Citizens' Center for Nuclear Non-ProliferationRussian Nuclear Non-Proliferation Site
Main   Russian
Search:
Exclusive | Archive | Publications | About us | Links | Forum | Guestbook

By Patrick Wintour,
The Guardian, UK,
24 December 2017

Moscow clash exposes Tory dilemma over Russian meddling claims

Natural instinct is to denounce Russia but party cannot suggest credibility of EU referendum result was tarnished

Boris Johnson`s efforts to stabilise UK relations with Russia have become an increasingly difficult balancing act due to the continuing allegations of Moscow`s interference in British democracy.

The government`s natural instinct is to go all out in denouncing Russia`s cyber disinformation war, but at the same time the Tories cannot go so far as to suggest the credibility of the EU referendum result in 2016 was tarnished by Russian interference.

The dilemma was exposed during the extraordinary press conference given by Johnson and the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow on Friday. The mood turned spikiest when Lavrov denied claims the Kremlin had interfered in democratic elections using online propaganda and trolling and accused Johnson of being a "hostage" of untrue western narratives.

When he claimed Johnson himself had confirmed Russia had not interfered in the UK`s election and the referendum, Johnson interrupted to clarify: "Not successfully." Johnson said had Russia been successful "that would have been an entirely different matter".

The suggestion that Russian interference would matter more if it had produced a different democratic outcome has in recent weeks become the official UK government line. Johnson stuck to the narrative at the press conference and in an interview with the Russian media on the eve of his visit.

It is self-evident that propaganda is less significant if it is ineffective, such as being confined to a few Facebook posts. Equally, many Eurosceptic MPs said in a Commons debate on Thursday that it was absurd to ascribe disillusioned fishermen voting leave to a Russian tweet.

But for many MPs from all political wings Russian interventions in the Baltics, Balkans or major European elections are seen as disturbing - even if they do not "succeed".

Even the impeccably Eurosceptic Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin questioned the government`s purist criteria for success, pointing out that if an intervention provoked consternation and the questioning of the democratic process then the Russians had had a measure of a success.

The culture select committee chairman, Damian Collins, said an intent by a foreign power to change a democratic outcome could be as disturbing as its success in doing so.

He pointed out that many users of social media platforms "do not understand the way in which they can be targeted and the reason they receive the information that they receive. That creates confusing echo chambers where people are not exposed to a plurality of views but are systematically targeted - not just with fake news but with hyper-partisan content. It is being done for propaganda reasons and political reasons by foreign actors. If we do not see that as a threat to the democratic institutions of this country and a threat to the western way of life, we are deluding ourselves."

The question remains whether the UK government could be doing more to expose the scale of the problem rather than leaving the task to ill-equipped parliamentary inquiries.

It is tempting, as the Russian embassy in the UK daily contends, to see concern about Russian fake news as the product of a paranoid cold war mindset. The UK has many reasons to want to work with Russia, notably to try to understand its ambitions in the Middle East, especially for a Syria peace conference. Intelligence cooperation is currently at the bare minimum.

But EU ambassadors based in the UK, sympathetic to the British government, are unambiguous about Vladimir Putin`s hostility towards the west and want the UK to use its huge cyber capabilities to expose what the Russians have been doing to try to spread division and ambiguity in western societies. Concern about the authenticity of the Brexit result should not be a reason to hold back.


Your opinion (comments to the article)?


Your name:

Your comments:

Please enter the code exactly as shown in image format.



More:

  • After a year of Trump, Russians are still waiting for the thaw. By Anton Troianovski, The Washington Post, 20 January 2018

  • Russia Has a Plan to Dominate the Arctic. In a move with chilling implications for the international competition for Arctic sea routes and minerals. By Michael Peck, The National Interest, 9 January 2018

  • All pay America. (russian.) By Vladimir Shenk, publicist, Israel, special for NuclearNo.com, 5 January 2018

  • U.S. intelligence is good enough for Putin. Why not Trump?. By Len Zuza, The Washington Post, 28 December 2017

  • Did Russia Help Trump Win the Election? Intelligence Agencies Don`t Have Proof, Jill Stein Claims. By Jason Le Miere, Newsweek, 24 December 2017

  • Broad Majority of Americans Support Moving Trump to Jerusalem. By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker, 8 December 2017

  • Essence of persecution of Trump. (russian.) By Vladimir Shenk, publicist, Israel, special for NuclearNo.com, 4 December 2017
  • Advertising

    @Mail.ru
    Exclusive | Archive | Publications | About us | Links | Forum | Guestbook
    Home   Up   Back

    General Post Office, P.B. 25211, Krasnoyarsk, 600000. Russia.
    e-mail: ccnnp@yandex.ru, NuclearNo.com
    © 2000. Design: NuclearNo.ru