We see what you’re doing, but we can’t stop you

Trump plus Brexit. Putin is breaking everything.

Theresa May has accused Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake stories in the media in an extraordinary attack on its attempts to “weaponise information” in order to sow discord in the west.

The prime minister spoke out against “the scale and nature” of Russia’s actions during an address at the lord mayor’s banquet, saying it was “threatening the international order on which we all depend”.

Listing Russia’s attempts to undermine western institutions in recent years, she said: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of western nations to the alliances that bind us.”

I would love to be able to think that’s true, but I’m not. Brexit and Trump have made it impossible for me (and many others) to think that’s true.

The prime minister’s strong criticism of Russia’s activities comes in contrast to comments this weekend by Donald Trump, who said on Saturday that he believed Vladimir Putin’s denials of having meddled in the American presidential elections.

If Brexit were a person Brexit would be saying the same thing.

May did not say on Monday whether she was concerned with Russian intervention in any UK democratic processes, but Ben Bradshaw, a leading Labour MP, is among those to have called for a judge-led inquiry into the possibility that Moscow tried to influence the result of the Brexit referendum.

Russia has been accused of running “troll factories” that disseminate fake news and divisive posts on social media. It emerged on Monday that a Russian bot account was one of those that shared a viral image that claimed a Muslim woman ignored victims of the Westminster terror attack as she walked across the bridge.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

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