Need to Know

By Wilson Center

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The Need To Know podcast is a production of the Office of Congressional Relations at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Each episode we will bring our nonpartisan research to life through interviews with experts and practitioners covering the world. Our goal is to bring the best independent research, open dialogue and actionable ideas to congressional staff, policy makers, and anyone else who needs to know.

Episode Date
"The Hacker and the State," or "We're Not Talking About Coronavirus"

Ben Buchanan, author of "The Hacker and the State" joins me to discuss his book and waiting for "the big one" in cyber. In short, we are not talking about coronavirus -- just your normal everyday other issues that could bring down the world.

Mar 31, 2020
The Viral Episode 2 - Going Beyond the Day To Day

Welcome Back to Need to Know!  It has been a month since our last episode, which was on the coronavirus.  And wow, the world has changed drastically.  Here, we go back to the same three experts we spoke to a month ago, and try to go beyond the everyday news on the virus to what this means more broadly in society and ramifications for the economy and foreign policy.  We hope that everyone is staying healthy... and distanced!

Mar 26, 2020
The Viral Episode - Coronavirus from the public health, regional, and economic levels

I'm joined by three experts today. Alex Long, who walks us through the public health perspective of understanding coronavirus, its implications for global health and security -- Rui Zhong, who explains some of the societal dynamics in China that we have seen from this outbreak -- And Shihoko Goto, who deftly explains how this is affecting the global economy and what it may mean for the future. This is a can't miss episode and the most comprehensive look you will find to understand the various angles of this global threat.

Feb 28, 2020
Imagine Being Ukraine Right Now

Disinformation Fellow Nina Jankowicz joins me to discuss what has been the impact of so many international incidents on the national psyche of Ukraine. And in a Need to Know first, we have questions submitted to our expert by congressional staff!

If you have questions you'd like answered on the podcast, email us at

Feb 20, 2020
Juan Guaidó in the House!

Latin America Program Fellow Michael Penfold joins the Need to Know podcast to discuss the appearance of Juan Guaidó at the State of the Union, and what that means for the situation in Venezuela.

Feb 11, 2020
Trading Views: Going From NAFTA To USMCA

NAFTA -- the FTA that everyone loves to hate. And now, we are fast progressing towards USMCA. Here we talk to our Wilson Center experts about where NAFTA came up short, and how the USMCA addresses those issues.

Jan 23, 2020
Trading Views: Bonus History Episode

You know you love trade history. This is a quick download on the history of US trade policy to give us a better understanding of how we arrived at NAFTA and then on to the USMCA. 200 years of history in 20 minutes. You can't beat that!

Jan 23, 2020
Trading Views: A Growing Industry

Phase one is underway! And one of the central tenants is for China to increase its purchasing of agricultural products. In this episode we chat with a couple of farmers in Nebraska to get their sense of where this is going, and their thoughts on the trade war thus far.

Jan 21, 2020
Trading Views: Set Phasers to One!

In this second episode of our Trading Views series, we talk to three of the Wilson Center's top Asia experts to understand what phase one of a trade deal with China means.

Jan 09, 2020
Trading Views: On the Front Lines of a Trade War

A new series from Need to Know -- Trading Views -- where we will look at the changes in trade policy seen in the last few years.  With the signing of a phase one trade deal happening imminently, we're taking a look at how tariffs have affected businesses.  To do that we're on location in Morristown, Tennessee, to talk to Rusty Smith of Forenta, and Roger Porter of Porter's Tire. 

Jan 06, 2020
Gaming out the UK Election

Michelle Egan comes back to the Wilson Center studio to break down the results of the election in the UK, and what that means for the US going forward.

Dec 17, 2019
Elections in Hong Kong and What They Mean for Protests

Robert Daly joins us again to discuss the elections that took place in Hong Kong and the reality that they carry on the ground.  Plus, how US actions on the situation could affect trade negotiations with China.

Nov 26, 2019
Anders Beal on the Real Deal with Latin America's Protests

Latin America has experienced a wave of protests this spring. Remember, it's spring in the southern hemisphere. Latin American Program Associate Anders Beal walks us through the unfolding situations in the region.

