The statement of the Estonian intelligence chief Mikk Marran was not that surprising: The Kremlin will “very likely” try to intervene in European parliamentary elections this May to help pro-Russia and anti-EU politicians win seats.
But Marran does not see only Russian meddling in the upcoming elections, he sees far more – a real war between Russia and the West. “Russia continues to develop and train its armed forces for a large-scale war against NATO”, Marran stated.
Marran’s warnings are not really unique within the EU. Brussels has been warning and mobilizing against an alleged Russian interference in the upcoming EU elections for month now. Since the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 and the Crimean referendum which led to a territorial unification of Crimea with the Russian Federation, all European intelligence agencies are focused on the “Russian threat”.
But it is still not clear what exactly is meant by “Russian meddling”. While some EU experts see the danger of an undefined “hacker attack” during the elections, there is a common forboding about a so-called “information war” launched by Russian structures against Europe.
“The way Russia is influencing, it’s first of all by contacting these far-right or sometime far-left politicians and making contact with them,” says Aleksander Baunov, a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “Sometimes it’s about financing some marginal groups”.
Blaming Russia for the success of Euroskeptic forces from the right and left has a certain tradition in EU. But such an analytical approach seems to be completely ignoring the real reasons why Euroskeptics have a growing electorate. It is largely a domestic issue and has little to do with international relations.
In 2017, in the wake of the Bundestag elections in Germany, the British Guardian published an article about the motivation of the AfD electorate: There was a general discontent with the conservative-social democratic leadership, the feeling of being “left behind” by the political elite, the lack of a real public debate, a mainstream taboo on open discussions about the open-border policy of the government and the general sentiment that the political elites were not listening to the voice of the people any more.
International policy topics such as Russian sanctions or the wars in Syria and Ukraine played no role in those surveys.
The US-American “information war strategist, activist and startup entrepreneur” Joohn Choe, nevertheless found an explanation. In Choe’s opinion, Russian interference in the US presidential campaign 2016 took place via three elements:
“GROUP-BUILDING: Summer 2015-Summer 2016, Russia ran a series of one-line ads inviting people to join Instagram and Facebook groups.
TRACTION- AND NARRATIVE-TESTING: Summer 2016, Russia starts getting people to attend protests or rallies across a variety of different subjects — Texas secession, police misconduct, gun rights, race in general — as if to see what’s going to work the best.
EXPLOITATION: Fall 2016 , Russia picks the ads that did the best from phase II, which ended up being mostly race, and pushes them hard with paid ads to get eyeballs and mindshare.”
Brussels authorities seem to agree that the so-called “informational warfare” is the weapon that Russia is using to interfere in domestic European politics and the upcoming elections. The “EU vs Disinformation campaign” is therefore dedicated only to an alleged Russian informational warfare on the European battleground.
The campaigners state: “Apart from this publicly available output, we brief and train EU institutions, member state governments, journalists and researchers on this topic, and participate regularly in conferences to share our experience. Our products are regularly quoted and used by politicians, governments, state agencies, researchers, think tanks and journalists across Europe and beyond.”
The “EU vs Disinformation” campaign is run by the European External Action Service East Stratcom Task Force, which is a part of the administration of the European Union. The Team was created by the European Council in 2015.
At the same time, US and Israeli agencies, media and NGOs seem to be actually doing exactly what Joohn Choe and the Stratcom Task Force have been blaming Russia for.
Already in 2014, the German investigative journalist Dr Udo Ulfkotte revealed in his book “Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News” how US intel agencies influence and manipulate the news coverage not just in Germany but in the whole of Europe.
Ulfkotte explains in his book how the wholesale manipulation by propaganda specialists hiding in the background, and pushing agendas, benefit primarily the USA and Israel. The German journalist mentions an article in the UK Independent authored by Patrick Cockburn (July 2014) “The secret report that helps Israel hide facts” which describes “a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those ‘who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel’.”
Ulfkotte, who himself had worked for many years for the German daily the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, gave a detailed report about how US-American NGOs and foundations were busy bribing and blackmailing European media workers and politicians.
He exposed the luxurious invitations to events in US where whole groups of European journalists and media managers participate and receive presents and financial funding in exchange for pushing a trans-atlanticist agenda in European media and politics.
One of the most powerful instruments of US meddling in Europe, are the various US controlled NGOs and media on the old continent. The US cold war propaganda news channel Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) – which is fully financed by the US-American taxpayer – is still in operation and broadcasting from its base in the Czech capital Prague.
RFE/RL noted about themselves: “RFE/RL operates one of the most comprehensive news operations in the world. In addition to over 600 journalists at our headquarters in Prague, we maintain 20 local bureaus with approximately 450 journalists and over 750 freelancers and stringers, plus two bureaus in the United States. Our language services host call-in shows and place a high priority on interacting with their audiences. Listeners contact the services through web forums, SMS messages, Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, and even old-fashioned letters.”
During the Cold War era, Radio Freedom and Radio Liberty which merged in 1975, both received funds from the CIA. While Russian international channels such as RT are under harsh attacks from European intel services, there is no criticism at all about the propaganda war waged by RFE/RL.
And in November 2018, the Anonymous hacker group claimed to have obtained documents shedding light on the activities of a London-based NGO that has been officially tasked with the mission of “defending democracy against disinformation”.
The project, known as Integrity Initiative, is in reality reportedly used by London to interfere in the domestic affairs of European countries. According to the documents that Anonymous published, Integrity Initiative’s Spanish cluster initiated a campaign on Twitter in June 2018 to stir up media turbulence.
Anonymous maintains that British intelligence was able to conduct similar operations in France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Norway, Serbia, and Montenegro. The leaked docs also showed that Integrity Initiative’s costs for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2019 were estimated at 1.96 million pounds ($2.51 million).
Apart from the UK government and NATO, the programme is funded by Facebook, the US State Department and other governmental and non-governmental structures. Mainstream media in Europe has been completely silent about these documents – until recently.
Long term and powerful meddling by US in European domestic affairs has been taking place – by using precisely the methods that Brussels’ intel experts have been criticizing the Russian Federation for. The only difference is that US interference has been well documented and far better financed.