If you want to take a good look at Russia’s actions over the past week or so, you’ll need to start in Austria. Austria, like much of Europe, is consumed with choosing the lesser of two evils between Islamism and Russian influence. For co-dependent (one might, uncharitably, say “emasculated”) EU countries like Austria, it does not appear politically, culturally or diplomatically strong enough to keep both evils at bay. And it has friendlier relations with Moscow than any Islamic entity — Putin had never even met Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl when he flew out to attend her wedding. But when the Putin-friendly Freedom Party directs raids on the Austrian “FBI” (technically the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism, or Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung, or BVT) unit specializing in “extremism”, is pretty brazen. The raid was carried out by Austrian street cops and netted 19 gigabytes of data, including dirt on right-wing groups with ties to Vice Chancellor and Freedom Party leader Heinz Strache. For one thing, the Freedom Party is in charge of the BVT (which has led to speculation that this was a heavy-handed attempt to replace the BVT’s hierarchy with Freedom Party members). For another, the reasons for the search warrant appear to be rather flimsy — among them are the failure to properly dispose of information scheduled for deletion, and, um, working with the South Korean government to forge blank North Korean passports in Austria as part of a larger espionage operation against the Norks. Not sure what part of the latter was illegal. A court is deciding on it in the next few days and a parliamentary inquiry is scheduled for next month. Answers should be forthcoming.
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