This is the second time it has happened. The US has released sensitive intelligence data on Russia in the hope of stopping Putin in his tracks.
The first time was seven months ago, when the US declassified intelligence about the impending Russian attack on the Ukraine. This time it’s about the $300 million spent by Russia to subvert Western politics since 2014.
That sum looks fairly impressive but, according to US sources, it’s merely the first tranche. Hundreds of millions more will soon enter the pipeline pumping blood money into the coffers of Western political parties, think tanks, individual politicians and opinion-formers.
What’s telling here isn’t just the nature of the released intelligence, but the very fact that the US has indeed chosen to release it. By and large the Americans have always tended to reserve embarrassing information about Russia strictly for internal use. Now they’ve decided they can make more hay by shouting “We’re on to you!”
Some facts remain under wraps. For example, it would be interesting to know the specific recipients of Putin’s largesse. As it is, we can only guess, but the guesses are certainly educated.
Combining the forensic principle of cui bono with the biblical “by their fruits ye shall know them”, we can pinpoint the greased palms with a reasonable degree of accuracy. We can also finally ditch the meaningless and misleading political labels of ‘Right’ and ‘Left’.
All Western extremists, whatever tag is affixed to them in the media, are united in their hostility to the West – and hence in the need to look for powerful backers whose hostility is as deep as theirs, but whose pockets are deeper.
Evil gravitates towards evil, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s tinged red, black or brown. Hitler and Stalin eventually fell out, but privately they both expressed mutual admiration. They knew they had more in common with each other than either had with the West.
I’m sure the same realisation – and their shared affection for Putin’s rouble – binds Le Pen’s neo-fascists and Mélenchon’s Trotskyists in France. The former received an $11 million loan from Russia in 2014 and immediately supported the annexation of the Crimea. As for the ensuing Western sanctions, Le Pen pledged: “[If elected] I would envisage lifting the sanctions quite quickly.”
Is Mélenchon just a poor boy with his nose pressed to the shop window where such goodies are on display? I find that hard to believe, especially considering that European Left extremists are matching their Right twins in their quest to become Putin’s clients.
Germany’s Die Linke, the Polish Democratic Left Alliance, the Communist Party of Greece and her governing party Syriza, Spain’s Pedemos party, Hungary’s Jobbik are all fervent, and I suspect not disinterested, friends of Putin.
The European Parliament has had a pro-Putin faction since 2015. Called at the time Europe of Nations and Freedom, it was led by Le Pen and Marcel de Graff of the Dutch Party for Freedom. Since then it has reinvented itself as the Identity and Democracy Group, but its sympathies remain the same.
Extremist parties of every hue are gaining traction all over Europe, and every one of them has Putin’s Botoxed mug on its banners. Some of that $300 million must have added a touch of pragmatism to their heartfelt love of a kindred spirit.
Two of those parties are about to gain power in Italy, a key Nato member, and Sweden, an aspiring one. Both are supporters of Putin and his on-going bandit raid.
In Germany, the extremist Alternative für Deutschland party is so fervently pro-Putin that it’s hard not to detect at least some pecuniary interest. But both the Christian Democrats (‘right-wing’) and the Social Democrats (‘left-wing’) are tainted too.
In their case it probably wasn’t cash on the nail but more subtle emoluments. Those mainstream parties saw a clear political profit in procuring cheap Russian energy. That conferred lustre on their leaders, improving their electoral chances.
This explains Germany’s frankly pro-Putin course under both Schröder (SD) and Merkel (CD). But let’s not discount the more basic motives either.
After the end of his tenure, Schröder has made untold millions in the employ of Rosneft and Gazprom. Would it be far-fetched to suggest that a million or two might have crossed his palm even earlier?
Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, inherited such policies. That’s why, when Putin launched his bandit raid, Germany not only was slow in offering assistance to the Ukraine, but did her utmost to sabotage the supplies provided by other Western countries.
