The good news is that finally, the EU officially calls Russia out as the main driver of hostile disinformation against Europe. This Action Plan is the most detailed and comprehensive document the EU has ever produced in the threat of hostile disinformation. Unlike previous EU documents on this issue, it clearly names Russia as the main actor behind the threat of hostile disinformation. It is the assessment of the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell that “disinformation by the Russian Federation poses the greatest threat to the EU”. Despite many EU officials, including several Commissioners who often try to downplay the Russian hostile role, the EU clearly states the obvious in this document. Číst dále
Autor - European Values
Please, start taking pro-Kremlin disinformation seriously
Source: President of Russia
Dear President of the European Commission,
Dear High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy,
On Sunday, March 4, a chemical weapons attack was conducted on European soil for the first time in over 70 years. Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. The attack was accompanied by a massive disinformation campaign by Russia. The EU was quick and determined in its response. It condemned the attack strongly and many of its member states expelled Russian diplomats.
We need similar determination showing the EU is ready to defend itself against Russia’s disruptive disinformation operations seeking to abuse our vulnerabilities. In the aftermath of the Salisbury attack, the European Council invited the High Representative and the Commission to present an action plan on disinformation.
This is your chance to finally send a strong signal to Russia: that the EU does not tolerate Russia exploiting its fundamental values and principles, such as freedom of expression, for malign information operations aimed at weakening the EU and its member states. Already in 2015, the European Council tasked the Commission and the EEAS to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign, and a communications team, the East Strategic Communications Task Force at the EEAS was set up as a first step.
As European specialists focusing on foreign and security policy, we are closely following the activities of the Commission on countering the threat of disinformation campaigns. Many of us have cooperated with the East Stratcom Task Force since it was established. We have seen first hand how the capacity of the only counter-disinformation team mandated by the EU heads of states and governments has been not been supported as it should have.
Last year, 65 security experts across Europe called for the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini to triple the capacity of the EEAS East STRATCOM Team and give it a budget in millions of Euros, so it could start fulfilling its mandate as stipulated by the Member States and the European Parliament.
This has not happened. The only budget given to the understaffed team is 1,1 million euros through the European Parliament and as a result, the team still has no permanent budget enabling strategic long-term planning. The EU response to Russia’s disinformation is based on just a couple of experts mainly paid by the member states, while the official investment by Russia alone in its propaganda channels is over one billion euros. The Commission is still clearly failing in delivering a practical response to pro-Kremlin disinformation, despite repeated calls from the Member States, the European Parliament, and numerous European security experts.
We are aware of other initiatives by the Commission. The trouble is that these initiatives either fail to see that Russia is by far the most aggressive foreign actor in the disinformation space, or they fail to design any meaningful response against this actor. This means that East StratCom is so far the EU’s only response against the Kremlin’s hostile information aggression.
The European Parliamentary elections are approaching. We have seen Russia’s orchestrated attempts to influence the French elections and Brexit. It has hacked the parliament ahead of German elections and manipulated information around the Catalonia independence vote to influence public opinion, just to mention a few. The very EU’s East StratCom provides publicly available evidence of Russian hostile activities. There is an ongoing disinformation campaign by Russia around the downing of MH17 and chemical attacks in Syria.
In April 2018, in Britain, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and France, the majority of people suspected Russia was behind the Salisbury poisoning. But in Bulgaria, for example, 81% did not see sufficient proof of Russian involvement. 54% considered that the Skripal case was a provocation against Russia. And in October, 28 percent of Russians believed the Skripals were in fact poisoned by British intelligence services. 3 percent said the attack was carried out by Russian intelligence services. Another 56 percent of respondents said, “it could have been anyone”.
The EU’s weak response to Russia’s disinformation is damaging to the European Union’s credibility internationally, and as a security provider to its citizens. It gives way to malign actors to freely interfere.
Therefore, we call upon you, as the President of the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, to show that this Commission will actually do something in this important field. As European security experts, we propose the three following steps:
1. As the Commission is about to present the Action Plan on disinformation, Russia must be explicitly identified as the main foreign source of hostile disinformation against the EU and its values. We have seen efforts inside the Commission to avoid pointing the finger at Russia, but as we have already seen in numerous cases, such an approach only encourages the Kremlin to be more aggressive. Russia must be officially named and shamed for its permanent hostilities against Europe.
2. The only European Council mandated body, the East Strategic Communications Task Force at the EEAS, should be provided with additional 30 experts with various language and specialist skills in order to be able to analyse pro-Kremlin disinformation with appropriate human resources, including during the upcoming European Parliament election campaign. It is a strategic political failure of President Juncker and High Representative Mogherini that since 2015, the Commission with thousands of employees was so far unable and unwilling to provide these resources to the only EU specialist team on this issue, despite numerous calls by various Heads of States and Governments in the EU Member States, by Member States’ Foreign Ministers, by the European Parliament, or by the European expert community.
