Two weeks ago, the European Values think-tank welcomed altogether 330 participants of the second STRATCOM SUMMIT representing 29 countries at the Czech Ministry of Interior. Specifically, 140 governments specialists representing 27 countries came to the restricted part of the SUMMIT. Amongst the key-note speakers, there were the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who called for more funding and support to the EEAS East STRATCOM unit, and the Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek.

The full speech of the Prime Minister is available in Czech language here.

Mark Laity, the chief of strategic communications at NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) said about the SUMMIT: “We need this new kind of coordination effort [against Russian aggression] unlike any before, not just by coordinating government, not just coordinating countries, but between NGOs, government, military bodies, and civilian bodies across the continent.”

John R. Schindler wrote for Observer that “STRATCOM 2017 is unique in size and scope” and that “there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else”. At the same time, he points out that the United States are slightly behind in the fight against disinformation operations compared to their European allies.


Policy shift overview: How the Czech Republic became one of the European leaders in countering Russian disinformation

Over the last year, the Czech Republic has undergone a major policy shift on the topic of Russian disinformation. Many questions have been raised on how it has happened and what it practically means. This paper aims to bring a simplified overview of what has happened in this field in the Czech context since 2016. This Kremlin Watch Report is available in PDF.

A framework guide to tools for countering hostile foreign electoral interference

This brief Report aims to enumerate the tools that are nowadays used for hostile electoral interference and how they can be countered. It consists of 35 measures in 15 steps for enhancing the resilience of the democratic electoral process. The report by our Kremlin Watch Program is available in PDF.

Overview of countermeasures by the EU28 to the Kremlin’s subversion operations

How do the EU28 perceive and react to the threat of hostile influence and disinformation operations by the Russian Federation and its proxies? What are the recent trends and setbacks of political representations, state administrations, intelligence services and the non-governmental sector? Kremlin Watch Report available in PDF.

What are the 4 things Western democracies need to understand in order to stop hostile Kremlin meddling?

  • Putin’s regime wants to call itself a superpower and to be respected as such
  • Moscow is still dangerous
  • Disinformation operations are a real and urgent threat to democracies worldwide
  • We need to be resolute in defending our own countries

Read more in the article by Jakub Janda published by Observer.

Putin’s Champion Award

Our Expert Jury consisting of Jessikka Aro, Peter Kreko, Nerijus Maliukevičius, Anton Shekhovtsov, John Schindler and Michael Weiss regularly votes on the dangerousness of several candidates you can nominate via e-mail or Twitter.

The 11th Putin’s Champion Award Recipient is:

Oliver Stone

For essentially becoming a Kremlin’s tool by providing Vladimir Putin with external legitimacy.

Gage Skidmore, CC BY 3.0

The Expert Jury ranked his Putin-supportive job with 4.1 (out of 5) mark.

The rating signals how much the recipient contributed to the interest of the Putin’s aggressive regime. It is calculated as an average of ratings assessed by the Expert Jury of this Award.

You can find more details about the award and the former recipients here.

Weekly Update on the Kremlin Disinformation Efforts

Cyber-attacks in Malta

The Maltese government stated that the number of cyber-attacks against its structures has increased recently, as the general elections in the country are coming up. A confidential external risk assessment identifies the Fancy Bear, often associated with the Kremlin, as the prime suspect. The relationship between Malta and Russia has been deteriorating in recent years. Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, recently claimed that a foreign intelligence agency had suggested Malta would become a target for a Russian disinformation campaign.

Macron against the disinformation outlets

Emmanuel Macron banned Russian news outlets Sputnik and RT from the evens during his candidacy and now he went another step further as a newly elected French President. During his first meeting with Vladimir Putin this week, he called these media organizations “agents of influence” which “did not behave like press outlets” and spread “serious falsehoods” during his election campaign.

