Creating an illusion of collusion — why was no one thinking about that before? Even soap operas have them. The article is also correct about the HUMINT picking up to cold war levels.
The focus is now on Russian active operations in the U.S. but there is a new environment and mix. The cold war activity was more geographically limited and in an adverse-activity-tuned atmosphere which make it easier to detect and contain. Information warfare and influence operations are more global and less risky to conduct since they are harder to detect and do not reach diplomatic or kinetic response threshold.
With multiple aligned poles of interest freely operating globally, the picture does not quite fit that of Tim Clancy cloak and dagger novels. The world is not any more the West, Eastern Bloc, Chinese sphere of influence and every one else a battleground candidate.
Take just across the border in Vancouver BC or Toronto, ON. Having an open immigration policy, there is significant immigration and foreign investment from Russia, Iran, China, etc. which can provide a opportunities for multiple redirections, cutouts and influence operations. These soft spots are also perfect blind spots since they are closer than traditional European cold war alliances, have always been assumed safe and not watched.