3. The East Strategic Communications Task Force at the EEAS should be provided with an annual budget of at least 5 million EUR for special research, monitoring and campaigns. Without any real budget for its work, this team cannot have a relevant impact on the issue which the Member States and the European Parliament have repeatedly called for to be addressed. The adequate budget is needed for proper monitoring of disinformation oriented sources, both in the traditional media and in the social media, as well asother non-traditional sources. The Commission should also use its existing tools to enhance long-term financial and other support to independent local media working in/on Russia and the states of the Eastern Partnership.
- Harpaul Alberto, Centennial Group International, USA
- Alex Alexiev, Chairman, Balkan and Black Sea Studies (cbbss.org) and BulgariaAnalytica.org, Bulgaria
- Karl Altau, Joint Baltic American National Committee, Estonia
- Laima Andrikiene, Member, European Parliament, Lithuania
- Erkki Bahovski, Editor of Diplomaatia, International Centre for Defence and Security, Estonia
- Kamil Basaj, CEO, Info Ops, Poland
- Valdis Berzins, Foreign News Editor, Latvijas Avize Daily, Latvia
- Petr Bohacek, Director, European Security Journal, Czech Republic
- Michael Boltze, B&B Boltze GbR, Germany
- Eto Buziashvili, Georgian Strategic Analysis Center, Georgia
- Arnaud Castaignet, Head of Public Relations, e-Residency, Estonia
- Halyna Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Ukraine
- Slawomir Debski, Director, Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), Poland
- Kestutis J. Eidukonis, President, VilNews.com, Lithuania
- Yevhen Fedchenko, Chief Editor, StopFake, Ukraine
- Iulian Fota, Former Presidential Adviser, National security, Romania
- Rob Gill, Irish-Ukrainian Solidarity, Ireland
- Gustav Gressel, Senior Fellow, ECFR, Germany
- Shota Gvineria, Senior Fellow, EPRC, Georgia
- Joel Harding, Independent Information Warfare Expert, USA
- Pavel Havlíček, Fellow, Association for International Affairs, Czech Republic
- Gunnar Hökmark, Member, European Parliament, Sweden
- Boris Chykulay, Head of the Board, Forum of the Ukrainians in the Czech Republic, Czech Republic
- Gyarmati Istvan, ICDT Foundation, Hungary
- Wojciech Jakóbik, Editor in Chief, BiznesAlert.pl, Poland
- Bojan S. Janković, President, League West (Liga Zapad), Serbia
- Peter Jukes, Dial M for Mueller, USA
- Ruslan Kavatsiuk, Advisor, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euroatlantic Integration of Ukraine, Ukraine
- Tunne Kelam, Member, European Parliament, Estonia
- Maksym Khylko, East European Security Research Initiative Foundation, Ukraine
- Bjarne Kim, Author, Denmark
- Tamar Kintsurashvili, Media Development Foundation, Georgia
- James Kirchick, Fellow, Brookings Institution, USA
- David J. Kramer, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, USA
- Marius Laurinavičius, Senior Fellow, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, Lithuania
- Andrii Lavrenuk, Correspondent in France, Ukrainian National News Agency UKRINFORM, Ukraine
- Jan Lipavský, Member, Parliament, Czech Republic
- Ivan Lozowy, Movement to Fight Corruption, Ukraine
- Radu Magdin, VP, Strategikon, Romania
- Juraj Mesik, Analyst, Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Slovakia
- Jelena Milič, Director, Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies, Serbia
- Giorgi Muchaidze, Executive Director, Atlantic Council of Georgia, Georgia
- Andrej Novak, European Cosmopolitan Consulting, Germany
- Vít Novotný, Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, Belgium
- Paata Gaprindashvili, Director, Georgia´s Reforms Associates (GRASS), Georgia
- Dmytro Potekhin, FakesRadar.org, Ukraine
- Kristi Raik, Director, Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, Estonia
- Nima Rashedan, CivicCloud, Poland
- Giedrius Sakalauskas, Director, Res Publica – civic resilience center, Lithuania
- Sven Sakkov, Director, International Centre for Defence and Security, Estonia
- Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Member, European Parliament, Poland
- Robert Seely, Member, Parliament for Isle of Wight, United Kingdom
- Eugeniusz Smolar, Centre for International Relations, Poland
- Vladimir Socor, Senior Fellow, The Jamestown Foundation, USA
- Evgeni Starikov, KIT, Karlsruhe, Germany
- Alice Stollmeyer, Defending Democracy, Belgium
- Radu Tudor, Pol&Mil Analyst, Romania
- Andreas Umland, Senior Fellow, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Ukraine
- Marcel H. Van Herpen, Director, The Cicero Foundation, The Netherlands
- Ilian Vassilev, Former Ambassador, Bulgaria to Russia, Bulgaria
- Ernest Wyciszkiewicz, Director, Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding, Poland
Add your signature:
Liubov Tsybulska is joining the European Values Think-Tank’s Kremlin Watch Program. Drawing on her rich professional experience in the Ukrainian state and media sector, she will create guidelines for the Western international community for impactful assistance and support for Ukraine. Číst dále
This report is a follow-up to the Overview of countermeasures by the EU28 to the Kremlin’s subversion operations conducted by the European Values Think-Tank and published in May 2017. It summarises the attitudes, policies, and strategic responses of the EU28 to Russia’s disinformation campaigns and other hostile influence operations. The special focus in this updated issue is on the main developments and changes, positive or negative, which took place during the months after the original report was published. Specifically, the developments have been updated up to June 1st, 2018. Read the PDF.
