Event Highlights: Russian Media Influence in the US & Europe

On Friday, May 22, the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University hosted an online workshop on “Russian Media Influence in the US and Europe. It has become an established narrative in International Relations that Russia under President Putin operates with a Grand Strategy to undermine Western hegemony, giving rise to the concern over systematic Russian interference in the US after the election of President Trump in 2016. In this workshop, Elizaveta Kuznetsova and Heidi Erbsen present ongoing research with empirical insights countering this common perception.

Kuznetsova, a Visiting Researcher at the Center, in a discussion of Russia’s international TV network RT, argues that contrary to the claims of Russian Grand Strategy, RT’s actions are driven by short-term tactics without an overarching goal behind its operations abroad. She showcases how these methods of persuasion have emerged out of the Soviet kontrpropaganda tradition and guide the channel’s activities today. Amid ideological vacuum in Putin’s Russia, she says, RT mainly attempts to ‘muddle through’ the changing political environment.

Heidi Erbsen, a research fellow at the University of Tartu in Estonia, presents an analysis of whether international news media are creating a common information space for Russian speaking groups in the European Union. She addresses the idea of an imagined and heterogeneous information space for native-Russian speakers and conceptualizes how individual media practices navigate and relate to more hegemonic international news media narratives.

The discussion is moderated by Vesko Garčević, Professor of the Practice of International Relations at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies and former Ambassador of Montenegro in Brussels (NATO) and Vienna (OSCE). Also taking part in the conversation are Igor Lukes, Professor of International Relations and History; Alya Guseva, Associate Professor of Sociology; Daniela Caruso, Director of the Center; and Vitali Shkliarov, Visiting Researcher at Harvard University’s Davis Center.

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