The Influence of the Global Networks of Agents in Russia: The Sixth Column

The Influence of the Global Networks of Agents in Russia: The Sixth Column

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©Translated by The RO

In July 2019, the Prosecutor General’s Office expanded the list of undesirable organizations. Due to the “threat to the constitutional order and security” of the Russian Federation,  it was joined by the  American NGO Atlantic Council (Atlantic Council 1 )  , a large research institute in the field of international relations created to maintain “collective security and peace” in the Euro-Atlantic area.

However, despite the ban on the activities of the Council itself, after two years the structures associated with it feel quite free in the Russian-language information space.

Within the framework of the Influence Networks project, the author of the Balkan Gossip Girl Telegram channel   investigated how members of an undesirable organization in Russia, bypassing the law, cooperate with representatives of the expert community of international affairs, and by what means the Atlantic Council promotes its agenda after the activity is banned.


1. Atlantists and their partners

2. Expert community

3. Agents of influence

4.  “Independent” investigators and oppositionists

5.  The law is not written

A historically NATO-linked organization since 1961 has promoted the principles of  Atlanticism  , a geopolitical theory of the alliance of the United States and Europe as a single center of a unipolar liberal world order. Formed during the Cold War, the Atlantic Council became one of the think-tanks responsible for the strategy of confronting the USSR. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, this paradigm has only become entrenched: any actions by Russia aimed at strengthening its sovereignty drew criticism. After 2014, the Atlantic Council found itself at the forefront of anti-Russian rhetoric: its experts called for tougher sanctions and an  intensification of the fight against “Russian propaganda”.

In July 2019, the Ministry of Justice added the “Atlantists” to the list of foreign non-governmental organizations whose activities were recognized as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation. However, at that time, Russian international experts were already actively cooperating with the Atlantic Council.

Friendship originated in the days of perestroika. Then the future founder of the Higher School of Economics,  Lev Lyubimov,  found an “American partner”  for the  Institute of World Economy and International Relations  (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in which he headed the department of the USA and Canada. This partner became the Atlantic Council, led by  Andrew J. Goodpaster , the former Allied Commander of NATO.

“The Americans offered me such a thing that our“ patriots ”would not understand now: to try to gather democratically inclined people from the Supreme Council and ministers and bring them to the United States to study for a“ workshop ”, the content of which would now be called a workshop for state and municipal management “,  – said later Lyubimov.

For many years, IMEMO became a priority partner of the Atlantic Council in Russia. After 2014, the organizations continued  to produce joint materials  and  conduct seminars , giving advice to the Russian leadership on the conduct of foreign policy.

In June 2019, a month before the decision of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Matthew Burrows, ex-CIA officer , director of the  Atlantic Council’s  Strategic Forecasting Center ,   spoke  at the Primakov Readings held by IMEMO  . He  is also listed as an “expert” on the website of the Valdai Discussion Club . 

After the banning of the activities of the Atlantic Council, IMEMO did not carry out joint activities with it, however, references to the undesirable organization remained on the website, as well as the current status of an undesirable organization is not emphasized.

The fact that IMEMO’s partner is an American think-tank , whose leadership partly  includes the same people as the Atlantic Council, raises questions  . This is the  Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) . CSIS, Atlantic Council,  RAND ,  Brookings Institution ,  Aspen Institution  and  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are part of an ecosystem of American thought factories  closely associated with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) promoting the globalist agenda on the world stage.

Like the Atlantic Council, CSIS is funded by major  American corporations , left-wing  foundations  and  Western governments .

At the same time, personnel (both managers and ordinary employees) freely flow from one organization to another.

CSIS recently  released a report urging the US government to work more closely with social media platforms. According to think-tank, protest movements around the world should lead to more favorable results for American interests. The organization openly welcomed the sanctions against Russia following the detention of  Alexei Navalny  and called them “a step in the right direction.” However, all this does not prevent CSIS from being a partner of the Russian state scientific institution, which should provide expert support for the country’s foreign policy.

Another state organization, which, based on the information on the official website after 2019,  still cooperates with the Atlantic Council,  is the  Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences .

The Atlantic Council actively cooperated in Russia with another structure – the  Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) . The non-profit organization  positions itself as  “a link between the state, the expert community, business and civil society in solving foreign policy problems.”

In October 2019, after the Atlantic Council was declared undesirable, a report was published on the American Center’s website co-authored with  RIAC General Director Andrei Kortunov.

He is also  President of the New Eurasia Social Development Fund  , which was co-founded by the  American  Eurasia Foundation , the European  Madaryaga Foundation  and the first non-profit family foundation Dynasty in post-Soviet Russia  , which was listed as an undesirable organization in 2015. And the executive director of New Eurasia  is the head of the Department of External Relations and Marketing at  JP Morgan .  In addition to social development, the fund was also involved in financing “the development of civil society in Russia” and the  formation of a “civilized media market.”