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6 reasons Nord Stream 2 will be Germany’s strategic mistake for decades to come
The Russian government’s lobbying strategy is crystal clear – it wants to keep Western money flowing towards the Kremlin elite and increase its leverage against key European decision makers. Recent history only confirms that the Kremlin uses energy as a tool of blackmail. There is no reason why Moscow should change this strategy. Most Central and Eastern European countries understand this threat very well, but it seems that Russia’s lobbying efforts have been enormously successful in persuading the majority of Berlin’s political establishment to become allies in this energy game.
Meeting with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, Source: President of Russia
Nord Stream 2 is now supported by both Germany‘s major ruling political parties in the current CDU/SPD coalition as well as three parties of the opposition: the far right AfD, the liberal FDP, and the extreme left, die Linke. The German side argues that the broad public support for the project justifies it. But is German public opinion really informed in this case? While the German political elite seems to be convinced that this is the right decision, there are a least six major reasons why building Nord Stream 2 is a strategic mistake for Berlin and its European allies.
- Building up this extra pipeline will increase German political dependency on Russian energy, giving Moscow greater leverage for strategic blackmail.
We have seen the Kremlin use energy to blackmail European democracies numerous times in the past. While Germany‘s government is rightly the key driver behind European sanctions retaliating against Russia‘s aggression against Ukraine, the Merkel administration still has a blind spot. If Berlin agrees that an aggressor needs to be punished and deterred from further aggression (which has cost more than 10,000 Ukrainian lives so far) and if Germany is seen as the ‘moral leader’ keeping the push for sanctions active, how can it also effectively provide an aggressor with a major tool for blackmailing the country in the future? The only plausible explanation of this position is that Russian lobbying efforts have been overwhelmingly successful in working the floor of decision-making circles. It takes a combination of local pragmatic interests of some individuals as well as the incredibly naïve and dangerous ideological belief of a political class that if you do business with an aggressor, he will possibly become less aggressive. History has shown that such a strategy is ineffective. An aggressor needs to be stopped with resolute power and deterrence, not political bribes. Germany is Gazprom’s largest European market and the construction of the pipeline will consolidate the company’s position against other competitors and ultimately against Berlin itself. Pretending that the Nord Stream 2 project is not political is simply a lie.
- Nord Stream 2 will bypass Germany’s Central and Eastern European allies and weaken the Alliance.
Nord Stream 2 enables Gazprom to partition markets and potentially charge higher prices in the CEE region. German analyst Georg Zachmann expressed this idea eloquently: “Most alarmingly, Gazprom would gain another tool to discriminate between countries. Gazprom could then credibly threaten to cut off gas supplies in Eastern Europe without threatening its markets in Western Europe. In this way Gazprom could achieve higher prices in Central and Eastern Europe, without having to use illegal “destination clauses” (which allow buyers of Gazprom’s gas to only sell it to domestic consumers)”.
In this already difficult context for regional stability, Nord Stream 2 increases security risks in Baltic states too as it can be used by the Kremlin as an argument for keeping armed forces near the construction sites “to protect them from sabotage”. It can also be safely assumed that the Russian Federation would not refrain from using provocation and fake sabotage incidents as it has done in the past, both in Ukraine and in Turkmenistan, should it require a pretext for a stronger military presence.
