The Kremlin Playbook

Report The Kremlin Playbook

Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe





  • Eye Opening
  • Overview
  • Concrete Examples


Only recently have Western Europe and America begun to recognize Russian attempts to undermine democratic institutions and the Euro-Atlantic alliance. Central and Eastern European states, by contrast, have for many years now lived with and, to various degrees, fallen victim to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s efforts to bend them toward his interests. According to The Kremlin Playbook, the result of a 16-month study jointly conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Bulgarian Center for the Study of Democracy, Russia exploited the 2008 global recession and its aftermath to increase its regional influence. Knowing Russia’s intentions and tactics goes a long way toward inoculating open, democratic societies against attempted Russian state capture. The Kremlin Playbook includes five case studies of Russian interference in Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Serbia, which provide a starting point for learning how best to respond to this security challenge. 


Russia Reasserts Itself in Central and Eastern Europe

The 2008 global recession severely tested the seemingly well-established institutions of newer European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states. The economic crisis eroded public confidence in the market economy’s ability to support continued prosperity. And in the aftermath of the crisis, some warned that Russia was working to gain greater influence over foreign economies and political institutions. These exhortations received little attention at the time. In retrospect, however, qualitative data of Russian economic activity, including business transactions by individuals linked to the Russian government, verify that Russian meddling in Central and Eastern Europe intensified after 2008. The Panama Papers, which became public in 2016, provided further proof of the Kremlin’s clandestine dealings. Russia’s foothold in Central and Eastern Europe is stronger than ever, and public faith in liberal democracy has started to erode.

Following General Valery Gerasimov’s doctrine of “New Generation Warfare,” Russia...

About the Author

Heather A. Conley and James Mina are Europe and Eurasia scholars at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ruslan Stefanov is the director of the economics program and Martin Vladimirov is an analyst at the Center for the Study of Democracy. 

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