Coronaviral propaganda against Europe
The CDI investigates how authoritarian regimes use the Covid-19 pandemic to advance their illiberal goals in Europe.
Event: How Russian Media Targeting International Audiences Spread Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracy theories are not mere myths. Backed by state institutions, they become potent instruments of political or even geopolitical struggle. This is the case in Vladimir Putin’s Russia: state-controlled media targeting the international audiences, like RT (former Russia Today), have promoted conspiracy theories aimed at discrediting and undermining liberal democratic societies. What is the place of the anti-Western conspiracy theories in contemporary Russia? Do these theories reflect the official political line? Which challenges do conspiracy theories pose to the international media?
Dr. Ilya Yablokov, Lecturer in Russian media and politics, University of Leeds, UK.
Dr. Precious Chatterje-Doody, Lecturer in Politics and International Studies, Open University, UK.
Concept and Moderation
Dr. Anton Shekhovtsov, external Lecturer, University of Vienna, Austria. Founder of the CDI.
Event: The Geopolitical Impact of Nord Stream 2.0 on European Energy Security
The Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, the Centre for Democratic Integrity, and the Vienna School of International Studies are pleased to invite to a panel discussion on:
The Geopolitical Impact of Nord Stream 2.0 on European Energy Security
Prof. Dr. Johannes Pollak
Director at Webster University
Dr. Andreas Umland
Senior Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation (Kiev, Ukraine)
Ana Otilia Nuțu, MA
Policy Analyst on energy and infrastructure at Expert Forum (Bucharest, Romania)
Dr. Anton Shekhovtsov
External Lecturer at the University of Vienna (Vienna, Austria)
Dr. Werner Fasslabend
President of AIES and former Minister of Defence of Austria
Wednesday, February 26, 2020 18:00 h
Diplomatische Akademie Wien
Firming Up Democracy’s Soft Underbelly
The Center for European Policy Analysis and the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies publish a first report in its new series “Sharp Power and Democratic Resilience initiative”.
“Manipulate, distort, and censor”
The report “Firming Up Democracy’s Soft Underbelly: Authoritarian Influence and Media Vulnerability” authored by Edward Lucas “explores how authoritarian regimes, like those in Moscow and Beijing, have exploited democratic norms and transformed the market for information into a dangerous tool to exert antidemocratic sharp power. Under enormous economic and political pressures, independent media are struggling to respond. News outlets face wrenching changes in their business models, driven by technological revolution. And features of the media system once seen only as strengths—such as competition, openness, and fair-mindedness—have also turned out to be weaknesses”.
A need for changes
“An effective response to authoritarian media influence requires an array of normative, legal, and practical changes”: (1) norm building, (2) a charter of responsible practice, (3) discretion in interactions, (4) media literacy education, (5) statutory regulation.
“Strengthening media resilience in the face of intimidation similarly requires a combined statutory, normative, and civil society effort”: (1) “Increased cooperative behavior in response to threats”, (2) “greater support for individual journalists”.
Russian Interference, and Where to Find It
A report by the European Platform for Democratic Elections considers elections in France, Norway, Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary and Sweden in in 2017-2018 and identifies different factors that influence the occurrence of Russian interference in European elections.
Each case of Russian interference in European elections is a juncture of unique conditions that derive from various factors reflecting realities in Western nations and Russia. When assessing Russian interference, one needs to consider whether Putin’s regime is satisfied with the prevailing political attitudes towards Russia in a European country in question, whether there are political forces that are significant enough and are ready to cooperate with Russian pro-Kremlin actors, whether meddling in the elections in favour of particular political forces clashes with other interests of Putin’s regime, whether Russia has relevant human and structural resources to interfere in the electoral process, and whether political culture is conducive to Russian influence.
Because the Kremlin was not happy with the projected outcomes of the electoral processes, Russian state and pro-Kremlin non-state actors interfered in the 2017 presidential elections in France and, to a lesser extent, in the 2017 parliamentary elections in Germany. However, Moscow did not have to interfere in the elections in Austria, Italy, and Hungary as the Kremlin was satisfied with the political situations in those countries. At the same time, while Moscow was not satisfied either with Oslo’s or Stockholm’s attitudes towards Putin’s Russia, it could not interfere in their elections because their political culture did not allow pro-Kremlin actors to win over any significant political forces.
