Vladimir Putin Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Threat to Western Democracy Starts at Home

The Western liberal order is not in crisis because of Russian disinformation campaigns and electoral interference. Western democracies must take responsibility for a crisis that, ultimately, is homegrown – nurtured by its leaders’ own failure to confront effectively the challenges of globalization.

MADRID – Four days before the United Kingdom’s 1924 election, the Daily Mail published a letter purportedly written by Comintern Chairman Grigori Zinoviev, calling on British Communists to mobilize “sympathetic forces” in the Labour Party to support an Anglo-Soviet treaty and to encourage “agitation-propaganda” in the armed forces. The letter was found to be fake – forged by anti-Bolshevik White Russians or perhaps Britain’s own secret service – but not before it caused the defeat of the UK’s first Labour government.

Today’s Russian disinformation campaigns, part of the Kremlin’s hybrid war against Western democracies, seem to have much in common with the infamous Zinoviev letter. But is their impact really comparable? Would Western democracies really look different today without Russian subterfuge?

According to Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, Russian electoral interference and manipulation, if left unchecked, could pose an “existential threat” to Western democracies. In other words, an autocrat ruling over an impoverished country with an oil-addicted economy smaller than that of Brazil is supposed to be capable of bringing down the world’s major democracies.

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