Russian Economic Interference in Europe: Case Studies of Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Austria and The Czech Republic


Available in PDF.

  • There is numerous evidence that during the rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia has developed an intricate model of malign influence in Europe which is, in many ways, a modernized tactic of “active measures” that were frequently employed by the Kremlin back in the times of the Cold War to destabilize the target societies.
  • As with many dark elements of dark Soviet legacy, Putin’s regime is eager not to reject them, but to use them for its geopolitical ambitions. Especially, in regard to propaganda or distribution of destructive narratives. Numerous networks of trolls, bots and other Internet creatures of Russian origin have firmly settled in the information landscapes of Western democracies.
  • Vast volumes of disinformation devised by the Kremlin have been found meddling in the elections and the public spheres of independent states from Ukraine and the Baltic states to Great Britain, France, and even the United States. These Internet ghosts skillfully provoked and steered social-media conversations about Brexit and planted fake stories, creating chaos in Berlin around the Lisa case.
  • There is an erroneous conventional thinking among many policymakers and analysts that Russia allegedly has no serious economic interests in the West. Seemingly, it’s only Russian oligarchs who have been buying up real estate and yachts in the European bohemian cities with no visible Kremlin’s actions to get control over large tangible assets. This report demonstrates that its arsenal of influence tools is far more extensive and economics-based.
  • While open and liberal economies are very competitive, they are also quite vulnerable to the influences of the autocratic regimes, such as Russia. Every year billions of dollars and euros are flooding into the EU. It is practically impossible to disentangle Russian capital from other financial flows. And there are Russian money-laundering schemes to be found behind some of the cases of seemingly innocent “foreign direct investments”.
  • In countries of high interest, the Kremlin has been establishing its presence in key industries, such as the energy sector, heavy industry, telecommunications, or even sports. Leverage in these industries is implemented via direct investment, assets purchases, or by signing so-called “assets interchange agreements”. Among new sub-industries of Russia`s interest are fast-food market and hospitality industry.
  • Overall, this report aims to summarize the existing open data on the Russian economic weight in the EU and the neighboring countries, which, combined with the information influence, is a real danger to the European security and unity.

Lessons learned from operational security of civil society organisations in Georgia

This Report follows a year of cooperation between non-governmental organizations and think-tanks from Central Europe and the Eastern Neighbourhood (EN) with the support of the European Commission. The aim of the project was to enhance the resilience and self-protection capabilities of civil society in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. The project envisages empowering organizations and experts in target countries who counter the Kremlin disinformation, as well as media representatives and civil activists.

This report identifies the institutional and personal security challenges and needs of Georgian civil society organizations (CSOs), media, and activists draw from in-depth interviews with representatives of these sectors, all of whom faced different types of cyber, personal, counter-intelligence and information security issues.

The Media Development Foundation (MDF) conducted in-depth interviews with 24 respondents, out of which 12 represent CSOs, 8 come from media services, 3 are civil activists, and 1 hold office in a government institution.

Available in PDF.

Handbook on cyber, information, intelligence and personal security threats stemming out of foreign authoritarian regimes or domestic oppression and harassment

This report follows a year of cooperation between civil society organizations (CSO) and think-tanks from Central Europe and the Eastern Neighborhood (EN). It is one part of the Project on Enhancing and Sharing Lessons Learnt in Resilience and Self-Protection, which evaluates the capability of civil society in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova to use guidance from the European Values Center for Security Policy (EVC) in operational security and exposing illegitimate methods of influence. Here, we adapt their approach and apply it to the political realities in the EN.

Available in ENGLISH

Available in GEORGIAN

For more specific related cases in Georgia please clik here.

