The Kremlin Playbook 3: Keeping the Faith

For six years, the Kremlin Playbook series has studied Russia’s malign influence efforts in Europe, primarily through the economic lens. This research showed the Kremlin has developed a pattern of malign economic influence in Europe through the cultivation of “an opaque network of patronage across the region that it uses to influence and direct decision-making.” The aim is to weaken democratic systems from within, using existing and creating new societal divides.

But what if Russia, for its own malign purposes, were to seek to influence religious or traditional views? The Kremlin Playbook 3: Keeping the Faith aims to protect these beliefs by exposing how Russian malign influence works in this particularly challenging and very personal dimension—a new strategic seam—to ensure citizens do not unwittingly become part of an influence operation. The instrumentalization of values, traditions, and religious beliefs is a relatively recent and particularly pernicious front of the Kremlin’s influence efforts in Europe and elsewhere. This study investigates these dynamics in four case study countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Georgia, and Greece.

This report explores how the United States and its European allies can protect the religious beliefs and values of their citizens from malign influence at a time when transatlantic societies are grappling with the speed of societal change. Societal anxiety and fear related to these rapid economic, demographic, and generational shifts—and the subsequent politics and political figures that seek to capitalize on them—have fueled societal divisions around the so-called cultural wars in Western societies. Through two main channels, the Orthodox world and the traditional values ecosystem, the Kremlin has taken advantage of these fears to accentuate societal wedges in Europe and Eurasia.

You can access the full report here.

This research was made possible by the support of the Smith Richardson Foundation.

The Kremlin Playbook 3 (digital report)
This study aims to expose a new front of Russian malign influence: the instrumentalization of values, traditions, and religious beliefs to exploit or sow divisions among Western societies.

Donatienne Ruy
Director, Executive Education and Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy, and Fellow, Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program

Heather A. Conley

Former Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic; and Former Director, Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program

Marlene Laruelle

Director and Research Professor, George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Tengiz Pkhaladze

Associate Professor and Head of the BA Program in Political Science, Georgian Institute of Public Affairs

Elizabeth H. Prodromou

Faculty Member and Faculty Director of the Initiative on Religion, Law, and Diplomacy, The Fletcher School at Tufts University

Majda Ruge

Senior Policy Fellow with the Wider Europe Program, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)