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Kremlin Watch Monitor May 9, 2016

Crowdsourcing: How to measure impact of disinformation campaigns

Our Kremlin Watch team puts together data related to measuring success of pro-Kremlin disinformation campaigns. We are not saying that Kremlin is the only cause, we are only searching for data showing the grievances which are the target. 

For example, these data for a start:

  • Only 29 % Germans and 29 % Italians has said in 2015 Pew poll that most blame for the violence in Eastern Ukraine is on Russia.
  • 53% French and 58 % Germans say in a 2015 Pew poll that their countriesshould not use military force to defend a NATO ally if Russia attacks it.
  • Only 31 % Germans say that German soldiers should stand in defence of NATO members – Poland and the Baltic states – if they are attacked by Russia,according to 2016 research by Bertelsman Foundation and Institute for Public Affairs. Already a shocking outcome, while in 2015, 38 % Germans said yes in a Pew poll. It makes it a 7 % drop within a year.

If you have any suggestions on how to measure impact of pro-Kremlin disinfo efforts, please write to us at [email protected]. Thanks.

Weekly update on Kremlin disinformation efforts in Europe

  • The topic of the week was – believe it or not – the MH17 flight that was downed in 2014. Investigative journalists from Bellingcat reported that the weapon responsible for the crash is the Buk missile launcher No. 332 which came from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, based in Kursk, Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that Moscow doesn’t have any information on identification numbers of Russian weapons.
  • And yet, according to the EEAS Stratcom Disinformation Review, mainstream media keep suggesting that the downing of the plane was caused by a shot from a Ukrainian fighter jet just as much as the pro-Kremlin ones. This week they based their claims on a BBC documentary with a slightly confusing title, while in reality, the programme shows experts saying it was unlikely a Ukrainian fighter jet could have shot down MH17.
  • In a Joint statement, nine MEPs from different fractions protest against the fact that Pavel Karpov and Andrey Pavlov, whose names are  on  the European Parliament’s sanctions list, received access to and participated in a movie screening in the EP held on 27th April 2016.
  • According to the latest Information War Monitor for Central Europe published by the GLOBSEC Policy Institute, the pro-Kremlin media attempted to dismiss the connection of Vladimir Putin to the Panama Papers case, blamed the US and NATO for causing the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and spread the general anti-NATO and anti-western disinformation at the start  of April. We are – as the European Values Think-Tank  – proud contributors to the monitoring.
  • The International Republican Institute’s Beacon Project gathered 25 political and non-governmental leaders in Vienna for the second transatlantic roundtable in order to examine the growing complexity of the Kremlin’s use of soft-power tools for  influencing the European public opinion in favour of its own policies, and for weakening democracy abroad as well as at home. 

Kremlin Watch reading suggestions

The Lisa Case: STRATCOM Lessons for European states; by our Jakub Janda for the German Federal Academy for Security Policy

In January 2016, news media reported that a German girl of Russian origin had allegedly been raped by several migrants in Berlin. Since the German government was structurally unable to swiftly react to the unfounded allegations, the case received disproportionate national and international attention. Russian immigrants even marched to the German Chancellery to protest. If a German national STRATCOM team had existed, the case could have been detected as a potentially impactful story in the very beginning. After clearly realising that this case is of  national importance, it would have called for additional police resources, and it would have publicly spread the outcomes of police investigation reports. STRATCOM teams should be established within the Ministries of the Interior in every state so that the foreign policy, national security as well as communication and media experts could work alongside homeland security professionals, and be free of diplomatic self-censorship. These bodies should directly connect strategic communications work to the heads of state at all levels. Policy makers must keep in mind that intelligence gathering mostly works for military purposes but hardly for any real-time engagement with the public. Hence the public battle for the hearts and minds might be lost.

Opinion: Why Russians stopped loving America; by Denis Volkov in Vedomosti

According to the sociological surveys conducted by the Levada Center, the number of Russians with favourable attitude to the West is slowly growing, especially among the young, educated and affluent residents of large cities. However, those figures are fluid and often dependent on the tone of the news reported on the national TV networks. Russians formed a stable prejudice against the West a long time ago. During the 1990s, anti-Americanism grew quite spontaneously, but then Russian authorities started to use it purposefully to justify Moscow’s foreign policy ambitions, mostly by concentrating television networks and media outlets under the control of the state. The interpretations of the events in Ukraine, Georgia and Syria as conflicts caused by Western meddling gave Russia’s interventions more legitimacy. More favourable perceptions of the West will probably return after sanctions against Russia are lifted, but the suspicions about the West’s secret hostility toward Russia, as well as distrust of the US and the EU, will remain for a long time.

Euroatlantic Experts on Disinformation Warfare

  • In the first part of a new Euromaidan Press series you can find out about thestrategies Russia uses for propaganda at home with specific examples of disinformation.
  • Vasily Gatov describes for The Moscow Times how the Russian media changed over the last five years.
  • Katarzyna Sobieraj writes for the EUROPP blog about the importance of strengthening credible and independent media sources in the EU while resisting the temptation to produce pro-EU propaganda in response.  

Tweet of the Week

Current state of pro-Kremlin scene in the Czech Republic

  • The Governor of Brno, the second biggest city in the Czech Republic, posed for a photo with the Night Wolves, a Russian nationalistic motorcycle gang that participated in the annexation of Crimea, with the flag of a separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples’ Republic in the background. The aim of the event at the central cemetery was supposed to be paying tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Red Army during the liberation of Brno

  • James Cook Languages, the biggest language school in the Czech Republic, is the first Czech company to officially announce that it will not advertise on pro-Russian and conspiracy websites. We sincerely hope this is the first of many cases.
  • According to the Czech weekly Respekt, the Czech police and secret services monitor 50 pro-Russian disinformation websites and projects related to them. Amongst the most popular ones is Aeronet.cz which had operated anonymously until recently.
  • The topic that was mentioned the most this week on the Czech pro-Kremlin websites was the anniversary of the tragic events in Odesa. In one of the articles and commentaries the Ukraine government was characterized as a “terrorist regime”.

Infographic of the week

Below you can see a brief guide on how to identify a hybrid troll and how to deal with him/her. The infographic comes from the study conducted by the NATO StratCom COE mentioned above.

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