Russia’s Not-So-Hot Euro-Election Subversion Strategy Is Failing in France

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The French press are delivering an excruciating lesson for their American counterparts: If you ignore the WikiLeaks-Moscow-Assange interventions, Russia can’t subvert your democracy.

PARIS — If Vladimir Putin’s keyboard commandos are hoping to hack up French presidential elections the way they did America’s, they are, well, a little off their game. And their more-than-willing tool, Julian Assange, the Australian anarchist who brought us WikiLeaks, appears to be getting a little antsy.

It’s been a week or so since Assange announced he had pirated cables and emails about the three most prominent candidates, but nobody in France paid much—or any—attention. The cables were old, had been well sifted in the past, and there were other much bigger, fresher, and sexier scandals emerging from more conventional sources.

So Russia’s state-subsidized news sites tried to give Assange a boost. Sputnik, straining to write something entertaining about such a non-story, cobbled together a piece on Feb. 2 from various Twitter feeds mocking those who suggested the latest WikiLeaks announcement was part of a Russian democracy-disrupting conspiracy like the alleged one that made U.S. President Donald Trump’s election resemble a bad serialized version of The Manchurian Candidate.

“WikiLeaks vs. French Presidential Hopefuls: Who is the real ‘Kremlin Agent’?” read the headline. The conclusion, of course, none of the above.

But in the days since, it’s begun to look more and more as if Assange, at least, wants rather desperately to sway the elections, which are now three months away, and he’s doing his best to focus his leaks on the candidates most likely to face far-right-wing populist nationalist Marine Le Pen in the final showdown for the French presidency.

Assange’s most recent foray was an interview with Izvestia claiming he had “very interesting” material about independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, which he found in … wait for it, Hillary Clinton emails. Again, the Russian press was all over that vague threat, with the French-language RT and Sputnik feeds playing it big. But the actual French press? Not so much, or not at all.

The whole thing was more a squib than a supernova, but it’s still worth examining…



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