'We change your conscience': Putin ally boasts that Russia interferes in elections by 'meddling with your brains'

'We change your conscience': Putin ally boasts that Russia interferes in elections by 'meddling with your brains'
Image via the Kremlin

An influential Kremlin adviser boasted that Russia’s foreign interference goes beyond elections — and actually interferes with consciousness.


Vladislav Surkov, who’s credited with shaping Russia’s authoritarian political system using techniques borrowed from reality television, wrote a lengthy essay published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper predicting that Vladimir Putin’s governance would influence the rest of the world.

“We need to recognize, understand and describe the Putinist system of government … as the ideology of the future,” Surkov wrote, according to The Independent.

Surkov admitted the Kremlin sought to influence Western democracies using the same techniques he has used to build what he calls a “managed democracy” in the former Soviet Union.

The so-called “grey cardinal” mocked foreign governments investigating Russian election interference, and boasted that his propaganda techniques were even more powerful than hacks and other forms of meddling.

“Things are much more serious,” Surkov said, according to Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria. “We meddle with your brains, we change your conscience — and you have no clue what to do about it.”

Surkov echoed conspiracy theories promoted by President Donald Trump and his conservative allies about a “deep state” bureaucracy managing U.S. democracy, which he said offered only the “illusion of choice.”

“The modern model of Russian statehood begins on trust and rests on trust,” he said. “This is its major distinction to the western model, which cultivates distrust and criticism. And herein lies its strength.”

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