Over a year ago, Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, killing as many as 8,500 civilians and injuring another 14,000, according to United Nations estimates. Beyond the artillery and bombs, Russia has been waging an information war in the Balkan countries to promote falsehoods that legitimize its war on Ukraine. The propaganda includes false claims that Russia is protecting Ukraine from Nazi insurgents, that Ukraine has biological weapons and narratives that Ukraine is corrupt.
On April 11, the Biden Administration met with Balkan leaders to pledge support for their efforts to shut down Russian news sites disseminating disinformation. U.S. support could go a long way toward helping Balkan countries in their attempts to remain autonomous from Russia, which uses disinformation to try to undermine democratic governments in the post-Soviet space.
For the past three years, intelligence analysts and disinformation researchers at my company have been closely following the tactics and strategies of Russian disinformation operations. Here are some suggestions that the U.S. could take that would make even more of an impact in countering the anti-Ukraine disinformation being disseminated by Russia.
The State Department’s suggestions to block websites are a start, but will likely only impact the low-hanging fruit and activities of unsophisticated actors. Countries should not only be targeting the IP addresses and domain names of sites spreading falsehoods, but also the companies that host and support those web addresses. Other State Department-recommended efforts – such as labeling foreign government accounts, and enacting regulations that require transparency around foreign ownership of