June 15, 2018

Our Virtual and Physical Neighbourhood

Reuters/Scanpix

The Lennart Meri Conference will discuss the situation in Estonia’s neighbouring countries, both physically and virtually. The information space may have become on some occasions more important than the physical environment. Consequently, Diplomaatia’s special edition pays attention to those questions.

Jakub Kalenský, East StratCom Task Force member at the European External Action Service, warns of Russian fake news. “The pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign has one underlying strategy. Despite the diversity of messages, channels, tools, levels, ambitions and tactical aims, and notwithstanding its rapidly adapting nature, the strategic objective is one and the same: to weaken the West and strengthen the Kremlin in a “zero-sum game” approach,” he says.

Alexey Levinson, sociologist and senior researcher at the Levada Center, Russia’s leading polling organisation, gives an overview of Russia’s opinion of the US and its president. “Western powers in general are hostile towards Russia, and the US is the most hostile of them all. According to a survey conducted in the spring of 2018, 24% of Russians over 18 years of age had a good opinion of the US, while 56% saw it in a negative light. The opinion of the EU has always been a little more positive; the respective indicators are 27% and 53%,” he writes.

Russia’s activity in the Arctic is analysed in the article by Dr Pavel Baev, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo. “The question of whether Russia is a revisionist power in the Arctic cannot presently be answered affirmatively, or even definitively. As happens rather too often, Moscow experiments with a bit of both, seeking to gain maximum benefit from upholding the status quo and from attacking the “unfair” West-dominated international order,” Baev explains.

James Sherr, an associate fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is concerned about Ukraine’s future. “A ‘return to Russia’ is ruled out because the vast majority of Ukrainians who believe in a different future and the distinguished minority who bear arms in Ukraine’s defence will not allow this to happen.  But destabilisation and wider conflict are possible,” he writes.

Ulrike Franke, ECFR policy fellow, writes about science fiction and warfare. “There is an obvious reason it makes sense for scholars to keep an eye on science fiction: it and other literary predictions can provide ideas about how (some) people see the future. This is particularly relevant for those researchers interested in the future of warfare and military technology—the most important sci-fi franchise in the world is called Star Wars for good reason,” she says.

Sir Christopher Harper, Air Marshal, writes that shortfalls in air defence would leave the Baltic states vulnerable to the effects of a fast-moving air campaign. Jelena Milic writes about Western Balkans.

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