- It is worth paying particular attention to the "From Russia with Love" campaign - it is clear that Italy has become a place of a new kind of struggle for influence between Moscow and Beijing – says Olgierd Syczewski, an analyst at the American think tank CEPA (Center for European Policy Analysis)
- Eerily strange is the presence of the Russian military during relief operation in Italy, a NATO country - the expert notes
- It is worth paying particular attention to the previously mentioned "From Russia with Love" campaign - it is clear that Italy has become a place of a new kind of struggle for influence between Moscow and Beijing – CEPA’s analyst points out
- It is worth quoting an article that recently appeared in the Italian newspaper "La Stampa", in which government sources say that about 80% of the equipment supplied by Russia is useless - noted CEPA’s analyst
Against the backdrop of dramatic events related to the pandemic in the world, Syczewski underlines the increasing activity of the Russian Federation in the field of disinformation.
The coronavirus fake news pandemic. 'One of the sources of disinformation is the Kremlin, especially in Poland. China is active too'
One of Russia’s senators Alexei Pushkov published a few days ago on Twitter false information that Poland closed airspace for Russian aircraft carrying medical assistance to Italy. In response to this false message, Russian ambassador Sergei Andreyev was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the same time, Sejm Marshal Elżbieta Witek addressed the Russian chairwoman of the Federation Council with an appeal to discipline the senator.
This is just one example of fake news, which, however, often has a common denominator. As experts note, stories like this are supposed to divide the West, targeting their reputations. Disinformation campaigns are aimed at, among others, countries of the former Warsaw Pact. In Poland, a campaign is underway which aims to lift economic sanctions imposed on Moscow.
How is Russia's activity in terms of Poland and the West manifested today? This is the topic of the interview with Olgierd Syczewski, an analyst from the Center for European Policy Analysis, (CEPA) an American Think Tank focused on Central and Eastern Europe.
PolskieRadio24.pl: The wave of fake news and pandemic misinformation continues. Recently even more clearly than before, when the origin of some fake news seemed not entirely determined, the Kremlin comes to the fore as one of the sources of the disinformation campaign. However, China is also not out of sight. Does monitoring confirm such conclusions?
Olgierd Syczewski, an analyst at CEPA: We see increasing disinformation campaigns about different issues, but of a common origin. We still need time to analyze and follow specific narratives and their sources thoroughly - we certainly understand the growing activity of the Russian Federation.
Both external and internal goals dictate Russia's actions. First of all, it is part of a long-lasting disinformation campaign aimed at major international institutions, focused on reducing the confidence of Western societies in them. Secondly, it is also an attempt to improve Russia's image, probably aimed at trying to convince the EU Council to lift punishing economic sanctions on the Kremlin. Additionally, the campaign has internal political goals. It is a matter of diverting attention of Russian society from the growing economic problems that may threaten the stability of Putin’s regime.
What kind of fake news are we currently observing when it comes to the Kremlin?
Russia is actively pushing the vision of the European Union, NATO, as institutions allegedly incapable of dealing with a pandemic, in contrast to the Kremlin.
As part of this campaign, Moscow sent, among others medical and military assistance to Italy with the catchy slogan "From Russia with Love". This action was a brilliant PR game; it was to show that Russia responds to calls for help from Rome - and allegedly, the EU or NATO cannot.
Which, of course, is false.
Both external and internal goals dictate such actions by the Kremlin. First of all, it is part of a long-lasting disinformation campaign aimed at major international institutions, focused on reducing the confidence of Western societies in them. Secondly, it is also an attempt to enhance Russia's image, probably aimed at trying to convince the EU Council to lift punishing economic sanctions on the Kremlin.
Besides, the campaign also has internal political goals. It is a matter of diverting the attention of Russian society from growing economic problems that may threaten the stability of Putin’s regime.
It is worth paying particular attention to the action mentioned above "From Russia with Love" - it is clear that Italy has become a place of a kind of struggle for influence between Moscow and Beijing.
It’s important to highlight a quote in an article that recently appeared in the Italian newspaper "La Stampa", in which government sources say that about 80% of the equipment supplied by Russia is useless.
A new strange thing is the presence of the Russian army as part of the assistance operation, allowed access, and freedom to move around Italy, where NATO infrastructure and forces are located including more than 12,000 American troops.
What are the Kremlin's goals in spreading misinformation during a pandemic?
In addition to those mentioned earlier, one can also indicate the attempt to expand the Kremlin's influence in Central and Eastern Europe, primarily in the Baltic States and Ukraine. Poland is also the goal of sophisticated campaigns. For example, fake news claiming that Poland did not allow medical transport to Italy to trespass its airspace or information about the alleged "spreading" of the virus by US troops during "Defender 20" exercises are in line with the Kremlin's political agenda.
An information attack on the effort to increase NATO combat capabilities on its eastern flank or an attempt to diminish Poland's reputation as a model of integration with the West among former Warsaw Pact nations, have been the disinformation goals of the Russian Federation for a long time. Another vital context, an event that may trigger another wave of Kremlin disinformation campaign, maybe e.g. Poland's Smolensk/Katyn and/or other important commemorations.
How can the Kremlin use Poland's Smolensk/Katyn or other Polish commemoration for misinformation purposes? How should we understand it?
I will not give the Kremlin ready narratives. Nevertheless, I am sure that Polish authorities, in particular the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Polish services are prepared for this.
Olgierd Syczewski, the Program Coordinator at the Warsaw office of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), dealing with disinformation monitoring. He coordinated CEPA’s project aimed to monitor disinformation in Poland, the Baltic States, and Romania. He participated as well as a speaker and moderator in a number of discussions about the information war and co-organized educational workshops in the field of cybersecurity and the so-called deep fakes.