Putin understands absolutely how the West can be undermined

There is lot of discussions about if and how Russia tried to meddle into the US presidential election. Generally speaking what would be your assessment? Is Russia willing and capable to do this and also to try to influence the elections elsewhere (Germany, France…)? Read few comments.

Anthony GleesProfessor, Director, Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, University of Buckingham

For forty years I’ve been publishing and speaking out about Soviet and Communist subversion and I’ve warned repeatedly of the dangers that face all Western liberal democracies, from extremists at home and abroad.

I have no doubt at all that the FBI/NSA assessment of Russian involvement in the US elections is accurate and just last night I wrote to one of my friends who is a senior figure in the Conservative Party to ask our own MI5 to give us its evaluation as to the role that Russia played in our Brexit referendum.
I’ve pasted my comments to him below.

It is a matter of public record that the chief of MI6 Alex Younger has alerted us to the dangers of Russian attempts to interfere with our democracy. MI6 has clearly picked up evidence from overseas of Russian intentions and capabilities. However we now need to hear from MI5 about the extent to which these have been made real in UK politics.

MI5 has so far been reluctant to get seriously involved even though the law establishing MI5 in 1989 gave it a clear duty to act against subversion (MI5 actually boasts on its website that it no longer operates against subversion — how clever is that? Publicizing the fact?).

What is the case in the USA, and I believe in the UK, will also be the case with all other Western democracies and for a very simple reason: Putin quite clearly wishes to turn the clock back and see Russia dominate those states east of Germany that were under Communist rule before 1989-90. This is not because he is a ‘Communist’ but because he is a ‘nationalist’ who think that Russia can only be secure if it is the dominant power in Europe.

Today Russian nationalists hate and resent the EU both for day to day political reasons but also for historical reasons. The EU was a beacon of prosperity and freedom for many in eastern Europe which they, understandably, defined as liberation from Soviet rule.

In order to re-establish Russian dominance, the EU must at best be destroyed and at the least pushed back from the former Soviet satellite states.

It’s bad enough living in a Brexiting Britain but to be anywhere in Eastern Europe that was once in the Soviet orbit must be terrifying.

Putin understands absolutely the ways in which Western democracies can be undermined without the use of force; he understands it because he knows from personal experience the ways of the KGB. What he wants is to see in the West is the prospering of policies and people that will see them working in tandem with his own vision of Russia: nationalist oligarchs with superb media and social media skills achieving power with his help, expertise and cash.

Michael Smith, Former Intelligence Officer, Award-winning Journalist, Author

This would fit with the aggressive way in which Russia is currently behaving, in the Baltics, in the Ukraine and elsewhere, such as Montenegro, and its relatively unsophisticated but very effective manipulation of the media. It will be interesting to see the report which Obama has ordered. It all hangs on the identification of the people who supplied the date to Wikileaks but given what we now know (thanks to Snowden) about the US ability to monitor the passage of electronic data, it seems unlikely that this is wrong. If it is true that the hackers also broke into the GOP computer files the failure to release those is pretty clearly an attempt to influence the election. But the long-term plan could well be more extensive. We have already seen a very worrying split emerging between Trump and the intelligence agencies as a result of this weekend’s reports in the US media, which will only work in Putin’s favour. A president who ignores warnings from his intelligence advisers and thinks Putin is a good man is not only extremely naive but is also a very worrying prospect for the world and indeed for countries which Russia still thinks should be within its orbit. That said, it is difficult to see a Republican Congress favouring Putin. But we are in for an interesting few years.

Mark Galeotti, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of International Relations, Prague

Let’s not be naive, countries often intervene in others’ politics, just usually by diplomatic statements and overt positions; what is different about these allegations is that they are that Russia is using decidedly undiplomatic and covert means. I think the Russian involvement in the email hack is pretty much proven. What is less clear is the motivation: my sense is that the Kremlin thought a Clinton win inevitable and wanted to undermine her, rather than elect Trump. The new president is at present apparently positively inclined towards Putin, but is unpredictable and this could change easily and quickly, so it would be interesting to know if they Kremlin itself considers this a win. Certainly I don’t think the Russian foreign ministry is comfortable. So, while Russia undoubtedly has some capacity to meddle in France and Germany, I suspect it is more likely to stick to what have become its more traditional means such as misinformation and media spin, over more dubious methods.

Alexander Lanoszka, Lecturer, Department of International Politics, City, University of London

An internal CIA assessment seems to suggest that Russia has actively tried to meddle in the US Presidential election through the use of hackers. These hackers appear to have collected potentially compromising information about the Democratic Party and presidential nominee Hilary Clinton while choosing not to do anything of the sort with respect to the Republican Party and Presidential-elect Donald Trump. That leading figures within the American intelligence community have expressed concern about Russian interference sends a very strong signal that some malfeasance took place. That said, it is unclear how much effect this interference—to the extent that it occurred—had on the election outcome itself. For one, she did win the popular vote by an impressive 2.5 million votes. Yet increasing political polarisation in the United States means that co-partisans (especially those left on the spectrum) cluster more and more in particular areas of the country. As such, she lost the electoral college vote, which is intended to ensure that the Presidential election is not strictly a popularity contest. For another, in a year that establishment politicians were consistently losing power or referenda elsewhere in the West, Hilary’s position was much more fragile than what the Democratic National Committee would have liked to believe. When we take into account these alternative explanations for her loss, it is hard to determine what influence Russia might have played, if any. It might be even insulting to American voters to say that they were swayed by Russia, though that is not to say that Russia did not attempt something that was improper.

Could something similar happen in France or Germany in 2017? Again, the political establishment in France has been weak for some time and Russia has recently decided to establish a French-language version of RT. Yet France and Russia have for a long time had some level of cultural affinity for each other. Even if the result of the election comes up in Russia’s favour, it would be hard to tell how much of an impact we can assign to Russian meddling. I think Germany is more immune to Russian interference than France because it is less politically polarised and the establishment there still has popular legitimacy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: