Inside Putin’s East European Spy Campaign

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On Sept. 8, 2012, the Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky participated in the opening of a Russian nationalist organization called the Izborsky Club in the monastery town of Pskov, just across the border from Estonia. His speech itself was not particularly memorable, but the Russian official’s presence at the affair was not lost on the Estonian Internal Security Service, which believes the club’s imperialist message and outreach to ethnic Russians across the border are part of an anti-Estonian influence operation run by Moscow.

The head of the club, Aleksandr Prokhanov, seemed to confirm the Estonian suspicions later that month when he declared, “Our club is a laboratory, where the ideology of the Russian state is being developed. It is an institute where the concept of a breakthrough is created; it is a military workshop, where an ideological weapon is being forged that will be sent straight into battle.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has many such weapons in his irredentist arsenal. The rapid collapse of the pro-Moscow government of Victor Yanukovich in Ukraine brought some of them, like paramilitary force, to the attention of the western public. But Putin’s efforts across the region have been far more systematic and carefully thought out than the recent chaos in Ukraine suggests. Over the last decade, Putin has established a well-organized, well-funded and often subtle overt and covert operation in the vast swath of neighboring countries, from Estonia on the Baltic Sea to Azerbaijan in the Caucuses, say western and regional government officials. “He’s implementing a plan that he’s had all along,” says Clifford Gaddy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution..

Read more: http://time.com/90752/inside-putins-east-european-spy-campaign/