Nov 22, 2019
The Tapestry of Syria - Part 2

Syria presents a tapestry of challenges to policymakers. Wilson Scholar Amy Austin Holmes joins us in part two of a two part conversation about Syria, Turkey, Russia, the Kurds, and the United States. So if you haven't already listened to part one, you may want to hit that one first.

Nov 08, 2019
The Tapestry of Syria - Part 1

Syria presents a tapestry of challenges to policymakers. Wilson Scholar Amy Austin Holmes joins us in part one of a two part conversation about Syria, Turkey, Russia, the Kurds, and the United States.

Nov 08, 2019
South Pacific Breezes Blowing - Why Pacific Island Nations Are Looking to DC

Forget buying Greenland, the largest island in the world.  China wants to lease Tulagi.  Never heard of it?  Well, after this episode you will.  Abraham Denmark walks us through diplomatic moves being made by Pacific Island nations and why the US relationship with these countries is strategically important.

Nov 05, 2019
What President Trump Gets Right About Mexico

We have heard a lot of opinions of how President Trump has dealt with immigration, the border, and foreign policy. But in explaining a new piece he has written, Duncan Wood, Director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, provides us with some interesting insight into what President Trump has gotten right on the US/Mexico relationship.

Oct 31, 2019
Russia and China, Sitting in a Tree?

China and Russia.  So many differences, but yet so much in common.  Stacy Closson joins us to sort through the venn diagram of issues that are in the China/Russia relationship.  And what that means for the US and the world in the future.

Oct 22, 2019
Halloween is Coming! Is Brexit?

American University Professor and Wilson Center Scholar Michelle Egan helps us understand Brexit, whether it will happen or not.  This is a great catch up if you haven't followed the day to day back and forth of this international challenge, and great for understanding what comes next.  Also, a wonderful thank you to The Right Honourable John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, for providing years worth of colorful clips of him bringing a raucous House to order.  He has announced that he will stand down on October 31st of this year, so enjoy his witty retorts while you can!

Oct 11, 2019
Is China Dictating What We See On TV?

Aynne Kokas is back!  You see, she was studying China's censorship of American media since before it was cool.  And this week, with situations between China and the NBA and South Park hitting the news, it's definitely cool.  Take a listen to her previous episode with us if you haven't already, and listen to our episodes with Robert Daly filling in context on the Hong Kong protests.

Oct 08, 2019
Quicktake! The Politics of a Definite Article

In this Quicktake episode, Morgan Jacobs of the Kennan Institute and host of "Kennan Xplainer" on Youtube, helps us understand Ukraine vs. THE Ukraine.  Interesting etymology ahead!

Oct 01, 2019
It's Meg King... or Maybe It's a Deepfake

Deepfake videos have gone beyond the realm of comedic relief and interesting technological innovation.  Now things are getting serious.  Meg King, the director of the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center spends her time thinking about the challenges posed by this advancing technology, and gives us a heads up on what to watch out for.

Sep 24, 2019
Black Smoke On The Horizon - Will Attacks on Oil Facilities in Saudi Arabia Spark a Conflagration?

48 hours after oil facilities were attacked in Saudi Arabia, Middle East Specialist David Ottaway thinks the next 48 hours are crucial for the world.  He walks us through what happened, and what we don't know yet, and how all of this could turn into a much larger power play in the Middle East.  Get what you Need to Know, right here.

Sep 16, 2019
Taliban Talks Collapse... Now What?

Michael Kugelman comes back to discuss the collapse of talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, giving us an overview of what the talks had centered on until now, and a view from the region on where they were heading and where they may go now.

Sep 10, 2019
Smoke on the Amazon - The Politics of Wildfires in Brazil

Seven thousand square miles of the Amazon rain forest are on fire. Anna Prusa of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center, helps dissect the policy implications of this event, and helps analyze the Brazilian politics that are entangled in the issue.

