Putin’s ‘formidable influence machine’ at work in French poll


Russia, or at least its state-controlled news media, has been interfering in the French presidential election, the New York Times reports:

Cécile Vaissié, a professor of Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet studies at the University of Rennes 2, said the Kremlin, building on methods and contacts developed in the Soviet Union, had assembled a “formidable machine of influence” in France that works to promote its interests as well as those of its preferred candidates….. Russia’s influence machine, said Ms. Vaissié, the Rennes professor, has been fueled in large part by “the paradox at the heart of our political discourse: a fascination with the United States and a permanent rejection of it that provides absolutely fertile ground for the Russians.”

Anti-Americanism in France has seeped deep into the center-right, encouraging an infatuation among some politicians with Russia and Mr. Putin that has provided Russian news outlets in France with some of their most bombastic pro-Russia and anti-Macron voices.

“A large section of the population has broken with the mainstream media and gets its information from parallel sources. This is the world in which RT and Sputnik have found their place,” said Pierre Haski, a founder of the liberal news site Rue89.

The Kremlin has used Russian-based organized crime groups in Europe for a variety of purposes, including as sources of ‘black cash’, to launch cyber attacks, to wield political influence, to traffic people and goods, and even to carry out targeted assassinations, says a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations (right).

Ukraine served as a laboratory for Russia’s hybrid warfare and provides lessons for countering its disinformation in a ‘post-truth’ world, according to analyst Yuri Zhukov.

NATO member states and partner countries should develop protection mechanisms for the victims of “trolling”, says GLOBSEC’s Katarina Klingova:

In general, people and institutions uncovering the “ugly truth” are often targets of the army of online trolls, cyberattacks, lawsuits, denial-of-service attacks or hacking. Therefore, governments, using appropriate measures, should provide support to such people or institutions. Protective measures for victims of disinformation or cyberbullying should be an integral part of state countermeasures developed to target hostile foreign influence.

Countering Information War: Lessons Learned from NATO and Partner Countries provides a clear set of recommendations based on sharing of know-how and best practices, including the need for media literacy and critical thinking or the need to rebuild trust and credibility of institutions, she adds.

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