1. Albania: Albania is considered to be the most Western-aligned, pro-EU of the Balkan nations. However, there have been calls to increase Russia-Albanian economic cooperation and secure Russian investment from Prime Minister Edi Rama, as well as an attempt to increase goodwill through branches of the Association of Russia-Albania Friendship. Rama has also been critical of the sanctions regime against Russia . Propaganda claiming that Albanian diasporas have territorial ambitions in neighboring countries have been used to create divides in Macedonia and elsewhere. Additionally, an investigation has been launched into allegations of opposition political parties receiving Russian financial support.
  2. Armenia: Armenia has enjoyed close ties with Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Historically, it has viewed Russia as an ally since the days of the Ottoman Empire. Today, Russia and Armenia are close military allies and economic partners. They both share the goal of strengthening the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). On September 3, 2013, then president of Armenian Serzh Sargsyan made a stunning announcement: his country would not enter into an Association Agreement with the EU. Instead, he declared, it would join the EEU. This U-turn came as a shock to nearly all involved, because Armenia had spent the previous four years pursuing (not always in the most efficient manner) a series of reforms required for an EU Association Agreement. Vladimir Putin and Sargsyan signed 12 agreements for enhancing cooperation between Russia and Armenia. In 2015, Armenia became a full member of the EEU. Armenia also hosts an important Russian military base and relies on Russia as a mediator in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The country’s new prime minister, an opposition leader who came to power this year after long-time president Sargsyan stepped down amid mass protests, met with Putin and vowed to “give a new impetus” to relations with Russia.
  3. Azerbaijan: Azerbaijan has always been of significant interest for the Kremlin because of its geopolitical location, and because of Russia’s desire to “monopolise all energy and transit routes to and from Europe.” Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, when it gained independence following the USSR’s collapse. There are still memories of the violence which proceeded their independence, including “Black January,” in which hundreds were killed or injured in Baku. This, along with the fact that Russia signed military agreements with Armenia—a country still in conflict with Azerbaijan contributes to distrust towards Russia in Azerbaijani society. Russia has often acted as the “main arbitrator for the territorial dispute between Armenians and Azerbaijanis over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.” Despite Russia’s role in this conflict, it has been noted that it is far from impartial, as “instead of advancing the peace negotiation Russia continues to sells firearms and ammunition to both sides. Russia was seen as supporting Armenia even before the actual collapse of the Soviet Union, and its continual role in the “frozen conflict” has been described as a way in which it continues to exert its influence in the region. The  Caucasus  Barometer  surveys conducted in 2007 and 2009 showed that “the number of people approving of friendship with Russia dropped significantly, from 80% to 54% whilst “the number of people disapproving of friendship grew from 20% to 46%.” It is notable that the 2008 war with Georgia happened in between these two surveys. This conflict supported the notion that Russia played an aggressive role in the region, again illustrating that it is not an impartial arbiter when it comes to problems in the South Caucasus. More recently, the 2013 survey showed that 95% of people disapproved of women marrying Russians, and that only 1% of people considered Russia as country’s main ally, whilst 7% of people considered Russia as the country’s main enemy, ranked only behind Armenia. Moreover, 85% of people said that they would never accept Abkhazia as a formal part of Russia. Despite these statistics, there remains high approval for conducting business with Russians, which in 2013 stood at 86%, while only 13% of people disapproved. This is likely due to the fact that Russia is a “vital” economic partner of Azerbaijan, and is the major importer of Azerbaijani non-oil products. Furthermore, 16% of respondents thought that Russian should be mandatory in schools, and 72% had at least an introductory-level knowledge of Russian. Since foreign ownership and funding in Azerbaijan is strictly controlled, the reason for the Russian language’s prominence cannot be considered as a direct Russian foreign policy tool. Nonetheless, the Russian language’s wide reach can be used to their advantage, and it has been noted that whilst previously Russia’s main pressure tools for Azerbaijan were political issues such as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, this is no longer the case, as after 2012, Moscow’s strategy changed, and Russia’s language and educational tools, as well as information tools, were seen as essential. Russian remains a lingua franca for several groups in Azerbaijan, including members of the local political, economic and cultural elite. In a different survey, it was shown that only 16% of the Azerbaijani population supported their integration into the Russia-led EEU, whilst accession to the EU and NATO was supported by 72% of respondents. It also showed a higher levels of trust towards NATO and the EU compared to the EEU. Azerbaijan has a Russian minority of over 100,000 people. According to Minority Rights Group International, “Russians are the third largest minority group” in Azerbaijan, and “they live mostly in the industrial cities and speak Russian.” Nonetheless, this group remains less than 2% of the Azerbaijani population.
