Vladimir Putin’s campaign to seduce, subvert and screw over Western democracies — including ours

The Daily Beast reports: The golden domes would look at home on Moscow’s Red Square. There are five of them, onion-shaped and glistening in the sun, each one bearing a cross — potent symbols of the Russian Orthodox Church. But here in front of them flows the Seine River. Behind them rises the Eiffel Tower. Down the street is the French foreign ministry, known as the Quai d’Orsay.

That much you can see.

What French and other Western intelligence agencies have been concerned about as they watched the building go up over the last six years is what you don’t see when you look at the just-inaugurated Holy Trinity Cathedral and Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center.


French journalist Nicolas Hénin in his new book La France Russe notes that the building abuts an apartment used (at least until recently) by the French Secretary General of Defense and National Security, as well as the mail service of the French presidential palace.

An inter-ministerial note on the state of France’s intelligence agencies cited by Hénin observed that the cathedral domes, made of composite materials, could hide sophisticated listening devices, and since the “cultural center” enjoys diplomatic immunity, there’s no obvious way to get inside to look.

According to other sources, the French are now employing active countermeasures, just in case, and several Western embassies and enterprises have checked to make sure there is no line of sight contact between them and the domes.

It’s a strange spectacle, an obvious outpost of Mother Russia, even if all its aspects are benign, which was assumed to be the case when then-President Nicolas Sarkozy approved its construction in 2010. But since then, “benign” has become a word hard to associate with the Kremlin. So when Russian President Vladimir Putin was supposed to open the center here this month, the current French president, François Hollande, said he wouldn’t attend, and if he talked to Putin at all, his office declared, it would be about war crimes in Syria. Putin decided to postpone his visit more or less indefinitely.

Perhaps this seems like crazy neo-Cold War paranoia. High-tech spookery hiding behind onion domes on the Left Bank? Yet almost anything seems possible at a time when Putin has been using every conceivable means at his disposal to extend Russian influence and disrupt or discredit Western democracy in Europe, and, indeed, in the United States.

If there is a new cold war chill, it’s coming from the east. [Continue reading…]

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