However, yesterday Scholz demanded a cease-fire and a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukraine. That’s fighting talk, but it remains to be seen whether it will be backed up by tangible assistance. One thing for sure – Putin’s client groups in Germany, such as the AfD, will intensify their sabotage to offset the seeming change of Scholz’s heart.
Closer to home, Britain has hardly covered herself with glory. The country has been the staunchest supporter of the Ukraine since the bandit raid began. That redeems many sins, but make no mistake about it: many sins were committed.
It’s a source of national shame that Britain has turned London into Londongrad, a giant laundromat for purloined Russian billions, hundreds of them. Such sums buy political influence, and many British politicians, especially but not only Tories, have accepted contributions in cold Russian cash.
For example, Yevgeny Lebedev, wined and dined Tory politicians with such open-hearted generosity that Boris Johnson made him a peer of the realm. The money for that generosity came from Yevgeny’s father Alexander, a career KGB officer who had bought two British newspapers – and by the looks of it a few British politicians – with the KGB funds purloined from the Russian people.
The Westminster Russia Forum, a Tory think tank, né the Conservative Friends of Russia, was still calling for trying to understand Putin’s concerns the day the bandit raid started. How many roubles had flown into their coffers as either financing or direct bribes? I don’t know. But it would take an exaggerated faith in human goodness to believe that none had.
Russian ‘oligarchs’ used their ill-gotten funds to turn themselves into barnacles attaching to British causes. For example, Putin’s close associate Sergei Yastrzhembsky bankrolled a group lobbying against the ban on big-time hunting.
More worryingly, many Putinversteheren are found within the ranks of Ukip and other anti-EU groups. A few years ago I ill-advisedly accepted an invitation to speak at a conference of one of them, not realising it was both neo-fascist and pro-Putin.
The Brexit cause attracted many activists whose sympathies naturally lay with Putin. Were their hearts made slightly warmer by a few donations? I don’t know. But that $300 million had to go somewhere.
In 2014, Nigel Farage, who then led Ukip, unhesitatingly named Putin as the world leader he admired most, especially for the “brilliant” way “he handled the whole Syria thing.” That was before Putin’s fascists levelled Aleppo, one of the world’s oldest cities, but I’m sure such little incidentals wouldn’t have dampened Farage’s admiration.
Does he also admire the brilliant way Putin handles the whole Ukraine thing, especially the deliberate and indiscriminate bombing of residential areas? I don’t know, but I don’t see why not.
In 2015, after the occupation of the Crimea, Diane James, Farage’s successor, praised Putin’s “nationalism” and expressed her overall admiration. Thus the good cause of British sovereignty I myself support has attracted admirers of (and collaborators with?) the most dangerous fascist regime since Hitler’s.
Were such groups funded by the Kremlin? Possibly. Probably. But even if they never received any direct backhanders, enough of Putin’s manure was spread around to fertilise the soil where such views could be expressed openly by otherwise respectable figures.
And quite a few unrespectable ones as well. For example, Jeremy Corbyn, recent leader of the Labour Party, Seumas Milne, his chief advisor and George Galloway, the former Left-wing MP, are known Putin stooges.
They advertised the Russian propaganda outlets, RT and Sputnik, which Corbyn described as “more objective” than most. And they vigorously campaigned against the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine.
Some of our journalists are still acting as loudspeakers for Kremlin propaganda. I’m sure that not all of them are bribed to do so. But I’m equally sure that some are. With a rain of gold coming down, it’s against human nature not to open one’s hands.
Since the sadistic, genocidal nature of Putin’s bandit raid became known, expressing open sympathies for the ‘special operation’ has lost whatever street cred it ever had. Also, some purveyors of Russian cash have found themselves under sanctions, and some of their funds have got impounded.
But that has only happened in the past seven months. The newsworthy $300 million have been spent over the past eight years, and judging by the events spaced along that timeline, the money has been spent well.