Reede, 10 August 2018 19:00
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 32 2018
An agent of influence is usually someone with substantial public stature who serves the interest of a foreign power by intending to influence public opinion or decision-making. They are either recruited outright and controlled by a foreign agency or are used as a reliable contact, or not directly recruited but still consciously advancing the agenda of a foreign power.
A ‘useful idiot’ on the other hand is one who is known as a propagandist for a cause while not fully understanding the goal of the cause and who is usually used purposefully by its members. In a kinder, forgiving world they could be known as ‘useful innocents’. What about ‘innocent idiots’? That’s kind but derisive.
In real time, Paul Manafort, former campaign manager of the US president, facing several federal charges must surely fit one of the categories. In this case the recruitment included $60 million in remuneration for promoting the causes of a Ukrainian government controlled by the Kremlin, for, by extension, being a proxy for Putin in the US. Because his services were retained under contracted work for which he was well reimbursed – does this make him an agent of influence or a politically detached consultant?
California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, in the late 1980s as a novice politician, signed up for a week to fight with anti-Communist forces in Afganistan in battling the Soviets. The USSR imploded, democracy seemed to take hold in Russia and Rohrabacher’s growing infatuation with Moscow has made him a logical candidate for agent of influence. Rohrabacher’s chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats has been given as the reason for his numerous trips to Russia. Rohrabacher often has occasion to address issues involving Russia. A typical observation from him: “(people) cannot sit by and understand that Russia has its national interests as we have our national interests. What do people of the Crimea want? I don’t think anyone here will disagree with the fact that it is clear that people of Crimea would rather be part of Russia than be part of a pro-European or European-directed Ukraine.” He takes an unabashed, pro-Kremlin stance on other issues such as US sanctions against Russia and Russia’s military intrusion into Georgia. Many of Rohrabacher’s Washington colleagues view him as pro- Russia on nearly all contentious questions. A classic agent of influence? Most likely.
The US has also known to have mustered agents of influence to their service. Peter Matthiessen, writer and author, and former CIA operative personally admitted to establishing the Paris Review literary magazine, a mouthpiece for liberal, mainly anti-establishment US intellectuals, but under covert auspices of the CIA. Matthiesen held considerable credibility amongst his target audience, certainly not known as Cold War hawks, an image more suitable for CIA. In fact it was said that the US sponsored several other liberal literary magazines.
Some religious leaders, cultural opinion makers and nationalists have been identified as agents of influence. The former head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia, and later the Patriarch of all Russian orthodoxy, Metropolitan Alexy II (Alexy von Ridiger, KGB codename Drozdov - thrush), enjoyed considerable authority amongst church members and the Estonian-Russian community in general. According to his official history, his ancestors belonged to Swedish nobility and his family escaped NKVD arrest during the first Soviet occupation of Estonia by hiding in a hovel. These facts and his position within the leadership of the Russian Orthodox church gave him great credibility and authority when advancing viewpoints compatible to the Kremlin.
Proudly jingoistic, rabidly nationalist political leaders in Europe fervidly espouse causes advanced by Moscow – total curtailment of immigration, total dismantling of the EU or drastically reversing any advancement in socio-political integration. Some of these positions coincide also with European politicians across the ideological spectrum and any weakening of the cultural and political sovereignty of individual EU member-states is opposed by European liberals. But it’s evident that Russia’ support of anti-EU ultra-conservatives is part of the Kremlin’s strategy of sowing European disunity. Moscow is convinced that discord in Europe will help it gain its self-proclaimed role as an international super power. Agents of influence, intentionally or not, are accomplices in this goal.
Front organizations have also fulfilled the influence role. During the Cold War they were in the main focussing on the Soviet side. Many had ‘world peace’ as a mission. Known as taking their marching orders from Moscow were the World Peace Council, The International Institute for Peace, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the Christian Peace Conference, the International Organization of Journalists, the World Federation of Scientific Workers and others. Individuals become members brimming with good intentions and sincerity, but the organization is a bona fide agent of influence serving the interests of a foreign elite group. In general, agents of influence are difficult to detect due to the lack of sufficient proof that ties them to a foreign power. (To be continued.) Laas Leivat