Everything you need to know

about Russian influence operations in Europe

2018 Ranking 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? And how did the situation change from May 2017 to May 2018? Read the full study

Albania

  • NATO member since 2009
  • Albanian nationals in neighbouring Balkan states often scapegoated in Russian disinformation
  • Expelled two Russian diplomats in response to the Skripal case
  • Investigation into Russian funding of certain political parties

Austria

  • Non-NATO EU member state
  • 28 % of Austrians have a positive perception of Russia. Government possesses a pro-Russia orientation
  • Skeptical of EU sanctions against Russia
  • Refuses to view the Putin regime as a threat to European stability and Austrian security

Armenia

  • Close military ally and economic partner with Russia
  • Government has not recognized Russian influence as a national security threat, but acknowledges the threat of information warfare from Azerbaijan and Turkey
  • Civil society is actively engaged in monitoring of disinformation and promoting media literacy

Azerbaijan

  • The public relationship with the Russian Federation is gradually deteriorating due to Russian involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute
  • The political leadership is attempting to remain in a strategic relationship with Russia
  • The influence of the NGO sector is limited by domestic laws

Belarus

  • Kremlin-friendly
  • Close military ally and economic partner with Russia. Majority of the popular media content is produced in Russian
  • The security service pressures independent media and civil society actors to prevent them from presenting the government in a negative light

Belgium

  • EU and NATO member state. 26 % of Belgians have a positive view of Russia
  • The country does not perceive Russia as a primary security threat
  • Does not pursue any explicit national strategies to combat these subversive tactics. Brussels remains a target of extensive Russian intelligence activities

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Russia actively supports ethnical divisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina through Republika Srpska’s president
  • Russia is trying to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina from the EU and NATO
  • According to the public opinion, these efforts are successful

Bulgaria

  • A more recent EU and NATO member state
  • 72 % of Bulgarians have a positive view of Russia
  • Pro-Russian parties and political groups continue to fuel Soviet nostalgia and criticism of the West, serving as Kremlin proxies in Bulgaria
  • Bulgaria remains a key target for Russian intelligence operations.

Croatia

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Supportive of EU actions against Russia
  • Only recently has the Croatian leadership began to understand the threat posed by Russia
  • Security Intelligence Agency does not mention Russian activities in any form in its 2015 public report

Cyprus

  • Non-NATO EU member state
  • Cooperation with NATO and EU is not one of Cyprus’ top priorities
  • The Cypriot government openly considers Russia an ally supporting the integrity of the country
  • Consistently opposes EU sanctions against Russia
  • Cyprus is Russia’s primary offshore banking haven; Cypriot banks received $871,290,158 in Russian-laundered funds between 2011-2014

Czechia

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Pro-Russian president Milos Zeman plays a  significant role in maintaining state relations with the Kremlin
  • The defense strategy from 2017 clearly highlights Russia’s use of a hybrid campaign tool against member states of NATO and the EU
  • Czech intelligence services acknowledge the existence of the Russian threat

Denmark

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Denmark is at the forefront of the European response to Russian aggression
  • It continues to remain a firm supporter of sanctions against Russia
  • Acknowledges the threat of Russian disinformation
  • Danish Defense Intelligence Services have assessed Russia as a great security challenge

Estonia

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Estonia is at the forefront of the European response to Russian aggression
  • Was the first target of hybrid warfare tactics by Russia
  • Estonian politicians fully acknowledge the Russian threat and refuse to be a part of the Russian media
  • The Estonian Secret Police are actively involved in combating Russian influence

EU

2018 Ranking of countermeasures by the EU28 to the Kremlin’s subversion operations

Finland

  • Non-NATO EU member state
  • The government attempts to maintain friendly relations due to its dependence on Russian fossil fuels and strong economic ties
  • Growing ties with NATO and its cyberdefense initiatives. Finnish Security Intelligence
  • Services acknowledge that Russia sees Finland as an intelligence target and media literacy remains an important part of Finnish state policy.

