During the cold war we were pretty accustomed to Soviet “disinformation” campaigns. Pravda (Правда) and Izvestia (Известия) were, by and large, just synonyms for lies and anti-Western propaganda. The Moscow “party line” was sent around the world and, dutifully, propagated by those dubbed (probably not by Lenin) as “useful idiots,” those unwitting dupes and fellow travellers of the 1940s and ’50s whose grandchildren are still anti-Western, today. Today it is RT which, according to it’s own “about us” page is “is available to 700 million people in more than 100 countries across 5 continents” in a half dozen languages, over the air and on the internet, that is Vladimir Putin’s medium of choice for disinformation.
There is a good article in the New York Times that explains how it worked against Sweden, when during “a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.“
“The claims,” the New York Times goes on to report, “were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges … [but] … “They were all false, but the disinformation had begun spilling into the traditional news media, and as the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, traveled the country to promote the pact in speeches and town hall meetings, he was repeatedly grilled about the bogus stories.“
The New York Times article further explains that: “As often happens in such cases, Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the false reports. But they, numerous analysts and experts in American and European intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centerpiece of the foreign policy of President Vladimir V. Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 largely to forestall that possibility … [and] … In Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now Syria, Mr. Putin has flaunted a modernized and more muscular military. But he lacks the economic strength and overall might to openly confront NATO, the European Union or the United States. Instead, he has invested heavily in a program of “weaponized” information, using a variety of means to sow doubt and division. The goal is to weaken cohesion among member states, stir discord in their domestic politics and blunt opposition to Russia.“
“The weaponization of information is not some project devised by a Kremlin policy expert,” the article tells us, but, rather it “is an integral part of Russian military doctrine — what some senior military figures call a “decisive” battlefront … “The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, wrote in 2013 … [and] … A prime Kremlin target is Europe, where the rise of the populist right and declining support for the European Union create an ever more receptive audience for Russia’s conservative, nationalistic and authoritarian approach under Mr. Putin. Last year, the European Parliament accused Russia of “financing radical and extremist parties” in its member states, and in 2014 the Kremlin extended an $11.7 million loan to the National Front, the extreme-right party in France.“
We must not doubt, not even for a µsecond, that Putin/Russia has territorial designs on Europe, highest on his list, I think, being a land link from Kaliningrad to Russian dominated Belarus … which, of necessity, must pass through newish NATO members and formed Soviet vassal states Lithuania or Poland. One can, and I would, argue that Poland and the Baltic states and the other former Warsaw Pact member states should have been integrated into the EU but NOT into NATO, thus brining them, almost completely, into the West and guaranteeing their security, in cooperation with Russia, as jointly protected “buffer states.”
One of the tools the Kremlin is using in its opportunistic adventurism is disinformation. It’s a powerful weapon and it works. It’s an old tool and a good one.
The New York Times article concludes: “Whatever the method or message, Russia clearly wants to win any information war, as Dmitry Kiselyev, Russia’s most famous television anchor and the director of the organization that runs Sputnik, made clear recently … Speaking this summer on the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Information Bureau, Mr. Kiselyev said the age of neutral journalism was over. “If we do propaganda, then you do propaganda, too,” he said, directing his message to Western journalists … [and] … “Today, it is much more costly to kill one enemy soldier than during World War II, World War I or in the Middle Ages,” he said in an interview on the state-run Rossiya 24 network. While the business of “persuasion” is more expensive now, too, he said, “if you can persuade a person, you don’t need to kill him.”“
CreditPool photo by Yuri Kochetkov
And never forget that: