Russian President Vladimir Putin was speaking on the closing panel of the fourth Arctic Forum in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk on Thursday when he was asked a question unrelated to the challenges facing the region. Beginning to smile, the panel’s moderator, CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore, asked: “I just want to be very clear about this, you and the Russian government did never try to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, and there will be no evidence found?”
To laughter and applause from the audience, Putin replied: “Read my lips—no! ” He uttered the last word in English, pointing at his mouth for emphasis and bulging his eyes at Cutmore. Then, evidently satisfied with his answer, he leaned back slightly as the panel moved on.
In the German city of Essen, David Schraven wasn’t laughing. The founder of Correctiv, Germany’s first non-profit investigative newsroom, was deeply concerned about Russian interference ahead of Germany’s federal elections on September 24. In that election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, praised by many in Europe as the last hopes for Western liberalism, will run for a fourth term as leader.
He may have reason to be. On Wednesday, Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the American Senate Intelligence Committee warned that Russia was likely acting to disrupt the upcoming elections in France—set for April 23 and May 7—and Germany. “What was a very covert effort [to interfere] in 2016 in the U.S., is a very overt effort, as well as covert, in Germany and France,” Burr said during a press conference. (Russia has repeatedly denied all allegations of election interference.)
Tech firms and news organizations in both France and Germany seem to agree with Burr. They are determined that both countries’ elections will not be shaped by the same forces that influenced the U.S. presidential elections. During an unusually bitter campaign, fake news…