Germany's Der Spiegel broke the story that the now-former Austrian Vice-Chancellor and leader of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) that formed part of the country's governing coalition until last week was entrapped in a "Russiagate" scandal two years ago after video evidence emerged of him discussing blatantly corrupt practices with a woman impersonating an influential Russian billionaire.
Heinz-Christian Strache promptly resigned after denying any wrongdoing and Chancellor Kurz called for snap elections to be held at the beginning of September, but the obvious question that hasn't been addressed is the reason why this affair is being revealed nearly two years after it happened and didn't come to light earlier. The reason for this is that the entire operation was an elaborate setup to create a controversy that could take down the Austrian government at precisely the moment when this would inflict maximum damage to its newfound relations with Russia.
The FPO made no secret of its desire to improve Austrian-Russian relations if it entered into power and quickly made enormous progress on this vision since then, cooperating with it in the energy sphere and even recently holding the first-ever Sochi Dialogue Russian-Austrian Civil Society Forum. Although seemingly insignificant in the geostrategic sense, Austria occupies outsized importance for Russia because of its central role in the Polish-led "Three Seas Initiative" and location at the crossroads of Western, Central, and Southern Europe, to say nothing of the residual regional influence that it still wields as a result of its imperial legacy.
The rapid expansion of Austrian-Russian relations is therefore mutually beneficial for both parties, but obviously raises concerns from the US and Germany about the long-term geopolitical consequences of this partnership, hence why one or both of them might have been involved in orchestrating this latest scandal.
Intelligence agencies are supposed to predict threats and preemptively deal with them before they materialize, and it's obvious that they would have foreseen before the elections that the FPO's role in any forthcoming coalition government would lead to the aforementioned geopolitical outcome, which explains the need to disrupt, control, or influence this process.
The most effective way in doing so would be to replicate the "Russiagate" scandal, albeit modified for Austrian domestic political conditions, and that's precisely why the FPO was targeted as part of this operation that intended to entrap its leader in a compromising position that he was all too eager to go along with.
Instead of blackmailing him, the people behind this setup patiently waited until Austrian-Russian relations expectedly matured to the point of a strategic partnership before publicly dropping their bombshell, knowing that this would immediately sow the seeds of suspicion in people's mind about whether Moscow was on the cusp of taking over the Central European country.
Six months prior to the video being made public, a Russian spy scandal rocked Austria after Germany revealed to its counterparts that a foreign agent had supposedly been operating right under their nose for decades, which served the purpose of preconditioning the public to suspect that Moscow might have some ulterior motives in their country.
A fearmongering campaign was also launched to question the wisdom of the Russian-friendly FPO being granted the right to control Austria's interior, foreign, and defense ministries, with the innuendo being that the party's alliance with United Russia might mean that it would voluntarily sacrifice national interests in order to treasonously serve its partners'. Furthermore, President Putin's attendance at Foreign Minister Kniessl's wedding last summer was misportrayed by the Mainstream Media as "proof" of Russia's "uncomfortable" influence over the country ever since the FPO entered the government.
Whoever was behind Austria's "Russiagate" video scandal knew the entire time that there was nothing improper about the country's relations with Russia otherwise they would have immediately released the tape to put a stop to it right then and there, which is why the decision was made to sit on it until the time was right to inflict maximum damage to bilateral ties.
They patiently waited for the rapprochement to play out so that its success could then be spun in hindsight as part of a Russian "conspiracy" to secretly conquer the Central European country, with the Mainstream Media pointing to its previous fearmongering campaigns as "proof" that this was going on the entire time and should have been acted upon right away. The overall intention is to discredit Russia in the minds of Europeans and deter all others from engaging in meaningful partnerships with it lest their leaders be suspected of being "another Strache".
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.