Recent elections in USA, but also UK, Italy, France and many other european countries, raised the suspect -and sometimes a near-certainty- that Russia was meddling with them: supporting one specific party or candidate, spreading fake news on social media, even discrediting other candidates through time-engineered scandals, real or fake.
Looking at the results of the right wing populists supported by Russia, the tactic is working… that is -naturally- unless we accept the only other possible explanation: that we are all just becoming more racist.
Political interferences have a long history, but it’s been a while since the west stopped playing the target role: even when Europe was contended between USA and USSR last century, it still spelled Capitalism vs Communism… hardly two currents alien to our culture.
We are now being heavily targeted, and we are inexcusably doing surprisingly little -if anything- to make sure the outcome of our future elections is not decided abroad. So much, in fact, that I begun to wonder: what if the external influence is being overstated… That is: what if the world we created for ourselves is pushing us in that direction more than Russia or any other foreign state ever could?
Sure, Russia is blowing on the fire of our racism, but the preconditions that brought us here weren’t decided overseas: we invented social media, we allowed it to get out of hands, we allowed globalization to pump money away from our countries and we allowed wealth inequality to get to this extreme. We watched -still- while all this happened for decades, and we are largely still watching.
As a matter of fact, there’s more to it than that: we didn’t just invent social media, but we invented a system where the winner takes it all, where de facto monopolies are the rule, like google is for web search, amazon for online shopping, and facebook for social media.
Can you imagine what degree of single-mindedness and commitment it takes to win a global race of those proportions?
Chances are: companies who spent time debating too many ethical questions have exotic names that we will never hear, as they were too slow to compete with those with mottoes like “Move Fast and Break Things” (facebook’s actual motto until 2014).
On the other hand, we also invented and employed an economical system called neoliberalism that is nearly phasing our middle class out of existence.
Just as that class begins to feel trapped, our social scenario warms up and slowly begins to roll towards panic, and embracing some of the irrational solutions on offer, like fear of those who came to take our jobs during the globalization (i.e.: neoliberalist) decades.
So in a way all this racism that is being “forced” upon us by Russia, is actually serving the purpose of creating barriers between us and poorer countries, and allowing us to maintain an economic advantage against them.
Is worth questioning, now: does really Russia have an interest in us shifting away from democracy towards the extreme right?
One of the most clear points of Russian international politics at the moment, is their goal of growing to become the heart of a network of relationships that will make them irreplaceable.
Being strategically placed between Asia, Europe and Africa (geographically, and geopolitically) all they have to do is capitalise on their last century of history.
On one side, decades worth of bilateral relationships with the middle east made Russia one natural gatekeeper for the land path between Asia and Africa.
On the other, their influence in eastern europe and ex USSR does literally complete the map, and allows them to be a geographical blocker in the path that China calls the “Belt Road”.
It would seem that Russia saw the coming of the end of globalization a little earlier than most, and in view of a return to a multipolar world, begun to manoeuvre to find as many countries as possible on its side.
The point I am trying to make, is that Russia may not be entangling relationships with populist parties in Europe because it is interested in them winning: I believe Russia is doing so because it believes they are best positioned to win, and by supporting them it’s positioning itself in a pivotal position for that “Belt Road” project.
At last it’s worth wondering: if this “wind of change” brought by the right wings didn’t win popular consent, where would we be?
Looking at the elections that started it all, Clinton was the natural continuity for Obama policies, and even Sanders couldn’t have done much to change our paradigm in a world where -without protectionism- raising taxes would have had one only effect: pushing large corporates to relocate their capitals and operations elsewhere, drowning their country’s economy.
Trump’s obsession with protectionism is at risk of isolating the United States, but besides for fighting the same war on too many fronts, the approach was probably the only one possible at his time to escape from liberalism.
One of western strongest political traditions is that of alternating between right and left governments, and except in very extreme scenarios, we can realistically expect the right wing populism will eventually start loosing consents in favour of a -yet to fully bloom- form of left wing populism, in what I previously called a relay race for the west.
If that holds true, Putin’s Russia may have put too many eggs in one basket, and frankly -given their liberticidal ways- evading their sphere of influence would be a relief!