RT's fanclub gets a new clubhouse

RT Editorial
This blog represents a range of opinions prepared by a team of authors working at RT. It contains commentary, views, feedback and responses to various events and news media items.
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There is a world of difference between being a journalist, and being a lobbyist for weapon’s manufacturers. However, with think tank camouflage, and fancy yet ambiguous titles, a group of outwardly-independent commentators gets away with blurring the lines.

Sometimes it’s not enough simply to travel the world fighting for a cause. Endless ‘security conferences’ and lectures surely get boring after a while. Even ‘nod-fest’ debates, where everybody agrees with your position must eventually become tedious. Ultimately, you need a place to gather and chill with like-minded people. A clubhouse, if you like.

If you can get a lobby group, funded by the US Department of Defense and some the planet’s biggest arms manufacturers to bankroll your hangout, surely that’s even better?

Anne Applebaum, Edward Lucas and Peter Pomerantsev have flown back and forth across the Atlantic in recent years warning about the threat from the big, bad Russian bear. They have had Russia “weaponizing” everything from migration to information. They sound ominous warnings of Kremlin psy-ops coming for the vulnerable hearts and minds of defenseless Europeans. In fact, according to the gang, there hardly seems to be a problem in the entire western world that doesn’t bear Russia’s fingerprints.

Of course, this is music to the ears of the political establishment across the EU and North America. Why would they ever need to accept any responsibility for their own short-comings and mistakes when everything can be blamed on Russia? The Lucas, Applebaum, Pomerantsev combo can provide an excuse for all sorts of maladies.

Hungary elects a government Eurocrats don’t like? That'll be Russian influence. The Netherlands reject a treaty with Ukraine? Naturally, RT and Sputnik are responsible. Refugees are descending en masse on Greece? Ah, Putin sent them, RT helped. This approach had been practiced until it has become a fine art.

A Common European Home

Now, the Centre For European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a lobby group based in Washington and Warsaw, has decided to provide a permanent home for the group under the umbrella of the “Information Warfare Initiative.”

CEPA, itself, purports to exist in order to promote a “Central and Eastern Europe with close and enduring ties to the United States.” In other words, a bloc that does what America wants it to do.

CEPA’s ‘advisory council’ reads like a who’s who of professional Russia-bashers. Names like Carl Bildt, Madeleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Eliot Cohen, Timothy Garton Ash, Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Ivan Krastev feature alongside myriad even lesser lights.

Lucas has been on the CEPA payroll for some time, serving as a “Senior Vice President.” Now, Applebaum and Pomerantsev are joining him in the Initiative. If these people weren’t so predictable, the whole thing might even sound compelling. “Information warfare” is doubtlessly exciting to those who are not yet wise to the repetitive pontifications these individuals specialize in.

Applebaum and Pomerantsev are already employed to lobby at the Legatum Institute. They don’t call themselves lobbyists, however; rather, they are the “Director of the Transitions Forum” and a “Senior Fellow” respectively. Lucas’ wife, Cristina Odone, also works at Legatum. She’s the “Director of the Centre for Character and Values.” This does sound fancy.

The operation was profiled by Pando journalist Mark Ames last year. Ames exposed Legatum as a neo-con lobbying shop with questionable backing, and with aspirations in the regime change business. Pomerantsev in particular used a 2013 paper for Legatum to explicitly call for western governments to invest in NGOs to subvert the Russian government. “Ultimately, international networks of anti-corruption NGOs could play a similar role to that of human rights campaigners played in the 1970s and ‘80s,” he wrote.

Big Guns

The interests represented by Legatum are relatively small players compared to CEPA’s backers. They include defense contractors and military aircraft manufacturers, such as the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the Raytheon Company, Sikorsky Aircraft, Bell Helicopter and Textron Systems. And the US Department of Defense. Interestingly, this information used to be clearly displayed on CEPA’s website. At least before RT mentioned it in February. It has since been removed. Coincidence, surely.

Two months ago, after extensive lobbying by groups like CEPA, the Pentagon proposed quadrupling its budget for “European Defense” (through NATO). Obviously the biggest winners from such largesse would be defense contractors and the US Department of Defense. The very people who fund CEPA.

While it must be fun for Applebaum, Lucas and Pomerantsev in their fancy new club house, they might want to be clearer about who is paying for their borderline-humanitarian-sounding efforts to “develop a comprehensive and effective strategy to counter Russian disinformation.”

The trio appear all over the western media as experts on Russia and supposedly impartial journalists. In actual fact, they are professional lobbyists for the US defense industry.