaganda arm did what they often do, which is “take a little bit of truth and spin it into this cotton candy of lies,” she said. And today, many Russians who watch state television have come to believe that Ukraine is essentially run by neo-Nazis, despite being led by a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has relatives who died in the Holocaust.

Ioffe also speculated on the possibility that Zelenskyy might be taken by the Russians, brought to Moscow and tried for war crimes.

When asked by Colbert for her best-case scenario for the future, Ioffe’s initial response was “Do you have any more of that Bourbon?” Colbert noted that he had a whole bar behind him, which appropriately included vodka.

Ioffe then proceeded to say that the best-case scenario would be for Russia to decapitate Ukraine’s government, establish a puppet regime, withdraw its military without needing to occupy the country and scare the populace into not launching another uprising for at least a few years.

When Colbert intimated that he had meant a best-case scenario for Ukraine or the West, Ioffe hastily gave the response of “Ukraine wins and drives them back,” though in a tone of voice suggesting she doubted the likelihood of such a turn of events. Colbert proceeded to plant his face in his palm.

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