Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Weaponization of Information

This article by Yevhen Fedchenko is a pretty good summary of the techniques employed in the propaganda favoured by Russian sources and media. In particular, the author traces and exposes the connection of what has happened in Ukraine, in Crimea and Donbas, to the realities, practices and ideology of Soviet times, and its underpinning with the themes of the fakes and forgeries that were part of the informational armoury of the Soviet secret services back in the 1950s.

When Putin speaks of media warfare, he means the war which is conducted against Russia by unnamed countries. Although Russian President does not mention here who conducts this war, he means the West in general, and the United States and NATO in particular. This is also overtly mentioned in Military Doctrine. That puts Moscow reactively in defensive position and necessitates the retaliation:
In a speech to Russia’s Academy of Military Sciences in January 2013, Chief-of-Staff Valery Gerasimov complained that Russian knowledge of asymmetric warfare was “superficial.” The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the United States in particular, had demonstrated their mastery of non-military campaigns in the Arab Spring and Ukraine’s pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, Gerasimov said. Such modesty is disingenuous. Disinformation and subversion as weapons of war are as old as catapults and cavalry. The Kremlin’s advantage in the information age is that all of Russia’s major media outlets are under its control, allowing it to hammer its audience with one, unified message. The Kremlin claim that it’s in an “information war” with the West implies that there is vast conspiracy among myriad media in the United States and Europe, public and private, to produce the same lies about Russia[6].
Russia perfectly understands the importance of propaganda and heavily invests with money and human talent into organizations that work for international audience like RT (formerly known as Russia Today), Sputnik International (formerly known as the Voice of Russia), Ruptly, RIA (that still operate as a brand in Russian), TASS, Russia Insider, Russia Beyond the Headlines(RBTH) and myriad of other sources for propaganda, fakes and falsifications. As we see some of these “media” organizations are well-known propaganda brands from the Cold War times, others are quite new.
RT was created in 2005, immediately after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and was fully operational during Russian war in Georgia in 2008.  Sputnik International was launched during Euromaidan uprising in Kyiv.
Both RT and Sputnik International dropped the word “Russian” from their brand names which is quite interesting but explainable. They do not work for Russian market, do not cover primarily Russia and they do not do Russia’s nation branding as many argues.  For example, Shawn Powers calls RT a part of “global engagement strategy that combines Russian and international media platforms to communicate and articulate Russian foreign policy. The most developed of these is Russia Today (RT), which is a Russian satellite television broadcasting system similar to Qatar’s Al Jazeera or France 24[7].
Margarita Simonyan, RT head, explains that it’s not about national branding at all: “To some extent, if you do not have broadcasting for abroad – it’s like you do not have the army. When there is no war you do not need it. But when the war already started you cannot create it in a week”[8].
Sputnik International website says that their mission is “to points the way to a multipolar world that respects every country’s national interests, culture, history and traditions”. In reality it’s just the opposite as Kremlin “has systematically learnt to use the principles of liberal democracies against them in what we call here “the weaponization of information”[9].
In other words, Kremlin is using these so called ‘media’ organizations to deny others to have the right for their own culture, history and traditions through twisting facts and faking stories to undermine the policy making process or compromise their core values and institutions:

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