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The Daily Vertical: The Limits Of Dark Power (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Agitprop has its limits.

Active measures have a downside.

Influence operations often result in blowback.

And if these lessons aren't yet obvious to Vladimir Putin and his cronies, they aren't paying attention.

As the sanctions bill currently before the United States Congress starkly illustrates, Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election have resulted in a systemic backlash.

Likewise, Moscow's meddling in the French election has alienated the European country most favorably disposed toward Russia.

And Kremlin efforts to spread fake news in Germany have turned Moscow's most important trading partner into a staunch critic.

And the underlying reason for this is simple.

WATCH: Today's Daily Vertical

For all its apparent skill at exploiting and manipulating the vulnerable spots in Western democracy, the Putin regime simply doesn't understand how Western societies work.

When a Western media outlet runs a story critical of Russia, the Kremlin tends to view this as an information attack launched from some shadowy basement in Langley -- when in reality, it's just journalists doing their job.

When Western NGOs promote human rights abroad, the Putin regime sees it as part of a dark plot to undermine Russia -- when in reality, it's just Western civil society doing what Western civil society does.

But things like a free press and an independent civil society are alien concepts for this Kremlin.

It's inconceivable to Moscow that they aren't directed and controlled by the state.

So what the Putin regime has done is to create a parallel structure. It's created Western soft power's shadowy twin.

My co-host on the Power Vertical Podcast, Mark Galeotti calls this "dark power."

And dark power has its limits.

Keep telling me what you think on The Power Vertical's Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.

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