Putin-controlled think-tank crafting information warfare: UK election next?


A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin is responsible for crafting the Kremlin’s information warfare against Western democracies, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

Two confidential documents providing the framework and rationale for intensive efforts by Russia to interfere with elections were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [en.riss.ru/]….The institute’s director when the documents were written, Leonid Reshetnikov, rose to the rank of lieutenant general during a 33-year-career in Russia’s foreign intelligence service, according to the institute’s website [bit.ly/2oVhiCF]. After Reshetnikov retired from the institute in January, Putin named as his replacement Mikhail Fradkov [who] served as the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service from 2007 to 2016. [bit.ly/2os4tvz] RTWT

The revelations coincide with fears that the Kremlin’s ‘troll factories’ could be set to sensationally disrupt the UK general election.

“Russian troll factories will be pumping out disinformation about the UK election quite simply because they already do that – this is already happening,” said Andrew Foxall, director of the Russia Studies Center of the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank. “While there is no obvious pro-Russian candidate, there are individuals who ideas overlap somewhat with Russian’s foreign policy goals or Russia’s national interest.”

“One of the reasons Russia has been so successful has been its ability to develop tactics and techniques it selectively uses depending on the target country,” said Foxall. “There’s a nuance to it as well. That’s something that in the West we fail to grasp.”

Russia could use cyber attacks to bolster Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn because of his desire to rid the UK of nuclear weapons, the Atlantic Council’s Ben Nimmo told The [London] Times.

The Kremlin is already striving to influence the course of the French presidential election, observers suggest.

“The Russians have had an aggressive espionage presence here for a long time,” a senior French official said. “The Russians now have more spies, more clandestine operations, in France than they did in the Cold War.”

Not only has recent Russian network exploitation tended to be louder and bolder, it has also increasingly supported Russian information operations, such as website defacement and the theft of information later leaked online, notes analyst Sarah Geary. These information operations have only furthered public awareness of Russia’s network exploitation capabilities, citing examples such as the targeting of the Ukrainian Central Election Commission website in 2014; the TV5 Monde website in 2015; and medical records of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Given the multiple messages motivating Russia’s cyber operations, an effective response should likewise include a strategic communications component, she writes for Cyber Brief:

  • First, the skeptical portions of the public should be informed of Russia’s actions in cyberspace, including the evidence behind it.
  • Second, the public needs to be assured that Russia cannot undermine democracy as long as there is awareness of Russian activities and critical consideration of political news.
  • Third, once there is consensus around a deterrence strategy, it should be clearly conveyed to the Russian government what the consequences of unacceptable behavior will look like.


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