Russia unlikely to meddle with upcoming general election, expert thinks

Ilmar Raag (right), talking to ERR's Rain Kooli.
Ilmar Raag (right), talking to ERR's Rain Kooli. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Communications expert Ilmar Raag thinks that Russian meddling in the upcoming general election on 3 March is unlikely, not least because the situation in Estonia is stable, and even a large-scale disinformation effort wouldn't change much.

In a piece for weekly Eesti Ekspress (link in Estonian), Mr Raag writes that given the current political situation and support of political parties in Estonia, Russia is unlikely to make an attempt at influencing the outcome of the 3 March general election—simply because it doesn't stand to gain much.

For a serious attempt at influencing political opinion in Estonia, the main means at the disposal of the Russian state services is the repetition of whatever story they carry. In practice, this would mean at least five major stories about Estonia on Russian state TV, which at the moment isn't happening.

To achieve the sort of spread comparable to Russian meddling in the United States, at least 3,000 fake Facebook accounts and more than 100,000 bot accounts on Twitter would be needed, Mr Raag estimates.

As the political situation in Estonia is stable, and as there is a broad consensus in the population on EU as well as NATO membership, there is currently little sense in such a major disinformation effort, as it wouldn't change the outcome of the election by much.

"A very influential part of Estonian Russians live within the Russian information space, and they tend to interpret strategic questions like the Russians across the border do," Mr Raag said. "They are a latent presence, but they would first need to be radicalised for any potential conflict. This, in turn, doesn't touch on democratic processes [as they happen], and at the moment isn't an issue."

Ilmar Raag is a former journalist, media executive, government advisor and officer in the Estonian Defence Forces. He is a member of the EDF's reserve as well as of the Defence League.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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