Tuesday, September 26, 2017

American Focus on Russian Interference in Elections Working to Moscow’s Benefit, Alksnis Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 26 – Many assume that the exposure of Moscow’s intervention in the US elections represents a failure in that Kremlin operation, but in fact, Irina Alksnis points out, the continuing US focus on this works to Russia’s benefit in many ways – and, although she doesn’t say so, may even have been part of the original plan.

            Writing in Vzglyad, the Moscow commentator says that constant discussions in the American media about “’Russian interference’ in the US presidential elections” has “boomeranged” on Washington and given Moscow some real advantages both at home and abroad (vz.ru/politics/2017/9/25/888479.html).

                First of all, Alksnis says, they have highlighted both the extent to which the US can’t prevent others from doing what Washington has done elsewhere and, as the discussions in the media have continued, raised questions about the effectiveness of US institutions charged with defending the country.  Both these things have undermined the legitimacy of the US government.

            Second, the American discussions have drawn the attention of the world to the fact that interference in the elections of other countries is a fact of life, something Moscow has long tried to get governments to focus on in order to get countries to crack down on NGOs and other institutions backed by the US and other Western governments.

            And third, the American talk about Russian interference has put Moscow in a much stronger position to demand understanding and support for its efforts to restrict the activities of any foreign government in advance of the Russian presidential elections, something that again the Russian side has wanted but that the West opposes.

            As a result, the Moscow commentator says, the continuing American conversation about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, something Alksnis dismisses as invented, is working against the US and for Russia rather than the other way around as many have suggested.

            Her comments highlight, even though she at no point says this, that Russian active measures of the kind Moscow clearly deployed in the US are routinely planned to succeed even when they appear to “fail” when they are exposed.  Indeed, their being exposed is something Russian intelligence operations routinely plan for.

            This approach has its origins in the way in which Moscow chose to expose the Cheka’s Operation Trust in 1927 in ways that discredited those who were taken in by it even more than they harmed Soviet relations with the West. There was a big scandal at the time and many thought Moscow was the loser, but over the longer term, it is clear Moscow viewed this as a win.

            But this is often not understood in the West because most Western operations are designed to succeed with little thought of how their organizers might gain even if in the end what they have done is exposed by the other side. 

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