Russia’s other European invasion
As Western policymakers focus on a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, they are turning a blind eye to another invasion: the capture of European elites. From London to Athens and far beyond, bankers, lawyers, lobbyists, and former officials have all been snapped up by the Kremlin and its allies. While Russian tanks mass on the Ukrainian border, interests linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s predatory regime are amassing influence in capital cities across the continent.
The most recent high-profile example of such influence efforts involves former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who in June joined the board of the Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft (on the nomination of the Kremlin). Fillon is far from alone. Austria’s former Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl—made infamous by footage of her curtseying to Putin on her wedding day in 2018—was appointed to the board of Rosneft, Russia’s most powerful state oil company, last June. This board is chaired by none other than Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor who is paid six hundred thousand dollars a year for the privilege. He is not the only former European chancellor with a Russian connection; former Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern is also on the supervisory board of Russian Railways. While none of these individuals has broken any laws in assuming these positions, their roles highlight a systemic threat for Europe.