As Russia again mounts its military on Ukraine’s border, we’ve started to see some new talking points in the last few days that boil down to: Give Russia what it wants.

A thread.
While I (currently) have no reason to doubt the earnestness of those making these arguments, it is worth looking at how some of these pro-Russia talking points have been laundered into the mainstream. 2/
This is not to say these particular people did not arrive at their argument organically. I am not saying they are under Russian control or are Russian agents. But it is worth looking behind the curtain at steps Russia takes to help these arguments enter the mainstream. 3/
For example, according to this report from Estonian intelligence, the GRU (Russia’s military intelligence service) organized an academic conference in Athens, Greece in 2014. (👋waving hello to @IlvesToomas, my favorite Estonian!) 4/
You read that right, the GRU itself was behind the organization of the conference, but this fact was hidden (that is, it was a covert action). 5/
Here is a screenshot of the conference schedule. Topics to be discussed include: "Contemporary Threats and Challenges for Europe", "Economic Sanctions as a Foreign Policy Tool: Effectiveness and Economic Consequences" 6/
One speaker was Orthodox Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, who has spoken out against Ukraine. 7/
Another speaker was Vladimir Kozin, from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS). According to this Reuters report, RISS is a common place for former Russian intel officers to go after retirement. 8/…
According to Reuters, RISS also helped interfere in the US elections. This State Dept report says the "think tank" also interfered in Bulgarian elections.…’s-Disinformation-and-Propaganda-Ecosystem_08-04-20.pdf
They probably “helped” elsewhere, too. 9/
The Athens conference is particularly interesting, precisely because it is so mundane. While we tend to focus on the sexy ops—assassinations, bombings, amplification of anger through social media—these smaller influence ops are where a lot of the change comes from. Why? 10/
Because you are influencing the thinkers and the policymakers, so once they enter government and propose a policy (that is actually part of Russia’s agenda, not part of the person’s actual country’s agenda) it looks like it is coming from our own... 11/
...politician or our own thinker or policymaker, someone who is on our team. It adds legitimacy.

Now, compare this to the Hapsburg Group, which was created by Paul Manafort, who would go on to become campaign manager for Donald Trump. 12/
The Hapsburg Group was designed to sell a policy to the West using palatable messengers and to influence the West’s policies.… 13/
That is, he created a fake think tank with numerous Western policy makers who were already known, thus giving legitimacy to the think tank. But the sole purpose was to influence policy in a way that suited Russia. 14/
In setting up this fake think tank, Manafort and his cohorts even used spy-like language, as I wrote about here for @publicintegrity . 15/…

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More from @alexzfinley

23 Nov
Hey folks, check out my rack!
I'll be having a Black Friday sale on all titles sold through my aerio store.

Use the code BlackFriday2021 between Nov. 25 and Nov. 30 to get 20% off ALL TITLES in my shop.
Books include mine, of course, like Victor in the Rubble…
And Victor in the Jungle…
Read 6 tweets
23 Nov
It sure looks like something similar happened in Italy with the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, which claimed to support cultural&other exchanges between Italy & Russia. It was run by Gianluca Savoini, a consigliere to Matteo Salvini, head of the political party La Lega16/
Savoini is currently under investigation by Italian prosecutors after he was caught on tape allegedly negotiating an oil deal with Russians that would provide kickbacks to La Lega, just in time for EU parliamentary elections back in 2018. 17/…
What are some other cultural, academic, or business exchanges we’ve seen involving Russia? Well, this young lass comes to mind: Mariia Butina, who was convicted in 2018 of being a foreign agent and spent 18 months in prison in Virginia. 18/
Read 13 tweets
15 Dec 20
Finally getting a chance to read Bellingcat's investigation into FSB's attempted assassination of Navalny.…
This from the intro: "Moscow-based SC Signal – were shown to have been in close communication with GRU operatives linked to the two overseas assassination attempts using military-grade toxins. SC Signal, formally engaged in developing sports nutrition drinks"
I wonder if this inspired the "fitness vitamin salesmen" cover.
Read 9 tweets
15 Dec 20
It's time for a montage! A miserable Putin congratulates Biden. Let's start with the official story from Tass. You can't even blame outsiders for this one.…
Le Figaro, in France.…
El Pais, in Spain.…
Read 6 tweets

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