Europeans are waking up to the fact that Russia is trying to do by peaceful means what the Soviet Union once threatened by violent ones: overthrow democratic governments, James Kirchik writes for POLITICO:
Utilizing methods both overt (dissemination of “fake news” through propaganda instruments like RT and Sputnik) and covert (hacks and leaks), Russia is aiming to influence national elections across the Continent. Nowhere is this campaign more consequential than in Germany, Europe’s largest and richest power.
The Dutch government, like its German and French counterparts, fears that Russia is trying to influence the upcoming election through hacking schemes and by spreading fake news, DW reports.
“Of course Moscow will continue to actively troll upcoming European elections in the hopes that [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel may fall and [French centrist Presidential candidate Manuel] Macron does not become president, but the reliance on soft power and information warfare has demonstrated their inherent limitations,” he writes for Eurasia Daily Monitor
Russian generals in charge of threat assessments and national strategic planning surely understand the importance of information and cyber warfare but see it as an auxiliary force that can, at best, supplement “hard” military power. As the possible detente with the West falters, the defense ministry will be pressing the Kremlin for more tanks, jets and missiles—an outcome the Russian military will hardly see as disappointing.
The “post-truth” narratives promoted by the Kremlin are familiar to those who lived in totalitarian regimes, says analyst Vitaly Portnikov.
“The strength of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century consisted in a return to the middle ages and from an era of knowledge to one of faith,” Portnikov says. Even as “the Western world with the help of new technologies consistently developed … the Bolsheviks converted their own ideology into a genuine religion” and their media into a “post-truth” one.
Soviet media “existed in a hermetically closed space. It did not compete. It invented facts and did not reflect them,” he added. “The customary agenda of a Soviet newspaper was flourishing in a time of hunger, ‘the rotting’ of capitalism, and stories of spies everywhere as a kind of children’s story for ‘the new Soviet man.’” (HT: Paul Goble).