Vladimir Putin has been playing politics in Europe.
Two interesting stories appeared in the media this week that have shed light on links between European political parties and the Russian Federation. These stories have exposed the extent to which the Kremlin is going to ensure that it has favourable voices in both Brussels and the capitals of a number of European Nations.
The first story to hit the headlines this week was about the fact that Yanis Varonfakis, the Greek Finance Minister, and Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, have threatened Brussels with turning to Moscow for further bailouts should the IMF and ECB not reach their demands. This comes as the stand off between Northern European Countries and Greece escalates during the growing economic crisis in the Mediterranean country.
However this is not much of a surprise given who donated to Syriza, the ruling party, during the last election. It has been alleged that money from the Russian Government landed in the coffers of the Far Left party during their successful election campaign earlier this year. Certainly the party has offered a very pro-Russian agenda since taking power. Moscow has also apparently taken a closer interest in the election of the radical socialist party.
These accusations go hand in hand with another similar story from last week. Leaked text messages have revealed that the Front National, the French populist party, have allegedly received large amounts of money from the Russian Federation for their support of the countries annexation of Crimea this time last year.
These two instances have highlighted a change at the Kremlin towards foreign policy in recent years. It was widely acknowledged during the Cold War that both the United States and Soviet Union funded political parties in countries across the globe. Most famously was US funding of the Japanese ‘Liberal Democratic Party’.
This return to funding of favourable political parties is part of a new strategy by the Kremlin to build up Russia’s influence across Europe. In the past they have backed political parties in Ukraine and Georgia, countries that had formerly been under Russia’s sphere of influence. However by moving into Greece and France this marks Russia moving outside of its former sphere and into new territories on its doorstep.
It’s clear that Russia is perhaps able to take advantage of the weak position that both America and Europe are in when it comes to foreign policy at the moment. A divided political system in the US has made foreign policy a difficult area for both the Republicans in Congress and the Obama administration with several clashes recently.
Disunity in the European Union, when it comes to dealing with the actions of the Putin government in Ukraine have meant that Russia has been able to act bolder, with little to no opposition. This has caused concern for countries in the Baltic, who have similarly large populations of ethnic Russians, in terms of percentage, to Ukraine.
For as long as no one stands up to Russia, it will continue to expand in ambition and political strength.