In the report, Atlantic Council experts cite Kortunov in a neutral-positive tone, calling him a “liberal in foreign policy.”

Another member of the Russian International Affairs Council, Vladislav Inozemtsev, who was initially  a member of the organization’s presidium , was published on the Atlantic Council website three times last year.

In one of the publications, the RIAC expert called on Ukraine to use the experience of Azerbaijan for “the possible reincorporation of the Ukrainian regions, which are now under Russian occupation.”

The article was written just after the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, victorious for Baku. A reference to the Azerbaijani experience in this context means a blessing for a military invasion after a serious strengthening of the army. De facto, Inozemtsev called for a violation of the territorial integrity of Russia, since he mentioned not only Donbass, but also the Crimean peninsula among the regions that should be “reintegrated”.

The official list of RIAC partners is also curious – in addition to Russian government bodies, educational and commercial organizations, there are the British Royal Joint Defense Research Institute (RUSI)  and the  American RAND research center . Both structures do not differ in sympathy towards Russia and operate within the framework of the same paradigm as the Atlantic Council.

The Atlantic Council itself in the fall of 2020, in its report  “How the West should behave with Russia,”  explained why American NGOs of this kind need “partnerships” with Russian institutions like the RIAC.

“Exchanges, support for free media and contacts with a wide range of Russians – including the opposition, but not limited to it – sound trite, but during the Cold War, the United States learned that such efforts could have a significant cumulative effect,” – noted the authors of the report, a former Ambassadors to Russia and Poland  Alexander Vershbow  and  Daniel Fried .

We are talking about a broad influence on the minds of the elite and the expert community. During the Cold War, Western “partners” treated them with the ideas of “detente and convergence of the socialist and capitalist systems.” It ended with the collapse of the USSR. Now it is proposed to use the same scenario for Russia.

Another project of Russian international relations specialists is connected with the Atlantic Council –  Riddle . It is a portal with the stated purpose of promoting a new generation of experts in the study of Russia. Its co-founder  Anton Barbashin  is an expert of the Atlantic Council. The earliest materials are  dated April 2018 . Another Atlantic Council member on the editorial board of Riddle is  Damir Marusic .

A senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and executive editor of  The American Interest,  a Croatian native specializes in foreign policy for the United States, Europe and Russia. He is a  very frequent visitor  to the “NATO Weeks”  run by the Serbian NGO  – the  Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) .

Nevertheless, the Russian portal considered it superfluous to inform its readers that Barbashin and Marushich are closely connected with the “Atlantic Council” banned in Russia. 

Through other editorial staff – for example,  member of the  Council on Foreign and Defense Policy  (SVOP)  Maxim Trudolyubov  or the already mentioned RIAC expert Inozemtsev, the project has access to the leading organizations of Russian international affairs.

The content of the materials on the site is indicative: Inozemtsev’s articles on the decline of Russia, the  defense of the “new gender ethics” and the condemnation of “ingrained Russian racism”  from the editor of the Mel Internet portal  , which  is replete with materials  about LGBT adolescents. In addition, there are statements by a member of the recently recognized foreign agent of the all-Russian public movement  “Golos” 2  that Russia has  unjustly deprived of the right to be elected to persons with dual citizenship, convicts and extremists.

Graduates of the Higher School of Economics are well represented  in Riddle  . In April 2021, the organization  became a partner of the Career Week of the  St. Petersburg branch of the Higher School of Economics .  The university supplies Riddle with experts who are ready to write articles about the fact that “lies are the mainstay of the Russian government.

Employees of St. Petersburg State University are not lagging behind them – for example, Associate Professor Igor Gretsky, whose  headlines  speak for themselves: “Union non-state”, “Kremlin bluff”, “Putin’s article – a shot into the void”, “Could the West have saved Russia from itself ? “.

The anti-Russian “analytics” on a portal affiliated with the Atlantic Council does not prevent experts from receiving salaries at state universities, participating in forums ( for example, the Petersburg Dialogue ) and broadcasting their positions to students at public expense.

Another example of how a banned organization retains influence in Russia through the publication of experts on other sites is the activities of  the Carnegie Moscow Center , where the Bulgarian author  Dimitar Bechev is published . In addition to the Atlantic Council, he works  closely with  The Insider 3 , which also recently added to the list of foreign agents.

The model of the Atlantic Council’s work in Russia through individual experts was also tested for launching “investigative projects”. Thus, an employee of the Atlantic Council,  Dilyan Miles-Primakov,  was the curator  of Project 4 of  Roman Badanin 5  (in July the organization was declared undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation). Another “investigative” project that is actively working in the Russian direction is connected with the “Atlantists” – a group of “independent” Bellingcat journalists. The founder of the organization,  Eliot Higgins  , was until 2019 Senior Research Fellow  at the  Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Laboratory (DFR Lab) and the Europe of the Future Initiative  .

