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But the Russians are beginning to do this on an industrial scale.
Germany even has a neologism for talking heads explaining Russia in an overly friendly fashion: Russlandversteher, “those who understand Russia”.
Along with assorted MEPs and eurocrats, the list of speakers at Tatjana Zdanoka’s Cold War conference included Russia’s deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, the European representative of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, and the deputy director of the Fund for the Legal Protection and Support of Russian Federation Compatriots Living Abroad.
The Russkyi Mir Foundation, established by the Russian government in 2007 to promote Russian language and culture abroad, gives grants and organises conferences and events.
That, Lithuanian decision-makers say, is happening in their country as it attempts to lessen its dependence on Russian energy.
“When we were deciding whether to build a power plant [in 2012], they tried to turn the public opinion against it”, says Rasa Jukneviciene, a member of the Lithuanian parliament’s security and defence committee and a former defence minister.
A senior European intelligence official estimates that intelligence agency employees now account for one third of Russia’s diplomats.
Of course, after the Cold War, espionage never completely ceased.
“Not every radical group in Lithuania is connected to Russian intelligence services, but the Russians are taking advantage of them”, notes Jukneviciene.Yet the allegations point to the new – or revived – espionage game that is now playing out in Europe.Intelligence agencies everywhere are upping their games, with Western agencies putting particular efforts into data collection – “snooping”.They often feature the same pro-Russian speakers, including a former Russian cabinet minister, who was barred from entering Estonia earlier this year.Identifying too many people wrongly as spooks because their views coincide with Mocow’s is itself dangerous.
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Even more ambitiously, Russia has successfully reintroduced the Soviet practice of so-called ‘influence operations’, which feature Westerners and Russians expats doing Moscow’s bidding.