RussiaFebruary 6 2024, 8:43 am

Slovakia’s Election Showcases Danger of Russian Influence Operations

On 3 Jan­u­ary 2024, the Cen­ter for Euro­pean Pol­i­cy Analy­sis (CEPA) high­light­ed the grow­ing chal­lenge of Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in West­ern democ­ra­cies, as evi­denced by recent elec­tions across NATO mem­ber states, includ­ing Slo­va­kia. The Slo­vak par­lia­men­tary elec­tion on Sep­tem­ber 30 revealed a sig­nif­i­cant pro-Russ­ian sen­ti­ment, with the SMER-SD par­ty, led by pop­ulist ex-Prime Min­is­ter Robert Fico, secur­ing almost 23% of the vote. Fico’s rhetoric mir­rored Krem­lin lines, chal­leng­ing Ukraine’s sov­er­eign­ty and sug­gest­ing a halt to Slo­vak mil­i­tary sup­port for Kyiv. This sit­u­a­tion under­scores the broad­er issue of Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns aim­ing to divide Euro­pean soci­eties and under­mine NATO uni­ty. Unlike in oth­er coun­tries where Russ­ian media like Sput­nik or RT direct­ly dis­sem­i­nate pro­pa­gan­da, Slo­va­ki­a’s infor­ma­tion space has been infil­trat­ed through sub­tler means since 2014, lever­ag­ing embassies, spies, local col­lab­o­ra­tors, and social media. These efforts paint Rus­sia as a vic­tim and a pro­tec­tor of tra­di­tion­al val­ues, attempt­ing to realign Slo­vak pub­lic opin­ion in favor of Krem­lin nar­ra­tives. The effec­tive­ness of these tac­tics is con­cern­ing, with a GLOBSEC poll indi­cat­ing a decline in the per­cent­age of Slo­vaks who believe Rus­sia is respon­si­ble for invad­ing Ukraine. The arti­cle calls for urgent action from NATO to bol­ster its tech­no­log­i­cal and coop­er­a­tive defens­es against such dis­in­for­ma­tion, warn­ing that fail­ure to address this threat could weak­en sup­port for Ukraine and enable Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da to flour­ish across Europe.

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