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Russia’s Influence in Europe: to what goals? Ewen Fondrillon Kateryna Bakulina Piret Kuusik Thomas Grandjouan
Russia’s Influence in Europe:
Russia’s Influence in Europe:

to what goals?

Ewen Fondrillon Kateryna Bakulina Piret Kuusik Thomas Grandjouan

PARIS - 2016

Authors: Ewen Fondrillion Master's Candidate, International Security, Paris School of International Affairs,

Authors:

Ewen Fondrillion Master's Candidate, International Security, Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po
Ewen Fondrillion
Master's Candidate, International Security,
Paris School of International Affairs,
Sciences Po Paris.
Kateryna Bakulina
Analyst, HybridStrategies.eu
Master's Candidate,
International Public Management,
Paris School of International Affairs,
Sciences Po Paris.
Piret Kuusik
Master's Candidate, International Security,
Paris School of International Affairs,
Sciences Po Paris
Thomas Grandjouan
Master's Candidate, International Security,
Paris School of International Affairs,
Sciences Po Paris
.

Resume (in French)

Depuis le début du 21e siècle, et plus particulièrement depuis les conflits en Géorgie (2008) et en Ukraine (2014), la Russie est redevenue un partenaire, ou un adversaire important pour l'Europe. Dans les deux cas, comprendre l'influence que la Russie peut exercer au sein de l'Union Europénne, à la fois sur les institutions de l'UE et sur les états-membres, est crucial pour bâtir une politique européenne solide et cohérente. Ce rapport rassemble les résultats de notre recherche sur l'influence et les objectifs de la Russie en Europe, et vise à apporter une vue d'ensemble des initiatives russes en collaboration et à l'encontre des états membres de l'UE. Il offre un panorama et une analyse des politiques russes dans le but de servir de base à l'élaboration de politiques tant au niveau européen qu'au niveau national.

Nos recherches aspire à répondre à deux questions. D'une part, nous avons tenté de mesurer l'influence Russe en Europe, et d'autre part, essayé d'identifier quelles objectifs la Russie cherchait à atteindre en étendant et en exerçant son influence. Cette recherche est cependant limitée par plusieurs facteurs. Nous n'avons considéré l'influence Russe que sur les états membres de l'Union Européenne, les autres pays européens jouant un rôle marginal dans l'établissement de politiques européennes. Par ailleurs, nous avons limité notre recherche aux

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trois dernières années, depuis l'annexation de la Crimée en Mars 2014, que nous avons identifié

trois dernières années, depuis l'annexation de la Crimée en Mars 2014, que nous avons identifié comme un changement essentiel dans la relation entre la Russie et l'UE.

Notre analyse se base sur des éléments obtenus à travers nos recherches personnelles de sources académiques afin de construire une perspective plus objective, mais également de sources médiatiques permettant de suivre en détails les évolutions stratégiques. Par ailleurs, afin d'approfondir nos recherches, nous avons mené une série d'interviews auprès de chercheurs spécialistes des relations russo-européennes, et d'expert impliqués dans ce domaine, incluant d'anciens collaborateurs du gouvernement russe. Cependant, nos sources ont demandé à rester anonymes. Ces interviews nous ont permis, notamment, de réaliser une cartographie offrant une meilleure idée de l'influence russe dans différents secteurs. Cette approche sectorielle sert par ailleurs de structure au rapport tout entier.

Les résultats de nos recherches offrent deux éléments de réponse à la question de l'influence Russe. D'une part, l'influence économique et son pouvoir de contrainte (hard power) en matière de sécurité diminuent, malgré d'importants investissements dans les deux domaines. D'autre part, l'influence de la Russie dans les domaines de la culture, des médias, et surtout de la politique est en pleine croissance. Cela s'explique par plusieurs facteurs. Après l'annexation de la Crimée, les sanctions économiques imposées par l'UE envers la Russie ont considérablement réduit sa marge de manoeuvre en matière économique et financière. La crise des prix de l'énergie, le pétrole en particulier, a ajouté à ce handicap déjà lourd, à tel point que l'influence économique russe est presque complètement paralysée, et recule même dans le domaine de l'énergie, pourtant un vecteur traditionnel d'influence. En matière de sécurité, l'opposition de plus en plus vive des pays Baltes et de la Pologne, ajoutée à une implication plus importante de l'OTAN en Europe orientale, a limité les tactiques d'intimidation russe depuis 2014, d'autant que les forces armées russe sont également impliquées en Syrie depuis quelques mois. Par contraste, devant l'inefficacité et les difficultés à employer ces vecteurs traditionnel de l'influence russe, le Kremlin a investi de plus en plus lourdement dans un appareil médiatique visant à destabiliser et décrédibiliser le leadership actuel des états membres de l'UE, tout en se construisant une image de défenseur des valeurs européennes, consolidant ainsi une stratégie hybride déjà mise à l'épreuve avec succès en Ukraine.

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Introduction Due to recent developments in global politics, from the Ukrainian crisis to the emergence

Introduction

Due to recent developments in global politics, from the Ukrainian crisis to the emergence of ISIS, research on Russia is becoming increasingly relevant, especially from the European perspective. However, current academic debate largely dates back to pre-Ukrainian crisis, and therefore does not take into consideration the impact that the crisis had on Russian influence in Europe, which is the focus of this paper.

It is an attempt at evaluating and studying Russian influence in Europe, through three perspectives on influence as defined by James Sherr - economical, security, and political/cultural, which are interwoven and cannot be considered independently from each other. It is this wide perspective, including both sectors, that further sets this outlook apart from other academic studies of Russian influence, as they tend to be quite narrowly focused on one sector, or even one issue, while our aim is to provide a broad overview of Russia’s influence in Europe.

The core argument of this paper is that the aim of Russia’s influence in Europe is to re-establish itself as a power among equals in global politics, using Europe as a stepping stone. Through each of our three perspectives, we will examine the tools Russia is using to extend its influence, and aim at answer two questions: whether or not Russia has a comprehensive strategy, and whether or not this strategy, or lack thereof, is furthering Russia's goal of stepping back into the international community as a power to reckon with.

First, we will consider Russia's economic relations with Europe, with a particular attention to the effects of European sanctions implemented because of the Ukrainian crisis. In our second chapter, we examine Russian influence in the domain of “hard power”, which is an improper term but the closest at hand to evoke its military power. Finally, we turn our attention to Russian cultural and political influence throughout Europe.

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Methodology Considering the difficulty to access reliable sources and our own resources, we had to

Methodology

Considering the difficulty to access reliable sources and our own resources, we had to tailor our methodology accordingly. Therefore, this paper is the fruit of a qualitative study. It is based on interviews of academics experts on Russia and Europe, as well as practitioners in the field, which helps bring perspective and depth to our own literature and press research. Most of the interviewee's asked not to be quoted, meaning direct quotes are not prominent in this paper, but the interviews still brought invaluable insights on the issues at hand.

Moreover, we also used these interviews to establish a cartography of Russian influence in Europe, helping us illustrate our points. These maps are intended as support material, and are exclusively based on our interviews, they are not comprehensive representation of Russian influence, which, given the very nature of influence, would prove challenging to represent, if possible at all.

Finally, clarifying our definition of influence is a crucial point before moving on to the core of this report. When we refer to Russian influence, we understand it as the capacity Russia has to change or alter the decisions taken by other countries or transnational institutions such as the European Union (EU).

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Section I: Russia’s economic relationship with Europe As Russia’s neighbour and largest trading partner, the

Section I: Russia’s economic relationship with Europe

As Russia’s neighbour and largest trading partner, the EU forms the linchpin of Russia’s external economic strategy. Expressed in terms of partnership, the importance of preserving Russia’s economic security on its western frontier has been a consistent theme for President Putin and has been evoked repeatedly in official Russian positions since the 2007 Munich conference. While a trend of growing cooperation developed through multi-lateral agreements struck with the EU in the early 2000s, current tensions over Russia’s alleged intimidation tactics have substantially slowed economic ties. By examining these economic ties we can determine where and how Russia is attempting to exert its influence in Europe, ties that can be identified through the balance of trade between the two countries, financial exchanges on world trading markets or inter company business deals. How deeply are Russian economic interests embedded into the economies of EU member states, and how are these economic relations converted into political capital for the Russian government? How has the Crimean crisis, the oil price shock and sanctions regime, affected Russian business interests in Europe? These are all questions this section will seek to answer.

To establish how the Russian government’s involvement in the economic sphere has evolved in the face of sanctions, we will first examine its overall impact on EU-Russia trade giving us an idea of the macroeconomic context in which Russia is operating in. By then turning to a country-by-country approach, we will examine Russia’s trade relations with individual Member States in order to identify where Russia’s economic influence is strongest. Finally, we will look at the EU-Russian energy sector, Russia’s principal tool for leveraging its influence in the EU, giving us a cross-sectional view of its European activity in order to determine whether there is a cohesive strategy at hand, piloted from the Kremlin to not only secure its interests in the region, but maximise its political influence on Member State’s decision-makers. As we will see, these three vantage points (regional, national and sectoral) will constitute the key instruments for the Kremlin to directly and indirectly assert its influence and priorities in the heart of the European Union’s member states.

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Part I: EU-Russia trade and the impact of sanctions Overview of EU-Russian trade relations After

Part I: EU-Russia trade and the impact of sanctions

Overview of EU-Russian trade relations

After almost fifteen years of strong growth, Russia’s trading relationship with European Union suffered deeply in 2013 from the twin effect of the oil price shock and EU sanctions.

