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Geopolitics

Russian Operative: I Tried To Sway U.S. Election (For Bernie)

Now Vitali Shkliarov has headed home to oppose Vladimir Putin.

Why Sanders? As a 'post-Soviet rebel,' Shkliarov said.
Why Sanders? As a "post-Soviet rebel," Shkliarov said.
Leonid Bershidsky

Russians who have attempted to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election usually don't have names: They're known simply as "the Russians." Vitali Shkliarov, however, kept a relatively high profile as a political operative working for Senator Bernie Sanders' understaffed and overworked campaign. His motive for taking that job and for later getting involved in Russia's peculiar presidential election is the same: He doesn't like entrenched elites.

The adventure-filled story of Shkliarov, 41, explains something about the nature of the complex relationship between Russians of my generation and the West. Born in the Soviet Union, many of us didn't see the U.S. and other Western countries as adversaries but rather as models for our country to emulate. As the Soviet project failed and Russia and its satellites opened up to the world, we saw the West as a place to acquire knowledge and experience that would help us fix things back at home. But as we traveled to the West, we saw warts that hadn't been visible from behind the Iron Curtain. Some of us saw them as evidence that the world was rotten in certain universal ways. Some of these people now power the troll farms, spy operations, corruption networks that exploit the warts. But others, Shkliarov included, stuck to the original plan — and besides, they tried to fix what they didn't like in the West.

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Families wait for news of their missing relatives following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday

Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Barev!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where 21 are killed in a school shooting in Texas, Davos focuses on Ukraine, and a vertigo-inducing world record is broken at Mont-Saint-Michel. Die Welt also offers a psychoanalyst’s perspective on how war survivors pass trauma onto their children.

[*Armenian]

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