Russia's Strategic Communications, the Impact on the European Public Sphere and the EU Attempts to Counteract It

Joanna Fomina

Russia's disinformation campaign amplifies the political crisis in Europe. Paper analyses the content and instruments of Russian strategic communications in the EU MSs, the effects they have upon the European public sphere as well as the steps the EU is currently taking in order to counteract it. Strategic communication can be understood as systematic and purposeful use of communication by an actor aimed at influencing target audience's behaviour in order to achieve a given outcome. The Russian state has employed a wide range of strategic communication instruments aimed at pursuing its geopolitical goals, including deceptive media campaigns, forgeries, disinformation, tailored 'communications' to target audiences, especially on the European far right and far left. The range of topics are not limited to EU's policy towards Russia, but also includes internal EU affairs, including the Brexit, the EU response to the euro crisis or refugee crisis. The paper analysis the narratives pushed by Russian strategic communications as well as ways and means of promoting them, including Russian media outlets, social media, financing Western media groups, cooperation with European civic and political actors. Russia's strategic communications fosters contamination and serious deterioration of the quality of debates in the European public sphere and in EU MSs, due to abundance of arguments based on counterfactual information, fuelling euroscepticism and amplifying any nascent divisions as well as undermining cohesive EU policy towards Russia. The paper also looks into the EU's attempts to counteract Russia's activities, including the establishment of an East StratCom Task Force focusing on Russian disinformation and based in the European External Action Service (EEAS).

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