Russian Kleptocracy and the Rule of Law
In his new report for the Henry Jackson Society, Andrew Foxall discusses how the Kremlin undermines European judicial systems.
A mafia state?
In Putin’s Russia, “the law serves to control and coerce the majority of the population while allowing Putin, his cronies, and other regime insiders to act with impunity. State agencies collude with business and organised crime in criminal activities to the material benefit of all involved. It is well established that this process began in the 1990s, when the lines between ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ became blurred. Today, these crimes are supported by the Kremlin, facilitated by a multitude of state agencies, and legally justified by the courts”.
Exploiting the West
“The existence of high-level lawlessness in Russia has allowed the Kremlin and regime insiders to take advantage of the court systems of European states. In doing so, they have been able to undermine the rule of law in European states and multilateral treaty organisations in order to further their own interests. In essence, European courts have, on occasions, become a tool of Russian foreign policy”.
“Doors Wide Shut”
The Budapest-based Political Capital Institute and Social Development Institute look at Russian, Chinese and Turkish authoritarian influence in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia in their report Doors Wide Shut.
A weak link
The multi-authored report asserts that “the Central and Eastern European region is particularly vulnerable to the political influence of authoritarian regimes because their democracies are less established, institutions are weaker and local governments themselves employ populist narratives to maintain their popularity. Influencing local states can be important for Russia, China and Turkey for two reasons: (1) they can use friendly political actors to disrupt the unity of the Western community and influence certain policies; and (2) they happily acknowledge the coming to power of illiberal regimes, helping them relativize their own political systems”.
Russia “has a vested interest in weakening European integration”, and often employs “active measures implemented by Russian intelligence agencies, in the region to support its anti-NATO and anti-EU foreign policy agenda through local pro-Russian actors”. China is interested in “having a flourishing EU as its economic partner”, but, in addition to soft power, “it sometimes turns to other influencing tools to prevent any local political actors from stepping over certain red lines for Beijing”. Turkey’s “activities in the region are generally restricted to the cultural level, but Turkey can improve its political and economic clout as well if it is invited by local governments to do so”.
Lithuania: National Security Threat Assessment 2020
The Second Investigation Department under the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence and the State Security Department of the Republic of Lithuania published the National Security Threat Assessment 2020. The document provides consolidated, unclassified assessment of threats and risks to national security of the Republic of Lithuania prepared by both intelligence services.
Russia as the main threat
According to the report, “the main threat to Lithuania’s national security is Russia’s foreign and security policies driven by the Kremlin’s desire to ensure the regime’s stability and demonstrate its indispensability to domestic audience”. Moreover, “Russia seeks to expand its influence in the West through parliamentary diplomacy. In bilateral and multilateral parliamentary diplomacy fora, the Kremlin looks for foreign politicians and public figures to represent its position internationally and to influence political processes in their own countries. Moscow’s main goals are to legitimize the results of its aggression against Ukraine and to incite disagreements among Western countries about the policy of sanctions against Russia”.
The challenge of China
“China expands its influence around the world by consolidating support on international arena for its global political agenda. China’s pursuit of technological advantage and its penetrating investment activities increase the vulnerability of other states and pose the risk of losing control over the critical infrastructure. Russia’s confrontation with the West in international arena encourages Moscow to coordinate its interests with China. These countries maintain close political and military relations and coordinate positions on international issues”.
Misrule of Law
The US-based Free Russia Foundation that unites pro-democracy Russian activists, many of whom were forced to leave Russia because of the repressions, presents a collection of articles analysing how the Kremlin uses Western institutions to manipulate and undermine the West.
The multi-authored authored report on Russian active measures and subversion campaigns throughout North America and Europe demonstrates that Putin’s regime “is attacking Western institutions in craftier and strategically discreet ways than many realize. Russia’s tactics today resemble old Soviet agitprop rather than communications from a normal nation-state. The attacks may appear more subtle, but they are every bit as destructive: governments are influenced, laws are changed, legal decisions are undermined, law enforcement is thwarted, and military intervention is disguised”.
Yet Putin “triumphs where we invite him to and most of all where we happily act as his co-conspirators. This is a story of how the West consistently fails to get its own house in order. The very institutions created after World War II to keep transparent markets and liberal democracies from corroding and collapsing are now playgrounds for Kremlin agents seeking to enrich themselves and further that corrosion and collapse along”.