Since 2004, the EU-Russia trade grew healthily: turnover in goods doubled, reaching 285.5bn euros by 2014, Russian exports also doubled and imports from the EU rose from 46.1 billon euros to 103bn. The continued growth during the Great Recession halted in 2013, where, for the first time since 2009, European trade in Russian goods began to falls (figure 1). This fall deepened with the conjunction of the large drop in oil prices of the second half of 2014 (see figure 2) and the introduction of an EU sanctions regime in July 2014.

and the introduction of an EU sanctions regime in July 2014. Figure 1: Russian balance of

Figure 1: Russian balance of trade (globally), 2013-2016 1

Figure 1: Russian balance of trade (globally), 2013-2016 1 Figure 2: Russian GDP Growth and Oil

Figure 2: Russian GDP Growth and Oil Price Growth 2

1 Trading Economics (2016) 2 Tim MacMahon (2015)

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The result has diluted Russia’s economic influence in Europe, diminished the presence of large Russian

The result has diluted Russia’s economic influence in Europe, diminished the presence of large Russian state and private energy companies in Central Europe, and undermined the Russian government’s ability to assert its influence through financial and economic channels. While EU action in the wake of the Ukraine crisis did contribute to a reduction in Russian trade figures, the negative impact of these sanctions is often over-estimated compared to the impact that the drop in oil prices had on the Russian economy.

Impact of EU Sanction

The sanctions have only been partially effective, what accounts the most for a fall in Russian trade is the 50% fall in oil prices 3 . The combination of the Ukrainian crisis, long-standing sector-specific barriers, sanctions, Russian counter-sanctions, and the recession brought about by the oil price drop has led Russia into a new phase of economic turbulence. A phase that truly began in November 2015, when the Russian government reported its first GDP contraction in five years, a 60% devaluation of the ruble since 2014, the halving of foreign reserves to $370 in 2016 from $650 in 2007, inflation fluctuating between 12% and 16%, rising outflows of domestic and foreign direct investment, and an increase in social tensions across the country.

However, as several studies have shown, the EU share in Russian imports has been fairly stable during the sanctions period beginning in July 2014 (slightly above 40% of overall Russian goods imported), declining only to 37% in May 2015 4 . Meanwhile, when the statistics concerning the US and Japan are disentangled from the EU’s export statistics, we see that Japanese exports remain stable while Americans actually increase their share of total exports during the sanctions period.

While Russia has undoubtedly suffered from the sanctions, the cost is often exaggerated. As several studies have shown, the EU share in Russian imports has been fairly stable during the sanctions period beginning in July 2014 (slightly above 40% of overall Russian goods imported), declining only to 37% in May 2015. Meanwhile, when the statistics concerning the US and Japan are disentangled from the EU’s export statistics, we see that Japanese exports remain stable while Americans actually increase their share of total exports during the sanctions period. It is therefore, to consider sanctions as a political tool rather than as an economic weapon.

3 European Council on Foreign Relations (2014) 4 Dreger, C. (2015),

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Figure 3 : Russian imports, share of the United States, Japan and the EU during
Figure 3 : Russian imports, share of the United States, Japan and the EU during

Figure 3 : Russian imports, share of the United States, Japan and the EU during the sanctions period 5

With the reduced economic effectiveness of the sanctions in mind, its is helpful to consider the punitive measures undertaken by the elected heads of Member States in the European Council as a political tool rather than as an economic weapon, as a symbolic show of resistance to President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, rather than a measure that is truly coercive that could dramatically change the economic balance of power between Russian and its European neighbours. But nevertheless, once combined with the external macroeconomic factors causing domestic turmoil in Russia, the result is an important amount of political pressure in the context of a constraining economic climate that is limiting the Russia’s government ability to assert its influence in the European Union. To see how this influence translates throughout the region and where it is located, we must now proceed to a country- by-country approach.

Part II: Individual Member States and Russia’s influence in the wake of sanctions

The reach of Russia’s economic influence across the European Union can be identified by the exposure of individual country markets to Russian investment activity, notably the dependence on Russian energy and other trading activities leading to the establishment of an economic interest to be defended by the Russian government. Overall, Russian trade accounts for a fraction of European GDP, accounting for only 8.4% of the EU’s total trade, or a total trade value of €285 billion of the EU’s €18.5 trillion GDP. 6 It may not be much overall, but the visibility of Russia’s economic interest becomes more apparent when broken down by individual country, revealing clusters of receptiveness and bastions of resistance to the presence of Russian interests.

5 CEPS (2015) 6 European Commission, DG Trade (2016)

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Figure 4 Share of Russian gas in consumption, EU-28 (%), 2012 data 7 The difficulty
Figure 4 Share of Russian gas in consumption, EU-28 (%), 2012 data 7 The difficulty

Figure 4 Share of Russian gas in consumption, EU-28 (%), 2012 data 7

The difficulty of the European Commission in negotiating a common, unitary position for all Member States shows just how divergent different European countries are in their relationship with Russia. The states negotiating sanctions in 2014 can be split into two groups. On the one hand, those pushing hard for sanctions included Poland, Romania, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the Baltic states, and on the other hand, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy and Spain reluctant to sign on sanctions, while France occupies a position between the two, who initially warned against sanctions but also took the important step of halting the sale of Mistral warships.

The consensus secured to pass EU sanctions against Russia is an important example of European unity vis-à-vis their Eastern neighbour and a glaring example of Russia’s loss of influence in the chancelleries of Europe’s capitals. Despite tensions and growing criticism of the measures, including France’s parliamentarians voting a non-binding motion to lift the sanctions in April 2016, the renewal of the measures at the European Council meeting of 28- 29 June 2016, is expected to pass unanimously, meaning even the Kremlin’s most loyal allies, like Viktor Orban, have confirmed they will not, as “good Europeans”, block the proposal. What specifically prevented EU Member States from quickly rallying behind a common position on sanctions? Using the five categories of EU member states developed in the Power- Audit of EU-Russia relations undertaken by the European Council of Foreign Relations in 2007, we can identify the size of Russia’s economic footprint in each country. By examining the weight of their economic ties with Russia we will be able to see how it translates into economic influence if at all. The five groups identified in 2007 have not evolved out their categories since the initial audit was carried out, apart from the addition of Croatia to the friendly pragmatists, the countries in order of the the most supportive of Russian interests in Europe are:

The Trojan Horses (Cyprus and Greece) who often defend Russian interests through their willingness to veto common EU positions

The Strategic Partners (France, Germany, Italy, and Spain) who entertain a ‘special relationship’ with Russia based on long-standing economic relations and political ties

7 Gazprom and BP Statistical Review (2013)

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• The Friendly pragmatists (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and

The Friendly pragmatists (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia) have a close relationship with Russia, tending to put business interests above political goals

The Frosty pragmatists (Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom), also focus on business interests but are less intimated to criticise Russia on human rights and other issues

The New Cold Warriors (Lithuania and Poland), hold an overtly hostile relationship with Moscow, and willing to use their veto to block EU negotiations with Russia.

Let’s start with countries most opposed to sanctions. A month before the first sanctions regime was decided in 2014, Vladimir Putin on a visit in Austria called out on Russia’s ‘friends’ in Europe to avert further sanctions. The central and south European countries he had in mind are clearly linked to Russia through their dependence on its supply of oil and gas, as well as investment brought by tourism. 8

The Trojan Horses: Russia’s trading partners in the Mediterranean

Greece and Cyprus are a hub for Russian economic influence within the EU. For Greece, Russia is a major energy provider, supplying 62% of Greece’s gas, and is also an important arms supplier to Greece. Russian influence in Greece may well be boosted in 2016 by the recent deal signed between Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum and Rosneft to increase cooperation the refining of oil products in Greek plants. 9 The perceived rise of Russia’s influence in Greece has reached a point that American foreign policy analysts feared the Kremlin would be able to profit from Greece’s sovereign debt crisis, leading to former national security advisors calling on President Obama and Chancellor Merkel to do all that it takes to keep Greece in the euro- zone. 10 Meanwhile, Cyprus, while being one of the few Member States not dependent on Russian gas, and is one of the most important offshore hubs for Russian companies and remains the biggest foreign investor in Russia, providing a third of total foreign investments in Russia (33%) ahead of the Netherlands (14%), Germany (4.3%), and the United Kingdom (3%). 11 The economic influence and political support translates as influence in the two countries taking the lead to defend Russia in EU negotiations at the European Council, but according to reports by some EU officials, the influence of the countries is limited by their size, leading them to block tactically, and seeking alliances with larger countries, rather than substantially undoing an European common position. 12

Strategic partners: Russia’s big country trading partners

The group of countries characterised as Russia’s ‘strategic partners’ in the EU: Germany, France, Italy and Spain represent long-standing diplomatic relationships that almost all have a solid economic foundation. The political ties are characterised by a sense of mutual respect between great powers that regularly meet at G8 or G20 meetings, and are underpinned by a desire for multi-polarity or regional security. The economic ties are particularly strong in all

8 Euractiv (2014)
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10 Washington Times (July 2015)

11 ECFR (2007) 12 ECFR, (2007)

TASS (2016)

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countries except France, with whom Russian trade accounts only for 0.9% of external trade, and

countries except France, with whom Russian trade accounts only for 0.9% of external trade, and whose ties with Russia are founded more on cooperating on global issues (Iran, Iraq, Syria) and a shared conception of multi-polarity.

