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

This report is a follow-up to the Overview of countermeasures by the EU28 to the Kremlin's subversion operations conducted by the European Values Think-Tank and published in May 2017. It summarises the attitudes, policies, and strategic responses of the EU28 to Russia's disinformation campaigns and other hostile influence operations. The special focus in this updated issue is on the main developments and changes, positive or negative, which took place during the months after the original report was published. Report available in PDF.

General Conclusions

  • The Kremlin’s use of aggressive hostile influence tactics like disinformation, together with its support for European extremists and radical leaders, has strongly alienated at least 14 countries out of the EU28 (Groups A & B).
  • We identify two outright “Kremlin collaborators” within the EU28 – Greece and Cyprus (Group E) – which have shown no meaningful resistance to Russia’s subversive activities.
  • We identify a group of 7 EU states which largely continue to ignore or deny the existence of Russian disinformation and hostile influence operations - Hungary, Austria, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia (Group D).
  • Five states partially acknowledge the existence of the threat, but do not demonstrate adequate understanding of it and hesitate to implement noticeable countermeasures (Group C).
  • The hesitation of Ireland is attributable to geographic distance and historical neutrality.
    Bulgaria has often stayed away from being vocal about Russian aggression mainly due to its complicated historical relations with Russia. There are also considerable internal political divisions regarding this issue.
  • Belgium recognizes the threat of Russian disinformation abroad, particularly in the Eastern neighborhood, but does not consider this to be a problem for its internal security, and therefore does not consider it a national priority. Its security institutions predominantly focus on the threat of Islamist terrorism.
  • In Croatia, the activities of the government and the civil society are limited to enhancing media literacy, nevertheless, the country’s leadership is starting to acknowledge the threat more, as Croatia was one of the eight EU member states to sign a letter requesting EU High Commissioner Mogherini to fight Russian propaganda.
  • Slovak political representation is in a state of denial at the highest level, however, President Andrej Kiska acknowledges the threat very much. Also, the country became one of the pilot countries for the global campaign “We Are NATO” and it has an active civil society.
  • We identify a large group of member states that not only acknowledge the existence of the threat but also seek to understand and analyse its particularities, as well as develop relevant and effective countermeasures (Groups A & B).
  • Nine of these states experienced a strategic shift or “awakening” after the annexation of Crimea or direct attempts to meddle in their internal affairs and are now nearing the helm of the fight against Russian hostile influence operations. However, their practical strategies for countering Russian subversion are still under development, and some have weak spots that require redress (Spain, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Romania, Finland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland) There are noticeable differences in the depth and complexity of their national strategies (Group B).
  • Five states show the highest levels of activity, resilience, and readiness with respect to the threat, given their historical experiences with Russia: Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and most recently the United Kingdom.

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