In the Balkans, Russia and the West Fight a Disinformation-Age Battle
Ahead of an regionally-important Macedonian election that could move the country towards NATO membership, Russia has launched a massive disinformation campaign to incite unrest, encourage fears, and reduce voter turnout. America and the EU have made efforts to counter this campaign, with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and several other high profile U.S. and EU politicians traveling to the country in a show of support. On his visit, Mattis warned of “influence campaigns” working to undermine the election and emphasized the importance of fighting the “malicious cyber activity that threatens out democracies.” Russia continues to deny all of the allegations, although they openly oppose NATO expansion. The Balkans continue to be a point of continued contention between Russia and the West, as both countries vie for different political visions in the country. In 2016, NATO accused Russia of organizing a coup attempt the pro-West Montenegrin government. “One of Russia’s top foreign policy and security goals is to oppose NATO at every step…as long as they think they can make trouble, they will try to make trouble,” declared the leader of the Euro-Atlantic and global partnership office at NATO.