11:10 Aug. 9, 2016
How much Russian President Vladimir Putin influences presidential elections in the USA?
Will Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia, elect the next president of the United States? My guess is not. But reading the avalanche of commentary about Russia's alleged interference in American politics, one might think otherwise.
It reminds me a bit of the Russian satirist Victor Pelevin's absurdist novella "Operation Burning Bush." The story follows a humble Russian English-language teacher, endowed with a powerful voice, who is recruited for a special intelligence operation: to speak with President George W. Bush through an implant in the president's tooth.
Following the Kremlin's instructions, the teacher, pretending to sound like God, gives the 43rd president the idea to invade Iraq. Later in the novel, we find out that in the 1980s, the Central Intelligence Agency conducted a similar operation — this time posing as Lenin's spirit to convince Mikhail Gorbachev to initiate perestroika, setting off a chain of events that ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
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The C.I.A. didn't actually do that, though it certainly engaged in its share of harebrained Cold War schemes. But in putting the two plots in contrast, Mr. Pelevin highlights the degree of paranoia that haunts Moscow — everything bad that happens in Russia is a result of an American covert operation. And while Mr. Pelevin wrote his story before the current American presidential campaign, it seems his point goes both ways.
Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and a contributing opinion writer for New York Times.