Russia using refugee crisis to divide the West: Experts

Russia using refugee crisis to divide the West: Experts

Moscow is using the media to sow doubt in Western societies about their strength and resilience, say foreign policy experts

LONDON (AA)- Russia is using the current refugee crisis as a key media manipulation tool to divide and dominate the West, warned foreign policy experts.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, ‎Ian Bond, foreign policy chief at the London-based Centre for European Reform, said Moscow has been “sowing doubt in Western societies about their own strength and resilience”.

“There is no doubt that Russian media outlets such as RT and Sputnik have used the refugee crisis to divide Western countries and societies and to spread distrust of the EU,” he explained.

Bond said Russia has been using “fictional” cases such as the story of the alleged rape of a 13-year-old Russian-speaking girl in Berlin, known as the “Lisa case,” to serve its ends.

“The 'Lisa case', as it was known, was a complete work of fiction: there was no kidnapping. But it served a number of functions for Moscow: it portrayed Russia as the protector of Russian speakers in Germany; it increased suspicion of refugees from the Middle East throughout Europe; and it undermined [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel, who had led efforts to maintain EU sanctions against Russia,” he stated.

Bond said Russia is seeking to weaken the West as a means of boosting its own relative power, particularly in its own neighborhood, and as a way of forcing the West to deal with it on international questions.

“The basic traits include sowing doubt in Western societies about their own strength and resilience; creating false narratives about those who oppose Russia; and creating fear of Russia's power and unpredictability as a way of encouraging other countries to back down,” he stated.

Bond claimed Western countries were slow to wake up to Russia's strategy but now there was much greater awareness.

“NATO has a Centre of Excellence for strategic communications in Riga, which has conducted research into Russian information warfare techniques, and the EU has the East Stratcom Task Force, designed to address Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns.”

Bond has said it was easy to produce lies, but time-consuming to get the facts right and publicize them, but also warned that the West should not get into the business of countering lies with lies.

“Audiences both in the West and in Russia have to see that the West does its best to tell the truth, and Russia does its best to spread confusion and distort the facts,” he stressed.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told Anadolu Agency that Russian propaganda is especially effective in the Baltic states.

“The media is under Russian control,” he explained. “They use television effectively, especially over the Russian-speaking population”.

Linkevičius said Russian tactics should be taken more seriously and funds should be invested to address the threat.

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