Weekly update on Kremlin disinformation efforts in Europe
European Values Think-Tank has just published a new analysis: “Mechanisms of Influence of the Russian Federation into Internal Affairs of the Czech Republic”. You can find the executive summary here:
- Key job for interests of the Russian Federation is done by the political allies of the Kremlin and the Czech disinformation entities. Other tools (non-governmental allies of the Kremlin, economic operations with political goals, or extremists supporting the RF) only play a supportive role for these two main groups which spearhead it.
- Long-term goal of the Kremlin influence is the Czech exit from the EU. Allies of the Kremlin (including the Czech President Miloš Zeman) are already calling for EU exit referendum.
- With the upcoming presidential elections in the Czech Republic (January 2018) we expect an enormous increase in disinformation, influence, and media activities of the Russian Federation and its proxies & allies.
- Compared to the neighbouring states, the Czech disinformation scene is disproportionally large and well developed.
Czech Counter-Intelligence Service (BIS) says in its Annual Report: “The infrastructure created for achieving these goals will not disappear with the end of the two conflicts. It can be used to destabilize or manipulate Czech society or political environment at any time, if Russia wishes to do so.”
Czech CounterIntelligence Service (BIS) has just published a new Annual Report (https://www.bis.cz/vyrocni-zpravaEN890a.html?ArticleID=1104) which is alarming in connection to Russian influence. Our analysis of it is here:
Weekly update on Kremlin disinformation efforts
American Think-tanks under attack
DefenseOne reported last Monday that the same group of hackers called Cozy Bear which targeted the DNC and the US State Department now attacked several US think-tanks based in Washington and focusing on Russian policy. Several cyber security experts believe that the group is connected to the Russian intelligence services. The investigation which linked the group to all the attacks has been conducted by CrowdStrike; a computer-security firm. It is not yet known how many organizations exactly have been attacked or what are their specific identities; with the exception of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Its Senior Vice President for External Relations H. Andrew Schwarts admitted they came under attack last week.
Hacked documents not interesting enough? Edit them!
One of the organizations also hacked by the groups with possible ties to the Russian intelligence was the Open Society Foundation, led by George Soros; the Hungarian billionaire. The documents were released on the CyberBerkut website and according to the Foreign Policy reports, several parts of them have apparently been altered. The aim of the alteration should have been to suggest that the foundation is connected to the Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, and provides him with finances. Both Navalny and the Open Society deny the authenticity of the specific parts of the released documents which mention Navalny.
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Putinversteher of the Week
We use this weekly opportunity to award the Putinversteher of the Week to highlight the most obvious attempts, intentional or not, to go on Kremlin’s hand and assist it with spreading its view all over Europe. We believe it is necessary to appreciate in this ceremonial way that without these little helpers, Russian disinformation campaign could never reach its present lengths.
French StreetPress (English translation by Euromaidan) recently reported the leak of several hundreds emails and attachments from the email account of Tatyana Egorova; a member of the press service of the governing body of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”. The emails were shared by Tatyana Egorova’s Twitter account but it is highly possible that she personally was not the one who leaked them.
The documents show the extent to which the French citizens connected to the extreme-right groups are involved in the conflict in Donbas. Several dozen volunteers coming from extreme right groups like La Troisième voie, Bloc Identitaire, and strong supporters of Marine Le Pen, have come to Donetsk to join the separatists and fight side by side with them. Twenty-three people were identified in the emails but it is probable that there are more of them in Donbas; perhaps even twice as many. Some of them were contacted by StreetPress and confirmed that they received a salary of 15,000 roubles per month for their services.
A clear connection between the extreme-right groups and parties to the pro-Russian separatists and Russia itself becomes clearer all over Europe. We have already mentioned French politicians who visited the self-proclaimed separatist republics against Ukrainian law. It seems more than fair that we appreciate these “volunteers” in the same manner, which is why we have decided to name them Putinverstehers of the week.
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Kremlin Watch reading suggestion
“How to stop disinformation: Lessons from Ukraine for the wider world”; byMarina Pesenti and Peter Pomerantsev from the Legatum Institute
Annexation of Crimea and the war in the Eastern Ukraine has provided us with a good reflection on what can be done better when it comes to countering Russian disinformation campaign.
One of the key short-term goals is certainly to maintain a better and bigger cooperation between governments and NGOs in their efforts to effectively respond to Russian propaganda. There is also a need to create an international network of analytics and experts, which will for example conduct public opinion polls or monitor the effect of Russian disinformation campaign on their target audience. A wider cooperation between international scene of journalist is also desired since joint collaboration on international level can be more trustworthy and effective.
From a long-term view, it is necessary for public broadcasting to focus on edge-social groups such as Russian minorities in western states and pay attention to their problems and interests for they are one of the biggest target audiences of Russian propaganda.
Last but not least, public broadcasters should use entertaining narratives and methods to address other social groups and aim their topics on social themes, corruption or other negative aspects which form a fertile ground for the Kremlin and its disinformation campaign.
Euroatlantic experts on disinformation warfare
Dana Milibank argues in The Washington Post that the editing of hacked documents is a novelty in cyber warfare; and that the Russian operatives may want to release edited DNC documents in the Eve of the presidential elections.
Juris Kaža and David Gauthier-Villars point out in The Wall Street Journal that the Latvian legislation which aims to counter Russian disinformation campaign raises questions about civil rights and prosecution of people without breaching freedom of speech and other important principles.
Lincoln Pigman discusses in the European Security Review the best ways for the European Union to counter Russian Information War. Among other things, he mentions that to try to shut down the pro-Kremlin outlets is not an effective method. According to him, it is far better to get inspiration from the EEAS and NATO, which commit significant resources to strategic communications and to promote honest journalism.
Dr. Sebastian Gorka, in his article for the Military Review, compares the Russian approach to warfare with the recommendations of Sun Tsu; meaning they are trying to “win without fighting too much”. He believes Russia based its approach on the Soviet-era theory of Reflexive Control, which explains “how to shape the information environment in such a way as to make your enemy take decisions that are preferable to your victory and detrimental to his success.”
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