  4. Belarus: Description: Kremlin-friendly. Belarus and Russia have historically enjoyed close relations since the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1995, the two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship, Good-Neighborliness and Cooperation, and the Union of Belarus and Russia was formed in 1999. As part of these agreements, Belarus and Russia have maintained close economic ties and strong military cooperation. Belarus is also a member of the EEU and the CSTO, in which Russia plays a leading role. There are several Russian military bases in Belarus, including the Hantsavichy Radar Station, which functions as an important early warning station for Russia. The Russian language has a dominant role in Belarus, with the majority of the population speaking Russian at home, instead of Belarusian. This has an important impact on media consumption in the country, which is mostly broadcast or published in Russian and tends to support a pro-Kremlin geopolitical agenda. Russian culture is very popular in Belarus, with everything from Russian music to movies dominating the popular culture scene. The strong influence of Russian Orthodoxy is also a powerful contributing factor in the shared cultural values between the two countries. Still, even though Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994, there have been occasional political fallouts between the two countries. The government of Belarus prioritizes its own national image above the Kremlin’s agenda, which has led to some antagonism in recent years. Nonetheless, the countries remain close allies today in the face of rising geopolitical tensions.
  5. Bosnia & Herzegovina: The influence of the Russian Federation is projected in Bosnia and Herzegovina mostly through Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, who supports separation of the autonomous region from the rest of the federation. Dodik has exchanged several visits with Kremlin's officials—for instance, he met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2016 and 2017. He has been supported by the Russian ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina and supported by Russian media channels. The Russian state television channel Sputnik News operates in Belgrade, but also has a significant impact on ethnic Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Good relations have also been cultivated between the Kremlin and Dragan Covic, the Croat member of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the head of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Kremlin’s main objective in Bosnia and Herzegovina seems to be keeping the country out of NATO and the EU, and increasing the ethnic tensions within society. Public opinion in the country is in line with these objectives. According to a poll conducted by the International Republican Institute, only 18 percent of ethnic Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina support joining the EU.
  6. Georgia: Georgia’s relations with Moscow are troubled; Russia invaded the country in 2008 and continues to occupy a quarter of its territory – recognizing Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions as independent entities and sponsoring their quasi statehoods. Moscow is also in ardent opposition to Georgia’s long-sought aspirations of joining NATO and the European Union, and has effectively deferred the country’s bid to become a member of the Alliance. Despite these challenges, the incumbent Georgian government maintained pragmatic relations with Moscow; since 2012, when it came to power, replacing a far more assertive administration of President Mikheil Saakashvili, it has invested heavily in dialing down the tensions, including through softening its rhetoric and engaging in new trade talks with Russia. At the same time, the Georgian government has continued to pursue a policy of mobilizing the support of the international community in the face of the Russian aggression. The government’s policy has yielded some positive results: physical security in and around the occupation line has considerably improved and bilateral trade with Russia has dramatically increased. Yet, no major political breakthrough has been achieved. Fundamental differences on the status and the future of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, combined with Moscow’s step-by-step political and military integration of the two occupied regions, as well as its gross human rights violations targeting ethnic Georgian remaining the two regions, continue to hamper any further progress in the bilateral relations between the two nations.
  7. Kosovo: The relationship between Kosovo and the Russian Federation has been complicated since the very beginning of Kosovan independence. In February 2009, the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it supports Serbia's territorial integrity and did not recognize Kosovo as a sovereign country. Up until the annexation of Crimea, the Russian Federation has been a strong opponent of any separatist movements, including Kosovo’s. In the years following independence, Russia has asserted its influence in Serbia, providing it with military equipment—placing further pressure on Kosovo. There is not a lot of data about the state of Russian influence in Kosovo or the counter-measures implemented by the country. However, according to a study by the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies, Kosovo faces Russian meddling with the aim of undermining the Euro-Atlantic partnerships and democratic institutions. One of the most important tools of influence is the Serbian Orthodox Church.
