Kremlin Watch Monitor July 26, 2017

Weekly monitor of pro-Kremlin disinformation effort in Europe. We follow best European analysts, best counter-measures and trends.

Weekly Update on the Kremlin Disinformation Efforts

While the question whether Donald Trump’s administration colluded with the Russian government grows more serious and complicated every week, the Chairman of the United States’ House Science Committee Lamar Smith and the Texas Republican Representative Randy Weber sent a letter to Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, asking him to investigate whether the Kremlin supports environmental campaigns in the US. No new evidence has been presented and it remains unclear whether the lawmakers’ goal is to deal with the Russian threat or deflect attention from the Republican administration. But what we do know is that the Kremlin uses more than cyber-attacks during elections to influence societies. For example, Ben Schreckinger describes for Politico how Russia manipulates the US military and veterans.

Another more aggressive way of interfering with domestic affairs has been witnessed in Ukraine, where “little green men” (Russian troops in unmarked uniforms) pretended to be local fighters. In order to prevent such a scenario in their own country, Finland passed a new law that makes it illegal for unidentified military groups to cross the border and conduct activities on Finish soil.

The Czech Ministry of the Interior, together with intelligence services, launched training sessions for personnel from different ministries to better prepare them against influence by foreign powers and efforts by foreign spies to gather sensitive information. The training sessions have been planned in accordance with the Action Plan within the National Security Audit.

We have seen many cases of disinformation in Russian media targeting European audiences, but what is often less understood is how Russian state media target the domestic population. In recent days, Rossiya 24 TV channel reported that the popular toys called fidget spinners might be part of a diabolical plan by the United States  to “zombify” Russians.

According to a new poll published by the International Republican Institute74 % of Slovaks think that Russia should be considered a partner in European security, and 41 % feel that Russia has taken the side of traditional European values against Islamic and other non-European cultures.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion

Frontline Vulnerability: The Strategic Case for the Western Balkans

Read the full study by Janusz Bugajski, published by CEPA.

The prospect of EU and NATO membership has been the key incentive in democratizing and stabilizing several Balkan states. While there have been some positive developments, such as the recent entry of Montenegro into NATO, enlargement is currently not high on the EU’s agenda and receding opportunities for membership undermine stability in the Balkans. Balkan insecurity will have a considerable negative impact on the Euro-Atlantic community at large and enable Russia to become yet more intrusive.

The Kremlin’s vision for the Balkans is quite different from the Western one. Moscow views the region as Europe’s weak spot where competition with NATO and the U.S. can be intensified and uses various instruments to achieve its goals. Putin aims to maintain several “frozen states” in the region to prevent Western integration, which is why Russia for example promotes local nationalism, stirs conflicts, and/or uses propaganda to encourage anti-Western and pro-Russian sentiments. Unresolved conflicts and disputed states empower the Kremlin to claim that NATO has failed to stabilize the region, which undermines NATO’s rationale as a security provider. Therefore, the West should avoid any display of weakness or withdrawal, push for reforms in the Balkan states and help stabilize the region.

Good Old Soviet Joke

A joke heard in Arkhangelsk has it that someone happened to call the KGB headquarters just after a major fire. “We cannot do anything. The KGB has just burned down” he was told. Five minutes later he called back and was told again that the KGB had burned. When he called a third time, the telephone operator recognized his voice and asked, “Why do you keep calling back? I just told you, the KGB has burned down.” “I know,” the man replied. “I just like to hear it.”

Euroatlantic experts on disinformation warfare

Toomas Hendrik Ilver, the ex-President of Estonia, criticises the lack of action on part of the European Union when it comes to dealing with the threat of Russian cyber-attacks, in this Atlantic Council podcast.

Nathalie Vogel summarizes the weaknesses and the Kremlin-friendly personalities who have crucial influence on German structures in her article for The Interpreter.

Lisa Sawyer Samp of CSIS testified before the United States Senate Armed Services Committee on the topic of the attempted coup in Montenegro.

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Czech Disinformation Corner

Poland may be more democratic than the Czech Republic

The New Republic website has stood up to criticism of the Polish court system’s recent reform, claiming that if all the arguments against Poland were true, there would be no such thing as independent justice in the Czech Republic. According to the article, the appointment of judges after the reform will be far more independent of political power than in the Czech Republic. Protiproud has also made it clear: the Polish government is allegedly doing nothing else than what the rules require of “genuine democracy”. Furthermore, Protiproud claims that what democracy means is currently decided by Hydra from Brussels. And EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová has supposedly attacked the Polish government on orders from Brussels.

July 12th – A dark historical date

The Czech Parliament’s approval to send 300 soldiers to support the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic states was labelled a “dark day in history” and as an “intervention army” (to Russia). The Protiproud webpage also made historical comparisons with Operation Barbarossa, claiming that while Czechs were among the first victims of German aggression, today they stand at its side. However, this wasn’t the only anti-NATO reporting. SputnikCZ claimed that divers taking part in the NATO-Ukraine Sea Breeze exercises in Odessa are there to disrupt the communications and operations of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and to prepare for the Alliance’s naval invasion of Sevastopol.

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