Commentary: Is Europe afraid of Russian propaganda?
‘Russian authorities ‘are not exactly shy’ about the goals of their disinformation campaign against the West. Accepted in military circles as a legitimate tool for spreading disinformation and destabilization, propaganda has become part of a common, ‘civil’ policy in Russia. Today, information is a military weapon’ – the EU Security Commissioner Julian King stressed at the European Parliament’s (EP) session in Strasbourg.
The European Union, which is not currently in the best shape, wasn’t prepared for such a turn of events, being confident of its main weapon of ‘soft power’. The belief of the former prisoners of the socialist camp in western values has been shaken after the economic crisis exhausted the material aid resources from the West. The migration crisis played an even more destructive role in people’s mindsets than the economic crisis.
Esteban González Pons, a Spanish politician from the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) stressed at the EP session that the Kremlin had an incomparably solid budget for propaganda: EUR 1 billion a year compared to the European Union’s EUR 1 million. He added that Russia has the propaganda army, while the EU, in order to defend itself, has only a task force of 17 people (the East StratCom task force which was set up two years ago).
The proposed ways to respond to Russian propaganda are few. First of all, it has been suggested that the East StratCom task force should be strengthened and expanded. Another suggestion is to make a balanced defense of freedom of expression against those who ‘attack the EU’s fundamental values’, and then to ensure full transparency of funding of the political parties and mass media.
In their reports and address the European lawmakers clearly expressed their support to the quality press in a competition with social media trolls.
At the EP session the communist lawmakers traditionally spoke out in support of Russia. They were joined by the far-right nationalists, populists and Euro-skeptics, many of whom demonstratively marked their seats in the EP session hall with national flags in a sign of contempt for the European Union.
Steev Briois, an MP from France’s National Front and Gerard Batten from the UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), who actively orchestrated Brexit, defended Russia in their addresses.
Barbara Spinelli, a representative of the Italian left-wing group, claimed that she wasn’t defending the Russian regime, though she was against blaming Russia for all the problems existing in the EU’s political life. As she pointed out, many allegations about Russia’s meddling in Western elections are unsubstantiated.
European voters do not support Brexit, Marin Le Pen or ‘Alternative for Germany’ because they have watched enough Russia Today programs; on the contrary, there are certain reasons for that in Europe. Yet there is no doubt that Brussels is going to strengthen the almost non-existent mechanism of exposing what it considers to be a deliberate lie and fake.