According to to the USAID, the Initiative CMKI is focused on opposing actions to "undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions, independent media outlets and energy and economic security in certain Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and Eastern European countries."
Russia has repeatedly denied such claims that Moscow allegedly meddles in other states' democratic processes. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has called them absolutely unfounded, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that no proof had been presented to substantiate these allegations.
Earl Rasmussen from the Eurasia Centre think-tank in Washington DC has shared his view on the new US initiative.
Sputnik: A new document focusing on the alleged Russian influence in European countries has been published. What is your take on the timing of these accusations, bearing in mind that Putin and Trump held a meeting last week in Osaka?
Earl Rasmussen: One should not think the timing is coincidental.
While, there has been much work behind the scenes to develop this hybrid approach, the release appears on the tail of fairly productive meetings between President Trump and other world leaders, specifically President Putin, and President Xi among others.
Release this approach along with funding creates a damper on the progress that may have been made and also further degrades the trust that is attempting to be developed between leaders.
Sputnik: While no Russian collusion was found by the Mueller probe, the US is now trying to ‘protect’ European allies from Russia. What are the possible reasons behind these concerns and why does the US want to spend money on these efforts?
Earl Rasmussen: Europe is facing many internal challenges in main part due to the massive immigration that has taken place resulting from “Regime Change” wars in the Middle East and Northern Africa region. (Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, etc.)
This has led to an internal upheaval with traditional political elites being challenged. We see some of this with tensions in Spain, government changes in Italy, loss of political support, and even the most recent EU elections.
Obviously, there needs to be a reason, other than reality, so Russia is the easy scapegoat despite no evidence.
Sputnik: According to the report, ‘USAID stands ready to assist partners in Europe and Eurasia to remove counter-productive restrictions on private enterprise and free-market operations, tackle pervasive corruption, increase integration with western economies and open up new markets for US businesses’. Despite these plans, we are now witnessing growing trade tensions between the EU and the US – take car tariffs as an example. Why is Washington’s rhetoric towards its EU partners so contradictory?
Earl Rasmussen: The US is seeking to develop and increase market share within Europe.
These actions or objectives have nothing to do with freedom and economic independence but rather to take anti-competitive actions and create economic benefits for US companies whether that is beneficial to Europe or not.
The steps appear to have the US set political, security, economic and energy policies for Europe rather than countries determining their own priorities.
Sputnik: The report also says that there are plans to ‘reduce dependence on Kremlin-controlled energy resources’. Does this mean that we will witness further pressure on Russian projects in the energy sector, for example, on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, despite continuing support for the pipeline from European countries?
Earl Rasmussen: The US is very much against Nord Stream 2.
The US would prefer to reduce European dependence on reliable and cost-effective Russian energy sources.
New markets are needed for the significant and uncompetitive LNG from the US and at the same time, there is a need to support Eastern European allies to ensure a continued flow of transit fees. This is not about energy security rather it is counter to energy security and attempts to have the US set Europe’s energy policy.
What needs to be considered is that if the US is successful, there will be a significant increase in energy costs to Europe both businesses and citizens.
This increase in costs potentially could result in increased manufacturing costs and hence reduce global competitiveness.
Sputnik: EU countries are also suffering economically from the sanctions imposed on Russia – ‘counterproductive’ US sanctions against Russia have cost German companies billions of euros in lost business opportunities, the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce reported recently. But the USAID document calls for ‘reducing dependency on Russia’. How could these policies affect the economic growth of Europe? Do you think that the main goal here is to just boost EU-US trade by marking cooperation with Russia as a threat?
Earl Rasmussen: As discussed previously regarding energy, this policy is not about economic growth for EU countries but about the market and economic influence of the US.
It would shut out potential lucrative markets from European countries and may hinder their role in the emerging One Belt One Road initiative of China’s.
These steps are counter-productive to Europe’s economic interest in the long term. Russia is a key economic partner to Europe and with significant potential.
This is even more so with the growing ties between Russia and China. Encouraging Russian cooperation and economic development is much more of strategic interest to Europe and one which promotes free trade and economic growth.
Sputnik: These efforts to ‘increase resilience of partner countries’ will also include ‘creating tools to tackle corrupt government practices that Kremlin agents often selectively exploit for Moscow’s strategic benefit and as part of this support’. USAID will also promote media-literacy programs that help citizens recognize Kremlin-driven disinformation efforts’ – the report states. How viable is this ‘Kremlin agents’ rhetoric?
Earl Rasmussen: These actions are part of the ongoing manipulation of the public and western propaganda.
Moreover, the information or rather disinformation campaign attempt to promote a single perspective that is completely counter to freedom of the press.
Let’s not ignore past efforts such as Operation Mockingbird or Operation Gladio which were used to control perspectives both internally and abroad, more recent activities such as the persecution of Mr. Assange, or the acknowledge complicity of major western news media to obtain approval for stories and ensure the right perspective.
Media control is important to any disinformation campaign but it undercuts the foundations of Democracy.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Earl Rasmussen and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.