Disinformation and Counter-Disinformation Strategies
Kremlin Watch Report, European Values Think Tank
As a response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Operation Dragoon Ride 2015 was a high-profile and controversial USAREUR tactical convoy. A squadron of Strykers with additional logistical and support elements traveled in a convoy almost 2000 km from Estonia back to their home base in Vilseck, Germany through the Baltics, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Largely because of the convoy’s representation as a symbol against Russian adventurism, ODR ’15 received a significant amount of pro-Russian disinformation. This disinformation contributed to the convoy’s controversy, especially in the Czech Republic where the disinformation was predominately focused. In fact, disinformation attempts, comprising of a mix of false reporting in main stream media, sharing of said disinformation, and bot and troll activity on social media, caused many (Czechs and non-Czechs alike) to believe that most of the Czech Republic did not support the convoy’s passage through the country. Ultimately, this notion turned out to be false as tens of thousands of Czech citizens showed up along Czech roads in support of the US convoy, which was far more significant than any opposition elements present. Nevertheless, disinformation surrounding the event had a significant impact on society. As a result of ODR ’15 and subsequent Atlantic Resolve convoys, as well as the changing landscape of disinformation (primarily proRussian, or Russian state-backed), tactics and techniques used to combat said disinformation have ebbed and flowed over the past four years. Two primary public relations models have been used to conduct the NATO convoys, one advocating high-profile press, and the other espousing a quieter public approach. Both strategies have proven effective at handling various levels of disinformation attempts, but neither model is perfect.