How Russia influenced politics in EU countries in two past decades

This article explains why the West held off on taking action against Russia until February 2022, when Russian troops launched an all-out war against Ukraine.

Photo: Adam Berry / Getty Images

Russian president Putin arranged a transparent contact between the economic and intelligence services to exploit flaws in the system in the West. This is a modernized version of the USSR’s “active measures,” successfully used in most European nations.

There were indications that Russia intended to improve relations with the West in the early 2000s. Still, the Kremlin chose to transfer its kleptocratic system there instead.

Russian policy sought to influence politics through economic means. The fundamental premise was that considerable state revenues were typically involved when Russia made a significant commitment to a nation. This gave lawmakers an incentive to support the initiatives because part of the monies also benefited the country or, in corruption cases, the politicians themselves.

Over time, the political influence grew to the point of dependence. For instance, Hungary and Russia had minimal to no commercial relations until the early 2000s. However, they began relying on Russian energy, which enhanced Russia’s political sway over the nation. The reliance increased once more as Russian money was used to buy off the lawmakers. 

Russia conducted most of the finance through front groups and offshore firms since they didn’t want to cause too many questions. Another excellent example is the Nord Stream project. The Russians included several well-known politicians, notably Paavo Lipponen and Gerhard Schröder.

Russia made investments in the finance and real estate industries and energy.

Russia might decide where a bank invests in a nation by controlling that bank. The real estate industry was utilized to launder money and influence regional officials. One of the best instances of Russian real estate operations in Europe is in London. 

Over 27 billion pounds have been invested in Britain by Russians, and at least 1.5 billion of those pounds have been put into UK real estate. Numerous shady firms that handled the flow of money from Russia have formed in the UK and the Netherlands to handle all of this incoming cash.

Russians were seeking out and funding anti-NATO and US politicians in Bulgaria. They also sponsored false NGO organizations to sway the media in favor of Russia and rally them around essential Kremlin narratives. They held tight influence over Bulgaria’s leading politicians, the media, the energy industry, and the financial sector.

As a result, several European nations suffered after Russia invaded Ukraine. Despite their desire to repudiate their behavior, they were forced to consider the reliance on Russian resources, including gas, oil, and money. These numbers are under Russia’s influence when considering the EU nations and their support for Ukraine. Of course, there are exceptions, like Finland, which primarily relied on Russian natural gas.

Germany is one of the greatest losers in this situation. Instead of criticizing Russia’s actions when they seized Crimea, they would expand their energy imports and concentrate on the Nord Stream pipeline, prioritizing the concept of Ostpolitik, or “change by trade.” 

Germany’s whole economic structure is predicated on China’s imports of products and energy from Russia, so that this change will be exceedingly difficult for them. However, they have been quite successful in reducing the usage of Russian power in a German fashion.

The economic component was only one facet of Russia’s activities to influence the West. Additionally, they spent a lot of money on espionage and propaganda to influence Western societies and impose Russia’s views on the international scene.

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