Agents of the Russian World: Proxi Groups in the Contested Neighbourhood

On the 31st of May 2016 in Brussels, Member of the European Parliament Anna Fotyga from European Conservatives and Reformists Group hosted the report presentation by Orysia Lutsevych “Agents of the Russian World: Proxi Groups in the Contested Neighbourhood”. The full version of the report is available here.

Expert of the Chantham House and Manager of the Ukraine Forum, Russia and Eurasia Program Orysia Lutsevych presented her research on Kremlin proxy groups, developed to support its foreign policy objectives. This network of pro-Kremlin groups promotes the Russian World (Russkiy Mir), a flexible tool that justifies increasing Russian actions in the post-Soviet space and beyond. Russian groups are particularly active in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova – countries that have declared their intention to integrate with the West.

In her presentation the author addressed the four main groups: major state-affiliated grant-making foundations, think tanks, the groups that are affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church as well as the pro-Russian oligarchs who support private charities or paramilitary groups.

Orysia Lutsevych elaborated on the actual activities of these proxy groups. Thus, Russian pseudo-NGOs undermine the social cohesion of neighbouring states through the consolidation of pro-Russian forces and ethno-geopolitics; they promote anti-US, conservative Orthodox and Eurasianist values. They can also establish alternative discourses to confuse decision-making where it is required, and act as destabilizing forces by uniting paramilitary groups and spreading aggressive propaganda. These groups are voices of the propaganda, creating its messages and content. In a peaceful time, they form the identity of the Russian world, selling the narrative, that countries of the neighborhood are unable to adopt to the European values.

Interestingly, Russia employs a vocabulary of ‘soft power’ to disguise its ‘soft coercion’ efforts aimed at retaining regional supremacy. Such terms as “human rights protection” and “self-determination of national minorities” are abused to promote “hard power” ideas.