Moscow, Nov 26: For months, President Vladimir Putin has predictably denied accusations of Russian interference in last year’s U.S. election, denouncing them as fake news fuelled by Russophobic hysteria.
More surprising, some of Putin’s biggest foes in Russia, notably pro-Western liberals who look to the U.S. as an exemplar of democratic values and journalistic excellence, are now joining a chorus of protest over the U.S.’s fixation with Moscow’s meddling in its political affairs. “Enough already!” Leonid M. Volkov, chief of staff for the anti-corruption campaigner and opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, wrote in a recent anguished post on Facebook. “What is happening with ‘the investigation into Russian interference,’ is not just a disgrace but a collective eclipse of the mind.” What most disturbs Putin’s critics about what they see as the U.S.’s Russia fever is that it reinforces a narrative put forth tirelessly by the state-controlled Russian news media. On television, in newspapers and on websites, Putin is portrayed as an ever-victorious master strategist who has led Russia — an economic, military and demographic weakling compared with the U.S. — from triumph to triumph on the world stage.
“The Kremlin is of course very proud of this whole Russian interference story,” Volkov said in a telephone interview. “This image is very bad for us. Putin is not a master geopolitical genius.” Volkov and others say they have no doubt that Russia did interfere, at least on the margins, in last year’s presidential election campaign. But they complain that the U.S. consistently inflates Putin’s impact and portrays his government as far more unified and effective than it really is, cementing his legacy and making him harder to challenge at home.