According to a recent report by NATO's strategic communications centre, Russian efforts to influence public opinion are increasingly concentrating on Sweden, with the aim to keep the country from more closely associating itself with NATO.
Col. Peeter Tali, deputy director of NATO's Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga, told ERR's radio news on Thursday that the center has studied the Kremlin's attempts at influencing public opinion in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. The study has been going on for two years and is carried out with the support of academics and experts.
"The Kremlin's manipulation attempts aren't so much focused on this region, but comparing different messages, activity in Estonia is at a higher than average level," Tali said. "It is interesting to see though that the Kremlin is very active regarding Sweden, and this activity is on the increase," he added.
Behind the increased activity targeting Sweden is the Kremlin's strategic aim to keep the country as well as also Finland from moving closer to NATO, and also the attempt to destroy bilateral cooperation and unity between them, Tali said.
As a rule, the Kremlin uses two instruments to achieve this. "One tool is the compatriot movement, the other the media either owned or controlled by the Russian state. Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu has publicly said that the media are nothing more than yet another weapons system," Tali pointed out.
The recently published study also sees efforts to stoke up Soviet nostalgia and slander Western societies increasingly moved to social media.
Though the study doesn't go into any detail on this issue, they have seen evidence that at least part of the target population is taking the stories spread this way seriously, senior expert at the center Elina Lange-Ionatamishvili told ERR's Aktuaalne kaamera newscast.
The study also looks into the role claimed by Russia as the champion of former Soviet citizens outside its own borders, a community Russia claims to speak for. The report can be accessed in full on the center's website.
Editor: Dario Cavegn