The largest Russian economic footprint is in Germany, Russia’s biggest trading partner and most important market for Russian gas, the fifth biggest investor in Russia in 2006 ($5 bn), and an important destination for Russian holidaymakers and business interests, (342,575 Russian visitors to Germany in 2006). These close economic ties translates into an awareness among German policy-makers of the need to coordinate and cooperate with Russia, even leading to Merkel’s government to pursue a Russia-first policy on the Eastern neighbourhood, and advocate integration with Russia before the economic and political crisis shifted the terms of the debate. 13

Italy, like Germany, has maintained a strong diplomatic relationship with Russia built on firm economic foundations. Italy is Russia’s third biggest trading partner after Germany and China, and its third biggest gas market, accounting for 11% of all of Russia’s natural gas exports in 2014. 14 Italy’s energy giant ENI is Gazprom’s key partner in the Blue Stream II pipeline project and several other energy companies have joint ventures for refineries in Italy. It is no coincidence that Russia’s substantial economic stake in the Italian economy has led Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister, to advocate a more balanced approach to Russia. 15

Spain’s economic relationship is less intensive than other large countries (accounting for only 1% of each other’s trade) but Russia does supply 13% of Spain’s oil, while the Spanish government has long promoted a policy of economic cooperation with Russia. The tourism industry is important, Spain being the most attractive destination for Russian holidaymakers after Turkey. As the ECFR points out, Spain avoids raising sensitive political issues with Russia at the European level and is wary of engagement in the Eastern neighbourhood.

Friendly pragmatists: Russia’s central European partners

The largest group of EU Member States are the friendly pragmatists, small and mid-sized countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia and Portugal) that place their business interests ahead of a political desire to confront Moscow. The motives for this diverse group of countries is that they all hope to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Russian investment. Half of them – Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Hungary – hope to become gas hubs for Gazprom in the EU, while Finland plays an important role in maintaining infrastructure links between the two regions (25% of all Russian imports transit through Finland). 16

Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal have a limited agenda for cooperation with Russia, but have been open to any inward investment that Russian energy companies are willing to bring to their countries. Austria and Finland, have a much stronger cooperation agenda, mostly due to their strategic position as transit countries for energy supplies from east to west. Austria especially has deep economic links with Moscow. It has signed long-term deals with Russia on gas supply (gas storage facilities at Baumgarten), and its largest bank, Raiffeisen Bank, has a controlling stake in RosUrkEnerego responsible for importing gas into Ukraine. 17

13 Statista, (2016)
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15 ECFR, (2007)

16 ECFR (2007)

17 International Herald Tribune( 2006)

Reuters (2015)

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An important sub-group of central European countries made up of Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia, continue

An important sub-group of central European countries made up of Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia, continue to constitute an important base of support for Russian financial interests. Most notably are Hungary and Bulgaria, where Russian financial interests account for large shares of their economies. Their trading relationship is of course dominated by energy imports, over 75% of Bulgaria’s energy and 92% of Hungary’s gas is provided by Russia. Bulgaria’s economies are dominated by large Russian companies like Lukoil, which alone generates 5% of the country’s GDP and 25% of its tax revenues.

Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia: conflicting loyalties?

Hungary’s political support to Russia was bolstered in 2015 when it signed for a 10 billion euro from Moscow to finance the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant, Hungary’s only atomic power station, powering 40% of the country’s electricity. The nuclear contract, which was abruptly awarded to Rostom after a call to open tender was quickly retracted, is a good example of Russian financial interest converting into political influence in the Eurozone. “The Paks deal is camouflage” says Zoltan Illes, a former state secretary for the environment in the ruling Fidesz party, who describes the deal as a “financial transaction, and for the Russians this is buying influence”, allowing Prime Minister Orban to pump money into the Hungarian economy before his re-election in 2018 while Russia is able to strengthen its commercial ties with key European Member States. The same goes for deals awarded in July 2015 under similar circumstances to the Russian company Metrovagonmash to renovate Budapest’s metro, which in the process excluded Skinest Rail, an Estonian bidder who proposed a cheaper and more technologically advanced service. Links between the Hungarian political elites and Russia appeared also in the controversy surrounding the MET gas pipeline affair, whereby the Hungarian government stood accused of outsourcing monopolistic access to the Hungarian-Austrian gas pipeline to MET, an offshore energy company controlled by the Hungarian energy company MOL and a network of Hungarian and Russian oligarchs with close ties to Prime Minister Orban. 18

As David Hegedus points out in a recent study, the pro-Russian stance of Hungary’s two largest parties Fidesz and Jobbik, is shared neither by the majority of Hungarians nor even by their own voters. The Russian relationship, one that is penetrated by business interests, can therefore be characterised as a project led explicitly by an elite seeking to maximise each other’s economic interests in return for political influence.

Bulgaria remains in a more ambiguous relationship with Russian than almost all other Member States. Culturally close, a historic ally and long dependent on Russian food exports and tourism as a source of revenue, Bulgaria’s economic relationship with Russia have been frozen under due to the support of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s government for sanctions and because of the cancellation of three major energy projects: an oil pipeline linking its Black Sea coast with Greece’s Aegean coast, a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant, and the South Stream gas pipeline. 19 Caught between its legal obligations as an EU member state, its cultural affinity with Russia, and Bulgaria’s inability to weigh substantially on the international stage as a small nation of 7m people and relative new joiner to the EU, Borisov’s government now tries to establish itself a role as a mediator between the two powers while visits by the country’s deputy Prime Minister, Ivailo Kalfin, to Moscow has tried to woo Russia into normalising relations. 20

18 D. Hegedus ( 2016)

19 Veselin Zhelev, EUobserver (2016) 20 Y. Boyadjiev and A. Andreev ( 2015)

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Unlike either Hungary or Bulgaria, Slovakia is loosening its economic ties with Russia in favour

Unlike either Hungary or Bulgaria, Slovakia is loosening its economic ties with Russia in favour of its European partners. Over the past 12 months, Bratislava has transformed its position towards Russia as one with important business interests to preserve, including most of its gas deliveries and nuclear fuel for its Russian built power plants, and some core defense equipment, towards its position today of openly supporting the European Commission’s compliance demands with Moscow and pushing for the diversification of gas supplies away from Russia. 21 The fears of regional instability caused by the Ukraine crisis and the identification of a new gas connection to Poland, seem to be the main cause behind Slovakia’s westward turn thereby rendering Russian influence in the region more difficult.

To the list of countries categorised by Mark Leonard in 2007 as ‘friendly pragmatists’, we must now add Croatia, a country whose government is divided between obligations to the European Commission to carry out deep and unpopular structural reforms in order to fully benefit from the EU’s Single Market, and a cultural affinity with Russia as a fellow Slavic nation. However, the country having little influence in the European Council’s deliberations due to its small size, recent arrival, and macroeconomic difficulties like high unemployment, high debt and a high deficit, Croatia does not seem to be a target for Russian influence in Europe. A fact that is corroborated by the absence of any major Russian investment projects in 2015. 22

Frosty Pragmatists: Russia’s sceptical trading partners in the core and periphery

Russia’s economic relationship in Europe is constrained by another large group of countries that despite also having pragmatic acceptance of the possible benefits of Russian business interests, are also ready to challenge Russia about democracy and human rights. This group comprises countries from the core and periphery and that are both large and small member states: Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, Romania and the Czech Republic, who have all had bilateral disputes with Russia, and repeatedly been willing to challenge Russia openly on the diplomatic stage when it violates interests and diplomatic norms.

Russia’s economic interests are strongest within the Czech Republic, Latvia and Estonia, who depend on Russia for the majority, or the totality in Latvia and Estonia’s case, of their gas and oil supplies. The Czech Republic has cooled its relations with Russia due to disputes over the installation of a US missile shield and support for a more active EU in the Eastern neighbourhood. Estonia has engaged in several diplomatic rows with Russia since 2007, including a dispute originating around the location of a war memorial to Soviet soldiers, resulting in economic pressures imposed on Estonia by Russia, and travel-ban against pro- Kremlin activists. The tensions have continued to mount with cybersecurity attacks and military drills carried out in 2015 and 20 16 in Estonian airspace. Meanwhile, Latvia has sought a more moderate relationship with Russia. The large population of ethnic Russians (25%), the linguistic prevalence of Russian (spoken at home by 34% of Latvians) and Latvia’s dependence on Russia for 100% of its country’s gas needs, makes it easy to understand why Latvia seeks a stable relationship with Russia. 23 However, Latvia has not hesitated to turn on Russia, it was very critical of Russia during the Ukraine crisis, which recalled dark memories of the countries post-war Soviet occupation, and the Latvian Prime Minister continues to be among those calling for an extension of sanctions. 24

21 J. Kobzova (2015)
22

Russia.HR, (2014)

23 Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (2016)
24

Ukraine Today,( 2016)

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The Netherlands and the United Kingdom both have reasonably strong economic and trade ties with

The Netherlands and the United Kingdom both have reasonably strong economic and trade ties with Russia, however, both countries have not hesitated to defend EU policy on a common EU neighbourhood policy, raising human rights concerns at the European level, and strongly advocating sanctions. But, according to Mark Leonard from the European Council of Foreign Relations, the concerns raised by the Netherlands have been never enough to damage its commercial interests.

Romania, unlike its neighbour Bulgaria, has been an outspoken critic of Russian energy policy and its involvement in Moldova. And Sweden and Ireland, who have weak economic ties to Russia, have strongly made the case for sanctions and voiced concerns about violation of human and civil rights in Russia.

