Michael Khodarkovsky writes: These days President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia cannot hide his glee. This is unusual for a man trained to deceive and mislead, a man who is practiced in his profession. In an interview with the Russian television program “Weekly News” on Dec. 4, Mr. Putin said it was obvious that the West had failed to create a unipolar world and that balance was being restored. He had reasons to feel triumphant: His years of supporting anti-establishment movements in the West, mostly on the right, by hacking and leaking private information, spreading fake news and financing parties and individuals ready to do the Kremlin’s bidding all seem to be paying off.
Russia’s methods are hardly new. Remember, for example, “The Protocols of the Elders of the Zion,” a notorious forgery concocted by the czar’s secret police and published in Russia in 1903. Purporting to describe a Jewish plot to dominate the world, it became a bible for anti-Semites everywhere and was widely used by the Nazis. Throughout the 20th century, disinformation and propaganda disseminated by the Communist Party’s Department of Propaganda and Agitation, alongside its intelligence services, became part and parcel of the Soviet regime. During the Soviet-Finnish war in the winter of 1939, for instance, as Soviet planes bombed the Finns, the Soviet foreign minister, Vyacheslav M. Molotov, said Moscow was dropping humanitarian aid — food and water. In response to the lie, the Finns sarcastically named their own bombs — bottles filled with flammable fuel — Molotov cocktails.
In post-Soviet Russia, the same cynical mendacity has become the Putin government’s hallmark. On July 9, 2014, in a meeting with public leaders at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin referred to Joseph Goebbels, the notorious Nazi minister of propaganda, as “a talented man who knew that the more incredible the lies, the quicker people believe them.” The quote, which he was using to condemn the West’s supposed misrepresentation of Russian history, was in fact the best indication of Mr. Putin’s own creed. [Continue reading…]