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Research Report

THE KREMLIN’S TROJAN HORSES: Russian Influence in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom

Alina Polyakova
Marlene Laruelle
Stefan Meister
Neil Barnett
Foreword by Radosław Sikorski
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2016
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 31
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)
    Radosław Sikorski

    In 2014, Russia seized Crimea through military force. With this act, the Kremlin redrew the political map of Europe and upended the rules of the acknowledged international order. Despite the threat Russia’s revanchist policies pose to European stability and established international law, some European politicians, experts, and civic groups have expressed support for—or sympathy with—the Kremlin’s actions. These allies represent a diverse network of political influence reaching deep into Europe’s core.

    The Kremlin uses these Trojan horses to destabilize European politics so efficiently, that even Russia’s limited might could become a decisive factor in matters of European and...

  2. (pp. 3-5)
    Alina Polyakova

    Under President Vladimir Putin, the Russian government has reinvigorated its efforts to influence European politics and policy.¹ The Kremlin’s strategy of influence includes a broad array of tools: disinformation campaigns, the export of corruption and kleptocratic networks, economic pressures in the energy sector, and the cultivation of a network of political allies in European democracies. The ultimate aim of this strategy is to sow discord among European Union (EU) member states, destabilize European polities, and undermine Western liberal values—democracy, freedom of expression, and transparency—which the regime interprets as a threat to its own grasp on power. ²


  3. (pp. 7-11)
    Marlene Laruelle

    France is currently being shaken by a deep political crisis, which seems to have its origins in France’s slow recovery after the economic crisis and is characterized by low voter turnout in elections, rising public distrust toward institutions and politicians, emergence of antiestablishment parties, and tensions around issues of national identity and terrorism. In this context, the rise of the far-right populist Front National (National Front, FN) is transforming France’s political landscape. The party’s leader and daughter of its founder, Marine Le Pen, has modernized the FN’s nationalist narrative and broadened the party’s appeal by whitewashing its public image of...

  4. (pp. 12-17)
    Stefan Meister

    The annexation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine were a reality check for Germany’s Russia policy. While in the past there was a special relationship between Moscow and Berlin with hopes to change Russia through dialogue and growing economic and social interdependence, Russian aggression in Ukraine resulted in a fundamental loss of trust. The Russian disinformation campaign in Germany combined with the support for populist parties and movements marks a further stage in the degradation of the relationship. The leading role of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Ukraine crisis, particularly her consequent support for EU sanctions on...

  5. (pp. 18-23)
    Neil Barnett

    The United Kingdom (UK) is less vulnerable than most European states to Russian subversion and penetration. It lacks a common Slavic or Orthodox heritage with Russia, it has no legacy of communist rule, and its population has traditionally been uninterested in extremism of the left or right. In addition, there is a deep-seated wariness of Russia in British government institutions and in society at large, owing to the memory of imperial rivalry in Central Asia and to decades of military, intelligence, and political confrontation in the Cold War. Recent Russian actions, such as the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, allegedly...

  6. (pp. 24-25)

    Russia’s network of influence has reached far beyond the vulnerable states of post-socialist Europe. Western countries and political leaders are not immune from the Kremlin’s efforts. While there is no single formula for how Russia seeks to exert and project its power in Europe’s core, the goal of the Trojan Horse strategy is the same: to build a web of allied political leaders and parties who will legitimize Russia’s aims to destabilize European unity and undermine European values. Ironically, while the Ukraine crisis has united Europe and the United States around a cohesive sanctions policy on Russia, it has also...