Russia's Influence Game
A Glimpse At The Russia Lobby In DC

With the election of Donald Trump shifting traditional Republican views of Putin, Russia is pulling out all the stops to make common cause with conservatives. An article at Time offers a telling glimpse into the Russia lobby’s Republican charm offensive:

Bistro Bis, a swanky French joint on Capitol Hill, is a Washington institution that has hosted all sorts of political summits over the years. But the group that piled into the restaurant’s Leaders Room on the night of Feb. 1 was among the more unusual. For four hours, current and former Russian officials dined with two Republican Congressmen, a conservative magazine publisher, a longtime GOP consultant and a close friend of top White House strategist Steve Bannon.

[…]

Some of the officials who attended the dinner–including a deputy central banker and former Russian senator named Alexander Torshin, and his protégée, a young gun-rights activist named Maria Butina–have been part of a years-long campaign to build connections between Russia’s leaders and American conservatives. The crusade, which predates the rise of Trump, has garnered scant attention but achieved significant success, sparking new alliances with leading U.S. evangelicals, lawmakers and powerful interest groups like the NRA.

Among other things, the Time story suggests Moscow’s recognition that traditionally hawkish congressional Republicans pose the main obstacle to Trump implementing a Russia-friendly agenda. And while Russia has long cast a wide net in courting allies, they are noticeably ratcheting up their efforts on the Republican side.

The Time story confirms the talk we’ve been hearing around town: there has been a measurable uptick in Russia lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. Read the whole thing.

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