  8. Liechtenstein: While Lichtenstein has no official diplomatic presence in Russia and limited foreign policy activity, its economic climate has provided opportunities for Russia to meddle in economic affairs elsewhere through shell corporations and by providing tax havens for Russian wealth.
  9. Macedonia: The relationship between Macedonia and Russia has been friendly and special concern is given to Russian investment—particularly in oil and gas with the 2016 construction of the Klecovce-Stip pipeline between the countries. Russia, however, involved itself in the country’s affairs during a 2017 constitutional crisis, ascribing blame for the issue on Western interference and pushing its disinformation operation into high gear with both official statements and propaganda publicized by Sputnik exploiting tensions and resentment with Albania. There may be further risks of Russian interference on the horizon with Greece dropping its longstanding veto against Macedonia joining NATO over resolving the dispute regarding the country’s name in 2018. The Kremlin will seek to detach Macedonia from Western influence by using the media and propaganda to further exploit local ethnic tensions within the large Albanian population and make appeals to those sensitive to Russian Orthodoxy and the pan-Slavic identity discourse. This has been evident in the sponsorship of Orthodox churches and the publication of articles on both Russian and Serbian websites (such as Pravda) attempting to cast doubt on the EU and NATO and accusing the West of trying to promote the secession of Albanian-majority areas. Macedonia is continuing to move towards joining NATO and has opened an investigation into Moscow-backed figures in the Conservative party, such as former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
  10. Moldova: The independent Moldova inherited from the Soviet Union faces several serious challenges rooted in the cultural and ethnic makeup of its population. The USSR tried to undermine the ethnic identity of Moldovans by promoting the super-ethnos of the Soviet nation, built on Russian language and culture to educate a new kind of people. The very idea of independence was questioned not only by large segments of Moldova’s minority and titular ethnic groups, which supported the preservation of the Soviet Union, but also by a substantial portion of the titular group’s political and cultural elite, which saw unification with Romania as the ultimate goal of Moldova’s political transformation. Moldova circumstances are further complicated by its geographic location and its strong connections to the committed EU and NATO member Romania, and due to its historical ties with Russia and the presence of a Russian minority. Romania works to further its European integration, whereas Russia does everything to incorporate it into the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Moldova has an Agreement of Association with the European Union (EU), and since May 2018 has an Observer status in the EEU. The existence of the self-proclaimed Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) of Transnistria which is a separatist entity over which Moldova technically has no control is the most prominent and most direct threat for potential Russian coercion.
  11. Montenegro: Following the ascension of Montenegro to NATO in June 2017, tensions with Russia have escalated. While a majority of Montenegrins approved the move, it did reveal internal ethnic schisms as well, with only 11.3 % of Montenegrin Serbs supporting membership. Russian media outlets have seen an opportunity in the ethnic divide, with content from Sputnik and Russia Beyond Headlines frequently republished in Serbian-language outlets. Russia was quick to decry the move to join NATO, calling it a “hybrid war” and promising retaliatory measures. Montenegro, accusing Russia of internal meddling, barred 149 Russians and Ukrainians from entering the country, including some major figures such as Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin. In October 2016, two local party leaders were ousted over claims of a Russia-backed plot to overthrow the government, with evidence detailing the involvement of GRU associates and local Russian sympathizers in its orchestration. Such examples demonstrate the power of Russian hard power mixed with intelligence activity. Montenegro had also participated in the sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. Russia and its citizens do hold significant economic interests in the country in terms of property and corporate ownership. The new president Milo Djukanovic has offered to try and build bridges with Russia, but given the new geopolitical realities of NATO membership, Russia is expected to take advantage of divides in Montenegrin opinion with its influence in local media outlets.
