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Center for Strategic & International Studies | 13Oct2016 | Heather Conley [59:46]

The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe

The CSIS Europe Program, in partnership with Sofia-based Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), recently concluded a sixteen-month study on Russian economic and political influence in Central and Eastern Europe. The study's leading authors will present the key findings from the report, which illuminate the linkages between Russia's growing economic and investment presence in Central and Eastern Europe and the region's general decline in political stability, diminishment of democratic institutions, and erosion of governance standards in five case study countries. Described as an "unvirtuous circle" of Russian Influence, the report traces the work of Russian cultivated networks of patronage across the region that it actively uses to influence and direct decision-making that is in line with the Kremlin's interests.

This event is made possible by the generous support of the Smith Richardson Foundation.

[There are other relevant articles by Heather A. Conley at https://www.csis.org/people/heather-conley  .]

[00:00 -- 02:23]
Heather Conley:  63-page condensed report; introductions of James Mina, Martin Vladimirov, Ruslan Stefanov; partnered with the Center for the Study of Democracy (in Bulgaria); welcome from Aguan Shintov(?)
[02:23 -- 03:45]
Shintov: Goal is to metrify Russian footprint in Eastern Europe.
[03:45 -- 09:15]
Conley: Open letter to President Obama -- Russia uses overt and covert means of economic warfare; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in July 2014 speech -- "the wind is blowing form East"; 07Oct2016 General Clapper statement re "compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions".
What is the impact of these Russian activities on East European countries? Studied 5 countries: Latvia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia: Four of five are NATO members and Serbia aspires to do so.
[09:15 -- 15:10]
Stefanov: "Methodology and Measurement" -- energy imports with corporate networks, exports; Bulgaria and Slovakia especially sensitive; Gazprom networks in Bulgaria and Serbia results in higher prices.
[15:10 -- 33:10]
Conley: Freedom House report on health and standards in Central Europe concentrating on 3 indicators: corruption, independence of judiciary, independence of media.
- In Nato-members Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia there was an actual decline of these democratic standards as Russian economic influence increased. Latvia was stable.
- Found a direct relationship between economics and politics -- above 12% control of GDP by Russia is critical. Below 12% GDP, the Russian political rather than economic influence dominated.
- Latvia had more resistance to Russian political influence.
- Corruption definition ... ; the Unvirtuous Circle -- slowly eliminates democratic standards; feedback loop;
- What is the point here? Weakening the internal cohesion of these countries; obstructing reforms; dysfunctional elections; some politicians change their views; people don't know what to believe; paralyzes institutions; co-mingling of public and private sectors.
- Overall objectives of "Playbook" is money; "break the transatlantic consensus"
- Step 1: Understand that this is much larger than we think -- must develop resistance; must track illicit funds; toolbox is the EU
- Finally, U.S government assistance has diminished greatly; must re-assess approach.
[33:10 -- 35:55]
Stefanov: Go back to 2008, when Kremlin openly stated that they would try to recapture Eastern Europe. State capture is facilitated by economic activity. EU must revamp its anti-corruption efforts.
[35:55 -- 43:00]
Kathleen Kavalec: (after introduction) Very happy to see this Report released. Ukraine is obvious example of Russian breaking international rules. Designed to weaken, undermine,confuse; Peter Pomerantsev, disinformation, troll farms, infiltrate and manipulate civil society.
What can we do? Must be a full co-ordinated government effort; co-operation with allies.
In long run, we want Russia to be a partner, not enemy. In short run, we must act.
[43:00 -- 59:46]
Discussion and questions:
- How urgent is this? They have infiltrated and are using our system.
- Secondly, is this demonstrating an alternative system?
Very urgent, of course. This should be front and center of our new administration. Must come back to basic democratic values.
Question 1: Latvia case
Q 2: by Steven Blank
Q 3:
- High level recognition in Latvia of dangers of corruption -- anti-corrution department is actually independent.
- Corporate control of media is crucial; corrupt judiciary helps organized crime
- Kovalec refers to U.S. response.
Q 4:
- 2007-2008 period was turning point. Things really accelerated after that. Policy of disruption.
- More effort to remove sanctions. Continuing disinformation campaigns.
[59:46 -- END]

[ 90-page pdf file of Report ] -- Five appendices contain case specific studies for Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia, Serbia.

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