Skopje - March 22, 2021

Musliu:North Macedonia is also a target for covid diplomacy

"By means of fake news and propaganda, and by using the vaccine situation in the fight against the coronavirus, the large countries are pressuring the governments in the region, and Macedonia is not immune to such pressure," said the head of the Intelligence Agency, Erold Musliu in the interview for the Radio Free Europe.

Mr. Musliu, what is “covid diplomacy”, a term that we have been hearing more often lately and what do the countries want to achieve when they are using it?

Covid diplomacy is a tool in the hybrid strategy, which emerged with the beginning of the Covid pandemic and has lasted for the past year. Each creator and implementer of a strategy develops tactical-operational measures for action which include several platforms based on the geopolitical interest, the regional conditions and the field configuration. A hybrid strategy for action and presence in a certain region is developed only by large countries with a geostrategic interest which must find regional points from where to implement the set agenda. They develop platforms, based on the country in which there have interests and it can vary in terms of utilization of diplomacy, intelligence, economic, energy, and business interests, propaganda through media, with the ultimate goal of pressuring the governments and realization of their interests. We all remember that in the beginning there was a struggle for information in reference to the supply of masks, coveralls, gloves and disinfectants, and lately it has turned into struggle for the need to provide vaccines. The process of vaccination and promotion of one vaccine over another is currently being exploited, and it may grow into a battle for a cure in the period ahead of us.

Which countries conduct the covid diplomacy and how is the pressure on the media exerted?

The tactics of spreading fake news initially ranged from the need to find the culprit for the origin and the spread of the pandemic, and afterwards it moved to a humanitarian-rescue mission which included elements of media propaganda exposure of donations, arriving by military planes in the Balkans, as well as in other European countries, in order to show the incompetence of governments and to create confusion and mistrust among the population about the true values of the Western democracies and our allies. The Republic of North Macedonia is a member of NATO and shares and acts to realize the strategic security priorities and challenges. This activity requires regional points from where the creator of the fake news, as part of the hybrid strategy, will be able to expand it in the media specifically targeting at our region and our country.

Since you already mentioned our country, is that pressure felt here, how much is the pressure from this covid of diplomacy present?

Well, the pressure is visible, the nervousness was visible, a lot of media reported, there was a struggle between the government and the opposition through different appearances, so these are a lot of the elements which the creators of the hybrid strategies want in order such a situation to happen. That is why I say that our country the Republic of North Macedonia has not remained immune to such action and pressure on our Government.

What specifically does the Intelligence Agency do to alleviate that pressure, and what mechanisms do you use?

The Intelligence agency, as well as the other services since the outbreak of the pandemic, has directed some of its capabilities to help the country and the Government. We worked independently on field and exchanged information with our allies and partners on taking measures and exchanging experiences in their countries so we can manage and adapt to the situation. The fact that the new Law on the Intelligence Agency was passed in January, is evidence of how much our approach to this new phenomenon is serious and the manner in which we will work in the future, one of the priorities for operation is to gather information on pandemics globally with the potential to destabilize and impact the national security, this goes hand in hand with the geopolitical rivalry and the countries developing hybrid strategies.