The U.S. is set to launch a major investigation into Russian involvement with some European parties, The Telegraph reported. Earlier, the U.S. Congress has instructed James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, to review Kremlin's covert funding of Eurpean parties over the last ten years.
The move comes amid rising concerns in Washington over Russia's motives in Europe. The U.S. fears Moscow seeks to exploit European disunity in order to undermine NATO, block U.S. missile defence programmes and revoke the punitive economic sanctions regime imposed after the annexation of Crimea.
A British official narrated of growing fears that "a new cold war" was now unfolding in Europe, with Russian meddling taking on a breadth, range and depth far greater than previously thought.
"It really is a new Cold War out there," a source said, "Right across the EU we are seeing alarming evidence of Russian efforts to unpick the fabric of European unity on a whole range of vital strategic issues."
A dossier of "Russian influence activity" identified Russian influence operations running in France, the Netherlands, Hungary as well as Austria and the Czech Republic, which has been identified by Russian agents as an entry-point into the Schengen free movement zone.
Officials declined to say which parties could come into the probe but it is thought likely to include far-right groups including Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece, the Northern League in Italy and France's Front National which received a €9 million (£6.9 million) loan from a Russian bank in 2014.
Igor Sutyagin, the Russia specialist at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said that Russia's propaganda machine was currently "very active", deploying what security experts call "hybrid warfare" that blends conventional military power with guerrilla tactics and cyber warfare.
"The Russian campaign exists in a grey area, operating covertly - and often legally - to avoid political blowback, but with the clear aim of weakening Western will to fight, maturing doubts over Nato, the EU, Trident and economic sanctions," he said.
"It is a clever game. There are unwritten rules between nation states, and these rules are clearly being violated by the Russian side, but they know the West cannot ban them without harming their own values of freedom of expression.