Major phishing campaign seems to be linked to Russia

The Citizen Lab group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Public Affairs published a report describing a new case of the so-called “tainted leak” – stealing, doctoring and then publishing data presenting them as authentic. The study reveals a major phishing operation of the group of hackers called CyberBerkut, targeting over 200 subjects from 39 countries, including members of governments from Europe and Eurasia, ambassadors, high-ranking military officers, CEOs of energy companies and members of civil society. Although the Citizen Lab group does not demonstrate a clear link to the Kremlin, it shows in the report that it has key links to Fancy Bear or APT28, previously accused of the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hilary Clinton by the US intelligence agencies and cybersecurity firms.

Who meddles with whose internal affairs again?

The United Russia party issued a report investigating whether and how the United States tried to influence the last year’s elections in Russia. Leonid Levin, the chair of the State Duma’s committee on information technologies, presented the report in the Parliament. According to him, media outlets like CNN (which does not broadcast in Russia), Voice of America or RFE/RL were part of an attempt to interfere with the domestic electoral process in Russia. These claims are based on the report which shows that the media coverage of the elections by these outlets has been mostly negative.

There have been so many new reports on the alleged Russian meddling in the US politics in the last few weeks that there is almost no point in trying to summarize them all in this newsletter. Any news might become obsolete by the time you get to read it. If you would like to revisit the latest events and remind yourself what we already know and what we don’t, here is a timeline summarizing the pivotal moments of the recent investigations and revelations put together by Zachary Cohen from CNN.

Estonia continues to counter Russian intelligence activities

After several spy cases in recent months, Estonia expelled two Russian diplomats. The announcement came without further elaboration. Earlier this month, the Estonian court sentenced a Russian citizen living in Estonia to 5 years in prison for spying on behalf of GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. Russian foreign ministry called the act unfriendly and warned against retaliation.

The International Republican Institute published a poll conducted amongst residents of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, which seems to show a waning commitment to the Euro-Atlantic structures, crisis of the European identity and vulnerabilities to Russian influence.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion

How We Have Become an Enemy in the Eyes of Russia: The EU as Portrayed by Kremlin Propaganda; by Kristina Potapova, published by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies

Read the full study here.

Although the interest in disinformation operations conducted by the Russian Federation on the European soil increases, the need for deeper understanding of the propaganda used by the Kremlin in the domestic environment is often underestimated. One of the main targets of disinformation is the European Union, which is perceived favourably by less than a quarter of Russian citizens.

The main stories about the EU presented to Russians are contradictory, but serve the main goal just as well. It is being accused of aggressiveness and expansionism, of the desire to destroy Russia. The organization is also being portrayed as weak, close to collapse, and in decline regarding its moral values. Russian Federation stands in contrast as a traditional country which is more powerful, but willing to save the unaware West.

The recommendations are following:

  • More coherent monitoring of the media and analysis of the Kremlin’s disinformation for better ability to predict Russia’s future policies. To achieve that, the EEAS East Stratcom Unit should be better funded and fully fledged.
  • The EU should employ staff to build a coherent strategy and craft an effective narrative for the EU based on the target audience, a regional analysis and research of the pro-Kremlin narratives.
  • It is necessary to differentiate between Russian culture, language and traditions, on the one hand, and the Russia’s current authority, on the other.
  • The EU should speak with one voice, especially on maintaining sanctions against Russia. It should also expand personal sanctions for propagandist media staff.

Euroatlantic experts on disinformation warfare

Geysha Gonzalez from The Atlantic Council argues in her article, that one of the mistakes states are doing while fighting Russian disinformation is that they do not realize “we cannot all be Finland.” While enhancing media literacy and other long-term measures are desirable, there are more things the governments can do.

John R. Schindler dedicated an article in Observer to the known spying activities in Prague, the Czech capital, which seems to be a European haven for the Russian intelligence community.

To the Czech-speaking readers, we would like to recommend the new documentary produced by the Czech Television, focusing on influence operations in the Czech Republic, and especially on disinformation internet outlets.

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Think-Tank, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against liberal-democratic system.