As Paris protests have recently exposed, European societies are currently facing a twin threat – the inability of their own elites to deal with internal crises and foreign agents exploiting those crises to stoke unrest.
Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has claimed that the Russian secret service has trained the “radicals” involved in disturbances not only in France, but Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Bulgaria, reads a piece on CAPX by Jamila Mammadova of the Henry Jackson Society.
Britain, which is now at the crossroads of history as it is preparing to leave the European Union, has not faced the level of interference Russia launched in Ukraine, the country which for five years has been dealing with sabotage and disinformation efforts backed by the Russian state, while simultaneously engaged in a military conflict with Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas, suggests the author.
Level of Russian meddling in Western Europe is nowhere close either – yet. Things may change though, if those in power do not start learning from the experiences of their neighbors, the article reads.
Ahead of Ukraine's presidential elections scheduled for March, Ukraine is aware of what to expect from Russian saboteurs. "Hacking of the electoral system to sway the results, as well as escalating military clashes in the eastern region of Donbas are only part of the problem," the piece reads.
Russian secret services also use a network of agents of influence, working to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty. Some in Kyiv fear the Kremlin may intervene by throwing its support behind a “convenient candidate”.
Realizing cyber threats coming from Russia, Ukraine’s top energy companies agreed to exchange information with the SBU, while the Parliament is currently considering amending the Criminal Code to spell out as a separate type of charge cyberattacks on government computers.
Social networks in Ukraine are being monitored as part of the efforts to repel Russian interference. There are websites and TV shows broadcast in Ukrainian, Russian and English that successfully tackle Russian propaganda.
While Russia Today is largely accessible to western audiences, including in the UK, the author questions why is it that the British public is not offered an alternative angle on the news presented by experts from the former Soviet Union.
The UK Parliament has acknowledged that corrupt Russian money strengthens the "Kremlin’s grip" on its elites, but little was said about a similar grip on British bureaucrats and their assistants. In its recent report, National Cyber Security Centre exposed the attempts by Russia’s military intelligence to compromise UK Foreign Office and steal information from computer networks of the Ministry of Defense.
Protecting the electoral system, the author believes, means not only ensuring the integrity of the voting process, but also keeping voters away from the influence of nefarious activities of hostile actors.
While the next general election in the UK may take place sooner as expected, the author of the article questions whether the British Government is doing enough to tackle disinformation from spreading online before it spills to the streets. Under UK law, an action designed to interfere or disrupt an electronic system with an eye to influence the government or advance a political, religious or ideological cause is considered a terrorist act.
"Britain may well face more of such challenges in the future – it should learn the lessons from Ukraine if it wants to deal with them effectively," the article concludes.