Leon Aron, the director of Russian Studies for the American Enterprise Institute, said Wednesday on CNN's The Lead that the sheer hysteria of today's anti-Western propaganda out of Russia exceeds anything he saw from the Soviet era.
One recent example from Forbes.com demonstrated the absurd lengths to which state TV will go. Three Russian TV channels showed the same interview but portrayed the man in it differently each time, calling him in turn a German spy, a repentant extremist and a pediatric surgeon beaten by neo-Nazis.
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"I was there in 1968, a teenager in Moscow, and I don’t recall the level of propaganda reaching this amount of frenzy and brazenness and hysteria," Aron said. "For example, nobody used a term for forced sexual intercourse to describe U.S. policies. [Vladimir] Putin did in his speech on March 18."
Even though many Russians are aware of the pro-Kremlin policy of state television in the country, the propaganda meant to elevate Putin as a powerful leader is still effective, Aron said. All of Putin's attempts to look macho may amuse people in the West, but he cares little about their opinions.
"It doesn't matter that you laugh, and by the way, that’s the difference with the Soviet leaders," he said. "They cared very much whether the West laughed at them. Putin doesn’t care. He cares about his political base, and the idea is here's our guy. He's strong, he's macho, he knows how to do things, and he is the image of a new Russia."