What is common to all these countries is that their willingness to choose European unity over Russian dialogue is in many ways passive. By default they will uphold their interests and obligations as European member states, but they have not either attempted to mount a proactive and sustained effort to circumscribe or soften EU policy towards Russia.

Cold warriors, Poland and Lithuania: Russia’s opponents in the EU

Two countries that have actively blocked Russian influence in Europe are Poland and Lithuania. Despite both being highly dependent on Russian trade relations to maintain a stable supply of domestic energy (Lithuania receives 100% of all gas and 90% of all oil from Russia, Poland receives 70% of gas from Gazprom and its proxy RosUkrEnergo) they have both actively pushed for a more critical EU line towards Russia, using diplomatic back-channels and public announcements to put pressure on other governments to act. The diplomatic pressures have spilled over into the countries’ economic relations, including oil supply cuts to Lithuania, discriminatory railway tariffs for goods transiting the Baltic states, disagreements over access to Kaliningrad and disputes over phytosanitary norms.

The Ukrainian crisis and Poland’s advocacy for sanctions has frozen relations between the two countries, and the diplomatic rapprochement that had been in process since the Polish- German-Russian agreement to open Kalinigrad’s border has halted. However, the euroskeptic and nationalist orientation of Prime Minister Beata Szydło’s government may well alter Poland’s close ties to EU economic and neighbourhood as the country turns inwards to focus on the immediate region. 25

Russia’s economic interests in Europe and its ability to influence decisions made at the European level is a network fragmented across the geography of the European Union. In the south east and in the Mediterranean basin, Russia benefits from strong economic ties with countries that either share a cultural or linguistic affinity or that serve a geopolitical support, sustained by a dependence on Russian oil and gas. Strong economic ties with core Member States like the Netherlands and large Member States like Italy, give Russia a presence and a greater stake in the discussion, but there is little evidence that this translates into political influence. So overall, by examining these five groups of countries, we can suggest that Russia’s influence has declined in Europe since the Ukrainian crisis of 2013, since traditional bases of support have not materialised at the political level, with Hungarian, Bulgarian, Greek or Italian decision-making choosing their obligations towards the European Union instead of support for Russia’s call for greater cooperation. 26

25 ECFR, (2007) 26 J. Dempsey, Carnegie Europe, (October 2015)

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Part III: The energy market By Ewen Fondrillon Russia is one of Europe's main energy

Part III: The energy market

By Ewen Fondrillon

Russia is one of Europe's main energy supplier, both for oil and gas, as well as an almost unrivalled nuclear fuel provider, with a long expertise in the nuclear field at its disposal. Russian influence on the energy markets has given rise to recurring accusation of Russia using its extensive power on the energy market to pressure its international partners and competitors into compliance, especially former soviet countries, such as Belarus and Ukraine. The first major energy crisis between Russia and Europe happened in January 2009, over a price dispute between Russia and Ukraine, and it made European country realize how much they were relying on Russian resources. This dependency varies wildly across Europe, but as of now, Russia is an essential actor of Europe's energy supply security. Our aim in this chapter is to explain the evolutions of the European and Russian energy sector since the Crimean incident of 2013 and the subsequent annexation of Crimea, and how it impacts Russia's influence in Europe.

A cohesive Russian strategy?

In order to gauge the role of energy in the evolution of Russian influence in Europe, we first have to determine whether Russia has a coherent, comprehensive strategy, as opposed to a short-term opportunistic behaviour. It has long been the dominant player on the board of the European energy game, supplying some 33.5% of the EU crude oil, and 39% of natural gas in 2013. In addition, it is also Europe's 3rd supplier of nuclear fuel, exporting especially towards the Czech Republic, Poland, Belarus, and the Baltic countries 27 . Russia is particularly present in Eastern Europe, as some of the former members of the Soviet Union, the Baltic countries and Belarus, share with it their energy grid and supply networks, effectively locking their energy infrastructure together.

In the past three years, Russian companies have been harshly defending their dominant position in the European energy supply, through price reduction policies in an attempt to maintain Russia’s energy leverage. Even in Ukraine, despite the civil war and Russia's intervention in Ukraine's domestic affairs and support to the rebels, business in the energy sector has not stopped, at least seemingly. However, it is worth noting that Gazprom in particular has been selling its product to the rebel-controlled areas as well, often at a loss, a form of passive support. Both these moves would help Russia keep its position as Europe's main energy supplier, as Russian companies has the potential to drive off competition through its control (or at the very least, strong influence) over prices in Europe, and gas supply at the very least is quite dependent on a continuing presence of these companies in Ukraine, considering the latter status as a transit countries between Russia and western Europe, the largest energy market of the continent.

27 Eurostat 2015

16

Delimiting the influence of the Kremlin over Russian energy companies from company policies is problematic.

Delimiting the influence of the Kremlin over Russian energy companies from company policies is problematic. Driving the prices lower and keeping business relations with Ukraine, a transit country important for Russian gaz and oil to reach western Europe are logical and likely profitable business strategies, if they succeed. On the other hand, losing control over the energy sector would be not only an economical, but a political disaster. Essentially, energy companies and the Russian State have the same goal: maintaining dominance over energy supply to Europe, which is both a way to gain political influence and draw financial profit. However, our research and interviews, although we cannot use a direct quote as per our interviewee's request, have suggested that the Kremlin is essentially in charge, and that if energy companies have some leeway, it is hard to estimate. This is coherent with the strong net of connection between energy companies and the Russian state: Rosatom, Gazprom and Rosneft are State companies, for example. Additionally, the strategic planning horizon also seem to be very limited, to a few month at most, which is partly dictated by the fluctuating energy prices. For no, it cannot be said with certainty that there is indeed a Russian strategy in the energy field.

However, while hard to confirm, if energy companies are subservient to the Russian state, it is highly likely that there is a comprehensive strategy to maintain Russian domination over the energy market in Europe. Most likely, Russia is aiming at keeping its position as an energy supplier to use as leverage, as it has already done against Ukraine(during the winter 2009 crisis, for example), in order to help further its international goals. This leverage is important particularly for Eastern Europe, which is dependent not only on Russian supplies but also on Russian infrastructure. Towards Western Europe, Russia is less forceful, but still uses energy deals as a way to bypass EU negotiations and influence specific member states through bilateral deals. The main example of such a manoeuvre is the North Stream II project, which would connect directly Russia to Germany through the Baltic sea, and has received strong German support in EU institutions.

On the other hand, while there is a general goal of maintaining Russia's quasi-monopoly over European energy supplies, the means are opportunistic, and Russian companies operate both under the direction of the Kremlin and with a 2-3 month horizon. This influence on Europe through energy is extremely unbalanced, and largely dependent on territory (maybe also historic relations and social constructions).

Strategic assessment

Russia's strategy in the energy sector is an important part of the country's economic relations and influence over Europe. But is it successful? How have Russia's energy leverage been influenced by the Crimean crisis? Recent developments, in the past two years, seem to indicate it has suffered from several factors, and that Russia have growing difficulties to exploit its position.

17

Figure 5: Russia`s Influence in the Energy Sector of Europe First, Russia and Europe are
Figure 5: Russia`s Influence in the Energy Sector of Europe First, Russia and Europe are

Figure 5: Russia`s Influence in the Energy Sector of Europe

First, Russia and Europe are co-dependent on the energy market. We have already pointed out Europe's dependency on Russia, but the Russian energy industry needs Europe's business and financial support, as well as European machine-tools that it cannot manufacture on its own in order to conduct the exploration of new gas and oil resources in Siberia, the Pacific Coast and Barent Sea, needed to maintain its production 28 . This support, due to European sanctions, have been significantly reduced, reducing in turn new oil and gas fields discoveries, and threatening the long-term stability of the sector.

In addition, Russia is facing increasing opposition, especially from the Baltic countries, over energy grid use, and the shared infrastructure is proving to be an issue to supply Kaliningrad, while the Baltic countries themselves are becoming independent from Russia's infrastructure:

Lithuania has connected its grid through a multi-billion euro project to Poland and Sweden's electricity grids, and together the three countries are seeking further integration to the European market, as part of the European policy to get rid of “energy islands”. Latvia and Estonia are considering similar projects. Apart from electricity, they are also seeking more independence from Russia's supplies, and Lithuania, for example, is now solely relying on Norway and the Baltic Sea resources to import gaz. This attitude conflictual attitude from the

28 Smith (2008)

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“New Cold Warriors” 2 9 towards Russia is not new, but it is showing increasingly

“New Cold Warriors” 29 towards Russia is not new, but it is showing increasingly influential effects.

On a domestic level, Russia's main energy companies have been hit hard by the oil price sharp fall in the past two years, which further eroded their financial resources. They are unable to explore and exploit new hydrocarbons resources, and their position is increasingly precarious: a diminished production contracts their income, which in turn makes investment in new projects increasingly difficult, sparking a vicious cycle that could only be broken by a rise in gas and oil prices and/or a lifting of sanctions. Even attempts to put pressure on Ukraine through its dependency on Russian gas have been counterbalanced by Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, through the development of reverse-flow capacities enabling them to send part of the gas back to Ukraine.

