BERLIN (AP) — Europe is engaged in an information war with Russia and it is losing, Lithuania's foreign minister said Friday.
Linas Linkevicius said the media had become as much of a battlefield for Russia as cyberspace and energy policy.
"This is an information war and we are losing this war," he told a conference hosted by the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin.
Linkevicius urged European governments not to underestimated Moscow's efforts to spread disinformation, which he described as far more professional than Soviet-era propaganda campaigns.
The European Union established a strategic communications task force last year to monitor and respond to disinformation in eastern Europe.
Jakub Kalensky, a representative for the EU task force, cited a sharp rise in negative reports about migrants as an example of the way Moscow seeks to promote its political ends through Kremlin-friendly TV stations and websites.
"Right now we do actually see that it's the refugee crisis and it can be seen that Germany and particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel is sort of a target number one for the pro-Kremlin media," he said.
Kalensky said it was important to distinguish between Russian government-backed media and independent Russian-language outlets in the country and abroad.
"We prefer the word pro-Kremlin to the word pro-Russian because very often we see that actions of the regime are identified with actions of the Russian state as a whole," Kalensky said.
NATO, too, created a strategic communications center two years ago to study what the alliance described as "Russia's information campaign against Ukraine."
Col. Aivar Jaeski, the NATO center's deputy director, said its mission was to analyze rather than actively respond to disinformation.
He acknowledged that the approach puts NATO at a disadvantage.
"We are playing chess and our opposition nation is playing football," Jaeski said.