Russia's hybrid tools of influence: "Dialogue of Сivilizations" as cover
One of the Russian organizations worth attention in the said context is "Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute."
Officially, this "international independent non-governmental organization" declares its objective the research of international relations and raising the level of international security "by developing recommendations in the field of countering the development of conflicts and reducing global tensions," Information Resistance reports.
But, as it is often the case with Russian agents, such declarations have quite different actual goals and employ corresponding hybrid methods, namely, shifting attention away from Russian aggressive actions and imperial ambitions toward the U.S. behavior, at the same time declaring Moscow's "peaceful" intentions. Sadly, a number of European politicians, businessmen, scientists, and other advocates of Russia take part in these efforts.
One of the organization's leaders is former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer who "surfaced" in the case of Paul Manafort, a scandalous political technologist who was once an advisor to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his team.
On Oct 5-6 this year, the organization will hold an annual "Rhodes Forum" under the slogan "Work on Multilateralism: Strengthening Dialogue on Peace, Security and Development." Its main speakers will be former Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor of Germany Fischer, former Prime Minister of France Villepin, former Prime Minister of Israel Olmert, and from the Russian side there will be Deputy Foreign Minister Lavrov and other representatives of Russian political elite.
As an official cover, representatives of international organizations, mass media, and research centers of America, Europe and Asia take part in DC activities. Officially DC cooperates with UNESCO, the League of Arab States, the Asia-European Foundation and other non-governmental organizations. The official goal of the "Dialogue of Civilizations" is "the study of world development and security."
In fact, the main ideology of the DC is to shift the responsibility of the Kremlin for the numerous crises connected with ISIS, international terrorism, mass migration, on the so-called "collective West", primarily the U.S. and the European Union. Since the annexation of the Crimea and Russian invasion of Donbas, the DC has been actively promoting the "alternative worldview" that is beneficial for the Kremlin, trying to "legalize" the steps of the Russian government.
It is noteworthy that the well-known friend of Putin, Czech President Milos Zeman, took part in the 2014 forum, condemning the anti-Russian sanctions and comparing the war in Ukraine with the "flu that will pass soon."
In 2015, the forum in Rhodes was dedicated to hybrid wars with an emphasis on "hybrid threats and subversive activities of the United States." In the interests of the Kremlin, attention was deflected once again from Russia's aggression in Ukraine and other areas of Russia's imperial interests.
Forum in 2016 was marked by the presence of a massive delegation of so-called Eurosceptics. Among them were the pro-Russian head of the Czech Republic Zeman, former head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn, prime minister of Hungary, Putin's friend Orban, and others.
In 2017, during the Rhodes Forum, the so-called "Leaders Club" was launched as an informal summit of former heads of states and governments. The main task was to create groups of influence in a number of conflict zones.
The council of heads of the organization now includes, besides Gusenbauer, a Russian oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, a Greek businessman from the United States Nicolas Papanicolaou.
As for financing, the DC does not receive funds from the Russian state budget, drawing funding from the Swiss fund Endowment for the World Public Forum (Dialogue of Civilizations), membership fees and private donations, which remain closed to the public eye.
At a conference held in the Vienna Diplomatic Academy in 2016, one of the main speakers was a Ukraine-based lawyer Tatyana Montyan, infamous for her anti-Ukrainian stance and associated with militants of the so-called "LPR-DPR." In general, all speeches there were openly anti-Ukrainian, with speakers openly accusing Ukrainian authorities in "stirring up conflict."
Another important area is the strengthening of Russian influence in Europe. At present, the recruitment of agents of influence (political scientists, public figures, politicians) is one of the main tasks of the DC in the EU. The goal is the further formation of a cohort of "friends of Moscow" in Western Europe, manipulation of public opinion, and carrying out pro-Russian propaganda.
According to unconfirmed reports, almost all experts in Germany who are specialists in "Russian issues" received invitations to gain permanent membership and participate in individual events of the DC.
Another important role is direct communication with some heads of states. For example, President of the Czech Republic, Zeman, maintains friendly relations with the head of the DC Yakunin, being a constant participant in the events set up by this organization.
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Returning to the Manafort case connections, Alfred Gusenbauer is closely associated with the Mercury Group, one of the companies targeted by the probe. Gusenbauer was mentioned in the company's official report for 2017. There is also information that Gusenbauer is involved in the activities of the so-called "Habsburg Group," set up by Manafort, a "secret" group of European politicians who were supposed to promote the Yanukovych team and their policies.
The IR concludes that it is possible that some of the experts who are involved in the Kremlin's hybrid influence organization actually think that they are engaged in useful research in an attempt to make the world a better and safer place.