Russia’s War on Information

Source: Russia Today, downloaded Jan 4, 2011
Source: Russia Today, downloaded Jan 4, 2011

Read my December 15, 2014 article at War on the Rocks where I describe the threat posed by the Kremlin’s propaganda and influence activities. It is a brief overview of Putin’s purging of internal dissent and independent thought and efforts to create confusion, chaos, and subversion across Russia’s near-abroad and everywhere else. 

The best counter to propaganda is truth and transparency, not more propaganda. Honest, unbiased facts coupled with unimpeded discussion by an informed citizenry is the most powerful weapon against the Kremlin’s disinformation that drains the future from Russia’s people and threatens Russia’s neighbors. … This is not about Russia Today. This is about Russia’s tomorrow.

Read the whole article here

Cyber Probing: The Politicisation of Virtual Attack

Despite its pervasiveness in our daily lives, from social media to electrical networks to banking, the critical nature of the online remains ill-understood or appreciated. “Cyberspace,” a recent report asserts, “remains inadequately defended, policed and indeed comprehended.” This is the conclusion of Alex Michael, a researcher for the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. In Cyber Probing: The Politicisation of Virtual Attack, Alex dispels the comfortable belief – expressed in practice and conceptualization of online and new media – that the cyber world is somehow separate from the “real” world. In fact, they are simply new tools used for traditional activities. Cyber attacks, Alex points out, are used “in conjunction with many other forms of pressure, ranging from physical protest to social and diplomatic approaches, to influence the target and attempt to force its hand.” The Stuxnet worm reinforces Alex’s premise.

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Defense Department roundtable on the Nuclear Posture Review

Earlier this week, the Defense Department’s Blogger Roundtable with Dr. Bradley R. Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense, and Admiral John Roberti, Deputy Director for Strategy and Policy, J-5, The Joint Staff, about the Nuclear Posture Review. The transcript here (PDF 106kb) as the podcast is here.

My question was aimed at the public diplomacy opportunities of the nuclear weapons talks & events, which range from the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to the Nuclear Summit next week to the START replacement negotiations, to the May non-proliferation conference at the United Nations. My question below is followed by the responses of Dr. Roberts.

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If they don’t know you won, did you?

The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere challenge the traditional conception of “victory.” What is victory when capturing the capital does not cause the population to succumb to your wishes, assuming of course there’s a central government to topple? This isn’t an issue in “traditional” conflicts, like World War I and II and even, to many, the Cold War. Or is it?

Nick Cull just returned from a trip to Russia to discuss public diplomacy at a Russian international relations university that “graduates 80% of Russian diplomats.” Not surprisingly, they talked about the end of the Cold War:

It became obvious that these students had not spent much time thinking about external determinants for the political changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. For them the Soviet Union collapsed for its own internal reasons, unconnected to its foreign policy, defense, and rearmament decisions. When I pushed the case – mentioned that Americans believe they won the Cold War and merely debate which of their policy decisions provided the “winning blow” – they were surprised. They simply do not see the story in terms of America’s victory or Russia’s defeat. The model adopted by these students was more that the Soviet Union attempted to create an ideal system, entered into competition with the United States, the system failed, and the Soviet Union stepped back from the competition – rather like a tennis player bowing out with a stomach cramp. Their model clearly left the path open for Russia to return to the competition and resume play, but this was not their intent. They seemed genuinely worried by talk of a return to a Cold War and asked with some anxiety about the likely foreign policy of America’s next president. This mutual gap in perception is significant. Americans might do well to ask how victorious they really were if the defeated party does not acknowledge the loss.

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