News2019.12.13 09:00

Bust spies, fine Facebook, foster elves: how to counter Russia’s actions – report 2019.12.13 09:00

From the Baltic examples of fostering local ‘elves’ and exposing Russian spies, to punishing internet giants for their inaction, a European think-tank has published a series of guidelines on how to counter Russia’s actions against Western democracies and the EU.

The guidelines released this month by the European Values Center for Security Policy based in the Czech Republic were signed by experts from across Europe, including Lithuania.

The report opens by saying that the West failed to respond when “Russia started a war against Georgia and subsequently occupied a fifth of its territory”. This led, the authors argue, to an approach of appeasement by Western states towards Putin's regime in Russia.

After initiating a war against Ukraine, Moscow also began to “mobilise intensive hostile influence operations against Western democracies”.

The authors propose the following response measures for the EU:

PEOPLE’S PULSE: “Regular polling and in-depth sociological research to evaluate the scope of the [Russian] problem [...] the top 10 Russian disinformation narratives should be tested with regard to which portions of the target population believe them.”

SPY BUSTING: “National intelligence agencies should be as transparent as their Baltic counterparts [who] are leading the way among allies in publishing detailed annual reports and making arrests of Russian operatives as public as possible, in order to show their society what the threat looks like.”

EMBASSIES AND SPIES: European countries should prepare massive expulsions of Russian intelligence officers [from] disproportionately large Russian diplomatic missions where between one third and one half of the members conduct hostile intelligence tasks

ELVES VS. TROLLS: “Every EU member state should support the establishment of groups similar to the Baltic Elves. Citizen-led bottom-up initiatives for myth-busting and countering extremist tendencies in society are a key [...] there are ways in which they can incentivise and support similar projects – from providing funding for capacity building and training to protect its own citizens from foreign or extremist harassment

ESCALATE: “Western allies should escalate their pushback, including sanctions, until Russia ceases hostilities [...] Western democracies have legitimate reasons to attack the Kremlin’s weak points to make it cease hostilities,

PARLIAMENTARY INVESTIGATIONS: “All EU member states should launch their own parliamentary investigations of Russian influence networks in their respective countries. The US and UK parliamentary inquiries have shown why such a process is needed – it opens the public discussion about the threat.”

CLEAN HOUSE: “If somebody acts as a Kremlin proxy in the security committee or by travelling to legitimise Russian occupation of Ukrainian land in Crimea, such a parliamentarian should be subject to a public hearing and potentially expelled from specific committees or bodies of the parliament.”

TOUGHER SANCTIONS: “European allies should significantly harden their approach to personal and financial sanctions against Russian hostilities [...] it is a sad indicator of European weakness that one of the key Kremlin proxies in Europe, Vladimir Yakunin, is only on the American, not the EU’s sanction list

BAD FACEBOOK: “Principled pressure (including hard regulation) on tech-giants enabling and benefiting from the massive spread of disinformation [...] platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are the principal enablers of this phenomenon hostile to liberal democracies.”

SOFT POWER: “Many Russian ‘NGOs’, ‘private foundations’, ‘private enterprises’, and ‘media’ are [working for the Russian state].”

PUTIN’S WEALTH: “Western governments should make the fortune of Vladimir Putin and all of his associates public.”

INTELLIGENCE: “Each country should establish a government entity that cooperates closely with the intelligence community but is itself independent, so that it can develop and drive policy and operational activities.”

COUNTERING FAKE NEWS: “Every country and the EU as a body need to have daily situational awareness and myth-busting capability with practical countering of disinformation incidents.”

RUSSIAN STATE MEDIA: “Ban [RT, Sputnik and others] from press conferences and not give access that is granted only to journalists, which they are not.”

STRATCOM: “The under-funded European External Action Service (EEAS) East STRATCOM Task Force should become the EU’s main analytical and response body [...] the next High Representative must make this [...] the real headquarters of the EU response to Russian disinformation.”

MAGNITSKY: “each Western democracy should implement its own version of the Magnitsky Act and Mechanism for Screening of Risky Foreign Investments [...] Western governments should stop ignoring the threat posed by dirty Russian money.”

LITERACY: “Fund effective and systematic digital and media literacy programs [to help] citizens understand the rapidly changing information environment.”

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