I originally came up with this research idea after reading countless articles about Russian disinformation stories and their impact. These efforts have been focused not only towards Ukraine but also towards the West, particularly against the European Union. A notable example of a EU disinformation campaign occurred this year in Germany, in which the, “Russian media published a widely circulated story about a young Russian girl who was allegedly kidnapped and raped in Berlin [by refugees].” Although the German police have been unable to find any evidence of the incident, the story gathered international attention, “with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claiming a [German] ‘cover-up.’” Despite the lack of proof and legitimacy of the claim, the story proved to stir political dissention in Germany, given the highly controversial nature of the refugee crisis within the EU. I also found this topic particularly interesting given its demonstration of how Russian soft power efforts differ from countries such as the United States. Where you see the U.S. focus on building relations and making its values more appealing to the outside world, Russia appears to be dedicating a great deal of these resources towards dividing Western values and norms.
During my trip, one fairly interesting thing I came across in Kiev, Ukraine was at the outdoor World War II museum. Filled with a collection of military equipment and sculptures, much of which having a clear soviet influence, there was one facet that clearly demonstrated the current divide with the Russian Federation. This was at the entrance of the museum, where three military vehicles were stationed, two tanks and multiple launch rocket truck. In front of each of these vehicles however, was a sign explaining (in Ukrainian, Russian and English) how the vehicle was captured from separatists in Eastern Ukraine and detailing how certain aspects of the vehicle proved that it was in fact provided by Russian military forces. One example of this sign is included in the pictures provided. Arguably the greatest thing I experienced in Moscow, Russia was the beautiful and efficient metro system. With decorations ranging from marble sculptures and paintings to exorbitant chandeliers, each Moscow metro stop looked like a museum. But this certainly did not get in the way of the efficiency and timeliness of metro, as on average, there was a train every 1-2 minutes. If the DC metro system could operate half as efficient as the Moscow one, commute times would drop significantly and improve the overall happiness for the many that rely on it. Overall, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity Georgetown provided and encourage everyone to seek a summer travel grant.
“German media worries about Russian-led disinformation campaign,” Deutsche Welle, February 19, 2016, 1.