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7 Jul, 2019 01:30

EU’s ‘Russian meddling’ alert system not detecting any meddling

EU’s ‘Russian meddling’ alert system not detecting any meddling

The EU’s Rapid Alert System, created to tackle ‘Russian meddling’, hasn’t sounded a single alarm in the six months of its existence, a report has found.

In a piece on the struggles of the ambitious project, the New York Times cited an inside joke popular in Brussels before the European Parliament election in May about the Rapid Alert System: “It’s not rapid. There are no alerts. And there’s no system.”

The system has never issued any warnings, the NYT reports, but not before setting the mood by talking about how “Russian efforts metastasized” during the 2016 election in the US, how analysts spotted “unmistakable signs” of the Kremlin’s hand in an Austrian political scandal, and quoting EU officials who speak of “continued and sustained disinformation activity from Russian sources.”

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The Rapid Alert System was established in early 2019 as a digital network for EU countries to share intelligence and file warnings about Moscow’s alleged nefarious activities as the EU leaders picked up on the useful American trend of blaming Russia for their problems.

For something purportedly so vital for the survival of European democracy, very little was apparently done to support the system. Two-thirds of the nations participating have never contributed anything to it, while those who have only shared news clippings or reports compiled by NGOs. No standards have been developed for submitting data, with no one in charge of analyzing the materials gathered and making conclusions, essentially making the Rapid Alert System a dump for unverified information of questionable value.

“The R.A.S. is at risk of becoming defunct,” the NYT quotes a Czech government report as saying. “If we want more than to spend resources on maintaining a platform to occasionally share studies by NGOs or invitations to conferences, we need to rethink our strategy.”

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The report also complains that EU free speech laws limit the Rapid Alert System’s effectiveness, since they prevent “experts” from debunking information on European websites and social media that allegedly comes from Moscow.

The NYT and top ‘Russian disinformation’ experts that it quotes frame it as a legitimate system, well-equipped to expose sinister Kremlin efforts, despite its otherwise stunning inability to alert anyone to Moscow’s attacks on European elections, which the same experts claim happen all the time. While they blame the mechanism’s silence on the lack of support from member states, in reality, what it seeks to detect has been much more evident in the realm of internal political finger-pointing and point-scoring than in the realm of proven fact. There is a drastic shortage of factual evidence to go with claims of Russia’s “malign activities,” and even a Czech expert quoted in the NYT piece admits people aren’t all that excited by the “Potemkin village” that is the Rapid Alert System: “People in the know, they don’t take it seriously.”

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