On the other hand, Russia is still the primary energy supplier of Europe, and despite the crisis of its energy sector, remains a primary player in this field. Moreover, Russia is turning to Asia, and actively completing its pipelines to China, which is, however a difficult customer. It also attempts to sway EU member states through energy deals and threats (Ex: Italy, France, Germany), who have been defined as “strategic partners” 30 . North Stream II is particularly blatant in that regard 31 , as it would put another direct connection between Russia and Germany, but France and the UK are also pressured by their energy distribution companies into lowering barriers to entry on the energy market for Russian companies. Greece and Cyprus 32 , as well, have not role to play on the energy market but willingly advocate a position closer to Russia, and support for the North Stream II, which creates rifts in the EU institutions. As far as the nuclear sector goes, Russia's is actually faring relatively well, the only competition in Europe being French. Russia uses its expertise to establish build/own/operate programs for reactors all over Europe: two in Belarus at Ostrovets, one in Hungary at Paks, others in Bulgaria and Kaliningrad. Yet, once again it's facing trouble and a virulent opposition from the Baltic countries who are ostensibly hostile towards Russia. Russia’s position is weakening.

European reactions to these manoeuvres have been even more damaging to Russia's dominance. They have fuelled the project of a Common Energy policy, which first started after the gas crisis of 2009, but picked up after the Crimea crisis and the beginning of the war in Ukraine, as Europe, fearing a new gas shortage, united in support of the initiative. This Common Energy policy was recently approved, becoming the Energy Union, in February 2015. It aims at unifying the market, which is extremely threatening to Russia, and our interviews have pointed out that it worries the Kremlin's inner circle as it could mean a unified European opposition on the energy market, where European countries would be able to leverage Russia's co-dependency on the energy business. On the other hand, there are still

29 Leonard and Popescu (2007)

30 Leonard and Popescu (2007)

31 Kropatcheva (2011)

32 Leonard and Popescu (2007)

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bilateral deals foiling attempts to find a common solution, and several European countries are defending

bilateral deals foiling attempts to find a common solution, and several European countries are defending a position closer to Russia, which undermines the whole decision process. Furthermore, Russia is opposed by the Baltic countries, Poland, but also Bulgaria and Italy since the cancellation of the South Stream project 33 , which was supposed to reach Northern Italy through the Balkans. They have formed a coalition to oppose Russian within the EU institutions, despite Gazprom lobbying, gathering most of Eastern and Southern Europe, which proves to be a sizeable opposition. As evoked above, Europe has also been trying to solve the issue of “energy islands”, countries isolated from the European grid and market, with some success, strengthening the European market in the process. There are even some signs of active opposition, like the lawsuit that has been filed against Gazprom in Stockholm for violation of antitrust and monopoly regulations. Yet, despite these projects and initiatives, the European institutions are still divided, and a rift is forming between Germany and the opposition to the North Stream II project.

Has this strategy served Russia’s aims and objectives, in light of the European reactions? Definitely not. Not only has Russia been weakened by the recent crash of oil prices, but European countries and the EU have taken measures to weaken Russia's hold on European energy supply and strengthen Europe's energy supply, measures that have receive increased support, despite the divided EU institutions, because of the Crimean incident and subsequent Ukrainian civil war. This unfortunate combination has severely shaken Russia's hold on the energy sector. While it is still considerable, it is weakening, and as the situation continues to deteriorate, it is increasingly likely that Russia will lose its dominant position. This is essential to evaluate Russian influence: it is not only a matter of foreign influence, but also a prime domestic concern, as the State's budget is also heavily dependent on energy prices.

Section II - Russia’s Influence in Europe: Security and Defence Perspective

By Piret Kuusik

Based on our research and the following map, influence from Russia in security and defence realm is the strongest in the Eastern part of Europe. This is due to geographic proximity and historical experience of the region that make Russia’s threatening military behaviour a challenge. However, due to interconnected nature of European security through multilateral institutions such as the NATO and the EU, threats on the Eastern side of Europe own weight among the states in Western Europe as well.

In this short overview, we will first give a short introduction to Russia’s threatening military behaviour in the eastern border of Europe and in the cyber domain. Then, we will provide an overview of European reactions to Russia’s assertive behaviour. This allows us to conclude that in comparison to political and cultural influence, Russia’s use of hard power is not the most effective way for Russia to achieve its goals and increase its influence in Europe.

33 Siddi (2012)

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Figure 6 Russia’s assertive military behaviour In countries sharing their eastern border with Russia, Russia’s
Figure 6 Russia’s assertive military behaviour In countries sharing their eastern border with Russia, Russia’s

Figure 6 Russia’s assertive military behaviour

In countries sharing their eastern border with Russia, Russia’s threatening behaviour in security realm presents itself in two ways. One being frequent border infringements by sea or air and second are snap military exercises near Russia’s western border. Both methods have been described by analysts as dangerous games that may escalate quickly either deliberately or by mistake. Thomas Frear with his colleagues at the European Leadership Network has documented the close military encounters in the Eastern region between Russian and NATO forces 3435 . It is important to note that the Baltic countries and Finland have been experienced air border infringements since the 1990s. However, since 2014 there has been a significant increase in the number of infringements and unreported military aircraft flights in the international space. We believe it is important to note that increased military activities and tensions have been recorded in the Arctic region as well, however due to the focus of this paper and the extensive literature on this topic, we are excluding this from our analysis.

To be more specific in providing an overview of Russia’s military activities, we will bring few cases of Russia’s behaviour in the Baltic Sea region and on the Black Sea. Most Russia’s activities happen in the air. Russia’s military fighters, armed and unarmed, conduct unregistered flights in the international air space, sometimes flying also on the peripheries of national air spaces. These Russian planes usually have their responders switched off and they do not take up any contact with aviation forces on the ground. The most dangerous incident occurred in March 2014, where a civilian SAS passenger plane avoided a collision with a Russian air fighter in the international space. Since Russian fighters responders were

34 Frear, Kulesa and Kearns (2014) 35 Frear, Kulesa and Kearns (2015)

21

switched off, the collision was avoided merely by good visibility in the air 3 6

switched off, the collision was avoided merely by good visibility in the air 36 . Both on the Black Sea and Baltic Sea, Russian planes have conducted near by passes over USS Donald Cook on the Black Sea in 2014 37 and USS Ross 2015 38 and on the Baltic Sea near Poland in February 2016 39 . These incidents are an examples of high risk encounters that may escalate quickly. However, Thomas Frear stresses also that next to creating surprise and fear with such behaviour, these activities also aim to gather intelligence 40 .

Second example of Russia’s offensive military posture is its increased number of military exercises since 2014. Military exercises have instrumental value for intimidating neighbours. There are three elements, which support this point. First location and scenario, secondly the comprehensiveness of exercises and thirdly the secrecy and quick development of these exercises. Firstly, most of Russia’s military exercises have been taking place in the Western military district, which in the light of Russia’s military reform from 2008 has become the most capable and well prepared part of Russian military. Additionally, scenarios for exercises are often offensive in nature and targeted against real places such as Warsaw or Stockholm for example 41 . Second aspect causing uneasiness among European countries is the comprehensive nature of these military exercises. Namely, it is come to be regularity that Russia’s military exercises include Russia’s civilian state structures. Today, civil-military cooperation in Russia is at the level that Western countries can only dream of 42 . Thirdly, secrecy and quick start of these exercises have been called out by European states as going against the agreed conditions and rules of Vienna document 1999 that sets out the conditions for military activities in Europe. For example, the requirement to notify military activities and right to observe military exercises by outside parties 43 . Last year Russia had a “snap” drill involving 8000 soldiers in response to Norway’s “The Arctic Challenge” exercise. Whilst information about “The Arctic Challenge” was available already a year, there was no information provided by Russia about its exercise. Bringing together the examples of Russia’s military activities allows us to conclude that we have witnessed a drastic change in Russia’s security and military behaviour.

European reactions to Russia’s military posture

As we have admitted in the introduction, it is incredibly challenging to measure influence. However, we count some of the developments from 2014 onwards as been affected or caused by Russia’s assertive behaviour in security domain.

It is important to note that in analysing European security architecture, NATO is a key element. It entails US and therefore diffuses the specific focus of this study. However, it is a key platform for security matters in Europe and therefore for the purpose of this paper, we consider NATO as an one entity and will not look into the power dynamics between the US and European countries within the NATO.

Most relevant change we have witnessed due to Russia’s behaviour are developments within NATO. Some argue that NATO has regained its purpose after the end of Cold War. Practically

36 The Guardian (2014)
37

US Department of Defence (2014)
38

39 Borgen (2016)
40

41 Bugajski (2015)

42 Clark, Luik, Ramms, Shrieff (2016)

43 OSCE (1999) Vienna Document

USNI (2015)

Frear (2016)

22

speaking, Wales Summit in autumn 2014 was a key event where it was decided how

speaking, Wales Summit in autumn 2014 was a key event where it was decided how to react to Russia’s assertive behaviour. Firstly, Readiness Action Plan was agreed, whereby creation of easily moveable and rapid force unit was decided. In addition, it was agreed to organise more joint exercises and deploy NATO forces to countries sharing the eastern border with Russia. All this has been happening- NATO Response Force has been established and is currently being integrated into NATO’s structures. NATO has organised a number of land and air exercises in the Baltic countries and Poland and also a number of naval exercises on the Black Sea. Finally, currently there are US soldiers stationed in the Baltic countries and Poland on bilateral basis. However, NATO has declared that it is planning to establish a rotation of 4000- soldiers in the Baltic countries and Poland 44 .

Focusing specifically at Europe we have observed a shift in the policy discourse. Hard power, security and Russia are back in the policy agenda. Russian threat has become the forefront of national security discourse in countries sharing a border with Russia, however here we would also like to look at the reactions of some of the Western European countries.

