Russian information warfare at its worst


Russian information warfare at its worst, visit the Baltic states, Christian Caryl writes for The Washington Post:

Interference with elections? Check. Cyberattacks? Check. Prominent politicians with murky links to the Kremlin? Check. Fake news and skillfully targeted rumors? Double check. ….Sanita Jemberga, an investigative journalist in Riga, is one of the people behind a recent documentary film (above) that follows the various ways Russia attempts to push its agenda in the Baltic states.

Fake names and miserable wages: Baltica’s Inge Springe explains how Russian propaganda (right) becomes even nastier in Baltic news and details what it’s like to work in Latvia’s Kremlin-friendly local Russian language newspaper.

Germany announced Wednesday the addition of a cyber division to combat electronic attacks by foreign powers, Newsweek reports.

Attempting to control information has long been part of the weaponry of many powerful states. But Russia’s concerted effort to cultivate techniques of information warfare and non-military intervention over recent years is something new, says Keir Giles of the Conflict Studies Research Centre.

“At various stages in the first and second Chechen wars, the war with Georgia in 2008, Russia found it was not able to influence global opinion or the opinion of its adversaries at an operational or strategic level, and made significant changes to its information warfare apparatus as a result,” he says.

“In the Georgia war, they found that to influence world public opinion and to properly exploit the connectivity of the internet they needed to start a massive recruitment campaign to bring in linguists, journalists, anybody who could talk directly to populations in foreign countries en masse“. 

By using 21st century information warfare, cyberattacks and other “active measures,” the Russians “are able to hit above their weight,” Georgetown University Professor Emeritus Roy Godson explained to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent hearing.

Russians have “competent, experienced, and running strong teams at home in their state and quasi-state agencies” and to “maintain and develop both an overt and covert apparatus of the well-trained staff,” he added.

“They have a history of doing this well before this and they find it a successful use of their resources,” Godson, a former consultant for the National Security Council, told the committee.

“Active measures” used for nearly a century

Russian officials have used overt and covert methods since the 1920s and ’30s, Godson added.

“[They] created an enormous apparatus in the world,” he said. “They used this apparatus to be able to influence the politics of Europe after the war.”

The methods were used to “help Europe and sometimes [the U.S.] in fighting the Nazis and the Italian fascists,” he noted. “But they were also preparing for being able . . . to undermine democratic and liberal parties, including in the United States.”

The future of our collective democratic freedoms may depend on addressing this issue, says analyst Mark Kuhr.

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