OP. HMG Trojan Horse. Part 5: Fracturing the Balkans IMatthew Doer
Complete Fracturing the Balkans archive with hundreds of highly sensitive documents.
Complete list of our previous #OpIntegrityInitiative and #OpHMGTrojanHorse investigations.
After one of our previous investigations the international community noticed that the FCO used a well-known pseudo-investigative company Bellingcat to flagrantly interfere in elections in one of the allied countries in the Western Balkans, North Macedonia.
Hypocrisy of the actions is obvious. Brits employ the Integrity Initiative to invent 'facts' of imaginary Russian interference in democratic processes: Scottish and Catalan independence referendums, Brexit, US elections and general election in the UK. While at the same time they truly interfere in elections.
But what's so special about North Macedonia and Western Balkans, you might think. Well, let's discover what the project goals in the region were (btw the interference was performed as part of the EXPOSE Network):
One company is from Bosnia, and four from Serbia.
Besides, two years ago we published an investigation showing that the British intelligence is very anxious about Western Balkans.
Remember the self-exposure that Christopher Donnelly so carelessly committed when he was undermining the nationhood of Yugoslavia? He confessed to doing it in his letter to an MI-6 operative Guy Spindler:
He gave a detailed report about using local politicians, businessmen, clergymen and intelligence services of foreign countries to destroy the nation HMG considered inconvenient. At the same time Donnelly complained that in the 1990s he lacked intelligence cutouts to conduct black propaganda ops to achieve behavioural change as well as firms like the British Council that could invite foreign politicians, academics and journalists to London for brainwashing.
Naturally, the British intelligence services have taken into account his recommendations. Well, here we present to you our investigation of yet another one of the British intelligence global operations that aimed at taking control over entire region - Western Balkans. The investigation contains a lot of confidential files of the UK intelligence.
In 2017, HMG carried out a regional Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability (JACS) which concluded that the stability of the Western Balkans as a region had deteriorated and risks of conflict and instability had increased. Rule of Law emerged in the JACS as a critical issue. The JACS identified four key and interrelated drivers of instability which impact upon the rule of law, and which are shared, in differing, but similar ways, by the countries in the region:
- weakening of democratic values, practices and institutions;
- state capture and corruption;
- serious and organised crime (SOC);
The JACS underpinned a refreshed National Security Council Strategy for the Western Balkans, which was approved in August 2017. The Strategy recognises the importance of the region to the UK, and noted that stability is important for growth and prosperity, to avoid a return to the sort of violence seen in the 1990s, and to deal with the risks of increasing transnational security threats (e.g. serious organised crime, terrorism, violent extremism, migrants) and Russia.
In May-October 2018 several CSSF suppliers conducted global assessments of the Western Balkans in the following sectors:
- Rule of law (on behalf of the FCO)
- Organised crime (on behalf of the Home Office, National Crime Agency, the Crown Prosecution Service, HM Revenue & Customs)
- Defence and security (on behalf of the Ministry of Defence)
- Target audience analysis (on behalf of the FCO)
After receiving the assessments, London specified priority areas in the Western Balkans:
MEL Services for the Western Balkans Portfolio. Statement of Requirements.
1.1 Democracy: this area of the programme will improve the capacity and ability of democratic and political governance institutions to 'supply' democracy to citizens.
1.2 Transitional Justice: Investment in this is area aims to deal with the JACS
conflict driver failure to deal with the legacy of conflict and consists of a project implemented by the International Commission on Missing Persons and the Regional War Crimes project led by UNDP. The former will strengthen regional cooperation on the search for missing persons. The latter will facilitate cooperation between war crimes prosecutors in the region to progress cases and will provide us with a future needs analysis. This area also takes into consideration bilateral projects working on Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative issues.
1.3 Kosovo/Serbia: Two projects have recently started in this area. The first is a 'track two' project that will work towards normalisation of relations between the two countries. The second is reconciliation project delivered by UNDP focused on reconciliation through solving the issues around missing persons.
1.4 Rule of law: The new programme will enable the UK to deliver where other donors and methodologies have had limited success. The working hypothesis is that institutional capacity building and training will not be enough alone to ensure accountable, responsive rule of law institutions and process.
1.5 Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: The two principle components are (i) a commercially procured, regional research and policy analysis programme, which aims to inform posts, donors and HMG, and (ii) a community-based approach delivered by IOM in BiH, North Macedonia and Kosovo. Research into far right and extreme nationalism as a rising national security threat in the region.
