Last week's events concerning the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign

Topics of the Week

The Netherlands ordered the expulsion of two Russian diplomats based on the information that they were collecting information from the country's science and high-tech sectors.

US lawmakers agree to widen sanctions on Nord Stream II.

Kremlin's Current Narrative: What the Kremlin expects from 2021?

Good Old Soviet Joke

Radio Yerevan was asked: "What is the difference between an optimist and a pessimist?"

Radio Yerevan answered: "An optimist learns English – a pessimist Chinese."

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Policy & Research News

Netherlands expels two Russian diplomats over espionage

The Netherlands ordered the expulsion of two Russians with diplomatic accreditation and declared them ‘persona non grata’. This decision was made based on the announcement of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), which accused two Russians of collecting information on the country’s science and high-tech sectors for civilian and military domains.  

It was also added that both of the accredited diplomats were based in Hague and were a part of a "substantial espionage network".

Shortly after the announcement, Russia responded to Dutch acquisitions as unfounded and provocative. 

The expulsions of Russian and Chinese diplomats by Western governments have become a frequent practice over the last few years due to the hyperactive mode of foreign intelligence officers. The vast scope of intelligence activities against the West should not be left unnoticed and democracies should keep an eye on foreign diplomats from Moscow and Beijing to fight these blanket operations, which pose a threat to national security and democracy.

The UK slaps sanctions against human rights abusers, including Russian perpetrators

The UK government has imposed sanctions on 11 human rights violators from various countries, including Russian politicians. The sanctions will include travel bans and asset freezes. 

Namely, three individuals from Russia were accessed of torture and other violations against LGBTQ people in Chechnya. Restrictive measures will also hit other human rights abusers from Venezuela and Pakistan. In response to this decision, Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed that will retaliate against the UK’s decision.

Previously, the EU agreed on its own “Magnitsky” sanctions regime to target human rights perpetrators.

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US Developments

Nord Stream 2: US lawmakers agree to widen sanctions on Russian-German pipeline

As work on Nord Stream 2 is set to resume, US lawmakers have agreed to extend sanctions on companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. More firms involved in the $11.6 billion pipeline to deliver gas from Russia's Siberia region to Germany could be hit with penalties under the draft of the annual US defence policy legislation for 2021, including over 120 companies that facilitate the construction of the pipeline, or provide insurance, reinsurance, testing, inspection and certification services.

Social Media in 2020: A Year of Misinformation and Disinformation

A Washington Post interview with Dr Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington and a co-founder of the Center for an Informed Public, outlined the misinformation and disinformation that have defined media in 2020. Dr Starbird traced the trajectory of social media misinformation from early lockdown rumours and covid home-remedies to more politicized rumours in the spring and summer. Talk of vaccines and the election then gave rise to significant conspiracy theories with real-world effects. Platforms have only recently started to respond to the waves of inaccurate content, and Dr Starbird recommends that further work be done to stem the tide.

Kremlin's Current Narrative

Kremlin’s predictions for 2021

Getting closer to the end of this tumultuous year, we have gathered some of the main predictions for 2021 from the Russian media. Starting from the warnings of the upcoming chaos in the United States and finishing with the future of Kremlin in the world of sanctions.

As on Tuesday Vladimir Putin has officially congratulated Joe Biden on the victory in the US elections, RT offers an analysis of Mr Biden’s course for restoring multilateralism in the American foreign affairs. The author warns, however, that the US trying to recover its position as the leader of the “collective West,” will try to do everything possible to impose sanctions against “countries like China and Russia” (considering Russia as one of the main enemies). Trying once again (as in the times of Obama and Clinton) to “subjugate the world to the American interests,” will only lead to more chaos.

“Fishing places Britain and the EU on the brink of war” – a pessimistic outlook for the negotiations of the Brexit deal, the complexity of which should foreshadow the potentially radical break-up of Great Britain from the EU. “Europeans make ultimatums and Brits are too proud and pragmatic to surrender,” that in the future is likely to lead to the UK becoming an “ongoing problem” of the European Union, to their mutual discontent and humiliation.

The work on the Nord Stream 2 continues regardless of the pressure from the US and as eloquently put by the source, “other opponents of undemocratic Russian gas molecules.” And even though Russia remains interested in the European gas market, the Europe-US confrontation is “not a Russian war,” and it is only beginning.

Finally, the sanctions that remain in place next year are not only limiting the growth of the Russian international trade, which is already “pitifully small” with the US but also forces Russia to continue the retaliatory sanctions over the Western food products. On a bigger scale, however, for all these years sanctions against Russia could not destroy the country’s economy, and in the future, Western leaders are most likely to apply “cosmetic measures” even if their number will increase to show stricter anti-Russian solidarity.

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Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Center for Security Policy, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against the liberal-democratic system.

For comments. suggestions or media inquiries, please contact the Head of the Kremlin Watch Program Veronika Víchová at 

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