Luke Harding: “Russia hacking the US election was one of the greatest espionage operations in history”

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There is a hint of admiration in Luke Harding’s voice as he talks about collusion between the Russian state and President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Guardian’s former Moscow bureau chief is convinced of complicit dealings between Russia and Trump, admitting that we are living through a ‘chaotic and unstable era’ in a fragile time for democracy.

His book, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and how Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, was first published in November 2017 and features interviews with some of the key players, including former MI6 officer Christopher Steele and Donald Trump’s ex-campaign manager and convicted felon Paul Manafort.

In a wide-ranging interview with Jericho, Harding discussed in detail Russia’s role in subverting US democracy, the plight of journalists across the world and his own experiences of being under surveillance in Russia.

Mr Harding said: “In America, we witnessed one of the greatest espionage operations in history, where in a very close election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Russia was pushing Trump, hacking material, leaking it to boost him and smash Hillary down.

“This was very successful. It’s part of Russia’s attempts to reshape the world to make Russia a global, maximal power and also, and this sounds hyperbolic, but I think it’s true, in some way to bring down Western democracy.

“Our democracy feels more fragile than ever. We are living in a new, chaotic and unstable era. We just have to recognise that times are bleak, but stay cheerful, carry on, have good method and be empirical. We need to recognise what is true and what is false.”

Russia’s intelligence departments have endured a few weeks of unwelcome press coverage, with GRU agents named as those who came to Salisbury to allegedly poison former spy Sergei Skripal, and details of covert Russian operations made available to the global public.

Harding agrees that the attention won’t please Russian officials, but believes that in creating divisions among its Western counterparts, the Russian state is succeeding.

Mr Harding said: “The challenge for Western governments is what do you do about a ‘rogue state’ like Russia? Russia tries to hack material and influence elections and push the far left and the far right – in that Russia has been more successful and has played a formidable role in trying to foster divisions inside the UK and elsewhere.”

Luke Harding was speaking to Alex Marrow for Jericho.

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