Nord Stream 2 map, by Samuel Bailey (CC by 3.0)

EU Ambassador cites constant fear Russian malign influence

Fear of Russian interference and leverage over Ukraine, Germany and other U.S. allies in Europe is palpable, according to the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

Gordon Sondland, the senior American diplomat at the EU, spoke of the tension that Russia is creating across the continent, in an interview with Euronews.

Sondland cited the NordStream2 project as one policy area where the U.S. disagrees with some allies — asserting that Europe has other viable energy sources and need not rely on Russian gas, which Russia has been known to curtail supply of in order to exert political pressure.

Read more and see the video.

Facebook IDs Russia-Linked Misinformation Campaign

The New York Times reported today that Facebook identified two disinformation campaigns originating from Russia — including one tied to an agency controlled by the Kremlin — that were targeted at users in Europe and Central Asia. Facebook said it had deleted nearly 500 pages and accounts that had posted the misleading messages.

The activity revealed by Facebook, which has been under pressure to more aggressively counter the spread of misinformation and manipulation, shows how Kremlin-linked groups continue to use the social network to spread misleading materials around the world.

Notable in this instance was the involvement of Sputnik, the Russian national news network aka propaganda organ. Along with RT (formerly Russia Today), Sputnik has played a big role in pushing the official Kremlin position to mass audiences across the world. Sputnik stories sometimes appear prominently in Google search results on topics where Russia is actively seeking to push disinformation, including their conflict with Ukraine, fracking, and election interference.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

The Untold Story of How Russia is Attacking the U.S. Economy

With the avalanche of Russia-related news this week—the Flynn sentencing hearing, the release of two Senate-commissioned reports on Russian social media meddling, the President’s surprise pull-out of U.S. troops from Syria, the undoing of sanctions on oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s companies, and more—it’s easy to get caught up in the latest developments and lose sight of what the Kremlin and its allies are achieving here. 

Like the best Le Carré or Charles McCarry novels, recent news has been so full of interwoven characters and events that it’s nearly impossible to keep it all straight on first read. But revisit it we should, because far from some invented hardboiled espionage thriller, these plot twists are real and we are living in the story.

Russia is engaged in an extensive, multi-faceted, prolonged attack on U.S. institutions and civil society, including our electoral system, our energy infrastructure, our public discourse, and other facets of our economy.

Not only are Vladimir Putin and his government working to undermine American interests, they are going after our allies too: from the U.K. and France to Ukraine, the rest of Eastern Europe, the Baltic states and beyond.  

From a 30,000 foot view—which can be deadly over Russian air space—the current Russian campaign is part of their zero-sum view of the world that has existed since at least the start of the Cold War. The West must be diminished so that Russia can rise again. By attacking the pillars of the West, steadily, secretly when possible, Russia can sow chaos and geopolitical turmoil, and use that instability to widen its sphere of influence.

Democracy, personal liberty, a free press, and the rule of law are all anathema to Putin and his oligarch cronies. Those niceties get in the way of the kleptocracy that Putin has taken great care to create and protect over the past two decades. But to feed their corrupt machine, they need economic wins. And per their zero-sum mentality, this means delivering economic losses to their adversaries.  

So while 2016 election “meddling” remains a centerpiece of cable news, the Mueller investigation and several Congressional inquiries, we encourage everyone to follow the money and dig deeper into Russia’s ongoing interference in the U.S. economy. 

Every day, vital American industries from telecom to energy to agriculture face threats and direct sabotage from Russia and other foreign adversaries—costing American businesses potentially billions of dollars, and robbing American workers of their jobs and financial security.

Alongside its election interference in the U.S. this decade, Russia has:

  • Sought to slow construction of energy pipelines
  • Cast doubt on the efficacy of vaccines
  • Questioned the safety of U.S. agricultural products
  • Sabotaged the Net Neutrality debate
  • Hacked email accounts and computer networks—including critical electricity and telecommunications infrastructure
  • Stoked dissent and division among our government leaders and the general public.

These attacks on our economic security are similar in nature to ones Russia has carried out against Ukraine and other allies. The playbook is effective and it’s being repeated here, threatening not just our exercise of commerce but our national security as well.

Congress and the Administration must address not just electoral meddling, as it has been, but the totality of Russian interference and the damage it is causing to the U.S. economy.  

Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report that addressed the lost economic benefits and job opportunities from recent anti-energy efforts in the U.S., such as New York State’s ban on hydraulic fracturing. The study found over $90 Billion in lost economic activity, 730,000 job opportunities missed, and another $20 Billion in unrealized tax revenue due to delays or cancellations of energy pipelines, power plants and terminals. 

NOW CONSIDER THIS: A portion of this sizable economic damage can be attributed to Russian active measures. It’s not just homespun activism, litigation and legislative battles blocking these domestic projects. There is foreign interference too.