1.6. 21st Century Schools:
2.1. Media Freedom and Strategic Communications programme: contesting the information space and provide alternative sources of information. It will support media organisations to help citizens hold government to account, and improve the capability of governments to communicate transparency and accountably, making information meaningful for ordinary people and drive social and political change.
2.2. Countering Disinformation programme: countering Russia in the information space.
2.3. Cyber Security and Resilience Programme.
2.4. Defence Engagement Programme: By increasing the capability of the armed
forces and Ministries of Defence in the region HMG expects to see an increase in national resilience and greater alignment and interoperability with NATO.
3. Serious and organised crime:
3.1. Prevent and Prepare: The long-term aim of this work is to deter people from
becoming involved in SOC and Organised Crime Groups' (OCGs).
3.2. Pursue and Prepare: The long-term aim is to measurably disrupt SOC, i.e. working with local law enforcement agencies.
3.3. Protect: long-term ambition for efficient and transparent regional criminal justice systems, fighting corruption in the law enforcement agencies, working alongside the Stability Programme to support delivery of projects stemming from the Rule of Law Initiative with a SOC focus.
4. Good Governance Fund focusing on economic reforms:
4.1. Promoting economic reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and
Later in February 2019 the FCO identified 4 global strategic plans for operations in the Western Balkans. New head of Western Balkans CSSF Programme Nick Latta sent details to suppliers:
1. Rule of Law initiative (basically the programme aimed at reformatting the judicial and prosecution systems in the Western Balkans).
2. Media Freedom (propaganda coverage of various events).
3. Stipend Programmes (creating the positions of influence among young politicians and government officials, especially among the law enforcement officers).
4. Monitoring, Results, Evaluation and Learning (MREL). (In fact, it is the coordination of the global operation by a third country).
During the event Mr. Latta underlined that the Western Balkans were considered a priority for the UK projects in Europe at the moment. Hence the increase in financing from 10 to 40 million pounds for 2019-2021 with the subsequent increase up to 80 million pounds. Taking into account the scale of the programmes, the FCO prioritised consortiums of organisations that had previous experience of dealing with local partners.
This private supplier event took place on the 12th of February 2019 and was chaired by an MI-6 officer Nick Latta:
CSSF Western Balkans. Supplier Event Invitation.
The following document contains answers to various questions:
CSSF Western Balkans. Supplier event. Questions and answers.
Since the Western Balkans are extremely important for London the operations in the region are conducted not only by the FCO but by the Ministry of Defence as well. As part of the CSSF Western Balkans programme the UK Ministry of Defence outlined 4 global strategies for the region in 2019.
MOD team leader Western Balkans Jack Burrell held a meeting with representatives of the British NGOs at the end of July 2019. He spotlighted plans of operations in the region and stated that CSSF was allocating more than 9 million pounds for 2020-2021.
During the meeting Burrell said that the MOD had previously concentrated its work in the region on creating stability by taking part in the UN missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo as well as training the local military. However, a critical decision was made that year to outline two new directions: reforming security and defence sectors and strengthening strategic communications. The need to extend the MOD scope of activity is driven by the West's strategy of EU enlargement and NATO membership to create stability, drive reform and enable Members and Partners to contribute collectively to regional and international security. The British believe unresolved conflicts and poor transparency and accountability permits WB governments to manipulate and foster a permanent sense of security crisis. This in turn demands a state-driven territorial security response, that does not necessarily relate to societal needs such as cyber security or resilience to natural disasters.
The British believe a security sector reform, which is under current conditions unachievable, may improve the situation. Although UK's substantial defence and military education training and support is a positive factor for bilateral relations, it doesn't drive substantial change and there's a risk of transient impact. That's why the MOD is looking for suppliers that will create conditions for conducting the security sector of WB countries.
Three main lines of operations are outlined as part of the first grant:
- Integrating gender considerations into Security Sector
- Developing a publicly understood long term vision for security and defence
- Improving awareness of the procedures and regulations that are required to increase civilian oversight and democratic control of the Armed Forces in the region with a focus on the Republic of North Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
UK MOD also believes their engagement efforts in WB are not as well communicated or understood as they should be because among other things Governments in the region suffer from capability gaps in strategic communication. Political factors and history of the region also hamper efforts, especially in Serbia where there is still strong anti UK and NATO feelings from the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Yet Burrell emphasises that the FCO is focusing heavily in this issue through projects including restarting BBC Albanian and Macedonian as digital services and through the work with the US to create a Huffington post style regional hub. UK MOD is constrained in developing separate from the FCO STRATCOM partnerships.
