Russia’s ability to run effective information campaigns has been reinforced by its involvement in the war in Ukraine, according to experts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This makes it all the more important for Western nations to scrutinize Russian information operations, be wary of pro-Russian lobbyists, and avoid being taken in by narratives spread by Moscow.
As a member of the Board of Directors of the international human rights agency WEST SUPPORT (USA), I can attest to the fact that the pro-Russian lobby in the US is reshaping itself. It has been effective in the past but is no longer efficient.
A friend of mine, a former member of Congress, fought against the Russians in Afghanistan, and used to advocate strengthening relations with Russia, believing that the US and Russia have many common interests, and that there is no need for enmity between the two countries. Many people in the US at one time shared this view, and some opposed sanctions against Russia or even called for a visa-free regime with the country.
However, things have changed. Today’s Russia is viewed as a pariah and a dictatorship, and it is extremely difficult for the Russian lobby to be effective in the US. Those who advocate Russian political positions must pretend that they are not pro-Russian but rather want to help only America or Europe, focusing only on the interests of those countries, while indirectly pushing through Russian interests. This is the only approach that can work today.
Even defending an innocent Russian in the US is difficult. Only American interest works. Many politicians who previously looked favorably toward the Kremlin now focus exclusively on the interests of the United States, even if their rhetoric still serves Russian interests. Directly justifying or promoting Russia in the United States is impossible. The only way for the Russian or pro-Russian lobby to exist in the US media or politics in the future is to shift the emphasis to purely American interests. This would involve lobbying that appears to defend only America but is paid for through subsidiaries of Gazprom using Russian resources.
This kind of lobbying would be financed through institutions and public organizations that may not even realize they are defending Russian positions. Like in the movie The Usual Suspects, where Kaiser Soze had people who didn’t even know they worked for him, Russian lobbying would need to be disguised so that no one could betray the true source of the funding. The only way for the Russian lobby to function in the future is to pretend to defend only America, while ultimately promoting Russian interests.
This shift is not just about language and rhetoric. The changes in tactics are driven by the geopolitical realities of a world that has been fundamentally transformed since the war in Ukraine began. With Moscow viewed as an aggressor, the pro-Russian lobby can no longer operate as it once did. It must adopt new approaches and find new ways to advance Russian interests in the US.
There are, of course, risks associated with these new tactics. Those who advocate for Russian interests must be careful not to push too hard or to become too obvious. They must ensure that they can operate undetected, and that their activities do not cross any legal or ethical lines.
It is also worth noting that the influence of the pro-Russian lobby in the US has always been somewhat exaggerated. While there have been periods when it has been effective, it has never been as powerful as some have claimed. This is partly because many people in the US are wary of Russian influence and are alert to the possibility that they may be manipulated. It is also because the US is a deeply divided country, with many different interest groups competing for influence and attention.
All of this means that the Russian lobby in the US will likely continue to operate in the shadows, with a focus on advancing Russian interests through indirect means. Its influence will be limited, but it will still play a role in shaping public opinion and advancing Russian interests in the US. With Moscow looking to rebuild its influence and position itself as a global power, it is unlikely that it will simply give up on its efforts to influence the US. While the pro-Russian lobby in the US may be on the decline, it is far from disappearing. Instead, it will adapt to the new reality and find new ways to advance Russian interests. The challenge for Western nations will be to remain vigilant, scrutinizing Russian information campaigns, and resisting the lure of pro-Russian rhetoric. Ultimately, the only way to counter Russian influence is through education, transparency, and a willingness to engage in an open and honest dialogue about the future of US-Russian relations.
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