Manipulation and disinformation, the strategy against the West

Russia has at its service an army of cyber-soldiers consisting of students, activists, and criminals of the digital world
Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
Inder Bugarin / Corresponsal
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The spread of false theories are part of Russia's sophisticated machinery of strategic communication designed to "weaken European Union cooperation and the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of the Union and its Member States," reports a resolution adopted in November by the European Parliament.

While it is not the first time that Moscow has embarked on a subversive communication campaign against the West, never before has the Russian manipulation machinery operated with such effectiveness and tenacity.

This strategy was placed as a top priority of the Russian security services from 2013, according to the research of Stefan Meister, an expert of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

According to Meister, the Kremlin felt obliged to defend itself from Europe and the United States. "Russia sees the West as an enemy that orchestrates revolutions everywhere, such as the Arab Spring."

A report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) of the European Union argues that Moscow concluded that "selling Russia's brand" was not enough to reverse the acceptance and popularity gap between the EU and Russia. It, therefore, developed the creation of mechanisms to promote itself and encourage populist, nationalist, Eurosceptic and anti-Western sentiments in the rich Europe.

Among the platforms mentioned in the document are non-governmental organizations, political parties and the media such as Russia World and Russia Today.

However, operations aimed at destabilizing other countries are not limited to large-scale misinformation through text, video, audio, social networks, radio, television and satellite services. Moscow has other hybrid tools in its low-intensity war to undermine cohesion in NATO and the EU. According to various studies, it has at its service an army of cyber-soldiers consisting of students, activists, and criminals of the digital world.

Their mission: to monitor, subtract, manipulate, contaminate and find weaknesses in rival digital platforms for political purposes mainly.

"Russia's ability to combine disinformation efforts with cyber attacks has led to the emergence of hack-and-release tactics that involve obtaining information and using it to influence public officials or opinion," says the Atlantic Council in a document entitled "Meeting the Russian Hybrid Challenge".

Russia "has taken advantage of the technology and media available in ways that were unimaginable during the Cold War," said RAND think tank.


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