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The fake news Russians hear at home


"The uses of this kind of coverage aren’t hard to guess. Clearly, it is not in the Russian state’s interest for the Russian nation to admire Europe, not for its democracy or its rule of law, and certainly not for its high standards of living. The memory of the Maidan protest of 2014 — young Ukrainians protesting in Kiev, waving European flags and calling for an end to corruption — is still fresh enough to be frightening in Moscow. If the Putin regime can undermine the idea of “Europe” and make it unattractive to Russians — most of whom have long identified themselves as Europeans — then it removes a source of hope, and a possible model. If Europe is crazy, twisted, dangerous and dying, then surely Russians are better off under their corrupt authoritarian system."

Why is this important?

"There could be a more sinister purpose to this relentless bad news as well, particularly as it echoes equally harsh coverage of the United States and Ukraine. If Russia were expecting or planning some kind of conflict with Europe — diplomatic, economic, political, even military — this is exactly the strategy Russian leaders would use: Portray Russia’s neighbors as simultaneously aggressive and weak, decadent and dangerous; show Europe as a society that a stronger, better Russia could — and should — easily crush. Perhaps this is overly pessimistic. But otherwise it’s hard to explain why Moscow would go to the trouble."


Anne Applebaum

Publication Date

May 4, 2018