UK in its recent “National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015:

A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom” talks about a potential state based threat, explicitly

focusing on Russia and Russia’s behaviour. It is clearly understood by the UK that Russia’s behaviour may be aggressive against Britain’s allies and thus may draw UK into a conflict 45 . Hereby, it is noteworthy to mention that UK is leading a NATO Joint Expeditionary Force, which includes Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 46 . Additionally, UK is taking part of the Northern Group, with Sweden, Finland and Poland to promote greater regional security. Additionally, UK is contributing to the Baltic Air Mission and has stationed a small number of troops in the Baltic countries and Poland. In the light of NATO Warsaw Summit this summer, UK has announced to send 5 ships to the Baltic Sea on 6- month rotational basis with NATO forces 47 .

Germany is torn between two extremes. On the one hand, it seems to understand the

necessity for improved military capabilities in facing Russia, on the other hand it is constrained by its domestic attitudes towards increased military capabilities. However, Germany is taking important steps further. In May, Germany announced a 7000 personnel increase of its troops first time since the Cold War and just recently Defence Minister of Germany asked for increase

in

defence budget 48 .

It

is also important to look at the reactions by Finland and Sweden. These two countries are

located in the Baltic Sea region and have been targets of Russia’s intimations. Additionally, both are members of the EU, but do not belong to NATO. NATO and countries in the region argue that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would strengthen the region’s security. Governments of both Sweden and Finland are weighing the options and both have set up institutions to deal with the issue. Public opinion on the other hand is mixed. In Sweden almost half of population favours NATO membership, whilst in Finland it has been around 27% 49 .

Bulgaria and Romania are ready to become more important players in Europe. In the security realm, they have been seeking to establish regional cooperation in a form of joint brigade with Ukraine and potentially also with Lithuania and Poland 50 . However, constraints are present.

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

Burns (2016)

Government of the UK (2015)

Ministry of Defence of the UK (2014)

MacAskill (2016)

Wagstyl (2016)

Braw (2015)

Adamowski (2016)

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Sofia has been more inclined towards Russia than Bucharest, however both countries have become an

Sofia has been more inclined towards Russia than Bucharest, however both countries have become an important part of NATO’s military buildup in eastern parts of Europe 51 .

Cyber warfare

by Ewen Fondrillon

Russia is one of the few countries possessing cyberwarfare and cybersecurity capabilities, as illustrated by several cyber attacks linked to Russian nationals, which in turn are believed to be backed by the Kremlin. Since 2008 cyber security has been an integral part of Russian defense doctrine and foreign policy 52 . We aim to explain how Russia's cyber capacities are part of its security strategy by looking at its impact on Europe and determining its success based and linking European reactions.

To begin with, there are several actors operating at once in cyberspace, and making clear distinctions between them is difficult. There are three types of actors, which have been accused of most cyber attacks conducted from Russia. However, there is no clear proof tying them to Kremlin. The first group is composed of criminal groups, such as the Russian Business Network believed to be tied to cyber attacks during the 2008 Russo-Georgian conflict or the Dukes. These groups rent out “bot-herds”, which allow them to flood targets with information, which then crashes websites and digital infrastructures. Estonia in 2007 is the most well- known case, but Poland and Ukraine have been targeted as well since 2015 through these networks. Independent hackers have also been tied to these groups. Their motivations are unclear, ranging from “patriotism”, to mere financial gains. These groups have been responsible for data thefts, phishing, and other criminal activities directly linked to financial profit, but attacks have also been conducted against foreign websites which does not fit with the financial motivation except if they have been hired to do it.

Second group are private legitimate actors, such as cybersecurity and software companies, like Kaspersky Lab, who notably produces antivirus softwares. Kaspersky has been tied to Kremlin through personal relations, as Eugene Kaspersky is a former KGB employee, and maintains ties with the Russian intelligence community. Finally, there is Russian State itself, who has made cyber warfare a focus of its defense doctrine since the early 2000s, integrating it in its national defence doctrine, developing cyber warfare capabilities, defending both public infrastructures and private actors, and promoting Russian position regarding the cyberspace at the international level. Russia has not signed the European Convention on Cybercrime of 2001 and refuses to cooperate with European countries on cyber security issues 53 . Russian state activities in internet are most visible in campaigns, flooding Internet-based media with comments ranging from disapproving but seemingly reasonable to outright propaganda. This type of information warfare has not been tied to the Russian state per se, but to “web brigades”, operating loosely under Kremlin supervision 5455 . Good example to illustrate their activities is the the case of the comment section of a British newspaper The Guardian in 2014. After events in Crimea, the newspaper online website became a subject to a large number of Russian comments, sometimes outright crashing the website and preventing debate and discussion.

51 Stratford (2016)

52 Giles (2012)

53 Smith (2012 )

54 Polyakova (2015)

55 Giles (2011)

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Cases of cyber-espionage or damage to physical and digital infrastructures is harder to evaluate. However,

Cases of cyber-espionage or damage to physical and digital infrastructures is harder to evaluate. However, there are worrisome cases to be kept in mind and that stress the importance of cyber resilience. For example, the shutdown of the German Bundestag’s IT- system last August, the crash of TV5 Monde in France in April 2015 and the recurring attacks against government websites of Poland and the Baltic countries. Moreover, also critical infrastructures have been successfully targeted in Ukraine and Poland. In December 2015, a power plant in Ivano-Frankivsk, Western Ukraine, was shut down, causing blackouts in the region, which can be accounted a first cyber attack successfully cutting off energy supply. Kiev's airport has also been victim of severe disruptions in January 2016 due to cyber attacks, which have been growing in frequency since 2014, as part of Russia’s hybrid strategy in Ukraine 5657 .

Since cyber attacks are becoming increasingly efficient affecting important targets, they have also prompted counter reactions from European countries. At the European level, there is an attempt to develop further a common cyber security strategy and linking institutions. ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security), founded in 2004, has received better attention and support in its activities. There has been a directive proposal that would make the creation of a Network Information Security agency mandatory for member states, as well as a Computer Emergency Response Team and the implementation of a national strategy and cooperation plan. This directive was voted in 2015, becoming the Network and Information Security Directive, a first step towards a common Cybersecurity directive at the European level.

Are Russia’s activities strategic or opportunistic? Hard power as a tool of influence?

In the previous parts, we gave an overview of Russia’s operational military activities near the Eastern borders of Europe and in cyber domain. Based on these evidences, we argue that Russia’s behaviour is more opportunistic than strategic by seeking out opportunities to intimidate and cause tensions. However, Russia’s intimidating military behaviour has proved not be the most effective tool to inject its influence and coerce European states to align with Russia.

Firstly, Russia is in its behaviour more opportunistic than strategic, since its intimidating behaviour seems to be reactive and depending on opportunities in hand 58 . For example, Russia’s aircrafts have intimidated US ships on the Black Sea, when they have been conducting NATO exercises. Additionally, the erratic nature of Russia’s own military exercises indicates that Russia does not have a calculated plan for its behaviour. However, this opportunistic behaviour is in line with Russia's increasing military and cyber capabilities and Russia’s hostility towards some European countries and hostile propaganda campaigns. Therefore, there cannot be a definitive answer to whether there is a coherent general strategy for Russia’s security behaviour, however emerging patterns confirm that Russia’s opportunism is guided by general strategic aims, which are well brought to together under the concept of hybrid strategy.

So, looking at the reactions by European states, has Russia’s intimidating military behaviour served the aims we identified at the beginning of this paper? Answer to this question is twofold. Essentially, Russia has intimidated the countries in the Baltic Sea region and the Black Sea region and has pointed out the miserable state of European security capabilities. Therefore,

56 Nocetti (2015)

57 Lanozska (2016)

58 Järvenpää (2016)

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serving its wish to be seen as a powerful country. However, the reaction that Russia’s

serving its wish to be seen as a powerful country. However, the reaction that Russia’s assertive military behaviour has received, has first changed West’s perception of today’s global order. It was assumed in Europe that hard power is reminiscent of the past 59 . It was believed that Russia was in the same side of the history and this has clearly not been the case. Russia’s activities challenge the current security architecture of Europe. Therefore, in the course of last two years NATO has increased its military presence in the Baltic states and on the Black Sea and in Europe in general. However from Russia’s point of view, this is countereffective, since it has brought NATO forces closer to its borders. Therefore, it allows us to conclude that hard power is not the most effective tool for projecting and inserting Russia’s influence in European countries.

However, Russia’s intimidating security posture has highlighted a key challenge, which does not only apply to security and defence. Namely, the continuous disunity and fragmentation among countries in Europe. It is a paradoxical phenomenon whereas Europe is the most integrated continent in the world, but at the same time collaborations on burning issues are proving to be a great challenge. Russia uses these disagreements for its own gains and in the next chapter we are going to illustrate just that point.

Section III Political and Cultural Perspective

By Kateryna Bakulina

Without a hesitation culturally Russia is part of the European civilization and its historic interconnectedness with the European countries is undeniable. Even in the present days of politically problematic relations, the Russian presence in the cultural life of Europe remains strong. The Russian Balls are being held regularly in the European capitals, Paris welcomes the new Orthodox Cathedral few steps away from the Eiffel Tower and the recent Cannes festival had Russia as one of the high liners. As said by the President of Diplomatic Academy of Vienna at the Moscow Ball held in Vienna in November 2015: “Despite the difficulties Russia-European cultural links are not vanishing and remain as one of the few effectively functioning diplomatic channels”. Given the historical links, the Russian cultural diplomacy functions both with and without support of the Russian state.