As part of the grant the British have contributed to building information institutions in North Macedonia as well as increasing awareness of UK and NATO efforts to strengthen security of Macedonia, Montenegro and the Western Balkans more broadly.
Besides that, the UK MOD plans to continue training the Armed Forces of the Western Balkans countries. They don't want to give up their positions in the region as they believe the UK ranks 2nd only to the US in number of Defence engagement activities conducted in the region. Traditionally their support focused on English language training, which was crucial in contributing to the WB ability to operate with partners; defence education through offering places on prestigious UK courses such as RMAS, ACSC and RCDS and training and exercising through the deployment of short-term training teams to the region.
Additionally, the UK MOD emphasises the need to increase the levels of communications between the Armed Forces of the Western Balkans and the UK and NATO partners; improve the medical and training infrastructure to meet NATO standards; increase the ability of the Armed Forces of the WB to deploy on international missions, enabling them to be exporters of security rather than consumers; improve the ability of the Armed Forces of the WB to train and exercise in line with UK standards; help North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro reach NATO standards enabling them to be active members of the Alliance; develop the Armed Forces of the Western Balkans ability to support civil authorities in humanitarian and disaster relief.
CSSF Western Balkans. Supplier Event complete.
The intermediate conclusion that can be drawn from the FCO programme documents on the Western Balkans is the following: in no way do they meddle in domestic affairs of those countries. In fact, they are HELPING the locals. Meddling are the rogue states, while the developed Western democracies bring good by deciding what is good and what is evil. Aren't these the double standards? True neocolonialism.
Now we come to discussing specific operations of the UK intelligence services conducted as part of the Western Balkans CSSF Programme.
By tradition HMG hires a 'trusted' supplier to conduct Target Audience Analysis (basically, a road map to regime change operation) before starting the operations in the region.
The FCO required the TAA in summer 2018:
CSSF Western Balkans. Target audience analysis. Terms of Reference.
What company do you think was the first to respond to HMG call? Naturally, it was ARK. ORB International was helping ARK at the time, and it conducted TAA in the Baltic States and Russia on behalf of the UK MOD:
As you can see, it is all written black and white - the proposed research is intended to support communication strategies seeking to change specific attitudes or behaviours.
ARK Target audience analysis bid.
It is a 38 pages long "Western Balkans Target Audience Analysis" prepared by WYG and Ipsos Strategic Marketing in January 2019.
The primary purpose of the operation is specified as follows: improving the positive image of the UK will contribute to the implementation of HMG global strategies in the region:
- Improving media freedom;
- Combating perceptions that the UK's role in the region will be diminished post-Brexit;
- Supporting EU accession and closer alignment with NATO;
- Countering malign influence of third parties that jeopardise stability in the region;
- Reducing organised crime and fostering neighbourly relations and regional cooperation.
At first the TAA identified the perception of the UK in 6 Western Balkans countries. Generally, the UK is not seen as a major player in the region and is eclipsed by the EU, US, Russia, China and Turkey. People in the region are mostly neutral about the UK. However, there is strong support for the UK in Kosovo (70%) and Albania (53%). Serbia is the only country where there were more negative views (38%) than positive ones (19%). Only 2% of respondents in the region think historically the UK had favourable relations with their country.
Besides, public opinion polls and working with focus groups helped the British to identify key problems the people in each country face, their attitude towards government, regional interoperation, Media consumption, trust to the Media, etc.
TV stations, social and printed Media likely to be open to UK communication have been identified in every country.
In Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia the regional N1 TV would be an excellent communications channel. It doesn't have high audience figures but is viewed by the intellectual elite (who show high levels of trust in it), influencers and the governments. It is owned by British and US-based corporations (CNN and KKR investment firm).
Based in Serbia, the portal Europeanwesternbalkans.rs is regional with news and analysis focused on the EU accession process and is highly likely to be receptive to UK communications.
Media Freedom analysis:
The TAA outlined main challenges:
- Weak media freedoms
- State capture of the Media
- Deficit of trust in an era of disinformation
WYG and Ipsos Strategic Marketing make recommendations to implement the CSSF projects. They believe the target audience can be defined as individuals with a currently neutral or undecided attitude towards the UK. It means Serbia with a highly negative attitude as well as Kosovo and Albania with highly positive attitude will not be their prime targets, while neutral Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina will be dealt with in the first place.
