19 August 2016

Welcome to illiberal democracy

Co-authored by Anton Shekhovtsov and Peter Pomerantsev

One after another the narratives that prop up belief in western liberal democracy have fallen. Ideal financial system? Not after the 2008 crisis and the euro. Military superiority? Iraq and Afghanistan have put an end to that. Effective politics? See gridlock in Washington DC and arm-twisting in Brussels.

Now the final, perhaps most fundamental, narrative risks unravelling. The supremacy of liberal democracy is rooted in the triumph of 1989: the liberation of Central Europe from the Kremlin’s authoritarianism; Václav Havel emerging from prison to become President in Prague Castle; the successful transition to democracy via European Union membership and the security blanket of NATO. The latter process was particularly important for the post-socialist states. Already in the 1990s, the prospect of the EU membership served as an impetus for reform of inefficient economies and dysfunctional political systems. At the same time, NATO provided security guarantees to the new democratising societies in Central and Eastern Europe that witnessed Russian destabilising activities in Moldova and Georgia in 1992—activities that resulted in the infringement of territorial integrity and dramatically hampered democratisation in these post-Soviet states.

17 August 2016

The alleged terrorist plot in Crimea may be a Russian psyop

Early in the morning on the 7th of August, Russian border guards closed all the security checkpoints on the border between Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in March 2014, and the rest of Ukraine. Witnesses reported the sounds of shots fired near the administrative border. The Russians re-opened the security checkpoints later but offered no official explanation as to the reasons of their closure in the first place. Some Russian media and bloggers claimed that there had been a fire-fight between Ukrainian “intruders” and Russian personnel; the alleged fire-fight had ended with one Russian killed and three wounded.

Since the closure of the border on the 7th of August, witnesses reported an increased military presence in Crimean towns and villages, while checkpoints were set up along major Crimean roads. It looked like the Russian servicemen were looking for someone.

FSB as part of Russia's occupation army in Crimea

15 August 2016

The Far Right Front of Russian Active Measures in Europe

The relations between Russia and the European far right is not a new phenomenon, but they acquired particular salience in the recent few years, especially after the Russian annexation of Crimea and the start of the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine.

Tactical collaboration with the European, especially German, extreme right characterised even the Cold War period of Russian history despite the horrors of the Second World War and the Soviet Union’s official condemnation of fascism. One example of Soviet collaboration with the German extreme right is the Soviet financial support for the extreme right neutralist movement in West Germany in the beginning of the 1950s. That period was marked by the beginning of the Cold War, and, in its struggle against the West, the Soviets employed a broad range of what they called “active measures” – actions comprising of establishing espionage rings in Western societies, spreading disinformation among Western publics, buying political influence, supporting socialist and communist parties, infiltrating Western peace movements, etc. The beginning of the 1950s was also a period in which West German political elites discussed a prospect of their country joining NATO. The Soviets opposed such a development and supported not only left-wing organisations in West Germany, but also extreme right neutralist movements that also opposed NATO membership.