A group of U.S. Republicans has unwittingly handed Russia a major propaganda coup by attacking the work of billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros’ work in Eastern Europe.
According to a feature in Politico Magazine on Wednesday, a delegation of GOP congressmen led by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ) and Sen. Mike Lee (UT) are making common cause with Russia-backed politicians in Macedonia and Albania to fight Soros’ Open Society Foundation, which is dedicated to building “vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens.”
Smith and Lee sent a letter to Sec. of State Rex Tillerson on March 14 accusing Soros and Open Society of pushing a leftist agenda in the former Soviet states, which are currently teetering on the brink of authoritarianism. Macedonia in particular is in the midst of an ongoing political crisis with its far-right VMRO-DPMNE party clinging to power.
Russia — which backs anti-Western regimes like VMRO-DPMNE — trumpeted the Republican letter as proof that Soros and former Pres. Barack Obama are attempting to sway elections in other countries, just as Russia is accused of helping throw the U.S. 2016 election to Pres. Donald Trump.
State-owned propaganda organ Russia Today’s headline read, “Senators ask Tillerson to probe US ‘fomenting unrest’ in other countries.”
Pro-Putin outlet Sputnik News trumpeted, “Tables Turned: Have Obama and Soros Hacked Foreign Elections?”
Open Society’s Chris Stone said that right-wing authoritarian regimes all over the former Eastern Bloc and beyond have been emboldened by the victory of Pres. Donald Trump and that U.S. Republicans are playing right into VMRO-DPMNE’s hands.
“Authoritarians, branded today as ‘illiberals,’ have long opposed George Soros and the vision of an open society, but they have been emboldened by Trump’s victory to go even further,” Stone told Politico.
Soros has long been an all-purpose bogeyman to U.S. conservatives, who resent his donations to Democratic candidates and progressive causes. Many on the right accused the billionaire of personally financing the protests that have flooded streets, town squares and airports since Pres. Donald Trump won the Electoral College in November.
“It’s straight from the Russian playbook — the idea that some American NGO is fomenting the demonstrations is like ascribing to the CIA mystical powers that don’t exist,” said a policy analyst with knowledge of the Balkans to Politico. “The Russians have been using all tactics at their disposal, and it’s a very inexpensive way to stir the pot.”