Russia’s world information war must be stopped
On February 24, Russia announced the start of a so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine. Any sane person understands that what’s happening in Ukraine is a full-scale war, but not a classic, conventional war where one country’s army fights another one’s. Russia’s aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine is a new type of warfare – a hybrid war.
The doctrine of hybrid warfare was presented in January 2013 at a meeting of the Academy of Military Sciences of Russia by General Valery Gerasimov (this is why the concept is also referred to as the Gerasimov Doctrine), who had been appointed just a few months earlier as Chief of the General Staff of Russia’s defense ministry.
The report, entitled “On the wars of the future,” doesn’t contain the word “hybrid,” while referring to the so-called “asymmetric actions,” implying the use of both military and all kinds of non-military, primarily information, methods to destabilize the enemy. In the Ukraine case, Russia remained true to its principle of deliberately not calling a spade a spade.
The “hybrid” nature of such a war lies in the fact that in order to achieve the goals set by the top political leadership, not only military methods are used, but also diplomacy, economic, financial and energy projects, as well as “active” measures by intelligence and other special agencies, and, most importantly, large-scale operations of information and psychological influence. Such operations have a single concept and elaborately complement each other in order to obtain the maximum synergistic effect. The dynamics of the use of the said elements of hybrid warfare is constantly changing depending on the actual developments on the ground.
It is safe to say that the World Hybrid War 3 began much earlier than February 24, 2022. On this day, it was the “hot”, military phase of Russia’s hybrid war against the civilized world that was launched in Ukraine.
The war as such had begun much earlier, from the moment when its informational component was activated. This happened years before the military component was deployed.
Almost immediately after Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia’s information space of Russia started changing rather dynamically. The total pressure of the government on non-independent media led to a change in leadership and a shift in editorial policy of Russia’s leading national TV channels – VGTRK and NTV, as well as a number of authoritative print newspapers and magazines. Journalism in Russia gradually but surely began to be supplanted by political propaganda, while information started turning into a non-lethal weapon of mass destruction – with no exaggeration. Some of the leading Russian journalists were “tamed” by huge fees, and unfortunately, the smaller part, who never exchanged their conscience for money, was expelled, or even killed, like Anna Politkovskaya.
Having conquered the domestic information space with almost no resistance, Russia moved on to an even more ambitious plan – to expand into the global information space. We must admit that the ideologists and developers of the hybrid warfare concept representing the Russian government never spared money for setting up their “information troops” and conducting an information war – that’s despite Russia’s thriving corruption and embezzlement issues. The “kill shot” in destroying intellectual and informational freedom was the creation in 2008 of Roskomnadzor, a high-tech body responsible for total censorship.
The intellectual, but deeply immoral elite have deeply and subtly developed theoretical foundations for waging a total information war with the West. The bet was placed on comprehensive research of the political structure of the collective West, a deep study of sociology and peculiarities of public consciousness. Both the Russian Academy of Sciences, leading Russian universities, and dozens of newly-created formally non-government-controlled think tanks, have been working on these research issues. In fact, they were not only siphoning money from the national budget and oligarchs, but also delivering high-quality analysis.
The launch of offensive information weapons was marked by the creation in 2005 of Russia Today, the international multilingual network of information TV channels, consisting of the main English-language RT International, as well as local TV outlets in the US, UK, Russia, Spain, France, Germany, an Arabic-language TV channel for the Middle East and North Africa. The network’s total audience at the time of the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, amounted to over 100 million views per week. Dr. J. Goebbels, who is believed to be a symbol of Nazi propaganda, couldn’t even dream of such global outreach.
Sophisticated propaganda content has been crippling and brainwashing hundreds of millions of minds for 17 years already. Only on February 27 were this network’s broadcasts banned across the EU. That is, it took the bloc 17 years and the war in Ukraine, which claims hundreds of lives every day, to recognize the obvious and make the only correct and adequate decision. Unfortunately, it will take months, and maybe even years, to heal the “scars” in the minds of the people who have been exposed to these outrageous information weapons.
Unfortunately, Russia Today is not the only channel through which Russia provides information support for Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, trying to influence the international community in order to weaken support for Ukraine in its struggle for sovereignty and freedom. After the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Sputnik news agency was created, which runs websites, a mobile application, and a broadcasting service. Websites and radio broadcasts are available in more than 30 foreign languages. Over the past decade, hundreds of additional propaganda sites have been set up in many European countries, hosting content that has been skillfully crafted to reach out to the targeted audiences taking into account their cultural and ethno-psychological characteristics.
The main propaganda efforts were aimed at designing a positive image of Russia as a great state and creating an atmosphere of trust, which began to be actively exploited after the start of hostilities against Ukraine. By releasing tendentious reports mixed with outright lies, a parallel reality was being created that had nothing to do with the actual one. Attempts were made to denigrate Ukraine as much as possible and prevent international aid supplies to the country.
Now we can confidently say that Russia’s information strategy is now gradually falling apart, but the aggressor is still quite strong and insidious, and therefore, the international media community must not only purge its information space of Russia’s malign influence but also ensure an info detox for the affected audiences.