France

  • EU and NATO member state. France does not feel threatened by Russia and does not acknowledge its threat outside of the Ukraine crisis
  • Remains one of the key initiators of EU sanctions against Russia
  • The government acknowledges disinformation and propaganda as a threat to defense and national security
  • French intelligence agencies mention threats posed by Russia.

Germany

  • EU and NATO member state. 28 % of Germans trust Russia as a national partner
  • Ambivalent stance towards Moscow and approval of the Nord-Stream II pipeline present great security risks
  • The Ministry of the Interior sees Russia as one of the major players behind espionage activities and cyber-attacks against Germany
  • The “Lisa Case”—a clear example of Russian attempts to polarize public opinion amongst Germans

Georgia

  • Despite near-universal acknowledgement of the threat in the political establishment, the government has taken little concrete actions to counter the hostile Russian influence
  • Non-governmental sector has been very effective in countering the Russian activities online, both in monitoring and combatting disinformation and advocating the topic’s importance

Greece

  • EU and NATO member state
  • 66 % of Greeks have a positive view towards Russia
  • No state efforts to counteract Russian disinformation, which is officially treated as nonexistent by the Greek government. Greece can be labelled as Russia’s trojan horse in Brussels

Hungary

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Remains vulnerable to Russian influence, mostly due to its own domestic issues with emerging authoritarianism and limitations on freedom of the press
  • Intelligence agencies do not deal with Russian interference
  • All NGOs receiving more than 23,000 euros in funding from foreign entities have to register as “foreign agents”

Iceland

  • Member of NATO and the EEA
  • Certain domestic business sectors have a soft stance on RussiaRussian media has targeted Iceland in some of its fake news articles
  • Iceland has boycotted the 2018 World Cup in Russia

Ireland

  • Non-NATO EU member state
  • Less attractive target for Russian subversion
  • No interest in any issues related to Russia
  • No visible activities in the sphere of intelligence operations against Russian influence

Italy

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Does not feel threatened by Russia
  • Supports the Kremlin’s foreign policy initiatives
  • Italian authorities are not interested in the topic of Russian subversion

Kosovo

  • Not recognized by the Russian Federation as an independent country
  • Subject of Russian pressure through Serbian Orthodox Church
  • Has not updated its Sanctions Policy against Russia since 2014

Latvia

  • EU and NATO member state
  • The government is aware of the Russian influence
  • Security Police (DP) have admitted that the biggest challenge to Latvian national security will be Russia’s foreign policy
  • The threat of military invasion remains low

Lithuania

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Positioned to be at the forefront of countering Russian disinformation
  • Is a frequent target of military intimidation
  • Highly supportive of EU sanctions against Russia
  • Russian spy networks remain heavily active

Lichtenstein

  • Member of the EEA
  • Limited diplomatic relations with Russia
  • Has been a tax haven for Russian wealth and shell coroporations

Luxembourg

  • EU and NATO member state
  • 21 % of Luxembourgers have a positive view of Russia
  • Does not consider Russian disinformation to be a security threat
  • No relevant counterintelligence activities
  • The only country in Europe that has established mandatory training on safer internet usage within the education system

Macedonia

  • Potential NATO member
  • Internal divisions over the country moving in a liberal or nationalist direction
  • Russian disinformation campaigns are echoed by local Serbian-language outlets
  • Corruption investigations have been launched to investigate Russian funding of political parties

Malta

  • Non-NATO EU member state
  • No interest in any of the related issues with the Russian disinformation
  • Emphasize the EU’s mediating role in the Ukrainian crisis
  • Neither the government nor the civil society pursues any specific policies aimed at countering disinformation campaigns

Moldova

  • The crisis of national identity is used by the Russian Federation to further divide Moldovan society
  • Moldova’s political leadership formally tries to limit Russian influence on the media
  • At the same time, Moldova avoids losing benefits from the relationship.

