Full of enthusiasm for Brexit and Trump’s election, the Kremlin will actively interfere with this year’s elections in Europe, first and foremost in France and Germany, but also in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, an opponent to Russian President Vladimir Putin told euractiv.com yesterday (17 January).
Putin’s ultimate goal is to destroy the EU, Ilya Yashin, a Russian activist and liberal politician told this website. He said that in Putin’s view, Europe should be constituted of heterogeneous and divided countries, busy with their internal problems and unable to adopt common positions to counteract the rise of the Kremlin’s influence on the international scene.
The first objective of the Kremlin is to bring friendly politicians to power in Ukraine, Yashin said. He added that the same methods of hybrid aggression are used by Moscow for influencing public opinion in key EU countries. Yashin cited the Netherlands, France, Germany and the Czech Republic.
On 15 March, Dutch voters will cast ballots to usher in a new parliament, prime minister and government.
In France, the first round of the presidential election is on 23 April, followed by a second round on 7 May. Germany will hold federal elections to elect the members of the Bundestag in the autumn, the date not having been set yet. Czech legislative elections will be held in October.
Russian officials reject the view that their country seeks to break up the EU.
But European sources briefed journalists on 16 January about rising fears of “hybrid threats” coming from Russia, warning about attempts to “destabilise democratic processes” or “attacks against critical infrastructures” in some EU countries. These threats can range from classic espionage to cybercrime operations “which can have different aims”, the source said, citing “political and commercial objectives” among them.
The EU’s cybersecurity strategy, “may have to be updated” in response to such hybrid threats, the European source added, saying Estonia was planning a big focus on cybersecurity when it takes over the rotating EU Council Presidency from Malta in the second half of the year. This will include the coordination of a pan-European cybersecurity exercise, the source added, saying the European response will build on a European Commission communication on hybrid threats, presented in April last year.
— Agnia Grigas (@AgniaGrigas) January 11, 2017
Yashin, who spoke to EURACTIV on 17 January, said Europe should develop means of countering hybrid aggression. In his view, a key mechanism could be the personal sanctions: not sectorial sanctions against the EU economy, but sanctions against individuals, based on the personal responsibility of those involved in this conflict.
The Russian opposition activist explained that such personal sanction should concern not only civil servants, law-enforcement people, or the oligarchs, but those active on the propaganda side.
“It is abnormal if today an opinion maker says on Russian TV that the USA should be bombed into nuclear ashes [Russian news agency head Dmitry Kiselyov said so in 2014], and that next week the same person with his family goes for a holiday in Miami and opens a bank account,, Yashin said.
“Putin wants to re-establish aggressive control over, at the least, the post-Soviet space,” the activist said, adding that Putin will do his utmost to re-establish the Kremlin’s zone influence in the post-Soviet space, including on EU countries.
Asked what the EU could do, Yashin said that the most important is for the EU to preserve its unity, and make no compromises on Ukraine. He said he didn’t think Putin and Trump will strike a new Yalta deal. The Yalta Conference of February 1945 led to the division of post-war Europe in zones of influence and paved the way for the Cold War.
The reason, he said, is that in his view, Trump could not make such decisions by himself, as the US government would not allow him to do so.
Yasin also spoke at length about the fabrication of “kompromats” by the Kremlin against political opponents and foreign officials. But he said there was no danger of such kompromats for Trump, as he became “immune” to them.
Putin said yesterday that those who ordered a fake report on Russia’s alleged compromising material Trump “are worse than prostitutes”, TASS reported. The Russian president rejected the reports about Trump’s alleged contacts with prostitutes in Moscow.
As the Russian leader said, “I doubt that Trump fell for that.”
“First of all, he is a grown-up man and, secondly, he is a person who has dealt with organizing beauty pageants for many years and has communicated with the world’s most beautiful women. You know, I can imagine with difficulty such a thing that he [Trump] immediately headed off for the hotel to meet with our girls of low social morals. Although of course ours are the best in the world,” Putin said. “I doubt that Trump fell for that”, he added.
Putin made the comments after talks with the Moldovan President Igor Dodon. The latter said he would push for the cancellation of his country’s Association agreement with the EU and that he will seek to prepare the paperwork for joining the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union.