Cental Europe on the information war front? Case of Slovakia. Interview with Tomáš Cizik

02.08.2017 | By Tomáš Cizik and Iwona Szatkowska

Q: How looks the situation in Slovakia in the terms of information security?

A: Since march 2014, we are under massive propaganda in Slovakia – like hole Central Europe. It is problem in Slovakia. We have alternative media, which are using prorussian narrative, which is very dangerous. According to last research done by Globsec Institute: 33% of young people cannot differentiate between correct and false information. For 26% young people proper source of information are alternative media and 46% of Slovaks believe in conspiration theories – that world is ruling by illuminates or Rothschild family. Our Ministry does some education activities, like minister Miroslav Lajčák is visiting universities, lectures – and teaches about what is security, NATO, what is the EU. Also minister of Defence is bringing the same activities. We organise some lessons in high school – about 10-15 hours – and we get very sad conclusion: young generation doesn’t know what is NATO, what is the EU, what are the main values which those organisation are based on. So, lack of education and critical thinking is very crucial. Young people lost this skill to think critically. This is our huge set back in our fight in this information campaigns coming
from Russia. Also alternative media are spreading this conspiracy theories that we are threating Russia, that NATO is aggressor – Many people believe in that stories and it is difficult to convince them that it is not true. Our main problem is the very old system of education in Slovakia – it comes from communist times.

Q: So, how fake news are created in Slovakia?
A: In majority, these information are coming from Russia. They are created by professionals, in Kremlin. Then they are spread by Russian embassies to the states – where the news are translated to national languages. And it is easy to trace how this information came from Russian embassy to alternative media. Russian embassies are sending every month few emails to the security experts in Slovakia – for instance about chemical attack in Syria. I received email which was about 2 pages long. Two minutes later the same text was copy pasted, by pro-Russian alternative media, which is run by Čarnogurský, our former dissident in Slovakia (he strongly supports pro-Russian narrative). Hence, you see the clear link between the Russian embassy and alternative media in Slovakia. So it is main problem here. Our Information Service released annual report, and there are only two-three sentences about the information warfare.

Q: Can you show me the known media, which are influenced by Russian in Slovakia?

A:I can mention few of them, but main are: ‘Zem a Vek’, ‘Slobodný vysielač’, ‘Hlavné správy’, ‘Slovensko-ruská spoločnosť’, ‘Napalete.sk’.

Q: Do you thing that your media are affected by Russian propagandist?

A: Mainstream or traditional media are trying to fight with the fake news. We are cooperating with SME. Other think thanks are cooperating with other traditional media. We are trying to invert that trend which occurred because of alternative media. Hence, traditional media are not influenced by Russian propaganda.

Q: How looks the perception of Russia in Slovakia?

A: There are two sides of that thing. In an expert community Russia poses a threat on Slovakia. We are now creating the security strategy and now we are meeting in Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We are discussing that Russia should be mentioned there as a threat for Slovakia, but it is politically impossible in Slovakia. And what it is interesting the 53% of Slovaks don’t know if they want to be a part of east or west – they would like to be neutral. Hence, I think that in the V4 we take 1 st place if it comes about knowing which side we would like to be a part of. Young people are in favour of East, and parties like Kotleba are promoting panslavism, and information about security from Russian side, corruption in the West. Our minister Fico is ambiguous – when he is in Brussels he supports every sanction against Russia. Which is on the table, but when he comes home, he criticized sanction everywhere he can. It is really bad for our partners if we are playing double game. People don’t know whom can them believe.

Q: Let’s change the subject. What is the perception of energetic security in Slovakia? Is it important

A: I am not an expert in that field, but if you are talking about Nord Stream it is real problem for Slovakia, because now we are transit country to Ukraine from east to the west. Our revenue (I am not sure, but it is about) 8 00 000 000 euros annually so it will be problem for us if the Nord Stream will be created.

Q: How look the info war in that field?

A: I didn’t see any article about the Nord Stream II in the alternative media. The position of our traditional media is that it is a threat if it will be created.

Q: If it comes about security, do you have any common subjects with Poland?

A: I know that we tried to do some common projects in the V4, but many of them were unsuccessful. Only successful project is the EU Battlegroup – which was active in the 2016. We are small country, so it is difficult to choose, which project we should do together. We will share the air mission with Czechs. We will buy some BVPs form Poland, because our Minister of Defence said that, in the next 8 years we will modernise our army. Investments will cost 1,2 bilion euros. However I think that Russia is the main threat for us, also for Poland and all the EU and NATO member states. We should do something together with it – maybe push those subjects to the NATO or the EU agenda.

Q: Recently we had Three Seas Summit in Warsaw. What do you think about president Duda’s

A: In my opinion Three Seas project or Intermarium can create even more division among EU member states. It should join Central and Eastern European countries, but I cannot see and added value of this project. It will bring nothing new or better or it will not improve anything. Even more, such initiatives will be more them welcomed by President Putin, who is actively doing everything to dissolve the EU and possibly NATO from long-term perspective. We should not revive the projects from the past, rather we should improve existing projects.


Interviewee: Tomáš Cizik, Centre for European and North Atlantic Affairs (CENAA)

Interviewer: Iwona Szatkowska

 International_Visegrad_Fund,_emblemo_bluaThis text was created thanks to support of International Visegrad Found.