The present chapter takes a look on the state-supported cultural activities in Europe and tries to determine a degree of its intersection with the political influence. Traditionally this intersection is known as the ‘soft-power’, the term coined by Joseph Nye, describing state’s activities abroad designed to attract, rather than coerce sympathies. Since the outbreak of Ukrainian crisis it has become increasingly evident that the Russia’s political presence in Europe cannot be solely described by this classic term. Kremlin’s modern-day cultural and political influence is a combination of ‘soft-power’ and propaganda tools, which Russia uses to achieve more elaborated goals than simply ‘to attract’. Locked in a very inflexible geopolitical situation, Russia is currently spending a record share of its budget to be heard within European households through English speaking TV channels (also French, German,

59 U.S.-Central Europe Strategic Assessment Group (2015)

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Spanish, and Italian ones). However, Kremlin-sponsored media outlets are just the tip of the iceberg:

Spanish, and Italian ones). However, Kremlin-sponsored media outlets are just the tip of the iceberg: a complex mechanism with a wide range of sophisticated tools lies underneath the surface. In its first section, this chapter investigates Kremlin’s practices and instruments used to promote its political and cultural influence in Europe. Against this background, the second section analyses these tools highlighting their strategic use and overarching goals.

Cultural Diplomacy

The foundations of Russian cultural diplomacy can be traced back to the 1990s. Relying on the extensive experience of the Soviet Public Diplomacy, the Russian government adopted/elaborated the concept of Russkiy Mir (Russian World) and embedded it in various state institutions operating both domestically and abroad 60 . Judging just from the name, one can sense that the concept encompasses geographical and cultural conjunctions but at the same time does not cast strong affiliation with the state. The word Russkiy, instead of Rossiyskiy, has wider cultural connotations because it refers to a broader area, beyond the political borders of the Russian Federation: it highlights the common cultural bonds of the Slavic nations. Such an all-encompassing concept is intentionally used to appeal not only Near Abroad, which shares historical ties with Russia, but also anyone in the West who has an interest in Russian culture, regardless of the political standpoint.

The concept was institutionalised in 2007, through the foundation of the “Russkiy Mir Fund.” The Fund serves as an umbrella institution encompassing many other organisations spread throughout Europe and whose overall aim is the diffusion of the Russkiy Mir paradigm. These organisations do so in many different ways, including by promoting Russian language and culture, disseminating “unbiased” information about the country, creating favourable public opinion, and so on. The Fund supports them through the provision of grants, but it also has permanent branches abroad: currently, these are present in 21 EU Member States. The institutional structure of the branches varies depending on the host country; however, there are three main structures can be identified. In countries like Austria, Belgium, Italy, Finland, branches are located within universities and schools as “Russian Centres”; in Greece, they are independent entities carrying the parent organizations’ name; in the UK they are incorporated in different other organisations, which serve the goals of the Fund.

Another entity that promotes Russian culture abroad is the Rossostrudnichestvo. Unlike the Russkiy Mir Fund, the Rossostrudnichestvo is a federal agency that operates according to the government programmes. It implements projects designed to strengthen international relations, enhance cooperation in the humanitarian sphere and form a positive image of Russia abroad. Activities aim to contribute to overcoming cultural barriers, negative stereotypes and other barriers to the development of international cooperation 61 . Geographically agency’s activities are more concentrated in the Near Abroad, however are not limited to it. Currently in almost all EU member states (26 out of 28) there are representative offices of Rossostrudnichestvo. They operate as cultural embassies and have far more rigid structure than the one affiliated with the Russkiy Mir Fund. One of the examples of the agency’s programmes is holding years of Russia in hosting countries. The current year

60 Laruelle, M. (2015)

61 Rs.gov.ru. (2016)

27

is the year of Russia in Monaco, throughout which numerous cultural events, student exchanges and

is the year of Russia in Monaco, throughout which numerous cultural events, student exchanges and other activities took place in the principality.

The affiliated centres of the Russkiy Mir Fund as well as the representative offices of the Rossostrudnichestvo declare to evolve their actions exclusively around the cultural nexus. Therefore, degree of politicisation of their activities is a subject to a closer scrutiny. However, as noted by Peter Duncan and many others, “culture is always political.” Given that both organisations receive money directly from the Kremlin, they definitely serve political purposes.

Media

The second and currently most evident political instrument of exerting Russian influence in Europe is the use of international media outlets, such as Russia Today (RT), Sputnik and Russia Beyond Headlines. Whereas the latter ones are less known to the general public, RT has definitely gained its prominence over the last few years. As pointed out by Maragarita Simonyan, chief editor of Russia Today media holding, when the conflict in Georgia unfolded the Kremlin realised that despite Russia achieved its objectives in military terms, it had lost the war due to its inability to communicate the Russian perspective to the Western audience 62 . Hence, since 2008, RT has been flooded with public money to deliver the Russian standpoint internationally.

From the moment RT embarked on its mission, it has achieved undeniable results: today it is broadcasted in 100+ countries, in eight languages. Such success was achieved through a definite shift in strategy. RTs management realized that airing news about Russia to promote a positive image, had not brought desirable results because the audience has a very short attention span when it comes to ‘foreign’ news. Thus, instead of talking about Russian domestic affairs, RT decided to focus on international audiences’ own countries. “What makes as special is that the image and the message we show differ from the one you find at the BBC, Euronews or any other mainstream media- continues chief editor of RT -- We provide an alternative view”. Indeed, today RT is popular and even appreciated among Europeans for bringing up issues and voices left out by their mainstream media. Although some may advocate that bringing plurality to media space ultimately benefits the general public, it is important to analyse the content provided. As a matter of fact, if one takes a closer look at RT’s proposition, it becomes difficult to support that it is without bias.

RT does give a platform to those mostly excluded form the forefront discussions and sheds light on underreported issues. However, the calibre of those that the TV channel highlights is rather particular and the tone used appears somewhat “toxic.” To name few examples, the RT-UK gave platform for controversial producer Martin Durkin to crowdfund for the documentary advocating to leave in the upcoming Brexit vote, as well as the channel invited various members of UKIP to comment on the most controversial issues surrounding the campaign. When reporting the refugee crisis, RT repetitiously put together a sequences of contrasting images picturing welcoming Germans and rioting Hungarians complemented by comments form various underdog European politicians claiming that the European Union

62 Sobchak: Margarita Simonyan (2013) TV. Rain (Телеканал Дождь). 30 Oct.

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collapse was underway 6 3 . Even while reporting the tragedy of Paris attacks, RT

collapse was underway 63 . Even while reporting the tragedy of Paris attacks, RT International infused scepticism bent by connecting the attacks with Western governments’ responsibility in Syria 64 . In line with Russia’s domestic media dogma of pronounced anti-Western narratives, RTs’ input into the European media landscape attempts to compromise the effectiveness of European institutions and national governments.

As confirmed by Dr. Andrew Foxall of the Henry Jackson Society, since the annexation of Crimea RT has become increasingly heavy-handed. The channel was accused of propaganda and false reporting, which exposed it to serious dangers of losing broadcasting license in some countries. If the European media space is rightfully vulnerable to open propaganda, last years have shown that Kremlin’s media protagonists are not shun even of the blunt lies. In the midst of the refugee crisis, Russian state First Channel, which is also broadcasted around Europe in Russian and is a usual source of information for Russian immerge, aired a news report about Lisa, 13-year-old girl of Russian-German origin allegedly raped by three immigrants in Berlin. The news firstly caused massive mobilisation of Russian diaspora followed by the anti- Muslim activists and opponents of Merkel’s open door policy who went on the streets demanding explanations and actions from the German authorities. Despite, in a few days investigations concluded that the story was false, Russian domestic media and the First Channel International continued to report the story and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, even accused Germany of covering up the story. The so-called “Liza Affair” came out shortly before Germany held State elections and constitutes an evident attempt to galvanize strength of the Christian Democratic Party and the chancellor herself. This is one of the prominent examples of how the Kremlin uses its media web to shaken the stand of the

leading European political actors exploiting the most socially sensitive issues.

Religious Influence

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is a prominent and long-standing actor in

Russia’s social and political spheres and has influenced the country’s domestic and international affairs. The ROC, together with the Security Service, is the only institution that has survived the collapse of the Soviet Union. Evidence shows that during the Soviet era the ROC was subordinate to the decisions of the Communist Party and incorporated KGB officers into its operations 65 . In modern Russia, this link between the State and the ROC has not disappeared 66 .

Through its Department of External Church Relations, the ROC develops relations between local orthodox and non- orthodox Churches, religious communities, and international organizations, and it works in close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and Russia, regularly receives foreign Ambassadors to Russia and makes reciprocal visits abroad. These meetings evolve around the line of religious

63 Refugee crisis could lead to EU collapse, Luxembourg FM warns (2015) RT, 9 Nov.

64 Political author Gearoid O Colmain discusses the Paris attacks with RT International (2015) RT, 14 Nov.
65

66 Blitt (2011)

Armes (1993)

29

cooperation, but usually imply for a cooperation that goes beyond the spiritual domain; a cooperation

cooperation, but usually imply for a cooperation that goes beyond the spiritual domain; a cooperation between the two States.

