GO FIGURE THAT the biggest political story in the US election breaks after the election, and more importantly our final Autumn term edition. As Russia is starting to feature very heavily in western discourse, I thought I might take a minute here to get our bearings.
Many political Twitter users will be acutely aware of the pervasive influence of pro-Russian and pro-Putin voices, both on the left and right side of the political spectrum. The left sees in him an explicit rejection of the western alliance, many on the right (including the new President) admire Mr Putin for his “strong” leadership. Many of us, particularly continental Europeans, will be aware of the danger that Putin poses. We should be careful in how we engage with an authoritarian despot whose domestic legitimacy rests explicitly on pitting blame for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of the Soviet way of life on the transatlantic relationship between North America and Europe.
It’s undeniable however that Russia has now returned to a position of global influence; 2016 was good for some after all. Any analysis should account for Russian views of geopolitical realities, for example, understanding that both Syria and Ukraine are part of the same front in the battle for regional Russian influence.
If we are also to safeguard our rights of freedom of speech and expression, one must also recognise the changed nature of state propaganda. Putin doesn’t pretend to offer any alternative ideologies. Rather the Kremlin has sought to influence discourse where information, and by extension reality, are manipulated in order to sow confusion. Mr Putin doesn’t want to ‘make Russia great again’, to borrow an admirer’s catchphrase. Rather, he seeks to show that everyone else is no better than he is.
His meddling in the American election is merely the beginning. This year, there will be several European election, and as we have seen with Marine Le Pen’s Russian loans, Russian influence will be ever-present. We must guard ourselves against playing into his hands.