South China Morning Post — June 25, 2017
When it comes to accusations that Russia hacked or otherwise interfered in last year’s US presidential election, the Kremlin has consistently denied any involvement.
Now, some Russian officials are pointing the finger at Washington, saying it’s America that is meddling in Moscow’s domestic affairs. In fact, Kremlin officials say, the US has been doing it for years.
Hacking? The Kremlin’s website is attacked daily “from within US territories,” Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said this month.
Information warfare and fake news? Washington-funded media outlets like Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America have long run what the Kremlin sees as an anti-Putin propaganda campaign aimed at supporting the Russian opposition.
A report prepared by a committee of the Russian parliament said American media outlets engaged in biased and “anti-Russia” coverage of Russian parliamentary elections in 2016. Radio Free Europe, Voice of America and CNN in particular were criticised for their stories, which the report claimed unfairly “questioned the democratic nature of the electoral system in Russia.”
“It is difficult to deny that during last year’s parliamentary election campaign, these radio stations that are being financed from the United States were using journalism as a cover to spread one-sided propaganda and disinformation on the Russian electoral process,” said Leonid Levin, a parliamentary deputy who presented the report to the parliament in May.
Russian officials say what is at stake now are Russia’s 2018 presidential and national elections. They said the government must act swiftly to counter any attempts by the United States and its allies to interfere.
“There is no doubt that in the time that is left before the Russian presidential elections due next March, we will face very active and consistent attempts by the USA. and its Nato allies to influence the course of this election campaign,” said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Federation Council’s Committee for International Relations.
Russia has long contended that the US and its allies have improperly sought to influence the politics in those former Soviet and East Bloc nations that Moscow regards as within its sphere of influence, including Ukraine, Georgia, Poland and the Baltic countries.
In particular, Kremlin officials have pointed to the activities of US-funded organisations such as the National Democratic Institute, the US Agency for International Development and the International Republican Institute.
The US and other Western nations have spent billions of dollars since the breakup of the Soviet Union, supporting democracy-building programmes to support civil society, strengthen election processes, build political parties and promote independent media. While the West sees this as fostering democracy, Moscow has watched as these programmes have indirectly given birth to anti-Kremlin movements in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence.