Germany, a favorite target of Putin's disinformation

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source: foreignpolicy.com

Thus, the German public is by far the most attacked with Russian disinformation in the European Union . France has registered around 300 of these campaigns since 2015 and Italy 170. Spain ranks far behind Germany, with 40.

"Words as weapons"

The German authorities are well aware of this situation, which has served the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel to point out that these media use “words as weapons” . The German Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Social Democrat Heiko Maas, has not raised an eyebrow on account of the 700 information attacks by Russia that have occurred in the last five years. "We are not surprised," Maas said.

That RT and Sputnik , for example, are dedicated to attacking "democratic values", "dividing Europe" and "giving the impression that the EU is weakened" is something that has been part of the European consensus for years. Those terms, in fact, already appeared in a 2017 European Parliament report on third-party propaganda against the EU.

But that does not mean that there are politicians, personalities or experts more than willing to happily pass in front of the cameras of these media. However, there are also those who oppose it, such as Marcel Dirsus, an expert at the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel . He usually encourages on his social networks not to grant interviews to these media.

"They are not journalism, but an arm of the Russian government"

“These media are not journalism, they are an arm of the Russian Government, what they do is not journalism, but propaganda. By appearing in their broadcasts, giving them statements or interacting with them in one way or another, what you do is give them a legitimacy that they do not deserve, ”Dirsus tells NIUS.

For him, what is really problematic is when “politicians appear on that chain, be it an ex-minister, or a public representative, because many people may think that if an ex-minister is in that chain it is because that chain should be worth it. , that what he says is valid or corresponds to reality ” .

This same week the Russian authorities were heard complaining because, despite everything, they saw the work of RT threatened in Germany. "We call in all seriousness to Germany to guarantee the work of RT, " according to statements to the German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur by the spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Scharowa.

Since last February the Russian television channel has had banking problems in Germany. Comerzbank, the German entity that handled the RT accounts, has informed the Russian company that it has to close its accounts as of May 31. Apparently, the Russian firm does not now find a bank in Germany with which to operate.

Media that divide rather than inform

Faced with this situation, the German Government does not take for granted, although Moscow now threatens to take action against Germany and its media. "Opening a bank account is an economic process that we cannot judge," a spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Dirsus, the expert at the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel, sees Germany now acting in its usual way, consisting of "avoiding confrontation with these media", although " just look at the history of how they cover their news to realize that they are propaganda organizations: there are many studies that indicate that these media are dedicated to exploiting the divisions that exist in our societies , whether it is immigration issues or now, doubts about vaccines.

It is no coincidence, for example, that politicians from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) or the left-wing Die Linke appear regularly in the German version of RT . "These media are not reporting, they are trying to divide," insists Dirsus.

There is no horizon for Russian propaganda to cease in Europe. But even with authorities in Berlin who seem unwilling to deal with the issue,  it cannot be said that RT and company are not putting a little more strain on the battered German-Russian relations.

“The German authorities will always want to keep relations with Russia as calm as possible, but there are red lines that cannot be crossed. There are disagreements on many issues, but Germany remains open to dialogue, what happens is that Russia sometimes goes too far and the government has no choice but to respond ”, analyzes Dirsus.

However, Merkel and company do not yet have a clear answer to the Russian propaganda. Meanwhile, RT is looking for a new correspondent in Berlin for its English channel. “Do you like live broadcasts, do you like reports and do you stand out on social networks? Do you know how to make interviewees not evasive and attract new audiences? Are you addicted to the news? Asks RT's harmless job advertisement .