Home Politics Russia Pushes Long-Term Influence Operations Aimed at the U.S. and Europe

Russia Pushes Long-Term Influence Operations Aimed at the U.S. and Europe

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Russia Pushes Long-Term Influence Operations Aimed at the U.S. and Europe

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The declassified intelligence analysis said the F.S.B. had helped fund Creative Diplomacy and that it was a “grooming campaign” that Russian intelligence operatives used to build up a network of “future Western influencers” who the F.S.B. hoped would develop into Kremlin supporters.

The F.S.B. has tracked the activities of Creative Diplomacy’s alumni, some of whom have gone on to publish pro-Russia articles, the American officials said. While Ms. Burlinova has denied any ties to the Russian government, the U.S. intelligence disputed that claim.

One of the participants in Creative Diplomacy, an American who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said if he had known the program’s connections to Russian intelligence, he would not have participated. Still, he said he did not regret attending the program because it gave him a chance to speak to and question Russian officials he would not have met.

The pro-Russia slant of the program was no different than public diplomacy programs in other countries, he said, and some participants left with a worse — not better — opinion of Russia. The participant said he was not surprised to learn Ms. Burlinova was working with the F.S.B. But if the program was a Russian intelligence operation, he said, there was little for the U.S. government to be concerned about, given its ineffectiveness.

The declassified analysis singles out three others: Andrey Stepanenko, who worked for the F.S.B. from 2014 to 2019; Maksim Grigoryev, the director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy, an organization the U.S. analysis says has spread anti-Ukrainian narratives on behalf of the Kremlin; and Anton Tsvetkov, the head of a group called Officers of Russia. The U.S. officials said Mr. Tsvetkov, at the direction of Russian intelligence, organized protests in Moscow, including one outside the U.S. Embassy.

Mr. Tsvetkov, at the behest of Russian intelligence, also organized protests against Bard College in New York State and its partnership with a St. Petersburg college; those actions eventually led to the New York school being banned in Russia by the Kremlin, which was fearful of Western influence on Russian universities. Since then, the intelligence analysis said, Mr. Tsvetkov has organized anti-Ukraine protests throughout 2022 outside various Western embassies in Russia.

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