“One year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine is even better capable of defending itself, thanks also to the contribution of Western military aid”, emphasizes Dr. Rumena Filipova, President of the “Global Analytics” Institute.
In the interview for The Geopost, she talks about the international conference which was held in Sofia on May 19, where leading international experts from across Europe and the Americas spoke to start a cross-regional dialogue on how best to counter the Russian and Chinese influence in Central and Eastern Europe.
As for the Russian and Chinese influence in Central and Eastern Europe, she said that they have commonalities, but also their own differences, which should be taken care of. As a common influence Dr. Rumena Filipova considers the diplomatic, disinformation and political influence, while she singles out China’s new influence on the economic and academic levels.
TheGeopost: Which is your comment one year after the Russian aggression in Ukraine?
It has been over a year now and what we can say regarding the most recent development is that more than a year after the start of the Russian invasion against Ukraine, Ukraine is even better capable of defending itself, of course with the vital contribution of the western military aid, which is important to mention the “Patriot” system where it is able to fend off attacks from Russian missiles, because as you remember in the beginning of the war Russia totally dominated Ukrainian airspace, where now we can see Ukraine can defend itself against random Russian attacks which may provide resemblance of greater security and normality for the future. Also the reconstruction process can start, safer in the knowledge of better protection can be insured.
Another piece of good news coming out of the recently held G7 Summit is the agreed provision of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, which is another important component in Ukraine’s defense of it’s airspace.
So, we can say that one year on, Ukraine is in better position.
TheGeopost: Recently you’ve organized a conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, can you tell us how do you see the Russian and Chinese influence in the Balkans?
Yes, indeed, we held an international conference on the 19th of May here in Sofia, it was entitled Central and Eastern Europe on the frontline; Forging Collaborative Solutions to Foreign Authoritarian-State Influence, and we brought here to Bulgaria leading international experts from across Europe and America to start a cross-regional dialogue on how to best counter Russian and Chinese influence in Central and Eastern Europe.
First of all, we aimed at exchanging perspectives on the historically-inherited and contemporary challenges of Russian and Chinese influence, particularly disinformation in the three major sub-regions of Europe and in particular, Central and Eastern Europe, Baltic countries also the Central European States and South East Europe.
Our second major aim was focused on identifying best practices but also remaining gaps in terms of countering Russian and Chinese media influence in the region and last but not least, we also put forward concrete proposals and initiatives for collaborative tackling of Beijing’s and Moscow’s influence activities in Central and Eastern Europe. So I would really like to underscore the importance of having an international collaborative network of experts and think tanks from across the region who can jointly provide solutions to and also tackle Russian and Chinese influence which can happen in number of ways, including exchange of information also best practices in the level of civil society and government conducting joint advocacy initiatives and forging closer dialogues between experts, but also policy makers concerned with tackling Russian and Chinese influence in the region.
TheGeopost: Which states are more influenced from Russia and which ones from China?
That is a very interesting question, because it is something that we focused a lot during the conference. On one hand we have seen that there has been a significant degree of conjunction and even coordination of Russian and Chinese diplomatic activities and also disinformation campaigns, but also a lot of our panelists called for also being attentive to the distinctions between Russian and Chinese influence operations, so we in particular paid a lot of attention to the fact that of course, Russia has historically been the major aggressive actor in Central and Eastern Europe which has interfered in the domestic politics and also in the international relations of the countries in this area of Europe. Where China is a much more recent actor here and it has exercised influence particularly in the economies of Central and Eastern European countries.
So, those differences in the origins, of Russian and Chinese influence means that we need to be attentive to also the particular targets of Beijing’s and Moscow’s disinformation campaigns in particular.
We focused in the Baltic countries and the target groups of Russian and Chinese disinformation there and we have seen that Moscow tends to target the Russian speaking communities and also the socially and economically vulnerable groups, which is of course trend that applies only to the Baltics but also to the rest of the rest of the Central and Eastern Europe, where is, China tends to target business communities and also academic communities.
It is important to underline that this is part of China’s overall strategy of establishing a significant footprint in the academic institutions of Central and Eastern Europe and also in the economies and the business communities.
So, I would like to stress here the responses to Chinese influence and in particular, we discussed the Lithuanian example, which is of course an example demonstrating to the whole of Europe but I would say also the world how a country can deal with the economically course of practices of Beijing which followed after 2021 when Lithuania decided to establish representative office of Taiwan, that is to say a de-facto embassy, which led to China’s economic retaliation, blocking bilateral trade and also imposing secondary sanctions. Here we emphasized the importance of economic partnerships within Euro-Atlantic community, because the US and Taiwan stepped in and provided important economic support to Lithuania where the EU also sued China and WTO for discriminatory trade practices, so in terms of the responses, it is important to have strategic collaboration among the likeminded countries in the Euro-Atlantic community in order to be able to stave off some of the negative ramifications of china’s economic coercion. /The Geopost