ROC’s international objectives encompass the promotion and protection of Orthodox values as well as the defense of believers abroad. Such aims broadly coincide with Kremlin’s latest doctrine, which emphasises traditional values – overlapping with Orthodox ones – and the protection of Russian speakers in foreign countries. An example of such close cooperation between the Church and the State was the historical meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis, which took place in Cuba last February. According to sources close to the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin asked the Patriarch to meet with the Pope out of the foreign policy considerations.

Professor Soroka of Harvard University claims that, despite the close cooperation with the Kremlin, the ROC is an independent actor enjoying a relatively good/decent level of autonomy. It is very hard to establish the degree of ROC’s dependence on the Kremlin, as their partnership has many dimensions. The Ukrainian Crisis greatly undermined the synergy between the two. Being preoccupied for its community in Ukraine and other near abroad states, the Patriarch refrained from expressing support to the Kremlin’s recent foreign policy conduct. Thus, it is possible to suggest that rather than being an instrument available in the government arsenal, the ROC is a rightful partner, which Putin is able to leverage only when interests coincide.

In Europe, the ROC is present through affiliated churches and religious communities, and its degree of influence is proportional to the share of the Orthodox population. Thus the ROC exercises a significant influence in former Eastern Block states, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Currently, given the general paradigm of Russia’s exceptionalism, ROC’s presence in Europe serves similar objectives to those of Russian state media. Even before the Crimean debacle, the Russia establishment has started to increasingly emphasise on Russia’s cultural distinction from Europe and portray Russia a guardian of traditional values, that take their roots from the Christianity. Discussing the single-sex marriages, adoption rules, and the other private freedoms the Kremlin referencing the Orthodox values accuses Europe of downgrading the moral threshold. These narratives can be appealing to those living in Europe that share similar concerns. Thus, the presence of the ROC abroad reinforces Kremlin’s claims and serves as a stronghold for Russian immigrants and other believers who, irrespectively of their political views, find themselves closer to the traditional values.

Political Influence

Historically, Russia prefers to establish bilateral relations with its counterparts. As in the aftermath of the Ukrainian crises, the relations between the leading European powers and the Kremlin have tensed. Thus, Vladimir Putin has made a significant effort to build relations with Europe’s far-right and opposition parties across the continent. In March 2015, the Russian Government hosted the first Russian International Conservative Forum and it invited representatives from many of Europe’s most controversial parties. Among others participants

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included the European Alliance for Peace and Freedom, EIN ZWEI DREI of Germany, Italy’s Forza

included the European Alliance for Peace and Freedom, EIN ZWEI DREI of Germany, Italy’s Forza Nuova and many others who share nationalist stands and are saturated with Euro- scepticism. After days of discussions fuelled with nationalist statements, aspirations for traditionalist moral values, and criticism of the official European response to Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine, the forum concluded with a resolution to work in a close partnership to end the “Cold War” imposed on Russia and Europe by the United States 67 .

When it comes to exerting influence on European institutions (i.e. the European Commission), Russia acts through lobbying. The first time that Russia hired lobbying firms in the US and Europe was when Mr Putin became president of the G8 in 2006. In Europe, Russia and Russian state-owned oil companies are represented by one of the most powerful lobbying firm in Brussels, GPlus, which has many former EU representatives in its ranks. Hired to spread the Kremlin’s message and foster investments in GazProm, GPlus carries out standard lobbying practices such as organizing press-conferences, open tables, creating PR-strategies and liaising with the MEPs. Lobbying efforts succeeded in removing Gazprom form the EU sanctions list in 2014. However, according to the Corporate Europe Observatory report, such outcome is not solely a result of GPlus’s work: “Gazprom’s European partners, energy firms from Italy, France, and Germany, were involved in the lobbying 68 ”.

From the lobbying, the Kremlin has learned how to exploit European practices. A very telling recent example is the recent referendum held in the Netherlands. In April 2016 the Dutch held the plebiscite with regards to the Ukraine- European Union Association Agreement. Judging from the plea of European politicians advocating against the agreement and the arguments employed by the NO-campaigners there is a strong possibility of the Kremlin’s involvement. Vasyl Myroshnechenko, founder of the Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre, and the one responsible for supporting Ukrainian interests in the referendum has pointed to us that he is sure that the Kremlin has not missed an opportunity to undermine the European political cohesion and was participating in the funding NO-campaign. Although, this is yet to be confirmed by further investigations, Kremlin’s ties to the European far-right supports this assumption.

Strategic assessment

The instruments Kremlin uses to exert Russian cultural influence are strategic in nature because they have been established long before the current turn in the Russian- European relations and require long-term investments and infrastructure. These tools, i.e. state-run cultural centres, are not different from the ones adopted by other countries. Similarly, Germany has Goethe-Institut around the world, the UK hosts British Councils and France presents itself with French institutes. The practice of state-run cultural organisations is a truly Western tradition and the Russian practise does not deviate from it.

67 The International Russian Conservative Forum Resolution (2015) 68 Corporate European Observatory (2015)

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The picture changes when the political influence comes into the focus. Despite many of the

The picture changes when the political influence comes into the focus. Despite many of the interviewed experts suggest that Russia does not have a defined strategy of political influence in Europe, thorough look at the practice shows some distinct features that taken together account for a strategic practice. First of all, they have a common overarching goal, that will be further discussed in the following section; and, secondly, they all have one particular similarity which makes the Russian political influence in Europe enigmatic. Rather than creating own conduits of influence, the Kremlin exploits ascending opportunities. Through the state-owned media outlets, the Russian state manipulates the news, tainting the events of European political agenda. Referring to the classic propaganda methods such as taking quotes out of context, appeal to prejudice or even disinformation, the Kremlin reinforces possible political and social dissatisfaction of the European citizens, fuels Euro-scepticism and creates uncertainties. Similarly, rather than creating new political forces, the Kremlin co-opts the existing ones, making the partnership appealing by vocalising same conservative values and converging end goals 69 .

What are the goals?

It appears that Vladimir Putin has found the way to instrumentalise culture for the purposes of the foreign and domestic policies. Embedding its narratives in the Russkiy Mir paradigm and the values of the Orthodox Christianity, the Russian state presents itself as the last guard of the ‘true European values’, ensuring the massive public support domestically and the international appeal from those frustrated by the current problems in Europe. Russia’s political influence in Europe has several trajectories as it attributes to multiple layers of foreign policies and strategies. On one level, by promoting a different view of the European events through it’s the state-owned media, the Kremlin attempts to undermine social support and electoral base of the current European leaders; at the same using the same means the Kremlin wishes to distract from its own false and tries to create opinion among European public that indeed Europe suffers from the same illnesses as Russia. Establishing tight relationships, supporting and giving the platform to speak to the far- right and opposition parties, serves the same goals. Quite successfully, relying on the Russian support, the nationalist parties are regaining their popularity in many European countries, changing the agenda and course of actions. Not only the Kremlin tries to destabilize politics on the national level, it also wishes to ensure that on the supranational level the relations between Russia and Europe are not hijacked by either anti-Russian states (Baltic States) or those who have the least common interests with Russia (the UK).

69 Polyakova (2016)

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Conclusion: Russia’s influence -- for what goals? In order to provide an overview of Russia’s

Conclusion: Russia’s influence -- for what goals?

In order to provide an overview of Russia’s power in Europe we identified three domains that frame the objectives guiding the Kremlin’s policy towards the European Union : developing economic security through trade and cooperation, securing its borders through military activity, and developing cultural ties in order to promote Russia’s role as a great power on the world stage, one that cannot be ignored in a world where international relations are increasingly characterised by their multi-polarity.

Overall, Russia’s influence in Europe is declining. Precipitated by external shocks in global energy markets and economic sanctions from the EU the Russian government is faced with a domestic economic down-turn and an EU more able than ever before to mobilise support to block Russia’s diplomatic initiatives. The impact of the sanctions has affected Russia’s economic influence, which has soundly decreased over the past three years, due to both frozen economic relations and the lack of a cohesive strategy in an energy sector hurt by the oil price crisis.

The loss of traction in the economic domain is coupled with a growing ineffectiveness of Russian hard power. Increased NATO involvement and the ambition provided by the EU’s Common Security and Defence policy to guarantee military support in the Eastern and Nordic neighbourhood has neutralised Russia’s ability to coerce or intimidate states into providing strategic support. Unable to increase its influence through economic or military power, Russia is relying increasingly on soft power to advance its interests, using more unconventional ways, away from its traditional energy and security strategies, to influence Europe.

Possibly the most important manifestation of unconventional approaches is the national propaganda campaign launched by the Kremlin in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, using the portals provided by social media to ensure a transnational spill-over effect. Using its state- owned TV channels, Russia is penetrating Europe’s media space on a scale that is unprecedented in an attempt to undermine the credibility of European political leaders from liberal or centrist parties and to criticise the inefficiency of its decision-making structures. This reports also highlights the growing evidence that the Russian government is indirectly financing and supporting anti-establishment parties on both extremes of the political spectrum, whose moral values and sovereigntist policies coincide with those held by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. By granting support to a selection of parties, either through indirect funding, invitations to forums or the me positive portrayal in the media, the Kremlin is attempting to destabilize the European political agenda, in order to find an equilibrium that is more receptive to its policies. It remains to be seen whether Russia’s attempt to implicate itself within Europe’s civil society by sublimating an alternative vision of the world will be at all effective in influencing perceptions of its politics and cultural status. It seems more likely that Russian influence in Europe will only unfreeze once a more stable economic climate has set in both at home and abroad.

33

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