The Inspectorate of the US State Department has published a new report related to the Countering Russian Influence Fund (CRIF), revealing the US has spent more than $600 million in an attempt to curb Russian influence in the Balkans.
The report also reveals that the US has spent more than one billion US dollars in total on funding “civil society organizations and other entities . . . for rule of law, media, cyber, and other programs that strengthen democratic institutions and processes, and counter Russian influence and aggression.”
The largest single amount from the CRIF was sent to Moldova, calculated to have reached an eye-watering $98,172,456. Bosnia and Herzegovina received $80,846,580, and North Macedonia $67,472,572. Receiving lesser, but no less substantial, amounts were Romania with $66,146,297, Kosovo with $61,157,070, Serbia with $55,567,000 and Montenegro with $50,021,746.
The purpose of the CRIF is purportedly to assist countries “vulnerable to influence and aggression by the Russian Federation that lack the economic capabilities to effectively respond.”
“CRIF assistance is provided to North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Union member countries, as well as countries seeking membership in those organizations, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, and Ukraine,” reads the report by the Inspectorate of the US State Department.
Programs run by the CRIF are designed to implement the goals of the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA), countering Russian influence and supporting the State Department and US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Joint Strategic Plan and Joint Regional Strategy.
In October, the chief of Germany’s National Cybersecurity Agency, Arne Schönbohm, was removed from his position over his alleged links to Russian intelligence. Prior to his removal, it was revealed that Schönborn was the founder and former chairman of the Cyber Security Council Germany, an industry group with Russian company Protelion counted among its members.
Under Schönbohm’s influence, Protelion offered cybersecurity services to German businesses and politicians, all the while marketing their services as “Made in Germany.” In reality the company was a subsidy of Russian company Infotecs, an entity put on the US sanctions list earlier in 2022.
As relations between Russia and the West deteriorate with every day that the war in Ukraine drags on, the US appears to be in the unenviable position of needing to curb Russian influence across the globe- not least Europe’s vulnerable Balkans region.
Photo by Plato Terentev