Available in MOLDOVAN

Available in UKRAINIAN

Lessons Learned and Best Practices from the Czech Republic: COVID-19

The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is a global one. That means that various countries in the world are facing similar, if not identical, challenges and problems. The Czech Republic entered this fight a few moments and stages earlier than other countries in Eastern Europe, like Ukraine and Georgia, among others. Czech civil society (in the broader understanding of this term) has already shown a high degree of innovation, creativity, voluntarism, and solidarity when it comes to the fight aganist this disease. We believe that there is no need for others to reinvent the wheel and waste precious time in the face of a potentially fatal disease. Therefore, we decided to compile the best practices and lessons learned by Czech civil society and offer them as this shareware toolkit to other countries.

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Assessment of the Kremlin’s Malign Influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia

This Report is a final output of a year-long cooperation between non-governmental organizations and think-tanks from Central Europe and the Western Balkans. The goal of this cooperation within the #BalkansWatch project was to use the experiences of the countries from the Visegrad group in mapping and assessing malign foreign influence of third countries, adapt their approach and apply it to the current situation in the Western Balkans. This Kremlin Watch Report focuses on tools of foreign influence which aim at disrupting democratic processes and attacking the trust of societies towards democratic institutions. Číst dále

Comparing Lessons Learned from Countering Russian Disinformation in Georgia and Czech Republic

This paper aims to analyze the Czech experience of countering disinformation on both governmental and non-governmental levels. The reason for choosing the Czech Republic is twofold: firstly, the historical commonalities as well as current similarities in terms of the praxis of the disinformation in the Czech case make it worth examining for Georgia; and secondly, with comparison to other European countries, the Czech Republic led with a major policy shift on the topic on Russian disinformation and thus provides some useful lessons. Číst dále

Handbook on Countering Russian and Chinese Interference in Europe

Analysis of the texts of annual intelligence reports has proven what the European Values Center for Security Policy has been claiming for years. The hostile influence operations are not a random occurrence, nor are they a phenomenon that concerns a few countries only. In fact, our research has uncovered a broad consensus among the intelligence agencies in terms of existing tactics and tools applied by Russia and China.  In other words, our long-held stance has now been backed by “hard data” i.e. texts of intelligence agencies. Report available in PDF. Číst dále

Analysis of Russian & Chinese Influence in Central Europe

Security Strategies Program is publishing the second part of its publication “How do EU Members States’, Canadian and the United States Intelligence Agencies Assess Russian and Chinese Influence Operations?”. This second report examines Russian and Chinese influence in the Central European region. The aim of the re-port is to more closely cover the actual events that have already happened in Central Europe and analyze them as part of the larger picture. The report is divided into two parts: Russia and China. In both cases, the report will first go through the short- and long-term goals for the countries. These goals have been adjusted to the context of Central Europe: what is the value of Central Europe for Russia and China? How does the region work as a mean towards larger foreign policy goals, and how does the region work as an end itself? Read more in the report. Číst dále

Vulnerabilities to Russian Influence in Montenegro

With a population of a little more than 650,000 citizens, Montenegro is NATO’s newest and smallest member. It joined the Alliance controversially and without a majority of public support in June 2017 (“The World Factbook: Montenegro”). Though Montenegro is small, its admission into NATO is viewed as a big win for the Alliance. The NATO win, however, is not in terms of what Montenegro can provide militarily – it has an army of a mere 2,000 soldiers – but in terms of the message it sends to Russia and other Western Balkan nations.

However, despite NATO membership, Russian influence in the country remains significant and has shown no signs of going away. This influence is seen in nearly all levels of Montenegrin society, but most prominently in the economic, political, civil society, media, and religious realms. Russia relies heavily on disinformation and uses its proxy agents to promote its agenda directly and indirectly in the country. The high level of corruption in Montenegro and its weak institutions provides the fuel that allows Russian influence to take hold and infiltrate all levels of society without any recourse. This poses a major threat not only to Montenegro, but to the broader Western Balkan region and to both NATO and the EU. It also damages Montenegro’s chances of EU accession in 2025, which the majority of the population supports, and feels is necessary for Montenegro’s economic prosperity.

Read the full Kremlin Watch Report.

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