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Russian meddlingRussia waging disinformation war against Sweden: Report

Published 11 January 2017

Researchers from the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Sweden’s leading foreign policy institute, have written that Russia has been using fake news, false documents, and disinformation as part of a coordinated campaign to influence public opinion and decision-making in Sweden. The Russian meddling in Swedish politics, and the methods used by Russian intelligence agencies to influence the tone of Swedish public discourse and direction of Swedish public policies, are similar to the methods and goals of the Putin government in interfering in the U.S. 2016 presidential election in support of Donald Trump.

Researchers from the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Sweden’s leading foreign policy institute, have written that Russia has been using fake news, false documents, and disinformation as part of a coordinated campaign to influence public opinion and decision-making in Sweden.

The Russian meddling in Swedish politics, and the methods used by Russian intelligence agencies to influence the tone of Swedish public discourse and direction of Swedish public policies, are similar to the methods and goals of the Putin government in interfering in the U.S. 2016 presidential election in support of Donald Trump.

Russia has actively – both overtly and covertly — supported ethno-nationalist, populist, and illiberal political parties and leaders like Front National in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. These parties share fiercely anti-EU and anti-NATO positions, and advocate the distancing of their countries from the United States in favor of closer cooperation with Russia.

The comprehensive study found that Sweden had been the target of “a wide array of active measures” aimed at “hampering its ability to generate public support in pursuing its policies.”

The Local reports that the study said Russia had used misleading reports on its state-run news Web site Sputnik, and public interventions by Russian politicians in Swedish domestic affairs, as well as more covert methods.

These methods included forged documents and fabricated news items that appeared in Swedish media and were subsequently picked up by Sputnik and “other sources of Russian public diplomacy” and broadcast to an international audience, the study said.

The report notes that the forgeries and fake stories were consistent with Russia’s strategic objectives.

“We are able to establish intent, dominant narratives, behavioral patterns and strategic goals, where the close correlation between Russian public diplomacy and active measures suggest the operation of a coordinated campaign,” the study said.

Moscow’s main aim was to “preserve the geo-strategic status quo” by minimizing NATO’s role in the Baltic region and keeping Sweden out of the international military alliance,” the study said.

The study authors note that evidence of Russian interference in the political processes in the United States and Germany, adding that their study confirmed a “growing body of research highlighting Russia’s increasing use of active measures as a foreign policy tool towards western states” since 2014.