UK spends millions on media in countries around Russia
The British government spends over 80 million pounds on media projects in Eastern Europe, allegedly aimed at battling "Russian disinformation", but is that all?
In the four years leading up to 2021, the British government invested at least £82.7 million in media projects in countries bordering or near Russia.
The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), a cross-government fund with the stated goal of preventing "instability and conflicts that threaten UK interests," is funding the projects, which span 20 countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The fund's strategic direction is set by the National Security Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. The CSSF, however, was found to be "being used as a slush fund for projects" that "do not meet the needs of UK national security," according to a parliamentary committee.
The findings come at a time when tensions between Britain and Russia over Ukraine are at an all-time high. The United Kingdom has accused Russia of plotting an invasion in Ukraine to install a pro-Moscow government.
Last month, Britain began supplying new anti-tank weapons to the eastern European country. Some of the media projects funded by the UK appear to be focused on Ukraine.
In addition, yesterday, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace announced that the UK is going to send 350 additional troops to Poland, an extra number to the 100 British military engineers that were deployed last year during the migrant crisis at the Polish-Belarussian border.
UK funding to ‘counter-disinformation’
The Counter Disinformation and Media Development program is the most clearly directed at Russia. It runs from the Baltic States to Central and Eastern Europe along Russia's western border, though project documents do not name specific countries. It cost £60.4 million in the four years to 2021.
The program ”supports [the government’s] Russia Strategy’s objective to protect UK national security by reducing the harm to democracy and the rules-based international order caused by Russia’s information operations."
The project's funds are intended to "understand and expose disinformation across the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) space," according to UK documents.
The Russian Language Program was the original name for the project, which began in 2016. The UK will "work with a range of partners to improve the quality of public and independent Russian language media," according to the agreement. It later expanded to include media in languages other than Russian.
"Mentoring with UK media organizations," "consultancy on programming," and "funded coproductions" are among the services provided to grantees. The United Kingdom is also assisting media outlets with "open-source information collection."
The Foreign Office, which oversees the program, has refused to reveal the names of media outlets that have received UK funds to Declassified. It also refused to reveal the names of the UK media organizations that have been "mentoring" participants in the program.
It is worth noting that the UK and US have been insisting that Russia intends to invade Ukraine, but Moscow repeatedly refuted such accusations.