Revealing Russian influence in Europe: Insights from Germany, France, Italy and Ukraine

January 22, 2024
Institute of Innovative Governance
Black Sea Trust Fund of the German Marshall Fund
2 min read
This publication was prepared by the Institute of Innovative Governance with the support from the Black Sea Trust Fund of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).

The material reflects the position of the authors and doesn’t necessarily coincide with the position of the Black Sea Trust Fund of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).

Executive Summary

The full-scale Russian aggression of Ukraine has dramatically shaped the course of European contemporary history. The aftermath of this event introduces unparalleled challenges, encompassing security, Euro-Atlantic integration, and global economic development.

However, the roots of Russian aggression in Ukraine extend beyond its current military actions. Moscow laid the groundwork for this aggressive move, strategically investing in the dissemination of its narratives and exerting influence on public opinion across various states in Europe. The calculated use of propaganda emerged as a pivotal element in the Russian preparatory strategy that ultimately culminated in the invasion of Ukraine.

This report aims at providing an analysis of this preparatory strategy and focuses on how Russia created and promoted narratives that justified and anticipated its actions in Ukraine. Our analysis is particularly centered on four key European countries: Germany, France, Italy, and Ukraine, examining how the Kremlin has adeptly tailored its propaganda machinery to exert a significant influence on these societies. The consistent deployment of extensive disinformation campaigns, designed to amplify polarization and erode democratic discourse, has been a persistent feature of Moscow’s propaganda strategy. Nevertheless, what sets Russian actions apart is their effective adaptation to the unique situations within these countries. The Kremlin strategically exploits the specific societal contexts in Germany, France, Italy, and Ukraine to maximize the impact of its narratives, showcasing a deliberate and targeted approach to achieving its political objectives.

Through the presentation of case studies and analyses grounded in open-source data, our objective is to delve into the impact of pivotal actors in Russian propaganda and their distinct characteristics within the national context. By scrutinizing specific dynamics and employing data-driven methodologies, we aim to investigate the intricate Russian propaganda’s dynamics. We also are keen to contribute to a deeper understanding of Russian narratives and propaganda in a broader political context.

Finally, our report includes a set of recommendations aimed at fostering resilience and enhancing the capacity of democratic societies in Europe and beyond to effectively counter Russian propaganda. These recommendations are designed to create a more robust environment where such Russian narratives struggle to generate polarization. By offering practical and strategic guidelines, we aspire to empower policymakers, institutions, and the public to build a collective defense against the divisive impact of Russian propaganda and malign narratives.