It's springtime for Putin, with everyone panicking about cyber-attacks, hacking, and fake news. We all know about Russia and the US election. Over here, GCHQ has warned about Russian interference in our political processes, up to and including elections, with the recent Stoke by-election cited as a warning of what may be in store. May has even appointed Ben Gummer as Minister in charge of anti-subversion - or, as the Times has it, subversion tsar - to keep us safe from the Russian threat in the new cyber cold war.
The main battleground, though - as with the old cold war - may well be Germany. James Kirchick:
Europeans are waking up to the fact that Russia is trying to do by peaceful means what the Soviet Union once threatened by violent ones: overthrow democratic governments....
Nowhere is this campaign more consequential than in Germany, Europe’s largest and richest power.
The pool of public opinion that might be nudged in a pro-Russian direction is much wider and deeper in Germany than anywhere else in Western Europe. Germans’ attitudes toward their eastern neighbor are complex — owing, among other factors, to geopolitical proximity, extensive business relationships, a fraught wartime history and a pacifist ideology that interprets criticism of Moscow as bellicosity.
In Germany, the Kremlin panders to metanarratives subscribed to by an ideologically diverse set of constituencies, ranging from post-communists innately distrustful of American global hegemony to right-wing nationalists fearful of demographic change. It also plays on Germany’s unique history and fears, with which Russian President Vladimir Putin — stationed in Dresden as a KGB agent during the twilight years of the Cold War — is well acquainted....
Whenever it can, the Kremlin portrays Putin as peacemaker and Russia as the stabilizing force in a world made volatile by a reckless and “uncouth” America.
Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency is a boon to the Kremlin and its German sympathizers. Since the end of World War II, when Chancellor Konrad Adenauer endeavored to bind the postwar Federal Republic to the West, the transatlantic alliance has been the foundation of German foreign policy. But while anti-Americanism has always been potent in Germany, it was concentrated on the communist and fascist fringes.
Now, with an unpredictable hothead in the White House, one who so casually dismisses the basic liberal values upon which the transatlantic alliance is based (and whom Der Spiegel recently caricatured as a jihadist severing the head of Lady Liberty), Germans advocating strategic neutrality will gain credibility, and public opinion may gradually become more susceptible to Russian overtures.