Tony Wood writes:
Not since the days of Ronald Reagan has Russia played such a prominent role in US political life. After Donald Trump’s shock victory – greeted in the Russian parliament with cheers and champagne – came accusations of Russian meddling in the US electoral process, followed in January by the leak of a dossier claiming that the Russian authorities had accumulated (even more) compromising information on Trump. More recently there have been alarms over the Kremlin’s connections with and possible influence on the incoming secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and Trump’s now ex-national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The rhetoric emanating from US politicians and media commentators too seems to be drawn from another era. In November, a murky online group called PropOrNot went full McCarthy by releasing ‘The List’, designed to name and shame – or indeed casually smear – websites which it believes ‘reliably echo Russian propaganda’. In January, Fox News rolled back the years by announcing that there was ‘no Soviet source’ for the DNC leaks, and the title of a piece in the New York Review of Books – though it was soon corrected to reflect events since 1991 – asked: ‘Was Snowden a Soviet Agent?’ The Russian official media, in their turn, have been producing waves of anti-Western rhetoric for a few years now, but the Ukraine crisis and the sanctions put in place by the US, Canada and the EU sent them to fevered new heights.