According to a recently declassified American intelligence investigation, Russian spy agencies are allegedly utilizing influence-laundering strategies to conceal the Kremlin’s role in fostering pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian messaging.
Based on a recently disclosed American intelligence analysis, the New York Times reported that the Kremlin wants to create a network of young leaders who support Russia or promote Russian interests at home.
Russia aimed to cultivate relationships with young influencers in the US and the EU
Russia is stepping up its attempts to disseminate pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian messaging in the West and the United States while utilizing influence-laundering strategies to mask the efforts of its intelligence agencies to sway public opinion, the analysis said.
The recently declassified US analysis examines how Russian intelligence services, particularly the FSB, have been covertly using allies inside ostensibly independent organizations to spread propaganda and cultivate relationships with upcoming leaders to achieve Moscow’s geopolitical goals in a long-term perspective.
US officials with access to the information described for the NYT the intelligence analysis, which was declassified for public use.
FSB used “ostensibly independent organizations to spread propaganda” – report
Similar to the Soviet Union’s spy agency’s efforts to cultivate ideological allies and informants around the world, the Kremlin is focusing its influence operations on creating a network of young leaders who it hopes would support Russia or promote pro-Russian messaging in their nations.
A US official who talked to the NYT on the record under the condition of anonymity to discuss the recently made public material described a group of individuals known as “co-optees” who, despite claiming to act freely, were employed by Russian intelligence officials to carry out influence operations against the US.
These activities include more overt initiatives like phoney populist protests and initiatives aimed at increasing Russian support among Americans and Europeans.
Natalia Burlinova’s case in Russia’s influence-laundering strategy
Four Russians who have cooperated with Russian intelligence are the subject of the recently made public information, including Natalia Burlinova, who was named in an indictment by the Justice Department that was made public this year.
According to the accusation, Ms. Burlinova and the FSB planned to enlist American students from academic institutions to join the nonprofit organization she formed, Creative Diplomacy. The group describes itself as a public diplomacy initiative for future leaders to encourage communication with Russia. According to the organization, 80 participants from various nations attended its program.
According to the declassified intelligence assessment, the FSB contributed to the funding of Creative Diplomacy, a “grooming campaign” employed by Russian intelligence agents to create a network of “future Western influencers” that the FSB believed would become Kremlin allies.
The FSB has kept tabs on the alumni of Creative Diplomacy, some of whom have gone on to publish writings in support of Russia, according to American officials. US intelligence refuted Ms. Burlinova’s denial of any connections to the Russian government.
Russians disseminated anti-Ukrainian narratives in the West
Andrey Stepanenko, who worked for the FSB from 2014 to 2019, Maksim Grigoryev, the director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy, an organization the US analysis claims has disseminated anti-Ukrainian narratives on behalf of the Kremlin, and Anton Tsvetkov, the leader of a group called Officers of Russia, are the other three individuals pointed out in the declassified analysis.
According to the intelligence analysis, Mr. Tsvetkov planned anti-Ukraine demonstrations outside several Western embassies in Russia throughout 2022.
Since beginning a full-scale war against Ukraine, Russia has increased its disinformation campaigns in Western nations to weaken support for Ukraine, and undermine West’s unity on military aid to Ukraine.