Kremlin disinformation remains a problem for the West

Remarks by General (Ret.) Wesley Clark on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 18 March 2021

Kremlin disinformation remains a problem for the West

Experts believe that the US and Europe should intensify the fight against Russian and Chinese disinformation

For a long time, Western countries have been faced with the problem of the spread of Russian propaganda, false information and disinformation. The coronavirus pandemic further exacerbated the situation, creating the basis for the further exploitation of existing social contradictions not only from Moscow, but also from Beijing..

Experts at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington held on Wednesday, February 10, a discussion of the current situation with the penetration of Russian and Chinese disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe and methods of combating it.

Head of the Eurasian Section of the Dutch non-profit organization Free Press Without Restrictions and an expert at the Center for European Policy Analysis Maria Sadovskaya-Komlach (Maryia Sadouskaya-Komlach, Free Press Unlimited) notes that today the Kremlin is actively spreading narratives that the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and the leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya are puppets in the hands of Western players.

Russian state news channels generally highlight the weakness of the West and create an image of authoritarian systems as deserving of respect because of strong and reliable governance, the expert said. So, through this prism, the last visit to Moscow of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell was covered, and the poisoning of Navalny and his arrest, according to the Kremlin’s discourse, is not a reason to stop Nord Stream 2. Both Russia and China are spreading narratives that emphasize that “if you are strong enough, you can put people in jail, but the big states will still see you as an important player,” says Sadovskaya-Komlach.

They also actively use “vaccine diplomacy” and “diplomacy of technological progress”, within which, in particular, the success of Russia in the fight against the pandemic and its willingness to provide its vaccine to neighboring countries is emphasized. At the same time, the West is portrayed as not coping with the pandemic and not providing adequate assistance to other countries..

The rhetoric of the Russian media, the expert adds, is largely repeated by the state media of Belarus..

Director of the Political Capital Institute of Budapest and expert at the Center for European Policy Analysis Peter Kreko (Peter Kreko, Political Capital Institute) notes that unlike Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, Central European countries have an insignificant Russian-speaking population that would consume information from the Russian state media, so the Kremlin resorts to using local media to spread its narratives here and politicians.

“Russia is quite successful – just as China is becoming more successful – in finding local politicians and local media to reinforce its narratives,” the expert says, adding that such a plan “state-sponsored disinformation” is becoming more serious. a problem in Central European countries, especially Hungary, where, compared to other European countries, the media are more centralized and less free.

Kremlin disinformation remains a problem for the West

One of the weaknesses that are exploited in the spread of disinformation by both European nationalist parties and Kremlin propaganda is the sensitivity of the Central European countries to the fact that they are the “periphery” of Europe..

“In many countries there is still a feeling that we are between East and West,” the expert explains. – While Eastern and Central European countries, for example, the Visegrad Group (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – Ed.) Are members of both the EU and NATO, there is a perception that citizens of Central and Eastern Europe are not being treated in the European Union just like with the citizens of Western Europe, that they are kind of secondary members of the Western alliance “.

Kremlin disinformation remains a problem for the West
Kremlin disinformation remains a problem for the West

Feelings of uncertainty about whether NATO will protect the countries of Central and Eastern Europe from a potential Russian threat is also used in anti-Western rhetoric, adds Creco..

Communications Advisor to the Lithuanian Parliament and Visiting Expert at the Center for European Policy Analysis Dalia Bankauskaite (Dalia Bankauskaite) notes that the Baltic states have a long track record of countering Russian disinformation.

“The Baltics were constantly exposed to aggressive actions by Russia. So, to some extent, when the spread of false information and misinformation began, when the information war actively began after the aggression against Ukraine, the Baltic countries were ready or, at least, were not surprised by this “.

The Baltic states are not only actively opposing and refuting Russian disinformation, but also spreading “their own history,” the Lithuanian communications expert notes. Also, in countering Russian disinformation, cooperation between various state institutions and with civil society is closely established, including programs to strengthen media literacy play an important role, the expert adds..

Washington and Brussels should also more actively oppose the spread of Russian disinformation and strengthen their cooperation in this, experts say. In Europe, the European Parliament is the institution that most often speaks out in defense of democracy, human rights and opposition to “harmful” influences from Russia and China, so its role in European politics should be strengthened. The new US administration, in turn, must send a clear signal to protect Western values ​​and develop an appropriate policy for its public diplomacy, experts say..

  • Valeria Jegisman

    Voice of America journalist. Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics

Kremlin disinformation remains a problem for the West

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