In democratic countries, disagreeing with government policy is nothing unusual. But Russophobic paranoia has reached such a peak that those who dare to propose better relations with Russia are increasingly facing pressure to be silent. Even daring to suggest that Russian-Western tensions are not entirely Russia’s fault is enough to get one labelled ‘pro-Russian’ and a possible threat to national security. The struggle with the enemy without has now turned into a struggle against the ‘enemy within’.
A report published this week by the Atlantic Council entitled The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses. denounces the ‘Putinverstehern [Putin understanderers], useful idiots, agents of influence, or Trojan Horses’ who are allegedly subverting European democracy, and proposes various measures which European governments should take against them.
Russia, says the report, is aiming ‘to sow discord among European Union (EU) member states, destabilize European polities, and undermine Western liberal values—democracy, freedom of expression, and transparency’. It is doing so by building ‘networks of influence’ in European countries, ‘that support Russian economic and geopolitical interests, denounce the EU and European integration, propagate a narrative of Western decline, and vote against EU policies on Russia (most notably sanctions)—thus legitimating the Kremlin’s military interventionism in Ukraine and Syria, weakening transatlantic institutions, and undermining liberal democratic values.’
In effect, people who sympathize in some ways with the Russian position on Ukraine, and support ‘rapprochement’ or ‘appeasement of the Kremlin’, are witting or unwitting tools of Moscow. As such they pose a dangerous threat to European security.
In the United Kingdom (UK), according to the report, Russia’s ‘agents of influence’ include the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP); Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn; Corbyn advisor and Guardian journalist Seamus Milne;, Conservative MPs David Kawczynski , John Whittingdale, and Robert Halfon; ex-Labour and Respect MP George Galloway; the British National Party; and journalist John Laughland.
For Europe as a whole, the report provides this useful map:
The Atlantic Council urges European governments to take action against these fifth columnists. For instance, the report says that, ‘German intelligence service should examine Russia’s funding of political groups, media outlets, and civil society organizations. … In the UK, intelligence agencies should be given a clear mandate to investigate foreign funding of political parties.’ Having the wrong political views is now, therefore, sufficient grounds for a visit from the security services.
The report also suggests that ‘Non-governmental organizations with operations in Western European countries should be required to publically report their funding sources.’ Given the outrage in the West over Russia’s law which declares certain NGOs to be ‘foreign agents’, this suggestion is more than a little ironic.
Yet having outed all these people as dangerously ‘pro-Russian’, the report admits that Russia’s ‘web of political networks is hidden and nontransparent by design, making it purposely difficult to expose. Traceable financial links would inevitably make Moscow’s enterprise less effective: … links occur through multiple degrees of separation and chains of operators across sectors.’ In other words, the report’s authors don’t actually have any firm evidence that any of these people are acting on Moscow’s orders.
In reality, they simply disagree with the dominant analysis of international affairs, and feel that their own country’s interests are not well served by confrontation with Russia. This is a perfectly reasonable point of view, and there is nothing subversive or treasonous about it at all.