Why Is Finland Able to Fend Off Putin’s Information War?

Helsinki has emerged as a resilient front against Kremlin spin. But can its successes be translated to the rest of Europe?

With elections coming up this year in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and perhaps Italy, European intelligence services across the Continent have been sounding the alarm about Russian attempts to influence the outcome though targeted disinformation and propaganda, as they appeared to do in the U.S. presidential election.

That brand of information war can range from pushing fake news stories and conspiracy theories to fanning the flames of existing problems — all serving to undermine public confidence in governments and institutions. Elsewhere in the Baltics and former Soviet Union, Russian-linked disinformation has worked to stoke panic and force local governments into knee-jerk, counterproductive responses that have boosted Kremlin goals across the region.

But in the face of this mounting pressure, one of Russia’s neighbors has emerged unusually resistant to the wider information war waged by Moscow across Europe: Finland.

Like other countries along the Baltic Sea or in Eastern Europe, Finland has seen a notable increase in fake news stories and propaganda targeted against it that can be linked back to Russia since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. These attacks have sought to undermine the government and often coincided with military shows of force along the Russian border.

But unlike its neighbors, Helsinki reckons it has the tools to effectively resist any information attack from its eastern neighbor. Finnish officials believe their country’s strong public education system, long history of balancing Russia, and a comprehensive government strategy allow it to deflect coordinated propaganda and disinformation.

“The best way to respond is less by correcting the information, and more about having your own positive narrative and sticking to it,” Jed Willard, director of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Center for Global Engagement at Harvard, told Foreign Policy. Willard, who is currently working for the Swedish government, was hired by Finnish officials to help them develop a public diplomacy program to understand and identify why false information goes viral and how to counter propaganda.

That initiative started at the top. In October 2015, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto took the first step, when he acknowledged that information warfare is real for Finland, and said that it was the duty of every citizen to combat it. In January 2016, the prime minister’s office enrolled 100 officials in a program across several levels of the Finnish government to identify and understand the spread of disinformation based on Willard’s advice….

Read the rest of the article at Foreign Policy!

His Final Battle: The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt

– – Tuesday, September 6, 2016

 

Readers are right to flinch whenever a book under review is called, “magisterial.”

Yet there is a certain majesty in the way author Joseph Lelyveld combines his long-honed reporting experience with a historian’s eye firmly fixed on this important story. In this case it is an exploration of the labyrinthine mind of Franklin D. Roosevelt as he enters the decline leading to his death on April 12, 1945 at his hideaway in Warm Springs, Ga.

Mr. Lelyveld’s story is important on several counts. With an impressive array of new archival evidence he challenges the long-lived slander that FDR gave away Eastern Europe to the tyrant Josef Stalin either because (as many old Cold Warriors swear) Roosevelt was a Communist dupe or, more plausibly, because he was unaware of his deteriorating health and could not focus on the critical Big Three negotiations that he, Winston Churchill and Stalin waged at Tehran in December 1943 and again in Yalta in February 1945.

Read more at the Washington Times

FDR’s New Deal brought jobs to Saddleback Valley

Sept. 1, 2016
By JANET WHITCOMB

During the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program, aimed at reducing unemployment as well as providing services, initiated a number of oganizations. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Originally the CCC provided outdoor-based jobs such as soil conservation and firefighting for young men ages 18 to 21; later the age range would include 17- to 28-year-olds, as well as veterans.

On May 30, 1933, Company 545 became Orange County’s first CCC camp, headquartered in San Juan Capistrano. The following year, Company 545 was replaced by Company 912. In his 2014 book, “The New Deal in Orange County, California,” Charles Epting states that Company 912 worked with the local Works Progress Administration, another New Deal organization, to build San Juan Capistrano’s fire station. Company 912 also worked at Doheny and San Clemente state beaches, creating stone gutters, constructing campgrounds and building offices and other structures.

Read more at the Orange County Register

Eleanor and Hillary

Fri, 09/02/2016 – 8:38am

By JIM MCDIARMID

Querying friends and acquaintances about the 2016 presidential contest confirmed my conclusion that people are more interested in momentary circumstances than in historic context. My path to this notion went from John Galbraith’s recollection about Eleanor Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson’s wife, who essentially ran the United States during Wilson’s incapacitation after his disastrous stroke, and ended at Anne Firor Scott’s scholarly observations.

Anne Scott was Duke University’s W. K. Boyd professor of history and was awarded the Medal of Freedom during the Obama Administration. She knows women and history. She is herself a remarkable woman. I am familiar with people who know her but I cannot say if she has a favorite in the current race.

Disinterest in context is common in months just prior to a national election. Maybe it’s especially so during the current cat and dog fight. Indeed when I mentioned the comparison or contrast between prominent women such as Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt I was mostly met with blank looks as if their experiences weren’t important considerations.

Surprised by this I looked at some related literature such as the memoirs of John Galbraith and David Halberstam to see if I was mistaken in my recollections. I’m convinced that both women were similarly loved or hated because of their political leanings, their personalities and their relationships with powerful men. Obviously their separation by nearly three-fourths of a century complicates the pairing.

Read more at the Storm Lake Times

Tracing poignant, heroic last days of FDR

Book Review
By David M. Shribman Globe Correspondent September 02, 2016

We think of him as our longest-serving president, but oftentimes we forget that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, at the moment the United States needed it most, also our most experienced president, the one most accustomed to the burdens and opportunities of the office, most aware of its limits, and most conscious of its broader role in American civic life.

Through four successful elections, a dozen years on the job, his political power and perspective grew amid the cauldron of worldwide depression and armed conflict, with civilization itself seeming in the balance. But over that period, too, FDR’S personal powers of physical vigor and mental clarity were diminishing.

When he died he was only in his early 60s, the second half of those three-score years full of physical discomfort from midlife polio, relentless political warfare from New Deal battles, and the grinding stress of global challenges. It took a great and grave toll. At the end he may have been the world’s best-known 63-year old, but he also was perhaps its weakest and weariest.

Those last months of FDR are the topic of “The Final Battle,” the gripping story masterfully told by Joseph Lelyveld, former executive editor of The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize winning author (“Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White”).

Read more at the Boston Globe