Specialists argue that it could give a tactical advantage to the Russian armed forces. More importantly, it would enable the Russian forces to block NATO forces’ movements by sea in case of armed conflict with Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. Combined with armed forces based in Kaliningrad, Nord Stream 2 circumvents Baltic States, legitimizing the presence of Russian armed forces in the region. Nord Stream 2 is not only endangering the security of Ukraine but it also has a direct impact on the security of Baltic States. Another concerns is the expected rise of hostile intelligence activities related to the construction of Nord Stream 2, as well as the difficulty it creates for future NATO maneuvers in the region.
- The Federal Republic of Germany will be de facto co-financing Russia’s war machine and Nord Stream 2 will further weaken the Alliance.
Gazprom however is not just any company. It has specifically been involved in malign practices in many different countries. In Germany, the Nord Stream 1 project was clouded by a large corruption case related to the Nordic Yards (previously Wadan Yards) involving Russian government officials and members of the Russian mafia, as reported by expert Ilya Zaslavskiy.
The truth is that Nord Stream 2 is not a regular business project with the Russian Federation, or even with Gazprom: it is a business deal with Vladimir Putin and his cronies. Doing business with the Russian President is in no way a normal business deal. If actors involved in similar jaw-dropping deals with mafia-like Russian elite economy can seemingly rely on domestic impunity, this feeling is likely to soon stop at the country’s borders.
- Nord Stream 2 will aggravate strategic corruption in Europe – as the Schroeder case shows.
Security analysts have long sounded the alarm about the level of Russian intelligence penetration into Germany. None of the actors involved on the German side of the Gazprom deals in Germany, such as ex-Stasi officer Matthias Warnig or former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, have been the subject of official scrutiny or real isolation in the last decade. Neither have the local politicians who suddenly started to lobby for the project in the Land of Mecklenburg Western Pomerania a few years ago. It can be safely assumed that Nord Stream 2 will make entire parts of the Baltic coastal region in Germany economically dependent on the energy deal. It is no coincidence that Gazprom’s fiercest defenders are decision makers from this region. Incidentally, these local politicians and entrepreneurs are also the loudest critics of sanctions against the Russian Federation, and are also equally harsh critics of NATO, often displaying blatant anti-Americanism while cultivating a taste for lavish tourism in the Russian Federation.
- Nord Stream 2 contradicts EU Energy Union principles and is clearly redundant.
The EU energy agenda stresses the importance of diversification and the necessity of unbundling. Under the massive influence of the Federal Republic of Germany, the EU has also been promoting renewables. Experts have argued that the already existing gas infrastructure was more than adequate to guarantee transport of the necessary volume to the European market. From a supply perspective, Nord Stream 2 officials claim that as supply in the Netherlands and Norway dwindles, Europe needs additional gas volume. They conveniently forget that Gazprom simply intends to replace one part of the infrastructure (the pipelines going through Ukraine) with another (the expansion of NS2).
This begs the question of how genuine Germany’s European commitments are. Given the position of the European Union and of the German government on global warming, how does Germany justify allowing companies to invest in the construction of a strategic gas pipeline infrastructure while claiming to promote renewables and energy efficiency?
- Nord Stream 2 causes substantial environmental damage.
Approximately 70% of all Russian gas imports to Europe will go through just two underwater pipelines that are vulnerable to terrorism, which are much less safe than existing landline routes.
Major European environmental groups have raised the issue of Nord Stream 2 being a genuine threat to both fauna and flora. The Kulgarsky reserve in North West Russia is directly threatened by the construction of Nord Stream. Finnish, Estonian and Swedish organizations have voiced similar concerns regarding the Baltic Sea. Here again, German decision makers seem to be disregarding the warnings from environmental organizations and NGOs such as NABU whose latest analysis of the project concluded that it constitutes a real danger to the coastal environment. NABU subsequently decided to launch a legal procedure against the construction of Nord Stream 2. NABU lost the case. The court decided to privilege energy security over the environmental aspect. Here again, the concern expressed by several NGOs confirming NABUs’ assessment seems to be ignored by the current German government.
Several other critics, mostly Baltic and Ukrainian, have convincingly argued that, at minimum, the German government must exercise strict control over undersea pipelines lying within their territorial limits on the Baltic Sea. This dimension involves a wide range of environmental contingencies and security-related provisions. They claim that if Berlin had wanted to stop or delay the project, it could have easily done so.
