From December 2014 the Russian military has adopted a new doctrine that explicitly states that information superiority is essential to achieving victory on the physical battleground in the modern war. Therefore the Ukrainian case offers lessons that can potentially be applied to other NATO member states. For example, in many cases Russia actively accuses the Baltic States of the same matters as it accuses Ukraine in order to deliberately discredit these countries in the international arena (e.g. accusations of rehabilitation of Nazism etc). It is crucial for NATO to draw appropriate conclusions from the ongoing conflict in Europe in order to further strengthen the unity of the alliance and avoid such conflict scenarios between Russia and NATO in the future.
The Russian Information War in Ukraine
- The Russian information war in Ukraine in 2014 was a massive, multifaceted, and coherent operation. Russia denies direct involvement, but supports local pro-Russian separatists to maintain the conflict that can be considered a proxy war. Military activities are supported by an active media campaign that undermines Ukrainian authorities and their political goals to reunite the country.
- Russia often adopts defensive narratives, which justify its positions in the mytologized opposition between East and West. The Ukrainian authorities as well interested international organisations are considered to be merely puppets of the West under the guidance of the United States and NATO. During Putin’s presidency, Russia has declared the restoration of Russia as a Eurasian empire as its national goal.
- However, according to the ruling narrative, Russia cannot be a real Eurasian Empire if it does not control Ukraine and the Black Sea, and control over Crimea is of utmost importance. In the Russian national mythology, Ukraine was an integral part of the birth of the Russian Empire. Ukraine’s special position makes crisis management there extremely sensitive. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 7
- Russian information activities skilfully target a wide range of audiences with different beliefs and convictions. The anti-Ukrainian approach relies on a variety of stylistic forms and nuances. It can take the form of sensationalism and blaming (e.g. Komsomolskaya Pravda) or use a more restrained approach (e.g. Regnum, TV Zvezda).
- In addition to the content of the messages, Russia technically ensures that certain messages reach specific audiences and others do not (i.e. by controlling TV and radio towers, mobile phone operators etc.)