Enhancing the Capabilities of CSDP Missions and Operations to Identify and Respond to Disinformation Attacks

This study, published by the European Parliament, analyses disinformation campaigns against CSDP missions and operations with case studies on the missions in Georgia, Moldova, and Mali. The authors find that disinformation campaigns do not systematically target missions but threaten them in broader campaigns against EU influence in host countries. To counter them the study recommends a more cohesive and proactive approach making use of strategic communication tools to protect EU credibility and legitimacy with local audiences and actors.

The European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) requested an analysis on the current state of disinformation campaigns against CSDP missions and operations. In this study, the authors lay out the current state of play in disinformation surrounding the EU operations, including civilian CSDP missions, in Georgia, Moldova, and Mali. The common threat found to all missions examined is the Russian government, which engages in anti-EU disinformation campaigns either directly or through foreign proxies. Russian disinformation is often picked up and spread further by a local audience who already view the EU with scepticism or hostility sometimes engaging in smaller-scale disinformation attacks on their own. At the time the study was prepared, only EUMM Georgia had a communication strategy for combatting disinformation, while other missions had very limited capacity. Critically, there was and remains no coordination between different CSDP missions on countering disinformation. 

The authors find that, at least for the time being, the missions have not been the main targets of systematic disinformation campaigns, largely due to their specific low-profile functions in training and institutional support rather than diplomacy or public outreach. However, they still face threats posed by disinformation targeting EU influence as a whole, especially in the Sahel where the Wagner Group has a significant presence. The study synthesises recommendations to be taken by both the missions and Brussels. The EU should enhance the capacity and capability of missions to proactively monitor and counter disinformation. Exchange of knowledge and coordination among missions should be facilitated across regions and among missions facing similar threats. A common toolbox and frameworks for addressing disinformation should be developed, including by engaging with local media and civil society in host countries to build the EU’s legitimacy. 

 This study serves as a useful guide for staff in missions and the EEAS in setting priorities of strategic communications development to address current policy gaps. 

Reference: Fridman, O., Baudais, V., Gigitashvili, G. (2023). Enhancing the capabilities of CSDP missions and operations to identify and respond to disinformation attacks. European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE). 


PDF | 53 pages

Read the full study


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