UK bank drops Russian info warfare outlet’s accounts


epaselect epa04169907 An elderly Crimean woman watches a TV broadcast with Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking during his annual call-in live broadcast, at the geriatric home in Simferopol, Crimea, 17 April 2014. The decision to send tanks and combat aircraft to eastern Ukraine is another serious crime committed by the authorities in Kiev, Putin said. He called on the Ukrainian government to engage in 'real dialogue' with its Russian-speaking population, adding that the deployment of 'military planes and tanks' would not solve the crisis in eastern Ukraine. In his televized call-in show Putin said that Kiev's decision to curb the protests in the eastern region of Donetsk with military force was a 'crime.' EPA/ARTUR SHVARTS

Russia’s main English-language satellite network complained on Monday that its British bank, NatWest, was abruptly closing its accounts, The New York Times reports: .

It was the latest controversy for the network, RT, originally and still commonly known as Russia Today. The broadcaster presents itself as an alternative to the Western media, but critics call it a Kremlin-financed mouthpiece that seeks to create an alternative to reality. ….Most analysts interviewed by RT toe the line, and any who do not are rebuked. When one analyst recently said on the air that the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea remained an issue, the questioner quickly cut her off. “Crimea is off the table,” he exclaimed, echoing a Putin statement.

David Clark, a former Foreign Office adviser and the chair of the Russia Foundation, said the Kremlin used RT not for straight propaganda purposes but “information warfare”, adding that the BBC’s office in Moscow would now be “in the frontline” for possible Kremlin reprisals, The Guardian reports:

info warfare“The clue is in the strapline: ‘Question more’. They are trying to sow confusion and to create a climate of intellectual pessimism and nihilism by mixing the genre of news and outright fabrication.”

He added: “The channel is designed to undermine rational debate. It’s a multi-layered thing and just one instrument they use.”

The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee recently urged European authorities to counter Russia’s information warfare by turning the EU’s Strategic Communication Task Force into a “fully-fledged unit” within the bloc’s diplomatic office, “with proper staffing and adequate budgetary resources,” Deutsche Welle adds.

“The Russian government is aggressively employing a wide-range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks […], multilingual TV stations (i.e. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies […], social media and internet trolls, to challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU’s eastern neighborhood,” the resolution said.

The lawmakers called on media representatives in the EU to compile facts on the “consumption of propaganda,” worrying that “with the limited awareness amongst some of its member states, that they are audiences and arenas of propaganda and disinformation.”

In Britain, a study by the Institute for Statecraft found that despite its claims of neutrality in the European Union referendum debate, RT gave an edge to the “leave” camp, The Times adds:

The bank’s action might have reflected concerns over RT’s links to the Kremlin, said Jonathan Eyal, assistant director of Russian and European security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

“Certain questions are being raised over the corporation and its sources of funding,” he said, “and the bank must have been aware that this is not a happy commercial transaction.”

In a recent report from the National Endowment for Democracy, analyst Peter Pomerantsev quotes from a Russian manual called “Information-Psychological War Operations: A Short Encyclopedia and Reference Guide,”which emphasizes the importance of information warfare and summarizes its key principles. These include the notion that information weapons should act “like an invisible radiation” upon their targets, so that the population is not aware of the effect and “the state doesn’t switch on its self-defense mechanisms.” Moreover, unlike in a “normal war,” victory in information war can be partial, as “several rivals can fight over certain themes within a person’s consciousness.”


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