Russian foreign policy toward Central and Eastern Europe in May 2016, was dominated by two short-term policy goals. First, the Kremlin sought to weaken NATO unity in the face of the alliance’s plans to deploy ABM systems throughout Europe, and in advance of NATO’s upcoming summit in Warsaw. Second, it hoped to project an image of diplomatic reasonableness over the Ukraine crisis—especially concerning the Minsk II accords—as a way to get Western sanctions lifted, even as it continued to undermine the Ukrainian state. Moscow also continued to focus on longstanding goals: strengthening its influence among ethnic Russian minorities in neighboring states and supporting populist movements dissatisfied with NATO and the European Union.
’s latest briefs show how Moscow uses soft power in pursuit of these aims. In one, a Russian-language news portal unconvincingly compared restrictions on entering the Baltic states with the highly restrictive practices of North Korea, even though Estonian courts have upheld the country’s entry laws. In another Estonian example, a Russian-language web page carried a story on racism in Ukraine that appears entirely invented. An example from Poland, originating in the Russian press, spins in Moscow’s favor the facts surrounding the end of Russia’s contract with the US for transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. A case study from Latvia shows the limits of Russian information confrontation. There a Russian-language Internet portal criticized the disinformation campaign by one of Russia’s television stations against alleged extremists during the Victory Day celebrations in Riga on 9 May. A final brief looks at how pro-Kremlin analyst Alexander Rahr repeats falsehoods about the NATO alliance in an interview with the website rubaltic.ru.