Defending critical communication infrastructures against bot and troll armies in Central-Eastern Europe


The defence of critical communication infrastructure has become a significant issue for most countries in Central-Eastern Europe, as well as in the West, which have faced repeated attempts of foreign adversaries to influence public attitudes and democratic election processes. During the COVID-19 epidemic, Russian and Chinese actors, including state officials, used the health emergency to extend their soft or sharp power by spreading false information about the virus to sow discord and panic on a global level.

Therefore, with the generous support of the British Embassy in Budapest, Political Capital organised an online conference on 25 March 2020 to address the “Defense of critical communication infrastructures against bot and troll armies in Central-Eastern Europe.” Renowned experts of Russian hybrid warfare and strategic communication explored how state or non-state actors, market-based solutions could enhance NATO’s and Central-European countries’ resilience to disinformation.

In his keynote speech, David Patrikarakos, the author of War in 140 Characters, explained how asymmetric warfare and new media technologies transformed warfare in the 21st century – both online and offline. The video of the keynote speech is available here:

The first panel on NATO’s cyber policy strategy: challenges and solutions discussed the biggest challenges for NATO in cyberspace and the differences between Russian and Western threat-perception and understanding of war. List of participants:

  • Krisztián Jójárt, external fellow, National University of Public Service, Centre for Strategic and Defence Studies
  • Péter Krekó, director, Political Capital, Europe’s Futures Fellow, IWM/ERSTE Foundation IWM
  • Dorka Takácsy, analyst, Political Capital

The video of the first panel is available here:


Attila Mesterházy, the president of NATO Parliamentary Assembly, was unfortunately unable to attend the online conference, hence we interviewed him via e-mail. In his answers, which are available here, he detailed NATO’s cyber strategy and its effects on member states’ readiness to deal with asymmetric threats.

The second panel on election interference, cyber threats and market solutions countering disinformation discussed how state and non-state actors need to cooperate in times of crisis to enhance the defence of critical communication infrastructures. Experts agreed that state agencies dealing with disinformation need to draw on the experiences of grassroots and local civic initiatives to establish some level of „information sovereignty” – even more so during the COVID-19 epidemic. List of participants:

  • Wojciech Przybylski, editor-in-chief, Visegrad Insight, chairman, Res Publica Foundation
  • Miroslava Sawiris – research fellow, GLOBSEC
  • David Stulík, senior analyst of the Kremlin Watch Program at the European Values Center for Security Policy
  • Lóránt Győri, geopolitical analyst, Political Capital

The video of the second panel is available here:

Expert discussions were used to produce a set of policy recommendations reflecting both on well-known hybrid threats and the crisis related to the novel coronavirus. The paper can be downloaded here.

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