Whereas it is widely believed that the EU and NATO were particularly targeted by Russia's disinformation efforts, especially since 2008 when its new foreign policy concept laid the ground for the Kremlin’s strategic "information support for foreign policy activities", countries in the EU's eastern neighbourhood have been subjected to Russia's deception and dezinformatsiia campaigns already for over the past two decades ever since they regained their independence. With the arrival of social media communications, Russia's cyber capabilities build-up, and its internationally consolidated TV and radio broadcast industries in the region, campaigns have evidently become more powerful, micro-targeted and more difficult to be tackled.
Cross-media and cross-border (dis)information offensives have been particularly manifest in the EU's Baltic Member States and Poland, as well as in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Belarus, with Armenia and Azerbaijan being subject to hostile disinformation operations to a lesser extent. The presence of both the Russian media and significant Russophone populations has been instrumentalized to capitalize on the efforts to spread untruths and distort local strategic communications. Narratives of sorts – from "Russophobia" to "neo-fascism", and from "strategic encirclement" by the "West/NATO", "decadent" and "declining Europe" to "failed states" in the EU's neighbourhood – have been considerably promoted to this end. The dangerous blend of (dis)information with other means of "hybrid" warfare waged by the Kremlin in EUrope and its eastern neighbourhood, including infrastructure or hack-and-leak cyber-attacks and further 'active measures', immensely challenges the cohesiveness and institutional and societal resilience of the countries concerned.
As part of the Natolin Neighbourhood Days 2017, the European Neighbourhood Policy Chair organized a round-table debate devoted to the growing challenges of disinformation geopolitics, disrupted strategic communications and distorted narratives in and between Europe and the Eastern Partnership countries as well as their respective societies:
- Media of Mass Distraction. Disinformation and Communications in Social Media Era
Ms Beata BIAŁY, Senior Expert, NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence
- Russia's Strategic Narratives in the EU and the Eastern Partnership Countries: (Dis)Information Strategy and Geopolitical Contestation
Dr Flemming SPLIDSBOEL HANSEN, Research Coordinator, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies
- Is the Battle against Disinformation Already Lost? How could the EU Communicate More Effectively with its Eastern Neighbours?
Prof. Antoaneta DIMITROVA, Professor of Comparative Governance, Leiden University, Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs; Co-coordinator of EU-STRAT Horizon2020 IRP
Chair: Dr Andriy TYUSHKA, Research Fellow, European Neighbourhood Policy Chair, College of Europe (Natolin campus)