Postcard from... Riga

 

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The Independent Online

While most of their compatriots were engrossed in the plot lines of slick Russian soap operas, the analysts working in a Soviet-era building tucked behind the Ministry of Defence in Riga have spent countless hours watching Russian television with more cerebral intentions.

With an insurgency gripping eastern Ukraine and concerns that Russia is trying to expand its influence into other European nations, Nato wanted to find out how Kremlin-backed channels were using media to achieve military goals. “Nato understood that what we see happening in Ukraine and what Russia is doing is something they had not been looking at closely,” says Elina Lange-Ionatamishvili, an expert at the Nato Strategic Communications (StratCom) Centre of Excellence, which opened in Riga last year.

Its staff of diplomats, public affairs experts, psychologists and social anthropologists will study methods which Isis uses to recruit fighters, the effectiveness of information warfare campaigns in Afghanistan, and the weaponisation of social media.

“Cyberspace is now a major battlefield and the so-called ‘war’ is one of ideas,” says David Welch, director of the University of Kent’s Centre for the Study of War, Propaganda and Society.

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