Putin’s Political Meddling Revives Old KGB Tactics
Russia is returning to the playbook of the Cold War in its covert efforts to interfere with elections in the WestBy Andrew Weiss, WSJ
Feb. 17, 2017 4:58 p.m. ET
Last month, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said that, during the 2016 election, the Kremlin had pulled off a “covert influence campaign” that “was probably the most successful in recorded history.” It has become accepted wisdom that Russia’s interference in the presidential campaign represents a fundamentally new sort of intrusion into a modern democracy’s inner workings.
But the Kremlin’s efforts—designed to help elect Donald Trump, according to the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community—aren’t so new. In fact, they are a revival of Soviet covert behavior that dates back to the Cold War.
Recent Russian meddling has indeed involved some innovative techniques, including the release of troves of information collected clandestinely and the penetration of the Democratic National Committee’s email servers. The Kremlin has found a target-rich environment in a Facebook-dominated world where media narratives are easy to manipulate and public trust in traditional media is hitting rock bottom.
As the U.S. director of national intelligence explained in an unclassified report, these operations during the U.S. election “followed a longstanding Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’ ”