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IRI Expert to Senate Subcommittee: Russia is Undermining European Democracies

March 29, 2017

Washington, D.C.—The International Republican Institute (IRI)’s Regional Director for Europe, Jan Surotchak, warned of a “dangerous” campaign by Russia to undermine European democracies in testimony delivered to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee today. At a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham, Surotchak called on the United States to renew its commitment to “building a Europe that is whole and free and at peace, which bolsters our own stability and prosperity.” 

Surotchak joined experts including Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was introduced by IRI Chairman Senator John McCain, to testify in front of committee members including Senator Marco Rubio on the development of Russian efforts to weaken Europe by exacerbating social and political tensions. “Russian disinformation and support for divisive parties and political movements has been increasing for at least the last decade, and now poses a major challenge to the political well-being of the Continent,” Surotchak warned.

Citing research by the Beacon Project, an IRI initiative that shines a light on Russian interference in Europe, Surotchak outlined the methods and affiliates of the Kremlin’s “fake news” operation. This includes the funding of political parties friendly to the Kremlin; organized disinformation campaigns against individuals or parties deemed as detrimental to Russian interests; the exploitation of domestic debates to spread propaganda; the use of fake “democracy support” organizations to legitimize fraudulent elections by Russian allies; and support for think tanks that become mouthpieces for pro-Kremlin policies in Europe.

Surotchak concluded his testimony by encouraging the U.S. to offer its strong support to our European allies as they fight to protect their democracies from Russian interference. “We are undoubtedly further along in building a Europe whole and free and at peace, but threats we thought had been vanquished have returned in full force. Partnership with our European allies is as important as ever, both to protect European stability and our own security.”