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Using Democracy as a Weapon

29.06.16 | Brian Whitmore

www.rferl.org

June 28, 2016

There was something obscenely ironic about Kremlin officials and surrogates cheering the results of the Brexit referendum, given that a similar democratic exercise could never take place in Vladimir Putinís Russia.

But while it was†ironic to see the likes of Dmitry Kiselyov, Aleksei Pushkov, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky singing the praises of British voters exercising their democratic rights, itís not surprising at all.

The Kremlin has become very skilled at using Europeís democratic institutions -- like free-and-fair elections, the free press, and freedom of speech and assembly -- to undermine and divide the EU.

It cheers on and supports xenophobic and Euroskeptic figures like Franceís Marine Le Pen and Britainís Nigel Farage, turning every election in Europe into a potential crisis.

It uses stealthily funded pro-Kremlin media to sow doubt, confusion, division, Euroskepticism, and anti-Americanism across the continent.

And it manufactures crises and stages rent-a-crowd protests, like the infamous Lisa case in Germany, to undermine Europeansí faith in their leaders.

And any move to counter these moves, such as Lithuaniaís ban on certain Russian media for inciting hatred, are met with accusations that Europe is violating basic freedoms.

And, of course, the Kremlin is doing all this even as it has eliminated those freedoms in Russia itself.

Itís asymmetrical warfare on a grand scale, itís been going on for a while, and itís not going to stop anytime soon.