The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses

Headlines often don’t reflect the content of stories. Editors know that it’s the headlines that gather readers, and so they do their best to jazz them up so as to make the stories sound far more important or controversial than they really are. In the current frenzy of Russia-related fearmongering, this has meant that followers of the media have been subjected to a deluge of scary-sounding headlines making it seem as if Russians and their agents are spreading chaos everywhere, only to find on reading the stories that it’s a massive fuss about nothing and that substantive evidence supporting the headlines is almost entirely lacking.

So it is with the Atlantic Council latest report, The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 3, which is the third in a series purporting to expose high-profile Europeans who are subverting democracy from within as witting or unwitting agents of the Russian government. The title implies that the report is going to be full of hard-hitting revelations of politicians and journalists taking the Kremlin’s money, acting on its orders, and saying or doing things which genuinely threaten the European way of life. And indeed, on its website, the Atlantic Council tempts you to read the report by saying that, ‘the Kremlin’s tentacles do not stop in Ukraine, Georgia, or East Central Europe. They reach far and deep in the core of western societies.’ But the result is a disappointment. For what the report actually tells you is that in Northern Europe there is next to nobody questioning the prevailing narrative about Russia. A better title might be something like The Almost Absolute Conformity of Northern European Elites and the Total Absence of Russian Tentacles. No doubt, however, nobody would read such a thing, and so we get a big scary title instead.

trojan horses

The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 3 looks at alleged peddlers of Russian influence in four countries: Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The introduction informs us that Moscow is engaged in a ‘continuous, multi-vectored and multi-layered effort’, which is ‘aimed at undermining democratic institutions’. To aid it, the Kremlin ‘has sought to cultivate and support a network of like-minded political forces’, which ‘pursue and advocate for the Kremlin’s interests’. These people, says the report, ‘undermine European interests, unity, and long-term security’, an inflammatory charge which I’m sure the people in question would reject.

So who are these ‘Trojan horses’? Well, it turns out that they are few and far between. In Denmark, writes the report’s author Alina Polyakova,

I have no knowledge of any Trojan horses, defined by a deceitful nature and subversive policies, serving the Kremlin’s agenda; if they exist they are not operating at a level high enough to warrant mention here.

The confession that there aren’t any Kremlin Trojan horses in Denmark does not, however, stop the Atlantic Council from disgracefully putting the photograph of one member of the Danish parliament, Marie Krarup, on the front cover next to the title Kremlin’s Trojan Horses, thereby implying that she is one. According to the report, Krarup’s sin is that although she is recorded as having said that ‘Russia has an autocratic and unpleasant political regime’, she has also added that, ‘It would be great if … the Danish … media would try to add more nuance to their coverage of Russia’. Nuance … how dare she! Fortunately, we are told, this shockingly bold call for more subtle thinking is out of line with the overwhelming mass of more sensibly inclined public opinion. ‘In general’, the report concludes, in Denmark, ‘the contours of public discussion leave little room for Putin apologists’.

Much the same is true of the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The report says that there is some sympathy for Russia on the ‘political flanks’ in the Netherlands, but it struggles to come up with much beyond a single trip by politician Geert Wilders to Russia. The prime example cited of alleged Russian meddling in Dutch politics is the 2016 referendum on the subject of Ukraine’s EU association agreement. But the report fails to produce any evidence that the Dutch citizens of Russian and Ukrainian origin who campaigned against the agreement were in cahoots with the Russian government. The sole exception is a claim that one of them, Vladimir Kornilov, had ‘high-level contacts within the Kremlin, including nationalist Russian political philosopher Alexander Dugin and Putin’s advisor Sergey Glazyev’. In reality, as any half-informed commentator should know, neither Dugin nor Glazyev is ‘within the Kremlin’. One has to wonder who the real peddler of disinformation is – the Kremlin, or the Atlantic Council.

As for Norway, the report tells us that, ‘Norway’s small claque of Russlandverstehers is marginal’. There is, apparently, ‘no indication’ that any of the parties in the Norwegian parliament have ‘received Russian support or shifted Norwegian politics regarding Russia’. Beyond a few bloggers and the occasional ‘pro-Russian’ article in newspapers, voices challenging the mainstream view on Russia are almost entirely absent, so much so that ‘the most prominent Russian influencer in Norway’ is the Russian ambassador – a clear indication that the Russian government doesn’t have an army of Norwegian Trojan horses at its disposal. The section on Norway ends up with a rant about the Russian news agency Sputnik, again an obvious confession that native Norwegian collaborators are next to non-existent.

Finally, the report tells us that there ‘are no openly pro-Russian parties’ in the Swedish parliament, although some are supposedly ‘open to influence’, a sinister sounding phrase which suggests rather more than the evidence proves. The report identifies a few Swedish politicians and bloggers, mostly on the far right, who have expressed some sympathy for the Russian point of view, but it’s hard to see that they amount to much. After all, as Ms Polyakova tells us, ‘Geopolitically, Sweden is firmly oriented towards cooperation with its Nordic neighbors, the EU, the United States, and NATO’.

In short, after telling us that Moscow is engaged in a multi-layered campaign against Western democracy, and after leading us to expect an expose of a large network of Kremlin agents who are acting to subvert Europe from within, what the report actually reveals is that there are really very, very few people among the elites of Northern Europe who depart even a fraction from the current narrative that suggests that ‘Russia is the enemy’. It doesn’t take much to get labelled as the Kremlin’s ‘Trojan horse’ – even suggesting that a bit more nuance might be a good idea seems to be grounds for suspicion. Yet the Atlantic Council can come up with only a handful of names who are prepared to do even that. In that sense, this report is very revealing. Critics of Russia often complain that state control of the media leads to an absence of different viewpoints on key issues. Yet what we see here is that in parts of the Western world, there is an almost absolute conformity of belief among the ruling elite, a conformity so total that it’s doubtful that even a totalitarian state could match it.

