Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare by Thomas Rid - review by Rory Cormac

Rory Cormac

Don’t Mention the Russians

Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare


Profile 528pp £25

Disinformation, dirty tricks and so-called ‘fake news’ have been high on the global security agenda of late. Much of this stems from Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, yet this was certainly not an isolated incident. EU leaders worry about similar activities closer to home, while British voters eagerly await the long-delayed ‘Russia report’ compiled by the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

Thomas Rid’s lengthy tome is therefore welcome and timely. His sweeping narrative, stretching from fake anti-Bolshevik resistance organisations in the 1920s to the troll farms of St Petersburg today, reminds us of the importance of history in making sense of current events. His pacey and enjoyable account of one hundred years of disinformation shows that Russian meddling in the 2016 US election was hardly unprecedented. History helps us not only to understand the intricacies of disinformation but also to build resilience against covert interventions in the future.

Active Measures focuses predominantly on disinformation activities in East and West Germany and the United States, offering gripping canters through a great many Soviet operations in these countries, some less familiar than others. The most compelling chapters demonstrate how different actors operating on behalf of the USSR worked together, blurring

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RLF - March