In response to Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement on Sunday arguing that the measure would “do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.” In response, Trump took to Twitter. “The two Senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III,” he tweeted.
This invocation of World War III, which he also made in Charlotte, North Carolina during the campaign (“You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton”) bears a striking similarity to those aired by Russia’s state-owned media, as Anne Applebaum pointed out in October. Russian state media outlets favor headlines like “Are NATO’s Massive War Games on Russia’s Border a Pretext to World War III?” from Sputnik in May 2016, or “US Bombing Syrian Army Would Start World War III,” from the same site in October, and “Trump’s Victory Prevented World War 3” from November. Lately, Russian state media have suggested that Trump has been battling a coup to remove him from office since before inauguration. “Is the United States facing a coup d’état?” a British RT columnist wrote in December.
These headlines are characteristic of the disinformation campaigns the Kremlin uses to frighten and destabilize its eastern European neighbors. The precise nature of Russian state-backed interference in the last November’s U.S. presidential election and the contact, if any, between Russian officials and members of President Trump’s election campaign, may never be fully known. But the apocalyptic stylings of Russian disinformation have reached across the Atlantic. Resisting this strain of anxious rhetoric means looking to its origin.
Read the rest of Linda Kinstler’s article, featuring the FDR Foundation’s “Defense of Democracy” work, at The Atlantic.