Foreign Relations & International Law

Chatter: ‘Special Military Operations’ Against the Russians with Benjamin Wittes

Katherine Pompilio, Benjamin Wittes
Thursday, May 18, 2023, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

On April 13, 2022, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lawfare Editor in Chief Benjamin Wittes conducted his first “special military operation” at the Russian embassy in Washington, DC. It involved 14 theater stage lights that Wittes and other activists used to project images of the Ukrainian flag onto embassy walls. Since then, Wittes’s special military operations have garnered increased attention and become more complex—technically and diplomatically. 

In his conversation with Katherine Pompilio, one of Lawfare’s associate editors and this week’s Chatter guest host, Wittes talks about the genesis of these special military operations, what it’s like conducting international negotiations with Russian diplomats via the U.S. Secret Service, the international law of light protests, how a paper mache washing machine is involved in all of this, his career, his other projects, and more.

Works mentioned in this episode:

Ben’s Substack Dog Shirt Daily

The video Defect and Repent: A Laser Poem

The video "It's Almost Like the Russians Don't Negotiate in Good Faith": A Video Parable.

The video U.S. Ukrainian Activists Presents Umbrella Boy

The podcast #LiveFromUkraine: Katya Savchenko Survived Bucha—and Wrote About It

The Washington Post article “Activists train spotlight of Ukrainian flag on Russian Embassy”

The video of the spotlight cat and mouse game

The work of Robin Bell

Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.

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Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.
Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books.

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