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WikiLeaks: Russians smell anti-Obama conspiracy

In Russia, where spreading misinformation is integral to the political culture, the latest WikiLeaks release of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables is being seen as an attempt to smear President Obama.

By Correspondent / November 29, 2010

A towboat breaks ice on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Nov. 29. Many Russians believe the latest WikiLeaks release of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables on Sunday, is part of a plot by American hardliners to discredit President Obama and, perhaps, to undermine his fragile efforts to 'reset' US-Russia relations.

Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters

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Moscow

In Russia, the motherland of conspiracy theories, almost no one believes that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are free agents acting on a desire to crack official secrecy and broaden the horizons of public awareness.

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Although the more than a quarter-million secret US diplomatic cables spilled into cyberspace by WikiLeaks on Sunday include just 3,337 reports prepared by the US Embassy in Moscow, many Russians are already viewing it as part of a plot by American hardliners to discredit President Obama and, perhaps, to undermine his fragile efforts to “reset” US-Russia relations.

In Russian political culture, the secret services, Kremlin leaders, and business oligarchs have long practiced the dark arts of kompromat, spreading misinformation to blacken opponents’ reputations and influence public moods. So they suspect that there has to be something or someone with a hidden agenda standing behind WikiLeaks.

“I have no doubt that this was a prepared operation, probably by [the] US secret services," says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow. “I find it improbable that US authorities couldn't deal with one guy (Mr. Assange) if they really wanted to. No, this is clearly being done as an instrument of destabilization," he says.

The most popular theory is that the massive outing of classified State Department communications is designed to make Obama look weak, inept, and unable to control his own government machinery.

“This will obviously damage Obama and his policies,” says Sergei Strokan, a foreign affairs columnist with the Moscow business daily Kommersant. “Obama made a strong emphasis on international affairs, outreach to the Muslim world, and resetting relations with Russia. These leaks show that many diplomats take a privately cynical view of those goals, or are actually working at cross purposes to them. All these disclosures will be a serious blow to America's new image in the world, and will only undercut Obama.”

Mr. Strokan adds that coming just after the mid-term elections in the US, the leaks are likely to benefit Obama’s Republican opponents.

Few controversial revelations about Russia

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