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Russian Propaganda’s Western Enablers

The Finnish author Sofi Oksanen once observed that Russia’s information warfare works because its targets are often willing participants. As noxious as the Kremlin’s information warfare may seem to democratic voters, Western governments often exhibit little interest in or ability to affect the status quo.

TALLINN – Every day seems to bring a new revelation about Russia’s political meddling in Western countries. From Twitter trolls sowing discord among voters, to the Kremlin’s alleged support for extremist groups, Russian propaganda is undermining trust in democratic governance. And although Western politicians may talk tough in response to the Kremlin’s efforts to upend the status quo, their actions often betray a weaker hand. Russia’s ability to influence journalism and literature is a case in point.

The Finnish author Sofi Oksanen once observed that Russia’s information warfare works because its targets are often willing participants. During the Cold War, for example, Finland’s economic dependence on raw materials and technology from Russia left its leaders loath to antagonize the Kremlin. This phenomenon – “Finlandization” – helps explain why, when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago was translated into Finnish in 1974, the first edition was printed in neighboring Sweden.

Even Britain has succumbed to this calculus. In 1944, the British establishment tried to prevent publication of George Orwell’s Animal Farm; then-editor T.S. Eliot argued that the book’s anti-Soviet “point of view” was “not convincing.” No one, it seemed, wanted to anger Stalin, who was then an ally of Great Britain.

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