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How Is The Mueller Report Playing Out In Russia?


On Page 4 of Volume 1 of his report released yesterday, special counsel Robert Mueller details one way Russia tried to meddle in U.S. politics. The St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, the report says, used a social media campaign to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. Laura Rosenberger, who monitors Russian online activity at the German Marshall Fund, told us Russian efforts there have been successful.

LAURA ROSENBERGER: The more that we respond in a divided way, the easier we make it for Putin to, basically, mount his attacks on us. You know, in many ways, he's succeeding beyond his wildest dreams.

GREENE: Well, let's get a view on all this from Moscow this morning. We have veteran Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner on the line with us.

Welcome back to the program.

VLADIMIR POZNER: Thank you very much.

GREENE: So why would it benefit Vladimir Putin if America is more divided?

POZNER: Well, I guess, you could say that dealing with a divided opponent is always easier than when the opponent is united. And same thing this would be the United States looking at Russia. If Russia is a divided country, then it's easier to deal with it, I mean, generally speaking, kind of theoretically speaking. But I don't think it's such a big deal. I really don't think that Putin is that interested in it.

I think there was an interest in seeing to it that Hillary Clinton was not elected because she was clearly very anti-Russian, very anti-Putin - compared him to Hitler. And so the feeling here, I guess, was, well, better Trump than Hillary Clinton. But I think that's as far as it went and also a kind of an experiment. Can we, in fact, impact the American voter? Can Russia, in any way, play a significant role in how Americans vote? And I think the answer to that is definitely no. But I think probably they tried.

GREENE: Well, I mean, even if - I mean, there's debate over to what extent they influenced the election.


GREENE: But it seems they certainly did a lot of things. I mean, there was this social media campaign that a lot of American...


GREENE: ...Voters, you know, didn't realize that Russians were behind. So, I guess, I wonder - could Russia have learned something here that they're going to use as a model in what they try to do next year?

POZNER: Look. You're asking me to predict what the Russian leadership is going to do next year. I don't know. And I don't think that the Russian leadership even knows what it's going to do next year. It doesn't seem to be that forward-looking, but I will say this. Attempts to impact important elections have been made by many, many countries over the past, say, post-war, you know, post-1945 years. The United States has been very active in that area, especially in places where there were strong communist parties such as in France and Italy. And it's part of the game.

I really don't understand why the Americans seem to be so upset. I mean, something that is done - it's done by the U.S. It's done by the great - by Great Britain. It's done. Now, whether or not how - if it turns out to be very successful, if the bottom line is, hey, we've managed to do something, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they tried it again. I - you know, why not?

GREENE: Is this big news in Moscow this morning - the Mueller report?

POZNER: Strangely - you know, strangely enough, as soon as the Mueller report - well, not - the report was not published. But Mr. Barr came out with what he said. There was very little reaction here. It was muted. And generally speaking, the whole Mueller affair here has not been a front page issue. People kind of shrug say, oh, what the hell? Americans are always barking up some kind of tree.

GREENE: (Laughter).

POZNER: For us, it's of no interest.

GREENE: All right, well...

POZNER: It's strange, but that's the way it is.

GREENE: Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner, thanks so much.

POZNER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.