Responding to Russia’s resurgence



Russian propaganda is designed to show Putin “as an important leader on the world stage, as the equivalent of the American president, much as during the Cold War, says analyst Anne Appelbaum, “and it’s been designed very much to bring back that sense that the world is divided in half and Russia’s on one side and the United States is on the other,” she tells POLITICO’S Susan Glasser:

I don’t think Americans realize the degree to which they are the main subject of Russian television news…. Every night the United States is shown to be an enemy of Russia over and over and over again. And this is, of course, useful to the Russian president, because it’s, ‘We have this big and important enemy—you need me here to fight back.

“So, it puts us in an odd position where it’s almost as if the Cold War is back—except only one side is fighting it,” adds Appelbaum, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The Russian effort to sow discord during last year’s U.S. election was “really quite an impressive, impressive operation,” former CIA and NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, told a committee of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine last week. Hayden attributed the meddling campaign to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to elevate his nation’s standing by discrediting Western democratic institutions, NPR reports. “He wants to bring us down in the eyes of ourselves and of his people,” he said.

Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has embarked on a systematic challenge to the West. The goal is to weaken the bonds between Europe and the United States and among EU members, undermine NATO’s solidarity, and strengthen Russia’s strategic position in its immediate neighborhood and beyond, notes Ivo H. Daalder, President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013. Putin wants nothing less than to return Russia to the center of global politics by challenging the primacy that the United States has enjoyed since the end of the Cold War, he writes for Foreign Affairs:

For some time now, “the Kremlin has been de facto operating in a war mode,” the Russia scholar Dmitri Trenin has observed, and Putin has been behaving like a wartime leader. Washington’s response to this challenge must be equally strong. First, it is critical to maintain transatlantic unity; divisions across the Atlantic and within Europe weaken NATO’s ability to respond to Russian provocations and provide openings for Moscow to extend its reach and influence. … NATO must do more to bolster its deterrence by sending a clear message to the Kremlin that it will not tolerate further Russian aggression or expansionism

“The operation in Crimea also demonstrated a whole new form of Russian military prowess,” Daalder notes. “Sophisticated cyber-operations and relentless disinformation diverted attention from what was happening,” he adds.

It’s past time that regulators cracked down on RT and that civil society treated it appropriately, with ostracism, says analyst Oliver Kamm. Young journalists in particular should know this. RT and Sputnik are eagerly scouting for talent: if you go there, for an apparently responsible role, it will not be a stepping stone in your career but the end of it. Western democracies, and the free press on which they depend, shouldn’t stand for this anymore, he writes for The [London] Times.

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