DFR Lab and Bellingat have been involved in the creation of anti-Russian networks of influence deployed by the  Open Information Parthnership , which in turn is funded from the UK budget.

In addition to their own publications, Bellingcat and Roman Dobrokhotov’s portal, The Insider, which is collaborating with him, disseminated inaccurate and discrediting information from the Atlantic Council, including in Russian. For example, the  article “Watched Aleppo: An Analysis of Visual Evidence of Human Rights Violations in Aleppo [July-December 2016]”  contains numerous references to Atlantic Council reports in which the Russian Aerospace Forces and Syrian forces are falsely accused of crimes against civilians.

In another article, “The Game of Hide and Seek, or How to Identify a T-72B3 Tank,” a reference to the Atlantic Council report is  used to accuse Russia of participating in hostilities in Ukraine.  And the co-author of this report is Eliot Higgins – Bellingcat actually refers to itself.

Both the Russian and English versions of the Bellingcat website contain many  links to Atlantic Council reports and articles .

The Insider portal worked in a similar way, where materials with links to the reports of the Atlanticists were also published  , and the fact that the organization was recognized as undesirable in Russia was not indicated. At the same time, unlike the portal The Insider, the activities of Bellingcat, which distributes the content of the Atlantic Council, on the territory of Russia is still not limited in any way.

The Atlantic Council also closely cooperates with Russian non-systemic liberals. So, Leonid Gozman together with Anders Aslund in February 2021 became the authors of the report “Russia after Putin: how to rebuild the state.”

In it, experts called for a “regime change” by disbanding the FSB, turning Russia into a parliamentary republic, defining mechanisms for separating territories and arranging a new privatization.

“Presumably, Russia’s borders may change in the process, but the new government should focus on minimizing violence and bloodshed. Like other former empires, Russia needs to overcome imperial nostalgia, ”the authors of the report say.

The Atlantic Council’s partner is the banned  Anti-Corruption Fund, 6 with which the American organization recently held a conference with accusations against “Russian hackers”.

In February, when the international organization  Amnesty International  tried to deprive Alexey Navalny of the status of a “prisoner of conscience”, experts from the Atlantic Council  spoke out in support of the prisoner.

Atlantic Council  resident Andreas Umland  explained the support for Navalny on geopolitical considerations: “The most important aspect of Navalny’s entire phenomenon is the devastating effect he has on Putin’s political system.”

Despite the fact that the Atlantic Council does not hide its convictions that there is no place for a sovereign and strong Russia in the world, its experts actively appear on the air of the Russian media.

So, in May of this year, the co-author of the above-mentioned report Aslund and the Russian-American political scientist Maria Snegovaya published a study on how to make anti-Russian sanctions more effective.

Already in July, Snegovaya  appeared on  Ekho Moskvy ,  where   she criticized the expulsion of the Estonian consul, caught red-handed while trying to obtain classified information, on the Minority Opinion in St. Petersburg program . She decided to scare the Russians with repression,  saying that “the trend to search for spies not only among diplomats, but also among Russian citizens will intensify.”

At the same time, Ekho Moskvy   misled its listeners by not indicating that it provided airtime to an employee of an organization recognized as undesirable in Russia.

Another Atlantic Council employee, former Soviet émigré  Ariel Cohen,  is a frequent guest on Russian TV channels, from Dozhd 7, which has added to the list of foreign agents,   to the federal  Russia 1 .  Work in an organization recognized as undesirable in the Russian Federation, unfortunately, is not a reason to block access to its employees in the Russian media.

Thus, the Atlantic Council, whose website has been blocked for a long time, is in fact quite effective bypassing Russian laws and is doing “excellently” with the task of promoting its agenda on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Despite the measures taken to restrict the distribution of content, the organization remains an instrument of influence on Russian society.

If the cooperation of a foreign agent with other pro-Western NGOs and representatives of the opposition was quite expected, his close ties with the expert community of Russian international affairs raise big questions.

The Radical Outlook does not own the material quoted in these press reviews

1 The organization is recognized as undesirable in the Russian Federation.

2  unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent

3  Mass media included in the register of foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent.

4  Declared undesirable in Russia.

5  Foreign agent.

6  Included in the register of organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent; recognized as an extremist organization.

7  media included in the register of foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent.

Copyright © Russian Press and The Radical Outlook

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The Radical Outlook

The Radical Outlook is an online news web Portal designed for in-depth news analysis from the Eurasian region and beyond. It is Founded by a geopolitical analyst Shahzada Rahim.
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