Russia has been blamed retrospectively for Brexit. Now we are being warned to watch out because Russia is somehow going to influence the French election, and we shall be sure to hear a thousand voices screaming ‘Russia!’ if Marie Le Pen, or any politician who might be at all sympathetic to Russia in France has any chance of winning. Soon, it seems Russia will also be accused of influencing the German elections as well, and I haven’t even mentioned what’s happening in America. Dr Tara McCormack, lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Manchester shares her opinion on this subject.
Dr McCormack says that we have seen over the past 3-4 years an increasing focus on Russia as being the source of all ills in the world. Host John Harrison asks whether this continuous criticism is something structural, to do with the way that political systems are constructed. Dr Tara McCormack says that there have a been a lot of genuine political tensions and disagreements internationally, and we have also seen a distancing between the political elites and the ordinary people, everywhere, including Russia. Over the past two years this has been demonstrated in elections, so the problems are really “stark and obvious.” She says that “Russia has presented a very convenient scapegoat.”
John Harrison points out that perhaps Russians don’t care too much, because whatever Russia does, she will always be wrong. Dr Tara McCormack says that: “I am not sure that there is much that Russia can do in terms of the numerous accusations that are being made. Is it even worth responding to Ben Bradshaw’s claims that Russia is behind Brexit?” Dr McCormack points out that Russia’s serious political disagreements with the West are taken by westerners to be proof of the mysterious, somehow nasty, nefarious nature of Russia and Russians.
John Harrison suggests that heightened scapegoating may have something to do with the transformation occurring in western countries away from liberal democratic system to realist, conservative democratic systems. Dr Tara McCormack dismisses this idea and says that the ‘Other,’ the Soviet Union was very much used for domestic purposes, and this residue of negative feelings still tends to over shadow things like the remilitarisation of NATO’s western border, which the western media is hardly reporting about at all. “It is far easier to fight Putin than look at our why we actually lost to Trump.’
There is a disparity though, Dr Tara McCormack says, between the political anti-Russian feeling and what ordinary everyday people on the street are thinking. There seems to be a disconnect, between the things that the papers focus on and think that the average person feels. It is a confusing time to make sense of things.
Other topics discussed in this program are the role of the media elite and academics, the division between the rich and poor and how they voted, and what attitudes they hold towards Russia. Dr McCormack soberly discusses these issues and provides a realistic analysis of the Russia-bashing trend in the context of contemporary politics.
Dr McCormack cannot say how long this is all going to go on for. The French and German elections and other events will provide lots of opportunities this year at least to point out that it is all Russia’s fault.
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