Russia has a clear motive to stifle U.S. domestic energy development wherever and however it can; its own economy is overwhelmingly dependent on exporting oil and gas. Russia also has a track record of  butting into other countries’ matters around things such as fracking. And it has the wherewithal to finance and carry out influence operations abroad, as we saw most recently in the Mueller indictments of the IRA.

We don’t know yet how much to blame directly or indirectly on the Kremlin —more research is needed, along with more cooperation from social media companies to share evidence of Russian activities—but it could ultimately add up to a substantial percentage of the figures cited by the Chamber.  

What’s more: this new study only looked at 15 specific projects and the New York fracking ban. There are numerous other major projects, including the Dakota Access Pipeline and Sabal Trail Pipeline to name just two, that weren’t even included in the Chamber study but saw undeniable Russian interference per a 2018 Congressional report (pdf). So the dollar figure could be higher still. 

Do not naively dismiss Russia’s social media meddling as minimal in impact. For starters, as the pair of recent Senate Intelligence Committee reports demonstrated, we are still learning the full extent of the Kremlin’s online operations in 2016. They were “much more comprehensive, calculating and widespread than previously revealed.” And likely there are still more stones unturned.

Not only that, after-the-fact analyses of public debates can underestimate the effect that a well-placed, well-timed message can have on people “in the moment.” We must at least consider that the onslaught of troll and bot messages could have helped sway or cement someone’s opinion on a pipeline project or fracking referendum or, for that matter, other contentious issues like the safety of vaccines.    

And, the scale of the Russian social posts, while once pooh-poohed in some corners, has indeed been shown to be large: IRA posts on Facebook and Instagram were shared by 30+ million people, according to the new reports by New Knowledge and the Oxford University Computational Propaganda Research Project

Lost jobs, lost business income, lost tax revenue… these are real economic consequences that have lasting impact. To say nothing of the family and societal turmoil that comes from economic insecurity. 

From Kremlin-linked social media posts and television coverage that stirred up negative public sentiment to influence campaigns geared at policymakers to secret funneling of money to protest groups, Russia has been pursuing its own anti-Western agenda with aplomb.

It’s time that Congress and the Administration get serious about exposing the full scale of Russian interference… and stopping it.  

Sign the Petition: Demand Congress investigate foreign interference in our economy!

The Citizens Against Foreign Interference have taken our fight to to demand action from Congress on the issues we’ve been posting about for months here and on Facebook. Read on below for what we’re asking…

Click here to sign the petition now.

Every day, vital American industries from telecom to energy to agriculture face threats and direct sabotage from Russia and other foreign adversaries—costing American businesses potentially BILLIONS of dollars, and robbing American workers of their jobs and financial security.

While Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections and the Mueller investigation tend to dominate the news, there’s MUCH more to the story. So, as Congress and the special counsel carry out their probes of Russian influence on the Trump campaign and presidency, we ask that they go further.

Beyond election interference, Russia and China have: 

  • Spread malicious propaganda across social media
  • Fomented protests
  • Funneled secret money into the country
  • Cast doubt on the efficacy of vaccines
  • Questioned the safety of U.S. agricultural products
  • Blocked construction of energy pipelines 
  • Sabotaged the Net Neutrality debate 
  • Hacked email accounts and computer networks—including critical electricity and telecommunications infrastructure
  • Developed backdoors in commonly-used communications devices
  • Stoked dissent and division among our government leaders and the general public.

As you can see, it is a lengthy and serious set of topics that jeopardizes not only our economic security but also our national security.

These things are all happening beneath our eyes right now, often simultaneously, but neither Congress nor the Administration has investigated the totality of this interference and how it is damaging the U.S. economy.

For the sake of our economy and national security, we call on the relevant committee leadership in the new Congress to fully investigate and expose any such foreign influence operations or threats—to root out the sponsors, the perpetrators, and the funding networks that funnel money for these operations. 

Click here to sign the petition now.  And please, spread the word.

A Video Introduction to CAFI

What motivates us at CAFI? Why have taken up the fight against foreign interference? This video gives you a quick introduction to the cause and why it’s so important, in under two minutes. Please watch and share.

Kremlin interference campaigns tracked by new interactive tool

At a bipartisan event on Tuesday that included Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), the Alliance for Securing Democracy launched its Authoritarian Interference Tracker.

The new tool will help expose the Kremlin’s online interference and help the public to better understand the threat.

Noted Johnson, “Our first line of defense is exposure. We over-classify information way too much. Exposure is the best defense we have. If we don’t respond to Vladimir Putin, he’ll take another step…and then another step.”

Added Shaheen, “The threat here is trying to divide us, trying to pit people against one another…It’s about putting out information that makes people doubt the news and doubt their government.”

