Thursday, February 4th 2016
“It’s important to recognize that what we’ve come to call hybrid warfare, which Ukraine has now been subject to for two long years, is a combination of instruments. It’s economic pressure; it’s military pressure, the little green men; it’s political pressure; and of course, it is information pressure and the weaponization of information,” remarked Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, on January 29, 2016. He spoke at the “Countering Information War in Ukraine” conference. Here are some key points:
- It’s important to recognize that what we’ve come to call hybrid warfare, which Ukraine has now been subject to for two long years, is a combination of instruments. It’s economic pressure; it’s military pressure, the little green men; it’s political pressure; and of course, it is information pressure and the weaponization of information.
- The most important single principle to understand about this information warfare is that it’s not the objective of the Russian Federation in this effort to win an argument; the goal is not to prove the truth. The goal, rather, is to confuse, distract, deny, and to get Ukraine off track -- to keep us off balance. And the sooner you understand that that is the objective, the easier it is to think about what is the most effective response.
- I think all of us have learned a lot over the past two years about Russia’s tactics and objectives in this effort. . . a pattern which has repeated itself, and this Goebbels-like propaganda machine that the Kremlin has deployed as part of its strategy against Ukraine.
- . . . it’s important to recognize . . . the pitfalls in dealing with this propaganda warfare. The biggest mistake that we could make, the biggest mistake that Ukraine could make, is to spend all of your time and all of your energy trying to counter those lies – to spend all of your breath saying: “There are no fascists! What are you talking about?” That’s exactly what Russia wants.
- There is a phenomenon in psychology called mirroring, where you fall into the habit of simply reflecting the behaviors of your opponent. And that is, for me, one of the risks for Ukraine. It’s a huge mistake for the Ukrainian government, for the Ukrainian people, to create a troll factory like St. Petersburg, churning out counter-propaganda in social media. It’s a huge mistake to create a “Ministry of Truth” that tries to generate alternative stories. That is not the way to defeat this information warfare.
- . . . Ukraine doesn’t need more state-sponsored media. What Ukraine needs is a successful Ukraine. . . . the single most powerful refutation to the Kremlin’s hybrid war and information campaign against this country is a successful, modernizing, European, democratic Ukraine.
- The media space is obviously key to all of this. In this regard, it is important that Ukraine continues to develop professional, credible, and independent journalism free from oligarchic control. . . . I don’t think Ukraine needs more propaganda machine. What Ukraine needs is more objective information.
- Protect freedom of speech. It’s critically important, and a core European value, to allow diversity of opinions, even if those opinions are critical of the government, and even if one political faction or another may not agree with those opinions.
- And then, finally, for journalists to stick to professional standards. To report the facts. To overcome and reject efforts to buy their coverage. And not to fall into the trap, which I think sometimes happens in international media, of arguing or believing that the test of objectivity is to report both sides of an argument, even when one side is patently and transparently manufactured.
- These are the ingredients for Ukraine’s success.