Russia interests ramp up foreign lobbying campaign while Ukraine tensions escalate

Russia interests ramp up foreign lobbying campaign while Ukraine tensions escalate

Russian President Vladimir Putin suffered a major disappointed when the outcome of the United States’ 2020 presidential election resulted in Donald Trump being voted out of office and Joe Biden being chosen to replace him. During Biden’s first year as president, U.S./Russia relations are much icier than they were during the Trump years — and Biden is deploying 3000 U.S. troops to Europe at a time when thousands of Russian troops are gathered at the Ukraine-Russia border and Biden’s administration, along with their NATO allies, fears that Ukraine will be invaded.

But reporter Anna Massoglia, in an article published by OpenSecrets on February 2, notes that “Russian interests” have been proceeding with a major foreign influence campaign aimed at both the U.S. and European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

During his four years in the White House, Trump was openly hostile to NATO but very favorable to Putin. Biden, on the other hand, campaigned on a very pro-NATO platform in 2020 — and as president, Biden has made it clear that he regards European NATO members as important allies of the United States. But despite all the anti-Putin feelings in the European Union, about 35% of the EU’s natural gas comes from Russia. And Russia, according to Massoglia, is reminding the U.S. and the EU how much gas it is providing.

“As tensions escalate between Russia and Ukraine,” Massoglia explains, “Russia is pouring millions of dollars into foreign influence operations and propaganda. Russian interests reported spending about $182 million on lobbying, foreign influence operations and propaganda in the U.S. since 2016, according to OpenSecrets’ analysis of Foreign Agents Registration Act and Lobbying Disclosure Act data. Foreign agents working for Russian state media outlets spent $34.8 million on propaganda targeting the U.S. in 2021 alone.”

Massoglia adds, “Companies whose interests align with Russia’s have spent heavily on lobbying around Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which would deliver Russian natural gas to Germany while bypassing Ukraine. In the midst of the multi-million dollar lobbying fight, President Joe Biden waived sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in May 2021, and (Biden) Administration officials reportedly made calls urging senators to quash Nord Stream 2 sanction measures unless the White House has the power to waive the congressionally-mandated sanctions.”

Now, a group of U.S. senators is proposing a sanctions bill that describes Nord Stream as a “tool of malign influence.”

“Foreign companies partnering on Nord Stream spent more than $6.8 million lobbying against sanctions and other issues related to the pipeline project since the start of 2020,” Massoglia observes. “Nord Stream 2, which is wholly-owned by Russia’s state-run energy firm Gazprom, spent nearly $3.3 million in 2021. Nord Stream’s CEO and Gazprom’s executive both are close Putin allies. Since the start of 2020, Nord Stream 2 has paid more than $5 million to Roberti Global, a lobbying firm run by Democratic donor and lobbyist Vincent Roberti.”

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