We’ve known for some time that Russia’s authoritarian regime has played a key role in spreading far-right white-nationalist ideology around the globe. We’ve also known for some time that Russian intelligence interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, mainly through disinformation campaigns.
The inevitable next step is apparently here: American intelligence officials, according to The New York Times, now believe that neo-Nazi paramilitary operations such as The Base and its Northwest-based training operations, used to plan and train for terrorist acts in the United States, including possibly during the coming election season, are being underwritten and overseen by Russian intelligence services.
The Times’ report cites seven unnamed intelligence officials who briefed the paper’s reporters on Russia’s updated tactics in interfering with the 2020 election. One of the new tactics appears to involve activating neo-Nazi terrorists, radicalized online and organized through the internet.
The FBI is currently investigating Russian intelligence ties to The Base, which began operating a paramilitary training camp in eastern Washington state last year. Several members of The Base were arrested in January just prior to a planned right-wing gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, where they reportedly intended to wreak violent havoc.
The Guardian revealed in January that the founder of The Base was a man named Rinaldo Nazzaro, originally from New Jersey, who now makes his home in Russia and appears to have at least peripheral connections to Russian intelligence. From there, he’s been able to organize The Base under the nom de plume “Norman Spear,” though he has apparently made several trips to the U.S. to secure the rural Washington property.
From a foreign-intelligence perspective, these kinds of operations are primarily intended to sow chaos and fear—to which a common human response is to embrace authoritarianism and its surety. Such responses become acute in the event of real terrorist violence.
“One of Russia’s goals is weakening institutions and the weaponization of race is a way they can do that,” Laura Rosenberger, the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, told the Times. “A divided America is a weaker America. When we are unable to solve our challenges together, Russia is more able to flex its power around the world.”
Russian intelligence operatives have been forced to adapt their tactics because social media companies are now on the lookout for the ad-fueled disinformation efforts that cropped up in 2016, according to the report. Instead, they’re now manipulating spaces that are more difficult to monitor and to mask their operations, including message boards like 4chan, private Facebook groups, and closed chat rooms.
The story cites FBI agent David Porter’s remarks at a recent election security conference: “We see Russia is willing to conduct more brazen and disruptive influence operations because of how it perceives its conflict with the West … To put it simply, in this space, Russia wants to watch us tear ourselves apart.”
Posted with permission from Daily Kos