Maria Butina arrives home at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Oct. 26, 2019, after her deportation from the United States for failing to register as a foreign agent. Butina's engagement with U.S. conservative groups is just one example of how Russia tries to exploit societal fissures overseas.
(MIKHAIL JAPARIZDE/TASS via Getty Images)
For all its prodigious hard power, Russia's soft power is no trifling matter. In recent years, the Kremlin has resorted to plenty of channels to undermine Western democracies by spreading propaganda -- including false-flag operations and other "information operations" -- bribing officials and politicians, cultivating corrupt ties through business lobbies and immigrant organizations, targeting specific (often radical) segments of the population with carefully tailored ideologies and making special attempts to sow friction, disagreement and conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his propaganda machine have successfully convinced the population that any intimidation and crimes by authorities are justified by the unprecedented "external threat" facing Russia. They claim that the United States is to blame for all that Russia does today because they have organized color revolutions along the Russian border, developed fifth columns and so on. Russia, accordingly, is merely trying to prove that its actions are a "mirror image" of Western...