US to investigate Russian efforts to weaken EU

Working for the Kremlin? National Front leader Marine Le Pen. [manu le manu/flickr]

US intelligence agencies are to conduct a major investigation into how the Kremlin is trying to divide and weaken the EU, The Telegraph reported.

On Saturday (16 January) the British newspaper published an exclusive report according to which James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, was instructed by the US Congress to conduct a major investigation of clandestine Russian funding of European parties over the last decade.

Washington is reported to be concerned about Moscow’s determination to exploit European disunity in order to undermine NATO, block US missile defence programmes and revoke the EU sanctions on Russia imposed after the annexation of Crimea.

A dossier of “Russian influence activity” identified Russian influence operations running in France, the Netherlands, Hungary as well as Austria and the Czech Republic.

The US intelligence review will examine whether Russian security services are funding parties and charities with the intent of “undermining political cohesion”. Officials declined to name such parties, but it is thought likely to include far-right groups including Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece, the Northern League in Italy, and France’s Front National which received a €9 million loan from a Russian bank in 2014.

>>Read: National Front’s Russian loans cause uproar in European Parliament

>>Read: ALDE wants investigation of Le Pen’s contacts with Moscow

>>Read: Hungarian far-right MEP suspected as Russian spy

>>Read: Russia counts on EU ‘friends’ to avert further sanctions

>>Read: Russia hosts far-right gathering

An unnamed senior British official is quoted as saying: “Right across the EU we are seeing alarming evidence of Russian efforts to unpick the fabric of European unity on a whole range of vital strategic issues.”

The article’s sources said that the Kremlin eyes the forthcoming UK referendum on Europe, and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, as potential opportunities to weaken Europe.

Andrew Foxall, director of the Russian centre at the Henry Jackson Society think tank, is quoted as saying that Russia has become “more audacious” in its approach as it attempts to fight off the Crimea sanctions.

“No-one is suggesting that Corbyn is on the payroll of the Kremlin at all – simply that his interests demonstrably overlap with what the Kremlin is saying. Russia has ramped up its influencing policy and is trying to achieve in six months or a year what it previously took a decade to achieve.

“Wherever the opportunity presents itself, Russia wants to undermine the West – to present the argument that the West is no better than they are. It wants to see an end of the European Union because it much prefers a policy of divide and rule,” Foxall is reported to have said.

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