Russia is said to be involved in the manipulation of the elections and politics of various countries in the West.

Did the West ever manipulate Russian politics?

Is the West able to manipulate Russian politics nowadays?

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    I think this question is highly opinion based and very broad, because every country has different reasons to (not) meddle in other countries' politics. From not caring through moral obligations all the way to countries already interfering and it's just not talked about that much. In the end, all the international sanctions on Russia are already quite a lot of interference. – Morfildur Jul 11 '20 at 14:09
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    The question is flawed because the West does manipulate Russian politics. For example, in 1996 the US meddled in the presidential elections and allowed Boris Yeltsin to win it (see, among others, theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/07/… ). – user4370 Jul 13 '20 at 7:13

Your question is problematic because of the stated and unstated assumptions in it. Russia certainly complains about foreign meddling in their affairs.

  • Various Western governments and government-affilated organizations are supporting civil society in Russia. Democracy activists, civil rights activists, independent journalists, people like that. They complain about Russian countermeasures like foreign agent registration acts, yet the US had such laws since 1938 ...
  • They are sheltering dissidents from Russia and refusing extradition. That makes the headlines when one is murdered, usually the news takes no notice.
  • There are sanctions against Russia with the clear implication that it will take regime change to make them go away completely.

The West claims to be convinced that their actions are legitimate in international relations, and nothing like the "underhanded meddling" of the Russians. The Russian government appears genuinely concerned that the West is formenting yet another color revolution in Russia. One might ask why the West doesn't do things like botnets in VKontakte, but it would be limiting to retaliate exactly 1-to-1.

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    I feel like it's a bit naive to suppose that the US isn't already using agents and bots on social media. In the current presidential election and the previous, we saw candidates explicitly using memes as political weapons. This doctrine didn't come from nowhere, information warfare is well established. – gszavae Jul 13 '20 at 5:05
  • @gszavae, is that domestic or international? I would have expected the Russians to detect that and complain very loudly. – o.m. Jul 13 '20 at 5:16
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    @o.m. Whether or not they can detect it (just like we aren't sure if the US can truly detect it), they do complain about US bots. Not only do they complain about US bots, they complain about NATO bots, about Clinton bots, about Trump bots, US bots pretending to be Russian bots, etc. RT and Sputnik are filled with such stories the same way that western media is filled with stories about Russian bots. EDIT: Even complaints about Bolivian and Venezuelan bots! – gszavae Jul 13 '20 at 5:25

Russia does not have free and fair elections; consolidation of power by Putin appears to be very solid.

Not only can the Russian government take action against media agencies it doesn't like, the ability of a Western-backed faction to actually do anything is limited - they wouldn't be allowed to win elections, and in the extreme might simply be murdered (qv Salisbury).


To some extent because, without a clear need to do so, a blatant manipulation of Russia's "elections" by Western politicians would carry political risks to those Western politicians and would be considered dangerous adventurism by Western electorates. Encouragement and deniable covert support for opposition would be OK but is likely to be of limited effectiveness, as per @pjc50's answer.

Not to mention that support for one politician over another by foreign countries can have the opposite effect to that intended, instead strengthening "foreign enemies" memes used by a government to stay in power. Note that Russia has usually been careful to sow dissent, rather than back any particular politician too obviously. This is not always the case however, see the LePen loan story in France

i.e. this type of action is considered bad form by Western voters. Sure, it happens, but it doesn't do well when thrown in the spotlight, as it would be if Russia was the target rather than say some oil producing third world country.

Edit: not claiming that the West doesn't try to manipulate Russian opinion (they do - see the long list of radio stations specifically set up to do so, along with their Russian counterparts). Neither am I claiming that they don't do anything as underhanded as Russia's Facebook trolls, although we haven't heard of any evidence to that effect. I am saying that Western politicians could expect some major pushback from their electorate if they were caught doing it, which likely tempers the temptation to do so.

Also, at the end of the day, why bother overmuch if you are dealing with adversaries who are fond of censorship? Just pushing out real news, rather than trying to peddle fake news, does the job just as well. If I recall correctly, during the Cold War, the stations trying to influence Russia generally were relatively factual, because that actually worked out in their favor (as opposed to getting caught out in blatant lies). Pure propaganda could be left to Western news outlet addressing Western populations.


The "west" has already "manipulated" Russia and former Soviet states since 1949 with Radio Free Liberty.

Russia Today (RT) was founded and financed by the Russian government to achieve a similar goal.

Regardless of what you might think of both networks. They both serve the same purpose. To influence people in their respective countries. Or in other words, serve as a source of propaganda.

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    "as a direct consequence": plausible, but do you have a source? – gerrit Jul 13 '20 at 8:14
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    @gerrit Considering that there were over 50 years between RFL started broadcasting to Russia and RT being formed, I find the "direct consequence" claim not very plausible. – Philipp Jul 13 '20 at 11:45
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    @Philipp Good point. Was there anything like Russia Today during the Cold War? – gerrit Jul 13 '20 at 12:35
  • @Philipp Radio Free Europe has been spreading American propaganda to Russians for decades (and to Soviets long before that). That the Russian government decided to do the exact same thing is a fact. Whether there's a source for the claim is immaterial. But let me rephrase it. – dan-klasson Jul 15 '20 at 9:29
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    The OP specifically asked for retaliatory actions from the west in similar form. I assume that the OP is asking about the same thing everyone else is talking about: social media manipulation on Facebook, Twitter, etc... not about Radio Free Liberty. i.e. this is more of a what-aboutism answer than something that address what the OP asked about. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Jul 16 '20 at 20:14

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