The Alliance for Securing Democracy has cataloged Kremlin fingerprints on over 400 incidents of interference in 42 countries. Beyond bots and troll farms, the toolbox includes information operations, cyber-attacks, political subversion, strategic economic coercion, and maligned finance.

Do you agree with the Alliance for Securing Democracy that getting ahead of the threat will require Euro-Atlantic institutions to develop robust multilateral mechanisms to identify vulnerabilities and to coordinate rapid responses and effective deterrents?

Read the full story at Axios…

Environmental NGOs Profiting From Their Enemy: Oil & Gas Cos.

Environmental groups for years have fought oil and gas companies tooth and nail as polluters who put profits ahead of the health of the planet. But it looks more than a few NGOs are happy to fund and profit from the very same companies they criticize relentlessly.

One of the most recent “Panama Papers” investigations found that the World Wildlife Fund invested in a private equity fund with substantial oil and gas holdings.

“When I heard it, I was appalled and shocked,” said Gracie Brett, a rising senior at American University. She’s fighting to get her school to pull its investments out of fossil fuels and has volunteered with a number of environmental groups.

“I would be livid if I was giving my money and then found out it was going to something like that,” she told the I-Team.

In promotional videos on its website, World Wildlife Fund touts its public mission to combat climate change and its opposition to the fossil fuel industry.

“Oil companies want to drill for oil and gas deep beneath the sea bed. It’s a dreadful idea,” says a narrator in one video.

But the leaked documents show the DC-based WWF privately invested more than $2 million with Denham Capital, an international private equity firm that’s specialized in oil and gas, mining and energy investments.

“You’re literally handing money to polluters. That makes zero sense,” Brett said.

Given that there are serious questions about whether Russian government money is funding environmental NGOs, ordinary citizens need full transparency about where NGOs are getting their money and now — what they’re doing with it.

Any group that relies on public trust in its mission must be above reproach ethically, and that means no shortcuts. It’s telling that the World Wildlife Fund refused to go on camera with NBC News:

World Wildlife Fund declined our request to speak on camera. By phone, WWF told the News4 I-Team it started unloading its oil and gas investments five years ago, but found some, like the Denham fund, posed a greater challenge.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen environmental groups play fast and loose with finances. The Sierra Club took $25 million from the natural gas industry before it got called out for the hypocrisy.

As far was we’re concerned, taking extreme liberties with your donors’ money is as much of a vice as taking it from foreign governments interested in undermining Americans’ energy security.

No wonder WWF wants to stay out of the camera’s glare.

Read the Full Story.


Russian interference in Oil & Gas Industry: News9 Investigates

We were pleased to see Oklahoma’s News 9 dig into the story of Russian interference in the oil & gas industry this week. – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – |


As investigative reporter Alex Cameron noted:

While it hasn’t received the same attention [as election interference], a House Science Committee report released in March documents similar efforts by Russia to use social media to influence US domestic energy policy.

“It is a form of economic sabotage they’ve been trying to perpetrate against our oil and gas industries,” said Representative Frank Lucas.

The story goes on to quote Oklahoma Oil and Gas association industry spokesman Chad Warmington.

“When you have foreign governments coming in and trying to suppress an industry, and frankly, suppress a nation, who’s providing economic and energy security to other nations, and the stabilizing force that is, that’s a huge problem that all Americans and Oklahomans ought to be concerned about.”

Read the full story

Only Investigation Can Save Environmental Groups from Russian Taint: The Hill

There are things most people don’t question or give a second thought to, and environmental groups are often one of them.

But multiple allegations of Russian collusion with them is threatening to damage the trust those groups have built with the American public, according to a column in The Hill by a member of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board.

Russia has already insinuated itself into environmental movements, something the Miami Herald exposed in a front-page story. One easy way to do it was to co-opt environmental activists to do their bidding in fighting fracking. Co-opting the so-called “useful idiots” is a tactic Russia has employed with other activist groups on the left and the right.

And there is plenty of evidence from Congress that Russia “used social media platforms to oppose the use of natural gas, limit research and development of fossil fuels and generally influence U.S. energy policy,” according to The Hill.

Despite these credible, bipartisan concerns about Russian meddling in U.S. and world energy policy, there has been very little digging into this story. That’s concerning. Millions of Americans who support the works of well-known environmental groups deserve to know if the organizations have been compromised. The danger is clear.  Given the sparse reporting, the public is left to speculate as to which environmental groups have been tainted by Russian funding. This uncertainty could have a devastating effect on the ability of legitimate groups to continue to advocate for a cleaner environment.

No matter where Americans stand on climate change and how to protect the environment, we can agree that the debate is important. Every important debate deserves the free expression that’s the hallmark of our democracy. So it behooves us to know which environmental groups have a foreign hand behind them.

If we don’t know who’s really doing the talking, then there’s no way to have an informed debate.

Read the full story.