Russia’s Neighbors Respond to Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’
[Excerpted from FOREIGN POLICY, read full article here: Russia’s Neighbors Respond to Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’]
RIGA, Latvia — On Aug. 30, the western Latvian region of Kurzeme suddenly lost cellular service for seven hours, an unusual event in the tech-savvy Baltic nation.
Though the Latvian government has yet to say just what caused the disruption, the country’s intelligence services announced last week that they are investigating if the unusual loss of service resulted from a Russian electronic attack; a Russian ship equipped for electronic warfare was reportedly just offshore at the time….
Latvia’s concern is a reflection of the growing array of hybrid war capabilities in Russia’s arsenal — from the use of disinformation and propaganda to sow internal discord within a country, to crippling cyberattacks, to old-fashioned military power. Those capabilities have been honed in recent years in the Russian campaigns in Ukraine and Syria. But the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and their Nordic neighbors, have increasingly become a testing ground….
Across the Baltic Sea, Finland has also been moving quickly to fortify itself against both old threats and new ones.
Helsinki is spending heavily on defense, maintains a large conscript army of 280,000 soldiers, and has a growing array of civil defense initiatives. But Helsinki is also beefing up resources outside the barracks, launching a public diplomacy program to train government employees about what disinformation is and how fake news goes viral. The Nordic country has also looked to boost its already close ties with NATO, opening an EU and NATO-linked center in Helsinki in early October dedicated to researching how governments can push back against information warfare.A shooting war is probably unlikely — “it would mean World War III,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told journalists last week — but a quiet one is already underway. In addition to a flood of fake news, including stories designed to inflame ethnic tensions, pro-Russian activists have targeted and harassed a Finnish journalist who was investigating the activities of troll farms in Finland. (Russian internet trolls routinely spread disinformation and amplify societal divides, in Europe as in the United States.)
So far, Finland has proven more resistant than most to the information onslaught….
READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AT FOREIGN POLICY:
Russia’s Neighbors Respond to Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’
The U.S. Struggles against Russian Cyber Disinformation
As the Kremlin wages an unyielding disinformation campaign against the United States and its European allies, Washington is still reeling from Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election and only just beginning efforts aimed at tackling this major national security threat.
Almost a year after election day, there are some signs of life in U.S.-led efforts to counter disinformation. While allies across the Atlantic have long faced off against this Russian weapon, the 2016 presidential election — filled with revelations about the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack, use of Facebook advertisements, and Russian troll armies on social media — opened the eyes of many in Washington to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s preferred tactics.
“When we look at the U.S. election, the size and the risk appetite was probably something that was of surprise — but as far as the methods and interest to actually attempt to sway the opinions, that is nothing new, at least in Europe,” Jānis Sārts, director at the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, told The Cipher Brief.
By using “fake news,” social media manipulation and amplification through bots, targeted advertising, weaponized stolen information, and other information warfare tactics, Russia has sought to sow discord, exploit societal divisions, and make an impact on the U.S. political scene….
[Read the rest of Mackenzie Weinger’s article at “The Cipher Brief”: https://www.thecipherbrief.com/article/international/u-s-struggles-russian-cyber-disinformation]
Taiwan Versus the Beijing Narrative
As a European in Taiwan, I came to understand why the conflict of Taiwan is often misunderstood in the West. The knowledge about the civil war between the Kuomintang and Communists, resulting in the retreat of Chiang Kai-shek and his troops to the island, is not widely known. The implications of the term “One China,“ therefore, leaves many Westerners clueless. When Chinese President Xi Jinping deals with the island as if it were a defecting province, as he did at the 19th Communist Party Congress this week, he sounded somewhat legitimate.
Surely, Western governments are aware of the complicated situation and the pending threat, but they may feel that their hands are tied. Europe has always looked to the United States of America when it came to supporting Taiwan. Now, with declining support for the values of liberal democracy across the Old World in recent years, as evidenced by the Brexit vote and the rise of far-right xenophobic movements, little compassion is left for a far-away country such as restricted Taiwan. The stance that US President Trump takes on the issue is still unclear.
Prior to the National Day on October 10th, an article was widely shared and discussed on social media. The text claimed that the Chinese military would finally meet the necessities to invade Taiwan by the year 2020. Observers, however, would argue that the Mainland’s military would neither dare nor have the capacity to invade and long-term occupy Taiwan. Alas, that doesn’t mean Taiwan will not see some serious infringement on its liberal democracy.
For Beijing, Taiwan is a threat because the leader of the Communist Party sells the idea to his followers and the West alike that being Chinese and simultaneously a liberal democrat is impossible: the tradition of Confucianism can only live on in the form of the one-party state. Mr Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption and moral misconduct needs to be seen as him catering to the narrative that he has deployed during his first term as president of the People’s Republic of China: emerging to the very top is only possible by applying the highest ethical standards
In the West, where democracy is typically deliberately limited by the rights of individuals or specific groups such as minorities, leaders do not cease to praise the Chinese president (and leaders before him) as visionary, innovative, and thoughtful. What they mean is that, due to the autocratic one-party rule, Beijing is capable of following through with policy ideas – such as tackling climate change – that would take years in a democratic framework.
The existence of Taiwan, however, reminds Mr. Xi Jinping and the West of the existence of a democracy in a Confucian context. As a matter of fact, Taiwan is not the only liberal democracy of the region. It has potentially powerful allies in South Korea and Japan. All three are allies of the United States, and all three have a similar set of interests when it comes to fighting off a power-hungry China.
Yet, for historic reasons, the three have not elaborated on their common policies. And it is doubtful that they will do so anytime soon. Beijing is anything but sad about the disagreements of its democratic rivals across the Sea. In Taipei, Seoul, and Tokyo observers may already be nervous when they anticipate Donald Trump’s visit to China in a few weeks. The US president seems to have been marveling autocratic rulership.
One can only hope that the result of the meeting between these two power-hungry men of dubious mindset and character when it comes to civil liberties and liberal freedoms will not be frightening the three truly democratic countries in the region. As for Taiwan, the leadership and the people should be eagerly trying to strengthen their ties with Western allies and the liberal democracies in South Korea and Japan. For China may not be able or willing to invade the country, but it will also not tolerate any further development of a free and independent society for this may, in the logic of Beijing, inevitably lead onto the street of independence.
Alexander Görlach is an affiliate professor with the FDR Foundation’s Defense of Democracy Program. He is also a fellow to the Center for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK. He’s a senior fellow to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and a senior advisor to the Berggruen Institute. Alex holds a PhD in linguistics and a PhD in comparative religion. He is the publisher of the online-magazine www.saveliberaldemocracy.com and an op-ed contributor to the New York Times. This academic year he is a visiting scholar to National Taiwan University and City University of Hong Kong. This article represents his views alone, not those of the FDR Foundation or other institutions.
“Fake News,” Disinformation, and “Election Hacking” 11/13 (NEW DATE)
[NEW DATE AND TIME]
Concerned with foreign interventions in your elections? In your news? Do you trust the media? Should you?
You may be surprised to learn the FDR Foundation and Adams House are on the cutting edge of the struggle of democracy against disinformation. Come by to chat informally with Jed Willard about current trends in international media manipulation, defensive media monitoring and analysis, and counter propaganda.
This is an interactive discussion, limited to 14, undergraduates only if numbers allow. RSVP here:
(There is an RSVP option for those who cannot make this time slot but are interested in future events on this topic – make sure to indicate your interest even if you can’t make it!)
Date: 11/13/2017 (Mon.)
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm EDT
Location: FDR Suite, B-17, Adams House