Thursday, July 7th 2016
A recent post on Joel Harding’s website, To Inform is to Influence, led me to a May 2014 report, The Anatomy of Russian Information Warfare: The Crimean Operation, A Case Study, by Jolanta Darczewska in Points of View published by The Centre for Eastern Studies (Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich im Marka Karpia – OSW) in Warsaw. It’s another study that should be read by Public Diplomacy, foreign policy, and national security specialists confronting Russian information warfare.
Let me editorialize. Too many American leaders consider Public Diplomacy a junior partner to “substantive diplomacy,” and information operations in the armed forces is still “cloud nine stuff.” In Russia, information warfare has been updated, adapted to the new international media environment, integrated into military doctrine, shaped for simultaneous domestic and foreign effects, and deployed. Darczewska’s report provides details.
This gist quotes two parts of the report. The first is its executive summary. The second is an interesting section on a handbook for Russian trolls.
• Russia’s information warfare theory has been developed in opposition to the new generation Western warfare concepts. This method of warfare is also used as an argument for the need to “respond with war to the information war waged against Russia.” In practice, information battles clearly draw upon the psychological warfare conducted in Soviet times and the techniques for influencing and leading the public tested at those times.
• The geopolitical doctrine treats information as a dangerous weapon: it is cheap, it is a universal weapon, it has unlimited range, it is easily accessible and permeates all state borders without restrictions. The information and network struggle, as well as its extreme forms, such as information-psychological warfare and netwars, are means the state uses to achieve its goals in international, regional and domestic politics and also to gain a geopolitical advantage. Representatives of geopolitical thought have to be given credit on the one hand for popularising this topic, and on the other for their personal participation in information warfare as opinion leaders. This in particular concerns the key representatives of the two Russian geopolitical schools: Igor Panarin and Aleksandr Dugin, academic teachers and mentors of the young generations of geopoliticians.
• Furthermore, geopolitics offers ideological grounds for information battles. In opposition to the ideology of liberalism, it promotes “a neo-conservative post-liberal power (...) struggling for a just multi-polar world, which defends tradition, conservative values and true liberty.” The “Russian Eurasian civilisation” is set at contrast to the “Atlantic civilisation led by the USA” which allegedly intends to disassemble Russian statehood and gain global hegemony. The internal crisis in Ukraine followed by the need to annex Crimea have been presented in the context of the rivalry between these two civilisations.
• The information strategy of the rivalry between Russia and the West is a product of both information geopolitics, which has been developed since the late 1990s, and the consistently pursued policy for strengthening the state and building its research and scientific, organisational, media, diplomatic, and social bases, et cetera. It is already used for both internal (mobilisation of society) and external purposes (reconstructing Russia’s spheres of influence in the post-Soviet area and Russia’s dominance in Eurasia). The information space where the Russian language is used and the existence of the Russian diaspora (who are receptive to the Kremlin’s propaganda) are the key factors which make successful action possible.
• Western public opinion is more resistant to Russian propaganda, although it has resonated with some people here as well. Moscow’s informational aggression is set to intensify: Russia has a sense of impunity on information battlefields. Furthermore, it is constantly modifying and perfecting its propaganda techniques, taking into account new media tools and introducing innovations, such as activity in social networking services, etc.
- . . . Aleksandr Dugin posted a text entitled ‘The Rules of Polemics with the Internal Enemy’, instructing that: “It is obvious that we have two camps in our country: the patriotic camp (Putin, the people and US) and the liberal-Western camp (THEY, you know who). WE want a Russian Crimea and a Russian Ukraine, and oppose the USA, NATO and liberalism. If necessary, we will also support war (although the softer way is better to secure our strategic interests).
- THEY declare themselves against war, for a free Ukraine (free from us), against Putin (as a patriot), for liberalism, the ‘civilised West’, the USA and the EU. We are Russians and we support Russians, while THEY are against Russians.
- A system of synonyms to be used in polemics should be developed. However, it should be kept in mind that such synonyms need to be symmetrical.
- For example, THEY call us ‘patriots’, and WE in response use the terms ‘liberals’ and ‘Westerners’ (Russian западники). If THOSE WHO ARE NOT US call us ‘nationalists’, communists’, ‘Soviet’, then our response will be: ‘agent of US influence’ and ‘fifth column’. If they use the term ‘Nazi’ or ‘Stalinist’, our cold-blooded response should be ‘spy’, ‘traitor’, ‘how much did the CIA pay you?’ or ‘death to spies’.
- If THEY start immediately from the ‘Russian fascist’ or ‘Stalinist’ level, let novice but aggressive polemists respond to them. Such arguments are used by intellectually limited people, so entering into a discussion with them is a waste of time.
- An automatic patriotic trolling software, demotivators, memes and virus video showing Navalny in front of the US embassy or the ugly mugs of the editors of Echo Moskvy or similar visual agitation materials for beginner level patriots could also be used against them.”