In the latest issue of the Riigikogu’s (parliaments) activities publication there is translation of Marke Galeotti’s, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for International Affairs and Head of the European Security Research Center, article which analyzes how Russia’s global influence work is being conducted. The story was originally published in the European External Action Service policy overview section.
According to Galeotti there seems to be no general plan. It is only a general strategy aimed at weakening the EU and NATO, widening the gap between Europe and the USA as well as developing a more appropriate political and cultural environment for Moscow’s interests.
The author describes in his analysis the techniques used in the different countries and goes deeper into the planning and management of influence activities. He explains how the information attacks spread on the same narrative but are distributed on different channels.
For example according to Galeotti the bigger propaganda issues are generally hoped to create enough confusion, rumours, speculation, half truths, conspiracy theories and blatant lies, to conceal the real activity of Russia in Ukraine, Syria and at home as well as instilling a sense in people that objective truth is not possible to be known. Because if you do not succeed in persuading people to believe your truth, it puts them questioning everything.
He adds that besides this, there are many different techniques and messages in use. This is partly due to the desire to ensure that messages do not lose their freshness and that they will not be able to recognize or displace Russian techniques and partly because of the large autonomy of the forces involved in the campaign. However, the specific nature of active measures also depends on geography and culture as well as how specific European countries and regions are specifically vulnerable and which approaches work for them.
He gives examples of Russia’s diverse goals and tactics in reaching out to different countries of the European Union and NATO. He also details Russia’s activities towards Bulgaria, France, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the United Kingdom but also on Estonia and Poland.
Who directs Russia’s activities?
Galeotti answers this question in more detail. He says Russia’s activities are broad-based. Mostly it involves individuals who belong to the government apparatus and outside this are a few individuals who are guided by the wishes of the Kremlin, as they have understood themselves, without any detailed general plan initiate most of the activities.
To better understand this strategy, Galeotti opens up the hierarchy of Putin’s administration and the individuals in it as well as describing who is involved in what area and the effect it has.
He points out that Russia’s campaign of activism is characterized by various from the bottom up initiatives of forces but at the same time they preserve the Kremlin’s general guidelines and recommendations with hope for political and economic benefits in the event the methods succeed. Many initiatives will not succeed or will simply dissolve in this scattered low level thundering with which the Russians try to upset Western public and political discourse.
Finally, Galeotti formulates a series of recommendations on how to better understand Russia’s influence activities and to cope with it as effectively as possible. For example, he recommends actively monitoring the events taking place in the Russian presidential administration, addressing the lessening of the Foreign intelligence deficits but also providing consistent and asymmetric counter-attacks and sharpening our weapons for that purpose.
Graphics from the Riigikogu (Parliament) activities publication website