There is numerous evidence that during the rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia has developed an intricate model of malign influence in Europe which is, in many ways, a modernized tactic of “active measures” that were frequently employed by the Kremlin back in the times of the Cold War to destabilize the target societies.
As with many dark elements of dark Soviet legacy, Putin’s regime is eager not to reject them, but to use them for its geopolitical ambitions. Especially, in regard to propaganda or distribution of destructive narratives. Numerous networks of trolls, bots and other Internet creatures of Russian origin have firmly settled in the information landscapes of Western democracies.
Vast volumes of disinformation devised by the Kremlin have been found meddling in the elections and the public spheres of independent states from Ukraine and the Baltic states to Great Britain, France, and even the United States. These Internet ghosts skillfully provoked and steered social-media conversations about Brexit and planted fake stories, creating chaos in Berlin around the Lisa case.
There is an erroneous conventional thinking among many policymakers and analysts that Russia allegedly has no serious economic interests in the West. Seemingly, it’s only Russian oligarchs who have been buying up real estate and yachts in the European bohemian cities with no visible Kremlin’s actions to get control over large tangible assets. This report demonstrates that its arsenal of influence tools is far more extensive and economics-based.
While open and liberal economies are very competitive, they are also quite vulnerable to the influences of the autocratic regimes, such as Russia. Every year billions of dollars and euros are flooding into the EU. It is practically impossible to disentangle Russian capital from other financial flows. And there are Russian money-laundering schemes to be found behind some of the cases of seemingly innocent “foreign direct investments”.
In countries of high interest, the Kremlin has been establishing its presence in key industries, such as the energy sector, heavy industry, telecommunications, or even sports. Leverage in these industries is implemented via direct investment, assets purchases, or by signing so-called “assets interchange agreements”. Among new sub-industries of Russia`s interest are fast-food market and hospitality industry.
Overall, this report aims to summarize the existing open data on the Russian economic weight in the EU and the neighboring countries, which, combined with the information influence, is a real danger to the European security and unity.