  12. Norway: With a  shared border having been open until the 1940s, the Norwegian-Russian relationship has been shaped by boundary-stone disputes one often sees between neighbors. While a territorial dispute over areas of the Barents Sea was resolved in 2010, longstanding issues over pollution continue, and as a founding member of NATO, Norway is perceived as a maritime threat by the Kremlin. The 2017 deployment of US troops in the area has been a cause for tension as well, with Russia simulating an attack on a Norwegian radar station in 2017. This is mixed with stabilizing factors such as visa-free zones and a large Russian diaspora, as well as a domestic political movement which favors a peaceful relationship and harbors mixed feelings regarding sanctions over Ukraine. Digital threats against political, military, and economic targets are considered a threat by the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS).  Russia infiltration of social networks, news commentary websites, and beyond has been noted; Norway’s Labour Party fell victim to Russian hacking in fall 2017; and instances of blackmailing against individuals have occurred as well. While Russian espionage has been noted as the “No. 1” threat according to the Police Security Service’s annual assessment, there has been little in terms of concrete action. Norway is, for example, not engaged in the Centres of Excellence set up by EU and NATO to tackle Russian disinformation.
  13. Serbia: Serbia’s relationship with the Russian Federation has been influenced by the situation in Kosovo. The Kremlin opposed Kosovo’s independence, fearing it might serve as an example for other separatist movements. In the meantime, despite Serbia’s application for EU membership, its inclination to remain on good terms with Russia is apparent in both public as well as political spheres. Most Serbs believe that it is in their interest to maintain strong relations with the Russian Federation. Moscow realizes this, and emphasizes increasing its influence in Serbia. According to data gathered by the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS), one of the few organizations promoting the Euro-Atlantic relations in Serbia, there were 21 associations promoting the Russo-Serbian relationship in 2016. In February 2018, Serbian leaders claimed in a meeting with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov that they will not sacrifice their close relations with Russia to get closer to EU membership. According to the Association of Accredited Public Policy Advocates to the European Union, there are 110 registered NGOs, associations, and media outlets in Serbia that seem to be directly connected to the Russian lobby, including Sputnik, RT, or Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Three Serbian political parties (the Democratic Party of Serbia, the Dveri Movement, and the Serb People's Party) signed a declaration with the United Russia party in support of a neutral military area in the Balkans. The pushback from the Serbian side is marginal. Apart from a few civil society organizations, including the CEAS, the political will to make any meaningful steps is low. There are, however, exceptions. For example, in 2016, the Serbian authorities detained and deported a group of Russian nationals suspected of involvement in a coup attempt in Montenegro. Under a certain Russian pressure, the deportation has been handled very quietly in an effort to conceal the whole incident.
  14. Switzerland: Since concluding a memorandum of understanding in 2007, Swiss-Russian bilateral relations have improved thanks to an official cooperation framework across several areas. Switzerland mediated between Russia and Georgia during the crisis in 2008 and has been supporting human rights projects in Russia and the Caucasus. Disinformation has been a Swiss concern as well, with websites being maintained to monitor disinformation. From the Russian side, Switzerland, more than any other European country, is shown in a positive light in Russian media, with 43% of Russian news stories covering Switzerland having a neutral or positive viewpoint.
  15. Turkey: Turkey's relationship with Russia has had its ups and downs. In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian military jet for airspace violations, which was followed by extensive economic sanctions from Moscow. In recent months however, it seems that the two countries came to terms. At a joint press conference in Ankara, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that Turkey's ties with Russia are too strong to be broken by Western leaders. Despite being a NATO member, Turkey cooperates with the Kremlin in defense. The alleged coup of 2016 was an important milestone. Russia supported Recep Yayyip Erdogan’s regime after the incident. Since then, the bilateral relations in the fields of nuclear energy, pipelines, investments, and arms have increased significantly. According to Open Democracy, the developments after the coup attempt also had a negative impact on the state of media in the country. Disinformation started to spread on mainstream media platforms and the emphasis placed on press ethics and the implementation of media legislation largely disappeared as the judicial system weakened. According to Freedom House's Freedom of the Net report, Turkey's ruling party also employed 6,000 people to manipulate online discussions on social media.
  16. Ukraine: Ukrainian-Russian relations have a long and complicated history with many ups and downs. In recent decades, Ukraine’s relations with Russia have at times been cooperative and at times contentious, for instance with the several gas crises and disputes. The annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine led Ukraine to adopt a more conflictual stance towards Russia. Ukraine is currently fighting a war against Russia and Russian-backed separatists in its easternmost regions, and is the victim of a multi-vector hybrid war from Russia. Ukraine is therefore one of the first victims of Russia’s full-scale information war. Because Ukraine has been fighting a war against Russia on many fronts, it has become a leading country in responding to Russian aggression and information warfare.


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