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Research Report

Strategic communications: East and South

Antonio Missiroli
Jan Joel Andersson
Florence Gaub
Nicu Popescu
John-Joseph Wilkins
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2016
Pages: 59
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-4)
    Antonio Missiroli

    There is no need to explain why the issues and activities analysed in this Report have become crucially important for the EU and its overall security. The way in which Russia and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Daesh, have supported hostile actions on the ground with disinformation and propaganda on air and online has tangibly contributed to the destabilisation of the Union’s neighbouring regions and, to a lesser extent, also of Europe itself. Their actions have often been investigated and dissected separately, as they are undeniably distinct and each is peculiar in...

  2. (pp. 5-6)

    Just like the term ‘hybrid’ (often associated with warfare, tactics or threats), ‘strategic communication(s)’ – which this Report will use in the plural form – has recently become rather fashionable. Moreover, not unlike ‘hybrid’, it often lacks a clear definition. This has advantages, of course, as the term can be used to cover a wide range of disparate issues and activities. Still, a better understanding of its possible scope can be of help in assessing the extent to which it is applicable to the actions and actors analysed in this publication.

    Broadly speaking, strategic communications infuses ‘communications’ activities with an...

  3. (pp. 7-24)

    Russia’s strategic communications are complex, both with regard to ideas and institutions. Carried out both directly and through proxies, they shape people’s perceptions of the EU – be it inside Russia, in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) states or in the EU itself, as well as its candidate countries. In light of the goals it intends to achieve, Russia’s messaging has proved quite effective, if not necessarily consistent: while often crude and deceitful in terms of content, its delivery is sophisticated, targeted and tailored to different audiences, and capable of exploiting the EU’s weaknesses.

    The so-called ‘Colour Revolutions’ in Georgia and...

  4. (pp. 25-28)

    The Russian occupation of Crimea was described by NATO Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove as perhaps ‘the most amazing blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare’. However, the Alliance’s concern about (dis)information campaigns and what is now called ‘strategic communications’ has a long history.

    While not called strategic communications then, the threat of Soviet covert action subverting influence, intimidating domestic audiences and undermining governing political structures was very real in Western Europe throughout the Cold War. Communist propaganda increased after the creation of the Cominform (Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties) in 1947. Its...

  5. (pp. 29-44)

    The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has quickly gained a strong reputation with regard to its strategic communications. Not only what it communicates, but also how – with its slick magazines and videos, and effective use of social media – has redefined the way in which political messages are being relayed in conflict. ISIL’s strategic communications are tailored to several audiences, ranging from international opponents who are susceptible to the idea of a ‘clash of civilisations’, to active members of ISIL and potential recruits. But ultimately, all of them are tied into the organisation’s long-term political...

  6. (pp. 45-50)

    Over the past few years, the EU has been increasingly hit by destabilising messages that, in different forms and to different degrees, amount to coherent hostile ‘strategic communications’ campaigns. Those promoted and orchestrated by Russia (inside Russia itself, within the EU, and in European countries neighbouring both) have explicitly targeted the EU itself, its nature and its policies. Those carried out by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have been more ‘civilisational’ – i.e. aimed at European or Western values – and at the same time more personal, local and national, i.e. focused on specific situations...