- Eerik-Niiles Kross, MP, Riigikogu, Estonia
- Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Member, European Parliament, Poland
- Marko Mihkelson, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee of Estonia’s Parliament, Estonia
- Tunne Kelam, Member, European Parliament, Estonia
- Karl Altau, Managing Director, Joint Baltic American National Committee, Estonia
- Antoine Arjakovsky, Founder, Director, Institute of Ecumenical Studies, Ukrainian Catholic University, France
- Plamen Asenov, Journalist, Freelancer, Bulgaria
- Kamil Basaj, Project Manager, Information Operations – Cybersecurity Foundation, Poland
- Marieluise Beck, Co-founder, Zentrum Liberale Moderne, Germany
- Radovan Bláha, Member, Politics and Conscience Movement, Czech Republic
- Simas Čelutka, Head of European Security Programme, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, Lithuania
- Sławomir Dębski, Director, Polish Institute of International Affairs, Poland
- Ralf Fücks, Executive Director, Zentrum Liberale Moderne, Germany
- Otakar van Gemund, Activist, Kaputin Group, Czech Republic
- Gustav C. Gressel, Senior Policy Fellow on the Wider Europe Programme, European Council on Foreign Relations Berlin, Germany
- István Gyarmati , President, International Centre for Democratic Transition, Hungary
- Wojciech Jakóbik, Energy analyst and Editor in Chief, BiznesAlert.pl, Poland
- Mark Johnston, Blogger, markjohnston.org, Belgium
- Péter Krekó, Director, Political Capital Institute, Hungary
- Andis Kudors, Executive Director, Centre for East European Policy Studies, Latvia
- Marius Laurinavičius, Senior Expert, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis , Lithuania
- Martin Malek, Political Scientist, National Defense Academy, Austria
- Nerijus Maliukevicius, Researcher, Vilnius University, Lithuania
- Jakub Můčka, Chairman, Eastern European Club of Charles University, Czech Republic
- Jaroslav Naď, Director, Slovak Security Policy Institute, Slovakia
- Andrej Ferdinand Novak, Senior Consultant, European Cosmopolitan Consulting, Germany
- Ana Otilia Nutu, Political Analyst, Expert Forum, Romania
- Patrik Oksanen, Political editor, Hudiksvalls Tidning newspaper, Sweden
- Samuel de Paiva Pires, Visiting Assistant Professor of International Relations, University of Beira Interior, Portugal
- Žygimantas Pavilionis, Member, Lietuvos Respublikos Seimo, Lithuania
- Bjarne Kim Pedersen, Writer, Blogdigter, Denmark
- Tomasz Peszynski, Coordinator, Pulse of Europe, Czech Republic
- Marcin Rey, Blogger, Rosyjska V Kolumna w Polsce, Poland
- Alan Riley, Senior Associate Fellow, The Institute for Statecraft, UK
- Giedrius Sakalauskas, Director, Res Publica, Lithuania
- Anton Shekhovtsov, Visiting Fellow, Institute for Human Sciences, Austria
- Katarina Skrypnik, Chairwoman, Prague Majdan, Czech Republic
- Vladimir Socor, Senior Fellow, Jamestown Foundation, Germany
- Susanne Spahn, Political Scientist, Independent, Germany
- Evgeni B. Starikov, Theoretical Biophysical Chemistry, Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, Germany
- Alice Stollmeyer, Executive Director, Defending Democracy, Belgium
- David Svoboda, Historian, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Czech Republic
- Dovilė Šukytė, Acting Director, Eastern Europe Studies Centre (EESC), Lithuania
- Nicolas Tenzer, Senior Civil Servant, Editor-in-Chief, Le Banquet , France
- Radu Tudor, Political and Military Analyst, Antena 3, Romania
- Marcel H Van Herpen, Director, The Cicero Foundation, Netherlands
- Prince Oleg Volkonsky, Former Journalist, Voice of America, UK
- Rolf Weber, Security Analyst, Independent, Germany
- Ernest Wyciszkiewicz , Director, Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding, Poland
- Ilya Zaslavskiy, Fellow, Chatham House, UK
In 2016, the Czech Republic undergone a major policy shift on the topic of Russian disinformation. Many questions have been raised on how it has happened and what practically it means. This paper aims to bring a simplified overview of what has happened in this particular field in the Czech context since 2014. This Kremlin Watch Report is available in PDF. Číst dále
Czech deputies and senators regularly travel to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, the regions that are suffering from the conflict with Pro-Russian separatists. There is one concrete goal in these trips and that is to legitimize the Russian foreign policy and their regime and not only for the Russian internal propaganda but to the international audience as well. Czech legislators behave this way with no matter how the official Czech or EU foreign policies are, precisely speaking of the sanction regime that was enforced on Russia in 2014 for breaking the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by the RF. Download the new Kremlin Watch Report by Junior Analyst Markéta Krejčí here. Číst dále
Weekly monitor of pro-Kremlin disinformation effort in Europe. We follow best European analysts, best counter-measures and trends. Číst dále