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In light of the release of an interim report by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on its activities under the Counter Malign Kremlin Influence (CMKI) program, the German Marshall Fund of the United States conducted on Tuesday, December 15, an online round table on countering Moscow’s influence.
The Kremlin Malicious Influence Program was launched in July 2019 and aims to counter and mitigate Russia’s efforts to undermine democracy in Europe and Eurasia, increasing their economic and democratic resilience..
Brock Bierman, USAID Assistant Head for Europe and Eurasia, noted that the agency’s activities are focused on maintaining democratic institutions and the rule of law, combating information manipulation, and reducing the energy and economic vulnerability of the Kremlin’s partner countries..
“Throughout Eastern Europe and Eurasia, democracy is under attack. As these countries continue to work hard on democratic and economic reforms, President Vladimir Putin and his allies are working to undermine their progress, Birman said during the discussion. – Putin’s approach to development is a dead end, tied to the desire to reclaim Russia’s sphere of influence. “Managed democracy” that Putin allows is nothing more than an authoritarian attempt to disguise control of the democratic façade. “.
At the same time, the assistant to the head of USAID emphasizes that the agency’s activities are not directed against Russia or the Russian people, but only against the subversive activities of the Kremlin: “This is about opposing the authoritarian approach. We are not talking about Russia or the Russian people. We strive to cooperate with Russia. We strive to take advantage of opportunities and advantages in areas where we can work together and find common ground. “.
In Ukraine, some of USAID’s key projects are aimed at countering Russian disinformation and ensuring the security of elections, said James Hope, USAID Office Director in Kiev. Today, there are a number of media outlets in the country that are in the hands of oligarchs associated with the Kremlin, and on these channels,
delusion and often blatantly false narratives about Ukraine, “added the American official.
“Their goal is to sow distrust and skepticism in the information space, undermine trust in the current government and undermine national unity and identity,” Hope said during the discussion. – These channels regularly broadcast pro-Kremlin content and, in particular, recently pushed the Ukrainian government to introduce a Russian vaccine against COVID-19 in the country. And, as we all know, such media not only serve as a mouthpiece for pro-Russian agents and politicians, but also spread lies and conspiracies created by trolls and bots. “.
The Ukrainian office of USAID is working in the country to increase the amount of quality and independent information and improve media literacy, including in cooperation with the State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company of Ukraine. The American agency also supports organizations that help identify fake accounts spreading disinformation on social media, and funded the installation of TV transmitters along the contact line for broadcasting programs in the part of the country not controlled by Ukraine, noted James Hope..
Assists the United States and the Central Election Commission of Ukraine to strengthen the country’s electoral system from potential interference and cyber attacks, added the USAID representative.
The agency’s representative office in Moldova, among other things, conducts programs to strengthen the country’s economic independence, working with entrepreneurs and companies to develop trade relations with Europe, said Scott Hocklander, USAID’s Moldovan office director. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, projects are being developed, including those to reduce the country’s energy dependence on the Kremlin.
“Russia provides one hundred percent of the country’s natural gas needs and also owns the only refineries in the country,” said Nancy Eslick, Mission Director in Bosnia and Herzegovina..
Mark Green, executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and former head of USAID, said that the Kremlin’s Malicious Influence Program is credited with recognizing that the tactics and tools emanating from the Kremlin are evolving every day. Mark Green, McCain Institute for International Leadership). He added that today, to such concepts in foreign policy as “hard” and “soft” power, it is necessary to add the definition of the so-called “sharp” power, which in English is also synonymous with “fraudulent” power..
The latter is an activity aimed at undermining democracies by weakening their social contract, trust in democratic institutions and economic independence. The Kremlin’s activities can be characterized precisely as such a “sharp force”, says Green..
Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow (UNESCO/NHK)
Brookings Institution expert and former White House adviser in the Trump administration for Europe and Russia Fiona Hill (Brookings Institution) emphasizes that countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, the Balkan countries or the South Caucasus have become a training ground for the Kremlin in his subversive activities, and the United States did not realize for a long time that the same tactics could be used against them.
“2016 and the Kremlin-sponsored meddling in the US presidential race, I think, woke us all up and we realized that our own democracy could
be attacked, ”Hill said. Today, there is no doubt that the Kremlin’s subversion has become a threat to US national security, the Brookings Institution expert added..
Russia continues to deny Western accusations that it is trying to influence democratic processes in other countries or in any other way conducts subversive activities to weaken these countries..
Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington DC and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Interior Ministry. Interests – international relations, politics, economics