For years, the Russian government has acted in opposition to growing support for democracy in Eastern Europe. Former Soviet Union members such as Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine have openly embraced institutions of democracy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and have since faced hostility from the Russian government for championing Western values. The Kremlin, led by Putin, has made it a state objective to obstruct the advancement of democracy in former Soviet states and actively acts as a dangerous demagoguery. Putin exemplifies the case of a dangerous demagoguery, provoking discourse that promises stability, certainty, and escape from the responsibilities through his distortion of public policy in terms of the degree to which the outgroup should be punished for the current problems of the ingroup. This is exactly what is seen happening in Russia and what has been propagated by the government for years. The Kremlin has steadily and effectively channeled communication to present a false us versus them narrative to its citizens, antagonizing them against Western values and their western neighbors. Putin’s rhetoric of Western blame lends to this explanation of a dangerous demagoguery, and presents his scapegoat in times of political turmoil. According to Putin, it’s the West to blame for the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the outgroup, and, to him, it’s these states that are still currently impeding on Russia’s right to reunification and proliferation of former Soviet ideals for the ingroup.
Putin exacerbates the issue with repeated instances of aggressive communication and rhetoric, as well as inflammatory statements to international agencies. In addition to consistently misleading his own citizens, Putin has corroded trust in the Russian government amongst the international community. The level to which Putin and the Kremlin manipulate and deceive the public has become an issue serious enough that it can, and needs, to be addressed alone. Putin’s campaign of disinformation, propaganda, and state-controlled media coverage has hindered his nation’s ability to receive and process events as they are and not as the Kremlin has manipulated them to appear. The Kremlin’s continuous reputation of lying and misrepresenting the truth in its own state and abroad has been an attempt of the Kremlin to combat Western states and institutions who would otherwise condemn Putin for his aggressive, and deceitful policy strategies and mistakes. The Kremlin does this to attempt to rally domestic support for populist ideas while also convincing international sympathizers to support a distorted view of Russian politics that places Russia in a position of victimization. Crises in former Soviet states such as those in Belarus in 2020, Ukraine in 2014, and Ukraine as recently as this week, have been propagations of Russian elites who attempt to shift blame for continued conflict and dissatisfaction amongst Eastern Europeans onto Western powers, despite many issues being a direct result of Russian influence and manipulation. All the while the Kremlin continues to blame hypocrisy in European values for the situation. Putin has echoed these complaints for over a decade and they do resonate amongst disenfranchised Eastern Europeans who maintain a dangerous sense of nostalgia for the former Soviet Union; it seems he maintains this rhetoric in an attempt to stoke the desire amongst Russians for a future reunited Soviet Union and for sentiment from anti-European demographics.
Disinformation, misinformation, state-controlled media, lack of governmental accountability, propaganda, and lack of channels with accurate and verified information have all been tools for Russia to maintain control of political narratives involving the Kremlin. However, all of these tools are also attributes of a corroding democracy. Although Putin has given many other reasons for concern of the legitimacy of democracy in Russia, these instances of lying to the public are especially dangerous since they do more than influence the populations that receive the rhetoric. Additionally, other international leaders who may use the rhetoric to make internationally impactful decisions, may be making these decisions based on inaccurate information. The state of international security, and future peace is at stake if Russia is able to continuously monger fear nationally and globally. Strategies need to be implemented to efficiently differentiate Russian disinformation for international citizens as well as for Russian citizens if democracy is expected to function and survive into the future.
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