Montenegro

  • NATO member since 2017
  • Ethnic divides are taken advantage of by Russian disinformation efforts
  • Prevented a Russian-backed coup in 2016
  • Barred 149 Russians and Ukrainians from entering the country

NATO

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Netherlands

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Raises concerns that Russian subversive behavior threatens international order and the integrity of the EU
  • The General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), in its 2016 annual report, mentioned Russia is using cold-war era tactics to exert its influence on Western democratic societies

Norway

  • Member of NATO and EEA
  • Geopolitical concerns with Russia over shared borders and maritime operations
  • Russia has carried out social media campaigns, blackmail against individuals, and has been accused of hacking the Labour Party in 2017

Poland

  • EU and NATO member state
  • At the forefront of the European response to Russian aggression
  • The government shows full support for sanctions against Russia
  • The internal security agency issued an activity report in 2014 where it reconfirmed a high level of activity of Russian intelligence services
  • The Russian spy network present in the country is extensive

Portugal

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Outside of immediate Russian interests
  • The government does not show any activity in countering the threat
  • No known initiatives from the non-governmental sector focusing on Russian disinformation

Romania

  • EU and NATO member state
  • 53 % of Romanians have a positive view of Russia
  • Its high domestic fossil fuel reserve does make the question of energy secondary in its relationship with Russia
  • The National Defense Strategy for 2015-2019 identifies Russia as a threat. Intelligence services are highly aware of the need to identify and counteract hybrid warfare

Russian federation

Serbia

  • Making efforts to become a member of the EU
  • Has a strong public, political and economic relationship with Russia
  • There is no political will to limit Russian influence in the country

Slovakia

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Pro-Russian fringe elements are heavily present within domestic politics
  • The security services are doing little to counter Russia’s subversive influence
  • No activities on the state level are dedicated to strategic communication
  • Russian influence within Slovakia itself is clearly not a priority

Slovenia

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Encouragement of EU-Russian cooperation is one of Slovenia’s priorities
  • Any kind of Russian influence is not acknowledged as a threat at all
  • No measures on state or international levels have been taken to focus on this issue
  • No known proclamations of Slovenian intelligence services exist

Spain

  • EU and NATO member state
  • In 2017, acknowledging Russian propaganda to be a threat
  • Spain has a strategic communication plan
  • Spanish intelligence services acknowledge the presence of the Russian secret service
  • The Spanish non-governmental sector is not much concerned with Russia

Sweden

  • Non-NATO EU member state
  • The Swedish Defense Research Agency openly acknowledges the threat emanating from Russia’s militarization
  • The Swedish Security Service has warned about increasing Russian espionage activity
  • The Military Intelligence also acknowledges a clear intent to undermine Swedish democracy comes from Russia in the form of cyberattacks

Switzerland

  • The relationship between Switzerland and Russia has been more cooperative since 2007
  • Depicted in a more positive light than other European countries in Russia media

Turkey

  • Member of NATO
  • Maintains cooperation with Russia in the areas of defense, military, and nuclear energy
  • Mutual support increased after the attempted coup in 2016
  • Some propaganda techniques in media environment are employed by the Turkish government itself

Ukraine

  • Currently fighting a war against Russia and Russian-backed separatists
  • Recognizes hostile Russian influence as a threat to national security
  • Countermeasures taken by the Ukrainian government are often criticised as overly harsh, but they are responses to very specific wartime circumstances

United Kingdom

  • EU and NATO member state
  • Well aware of Russia’s capacity to undermine the political status quo through informational warfare
  • Mi5 has repeatedly warned that the Russian threat to the UK is growing and that Russia’s spy activity is quite extensive
  • Mi6 has highlighted the issue of disinformation warfare waged by Russia
  • The Trump-Russia connection in 2015 alerted by the British intelligence services
  • Relations between the UK and Russia are tarnished by the March 2018 poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter

USA

  • Awareness of Russian influence operations has entered public discourse in 2016
  • Russia has engaged in both covert hacking and overt media disinformation. The United States expelled 35 diplomats over the Skripal case
  • Investigations continue into Russia’s disinformation campaigns and its role in the 2016 election

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