In the latest revelation,
first reported by The Wall Street Journal, a Russian dossier intercepted by Bulgaria’s intelligence service outlines how pro-Russian politicians there should employ fake news and other
types of deception, such as distorted polls, to secure victory.
The 30-page dossier was drawn up by a Russian think tank with close connections to the Kremlin. It was delivered by a former Russian spy to strategists working for Bulgaria’s Socialist Party in the lead-up to the Bulgarian presidential election in November 2016.
The fall saw an explosion of fake Bulgarian-language news stories on the Internet, jumping from 50 per day in the summer to 400 per day in late October, amplified across social media by hundreds of apparently fake accounts. Many contained small variations on the same name.
The pro-Russian Socialist candidate, Ruman Radev, won handily with 59.4% of the vote, beating establishment candidate Tsetska Tsacheva with just 36.2%. He appears to be leading in a new round of parliamentary elections.
Foreign experts fear that Radev will try to restrict NATO activity in the Black Sea area — out of deference to Russia. In addition, he has expressed opposition to the European Union’s sanctions against Russia, stemming from the continuing conflict in Ukraine.
Bulgaria also controls the land link from Turkey to Europe, giving it an important strategic role.
This is just the latest example of fake news, at least some of it linked to Russian intelligence, apparently influencing the outcome of elections both in the U.S. and Europe.
In the Czech Republic, officials have accused Russia of backing dozens of Czech-language Web sites publishing fake news and conspiracy theories, playing on fears of refugees and immigrants and specially targeting the U.S., NATO, EU, and Germany.
As in Bulgaria, fake news also plays on feelings of economic insecurity, anger at official corruption, and cultural resentment toward outsiders.The WSJ quoted former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who also served as Secretary General of NATO, warning: “It is Russia’s aim to undermine the political cohesion in Western institutions. We haven’t yet fully grasped the consequences.”