Sep 10, 2019
Negotiations and Love Notes - Where Do The North Korea Nuclear Talks Stand?

Jean Lee, Director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy, walks us through where talks between President Trump and Chairman Kim stand today.  And she gives us some insight into the tactics of the North Koreans and a peek into the horizon.  To understand North Korea, there is no one better to hear from than Jean Lee.

Sep 05, 2019
Pining for the Fjords of Greenland - Following Up on the Arctic

A few weeks ago in the episode "Foreign Policy on Top Of The World," I asked Polar Institute Director Mike Sfraga what we needed to look for out on the horizon.  He said "Greenland."  Now Greenland has emerged, and we revisit this territory of Denmark with a deeper look at its significance, both in recent news and in Arctic geopolitical strategy.


Aug 21, 2019
An Update on the Hong Kong Protests

While DC has gone quiet for August, things are heating up in the streets of Hong Kong. For an update, we join back up with Robert Daly of the Wilson Center's Kissinger Institute.

Aug 12, 2019
What's the environment like on a silk road?

Jennifer Turner directs the Wilson Center's China Environment Forum.  And to kick off celebrations of her upcoming 20th Anniversary at the Center, she sat down with me to talk about China's environmental policy and how that may affect the United States.  We discuss China's clean energy initiatives, not so clean initiatives, Belt and Road, and recycling. 

Aug 12, 2019
Argentina... and "Peak Podcast"

Latin America Program Senior Advisor and fellow podcast host Benjamin Gedan joins me for a discussion on Argentina and whether or not we have hit "peak podcast" as discussed in the New York Times recently.  If you don't know about Argentina and why you should be interested, listen here and then join Ben for the Argentina Project Podcast for more in depth discussions!

Aug 01, 2019
Ground Truth on the Iran Nuclear Program

Nuclear non-proliferation expert and Senior Vice President of the Wilson Center, Robert Litwak discusses where Iran's nuclear program now stands, and their recent moves regarding the JCPOA and uranium enrichment.

Jul 23, 2019
Quicktake! What Just Happened in the House?

Talking to our resident House rules expert, Don Wolfensberger, about the confusing incident in the House of Representatives on July 16th, in which a Speaker was called out, a Speaker Pro Tempore abandoned the Chair, and historic words were spoken.  Don's wealth of experience serving on the staff of the Rules Committee make him the perfect podcast guest for this subject!

Jul 17, 2019
Remember: It's Colombia, Not Columbia

Today we talk to Dr. Cynthia Arnson, the director of the Latin America Program at the Wilson Center.  She is a well respected scholar and commentator on all things Latin America, but particularly Colombia.  In this episode we take a look at some of the challenges facing Colombia, and how it affects US policy in the region.

Jul 16, 2019
Foreign Policy On Top Of The World

Director of the Wilson Center's Polar Initiative, Mike Sfraga sits down to chat about the Arctic.  We'll cover challenges with policy in the region, cooperation, and the things we need to know to be smart when thinking about it.

Jul 09, 2019
Taking a Look at India

Michael Kugelman joins us this episode to give us some insight into the US relationship with India, recent elections in the country and what we might see coming in the future.

Jun 24, 2019
Understanding the Hong Kong Protests

In this episode, we sit down with Robert Daly, who is the director of the Kissinger Institute at the Wilson Center. He enlightens us on the protests in Hong Kong -- how we got to this point and where we are going.

Jun 20, 2019
Is China Dictating What We See At The Movies?

This week I sit down with Aynne Kokas, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and author of "Hollywood Made In China." Aynne discusses her research into the subtle ways in which Chinese investment in Hollywood film making has influenced what we see at the box office.

May 15, 2019
Understanding the US/Russia Relationship

In our inaugural episode of the Need to Know podcast, I am joined by Matt Rojansky, the director of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute. On a topic that is fraught with political upheaval, Matt gives us the breakdown of where we stand in US/Russia relations and where it goes from here. It's hard to find nonpartisan information on Russia nowadays, so take a listen and subscribe!

May 15, 2019