The Russian government is providing ‘indirect and passive support’ to neo-fascist American groups as part of an effort to aggravate division in the West, according a U.S. intelligence report.
It stops short of accusing the Kremlin of providing direct financial or material help to extremist groups, but suggests instead that Moscow it turning a blind eye to links.
The Russian government ‘probably tolerates some private Russian entities’ support’ for U.S. and European white nationalist groups ‘because it aligns with Kremlin efforts to aggravate societal fissures in the West,’ it concludes.
The report, prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and obtained by Yahoo News, comes at a critical geo-political moment.
Russia has massed some 120,000 troops close to the border with Ukraine, triggering fears of an invasion.
An intelligence report says Moscow is indirectly supporting American neo-fascist groups by turning a blind eye to help offered by the likes of the Russian Imperial Movement. Two of its fighters are pictured in Donetsk, preparing to fight with pro-Moscow Ukrainian rebels in 2015
Analysts believe Russian President Vladimir Putin uses discord as a key part of foreign policy, such as Kremlin backing for a Donald Trump victory in 2016
A picture taken on February 28, 2015 shows a member of the Russian Imperial Movement, holding a weapon simulator at a training base in Saint-Petersburg
But long-term Russia watches see the real aim as an effort to sow discord and divisions among NATO allies as they try to formulate a response.
The DNI report, prepared with input from the CIA and the FBI, describes another front in the apparent destabilization effort.
Russian extremist groups are training foreign white nationalists, it says.
It names the neo-fascist Russian Imperial Movement as one of the groups overseeing paramilitary instruction for European extremists at its camps in Russia. And it says the group has tried to recruit Americans to train.
The State Department designated the group as ‘global contacts in 2020, and said it had two training facilities in St. Petersburg which are likely used for training in Urban assault, tactical weapons and hand-to-hand combat.
‘RIM has provided paramilitary-style training to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe and actively works to rally these types of groups into a common front against their perceived enemies,’ it said at the time.
The Rusich Reconnaissance and Sabotage Group, a neo-Nazi organization, also sent members to fight in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and 2015, according to the report.
Although the report said the Kremlin’s support for these groups was ‘indirect and passive,’ that was a meaningless distinction, according to a former CIA official.
‘When you look at the number of Russian neo-Nazis that are actively infiltrating, or looking to digitally infiltrate U.S. groups,’ the former official told Yahoo News, ‘at some point, if it’s so pervasive, and the Russians aren’t doing anything to stop it, is that really materially different from the big stamp coming down from the sky and saying, “We approve?”‘
Law enforcement sources in the US fear white supremacists could travel to Eastern Union to fight in Ukraine, on either side, if Russia invades
Connections between US groups and like minded organizations in Eastern Europe have been a matter of concern to law enforcement agents for years.
The links are taking on added importance now, amid fears that white supremacists could travel to the region to fight on one side or the other.
‘There’s real concern here that this is another Syria,’ said a current senior law enforcement official, using the Middle East as an example of a battleground that radicalized a generation of violent Jihadists.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Blinken, who has been leading negotiations with Moscow over the troop build-up, said Washington is continuing to ‘draw down’ its embassy in Ukraine and urged American citizens still in the country to leave immediately.
‘Simply put, we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border,’ Blinken told a news conference in the Australian city of Melbourne.
‘As we’ve said before, we’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time, and to be clear, that includes during the Olympics.’
Joe Biden had earlier echoed the same call for Americans to get out now, saying the situation ‘could go crazy quickly’ and US troops will not be sent to help because that risks triggering a world war.