Thursday, October 15th 2015
“On today’s battlefield the fog of war is being supplemented by the mist of digital influence. Russian military theorists today view the twenty-first century as a place where international information flows cause pro-democracy, ‘colour’ revolutions, create chaos in nations, and influence the minds of citizens. Russia has sought to challenge these perceived threats by, inter alia, drafting new laws limiting freedom of speech, expanding its own international news broadcaster RT (Russia Today), and . . . enhanced surveillance of the Internet and telecommunications.”
These thoughts opened Timothy Thomas’s September, 2015, report, “Psycho Viruses and Reflexive Control: Russian Theories of Information-Psychological War,” published by the Legatum Institute. Thomas is an analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He continued, “Such measures supplement Russia’s information warfare (IW) programme. Russian doctrine sees information war as permanent ‘peaceful war’, not necessarily related to military activity.”
The entire article reviewed Russian information war theory including the concept of the “psycho virus,” information war’s relationship to military theory and operations, the concept of “reflexive control,” and examples from the Crimea and Ukraine. Here are a few key points:
- Some Russian theorists see information war as the reason for the fall of the USSR. During the period of glasnost the USSR changed its closed media model and opened up to the outside world. Russian analysts claim that these moves enabled international media to successfully fire the opening salvo of the information war.
- Mass-media methods to manipulate information include the following: lying to misinform one’s own population; concealing critically important information; immersing valuable information in information garbage; replacing terminology and concepts so that a true picture of events is hard to construct.
- Today, many pro-Kremlin public-opinion theorists are encouraging further use of information-psychological warfare: they believe that, in order to prevent a glasnost type effect from reoccurring, the transnational media must be effectively countered and that a focused information-psychological campaign is a way to achieve such an outcome. This kind of approach was most obvious in the recent Russian conquest of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, where Russian propagandists completely dominated TV and the media.
- Russia fears that, under the guise of protecting human rights, the transnational media will again successfully disseminate anti-Russian propaganda, which will lead to chaos and disintegration in Russia. The strong propaganda method sets out to convince the population of the correctness of Putin’s approach to territorial reclamation, even if it uses lies, fake newscasts, and manipulated images to do so.