Demographics of the target audience shows that women, youth and urban population with higher education tend to be more susceptible to the operations.
They also defined strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as well as perfect entry points to implement the projects. For example, Media literacy projects are considered to be promising among the younger population, because the UK is heavily associated with excellence in education while the British Council is widely represented in schools and other educational institutions. Media legal support projects will be successful as well since the UK is positively perceived for its legal and judicial systems and is associated with freedom of speech and human rights. London is also acknowledged as a world centre for the legal profession and media law, with many firms providing pro bono legal support.
To promote the narrative of 'historical friendship' between the UK and WB the British propose to conduct historical research to find proof of the 'friendship', which is ridiculous to say the least taking into account the role of London in the break up of Yugoslavia and Serbia. They plan to focus on the links between the British Royal families and the Royal families in Serbia and Montenegro, on the common contribution to the fight against the Nazis and cooperation during World War One.
To ensure positive perception of the UK in WB the TAA outlined four goals:
1. Promote media literacy among the youth of the Western Balkans
2. Strengthen legal support for independent Media
3. Fund research into levels of fake news
4. Promote historical links between the UK and the Western Balkans.
That is the 9.5 million pounds project 'Supporting media freedom in the Western Balkans' the TAA was supposed to be made for, in reality is aimed at providing information support to other operations of the UK in the region. Its true goal can be defined as follows: the more positive the UK is perceived in the Western Balkans, the easier it will be for HMG to impose its 'help' on the local governments and the people.
CSSF Western Balkans. Target Audience Analysis.
Confidential file titled 'Strategic communications strategy' was also sent to prospective suppliers to provide them with more details about the goals of the programme they were bidding for:
The FCO emphasises that the project must meet the requirements in two main sectors: media freedom and media literacy.
Media freedom sector sets out the following proposed activities:
1. New Media Incubator: The UK is expert at providing the space and opportunity for start-ups. They plan to provide rants and support to media start-ups across the Western Balkans. They plan to create a flexible, adaptive and bespoke programme of capacity building to help entrepreneurs to establish new media titles and support existing independent, local voices who are finding it difficult to operate under state restrictions. Training will include business planning and financial sustainability, advertising and diversified sources of revenue, branding and audience outreach, protection against hostile attacks, and the technical know-how required to produce objective, relevant and attractive high-quality content on audience appropriate platforms. Participants will learn how to identify and counter hostile narratives. This programme will support the creation of new media across the Western Balkans that are neither shackled to the state nor to individual interests. It will promote diversification of the media environment, improve access to information for citizens, and enable entrepreneurial individuals to establish and operate viable enterprises. Given the strong desire across the Western Balkans for better employment opportunities, this programme will be promoted strongly within each country and not only deliver a healthier and more diverse media market, but also a major programme to increase positive perception of the UK with younger target audiences.
2. Western Balkans News Agency: They plan to create a Western Balkans news wire, which makes quality content (written, images, and video) available in the four major languages of the Western Balkans. By operating across the region, this will reduce duplication and recognise that news consumption is linguistically rather than geographically driven. This programme will diversify the information environment and combat reliance on content from externally backed media sources, which provide free content to media in the Western Balkans.
3. Citizen Content Factory: This will seek to diversify digital content and information by delivering two-week long, highly-publicised, content creation camps for young people in Western Balkan countries. The programme will provide high-profile content generators from around the world and tech platforms. It will bring young people from across the region together for a YouTube training and partnership camp that will teach young people to become content producers. This will recognise the gradual move away from traditional media consumption in the region, train young people to become news generators, and provide a very public programme of activity that will improve the perception of the UK.
4. Women Journalist Development Programme: Women journalists across the Western Balkans are likely to face greater obstacles and discrimination in their attempts to become, or work as, journalists. In the UK many leading journalists are women, although their representation could still be improved. This training and mentoring programme will be delivered jointly with the programme set out above, but will prioritise female defence and diplomacy journalists, who are particularly under-represented, but also women across the journalism industry. As well as developing current journalists, in order to create a pipeline of future women, the programme will include an outreach element with activities undertaken in universities to encourage women to consider journalism as a career. The UK could also lobby media to reserve a percentage of entry-level roles for women. This programme will develop and empower the current and next generation of women journalists, include components on safety and protection, and improve the standard and quality of reporting and contribute to the stability of Western Balkans nations by bringing female journalists to the forefront of the industry's consciousness. It will challenge gender stereotypes and open a gateway to areas previously occupied mostly by men in a high-visibility industry. It will also improve the perception of the UK with these participants, who are influencers in the Western Balkans. A Chevening Journalism Scholarship could also be made available in each country, specifically for women.
5. Expert Women Academy: Expert voices in the media in the Western Balkans are not diverse, are politically entrenched and overwhelmingly male. This programme will identify experts in industries in which women are commonly underrepresented: business, science, engineering, and technology, as well as the UK priority areas of defence, security and diplomacy; and deliver a media training programme to enable them to become more effective public speakers. They plan to work with media partners in country to provide opportunities for them to secure interview and comment opportunities. This will multiply the range of voices and opinions available to audiences, as well as creating a cadre of opinion formers across diverse industries who will be advocates for the UK. Additionally, the media attention around the programme will bolster the perception of the UK.
Critical thinking and Media & Digital literacy sector sets out the following proposed activities:
1. Digital Literacy Programme, that will include the following projects:
1.1 Informed Vloggers: The #NotOnMyChannel or #BeWise awareness campaign will generate critical thinking around authorship of online content across multiple platforms. They will be tested in country. Popular vloggers across the Western Balkans will release videos, in which they share highly inflammatory disinformation, some of which will include conspiracy theories about NATO, before revealing that it is fake and calling out their follower community for possibly believing them. Audiences dislike being accused of succumbing to disinformation, and this in turn will initiate critical thinking in a younger audience. The influencer will conclude that they are tired of seeing fake and inflammatory content on YouTube and other platforms and call for audiences to be wise to disinformation;
1.2 Tackling 'Zombie Scrolling Syndrome': This behaviour is a widespread concern, as readers of on-line information become too passive in their consumption of news and information. The campaign will aim to disrupt mindless scrolling and replace it with critical thinking when processing new information. A focus on the reputability of content creates an environment that inhibits the spread of disinformation.
2. 21st Century Schools: Posts are already promoting this programme, which develops critical thinking, problem solving skills and independent thinking with school-age children in the Western Balkans and will continue to do so. We should seek to review the curriculum and ensure explicitly recognising disinformation is included. If not, an education package could be created which would provide pre-created lesson plans and materials to increase the likelihood of take-up by teachers. This will build resilience to disinformation.
3. Rural Media Literacy Roadshow: This activity will train young people in the Western Balkans to become experts in teaching media literacy and to deliver a peer-to-peer critical thinking roadshow in rural areas and towns across the Western Balkans.
4. Balkans Security Fact Check Monitor: Support an existing fact-checking charity to extend its focus to monitoring defence and stability news across the Western Balkans. Whilst factchecking alone does not stop disinformation from spreading, it will enable individuals to understand the types of information being spread that are false, improve media literacy, and advocate for factual corrections in the media. If no organisations exist in host countries, the FCO could partner with other donors to extend existing organisations such as IREX's 'Learn to Discern', GLOBSEC, DFR Lab, StopFake or FACTMATA to expand into the Western Balkans. It is noteworthy that the US Embassy in Belgrade intends to expand IREX's 'Learn to Discern' to Serbia.
5. English Language as a Resilience Factor: Supporting facility in the English language will help broaden the information sources, channels and overall environment that citizens of Western Balkans countries can experience and also helps promote the UK.
The TAA was used as a road map for the following project:
Statement of requirements. Supporting Greater Media Independence in the Western Balkans.
Among the first to bid for the project were well-known masters of black propaganda from ZINC Network. The consortium also included such 'famous' companies as Albany Associates, Media Diversity Institute and a local firm MediaCentar based in Sarajevo.
The Approach & Methodology contains their plans to capture the information space in the Western Balkans through capturing national and regional digital media, hyper-local media outlets, freelance journalists and commentators and joining them up with friendly CSOs.
As you can see the satirical program from local satirists is also funded by the West. They have weaponised laughter.
You can also notice that ZINC on behalf of the Home Office provides high-security 15 million pounds project based around civil society network:
What do you think of such PR companies?
This is their organogram:
The CVs contains some very interesting people. E.g. a young spy Alistair Wilson, who attacked social networks users, by accusing them of being bots and Russian spies:
ZINC complete Supporting Greater Media Independence in the Western Balkans.