Despite this, it seems that Atlantic Council feels that there is not too little, but too much, dissent. Pro-Russian views are ‘gaining traction’. Whereas once they were held by maybe 1% of elite opinion formers, now maybe they are held by 2%. We must act!! The danger is great. The fear is palpable. It really is amazingly silly.

10 thoughts on “The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses”

    1. maybe the atlantic council can change their name to the atlantic cow.. that would be a 2 for 1.. milk and fertilizer… and when we read it, we can say ‘holy cow’, which is better then holly cole, a canadian singer.. can’t think of a new name for chatham house at the moment… pig-ham house?

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  1. If an organisation had true confidence in its views it would be happy to debate with dissenters and confront what they see as lies with what they see as truth. Any group of people who jump like a tonne of bricks on dissidents have weakness. They drift off into extremism and any arguements they have even if valid become less and less popular. These people then desperately try to shut off any alternative views by using shrill ad hominem attacks. Eventually this stops working and mainstream views shift.

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  2. Outrageous! I think that Saudi funded Atlantic Council demonstrates either criminal incompetence or treasonous softness so unbecoming in these Years of Struggle. They should look to the Ukraine for inspiration! First, they must start by riling their population against the dreadful Russkiy Mir that spreads its hairy tentacles all across the planet. Are there specialists in Russian language and literature in their countries? Lustrate them! For Russkiy Mir has the insidious tendency to infiltrate via language. If you can’t understand these Orks from the Russian Mordor you won’t fall for their lies – check-mate, Putin!

    Next step – ban everything Russian! Ban books, movies, songs, TV and radio stations in the most democratic way possible i.e. like the Ukraine does this. Pogroms of the RF owned businesses and enterprises are a must of course. Make Russian expats swear the oath of allegiance and then ritualistically to spit on the Russian national flag, crucifix and Putin’s portrait (*). Even self professed (former) Russian liberals, gays and democratic journalists should not be spared unless they agree to work for the RFE/RL and VOA. Who knows – what if they are deep cover agents of the GRU?

    Finally – lets raise the defense potential (and the best defense is the offense) of the Western nations! The West must come full circle and embrace its historical values, which helped it to resists Russia in ages past. Thus, in unequal scale weighing delight and dole, the West must rehabilitate the one force that proved to be most effective in fighting and killing dem Russians – the 3rd European Union under shy and conscientious Austrian painter, later driven to suicide by the bloody ghoul Stalin and his mongoloid hordes. Naturally, all national forces (after extensive PR and whitewashing) that were helping to fight Russians must be put on the shield as the epitomes and paragons of what it means to be a Westerner – Civilized, Freedom-loving and Tolerant.

    Because these are the logic next steps in the current situation with – already tried and tested and maintained under thunderous applause in one freshly democratic country, that said its остаточне “прощавай” Радянському Союзу i Росийськiй Iмперiї for the first (but not last) time under loving gaze of the Western potentates in 2014.

    __________
    (*) Idea for start-up and easy way to get some geshaft – run a thoroughly corrupt tender to supply the state with such “spitable” things.

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  3. You continually act surprised that Anglosphere institutions are Russophobic. With me it’s ‘As it was in the beginning, is now, & shall ever be’ The only Russia the US gvt has ever actually liked since it turned to Empire in the 1880s has been the helpless, bankrupt, dying Russia of Boris Yeltsin. And His Majesty’s Gvt came down with its terminal Russophobia shortly after 1815. It was as if the accumulated hatred from 400+ years of wars with France got magically shifted to Russia. The Anglosphere is merely upset that Russian power has revived, and that Russians now know that the Anglosphere care not how, or even whether, Russians live, only that their gvt submit. This means the Anglosphere have no leverage on Russia, and the Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite & Punditocracy (AFPE&P) hate that most of all.

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  4. I remind (needlessly enough) that the EU parliament recently decided to dial up its support for the “democracy” in Russia and to combat “disinformation” coming from Russia.

    EU parliament’s official site also has this (from their own transcript):

    “Here, in a Russian penal colony deep inside the Arctic Circle, Oleg Sentsov is incarcerated. The conditions inside the prison in the town of Labytnangui are harsh. It is 2000 kilometers from Moscow. His lawyer visits Oleg several times a month. He is in bad physical shape, but his moral is good. Oleg has a strong character and lots of willpower. Despite everything that the Russian secret service and the prison authorities have done to him, Oleg remains unwavering. They can’t break him. He has iron willpower.

    […]

    Oleg Sentsov was arrested in 2014 after protesting, like thousands of Ukrainians, against Russia’s annexation of his native Crimea on Independence Square in Kiev. He was working on his second feature-length film. His first, Gamer, had toured the big film festivals in Europe and across the world.

    […]

    A few days later on October 6, Oleg Sentsov was forced to end his hunger strike. 145 days into his hunger strike his body was shutting down and doctors told him, ‘either we tie you to your bed and force feed you through a tube or you decide to end your hunger strike and feed yourself of your own volition.

    […]

    On October 25, members of the European Parliament awarded the Ukrainian filmmaker with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.”

    [utter bullshit points bolded]

    And these people accuse Russia of resorting to propaganda? Srsly?

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