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Friday, March 27, 2015

Information War Between Russia and the West Intensifies

Steven MacMillan

War is raging between the West and Russia, with a key battlefield being the “war for public opinion” and control over information, narratives and perspectives. The Ukrainian crisis has again reiterated the polar opposite narratives between Western and Russian media as the information war intensifies.

Western news outlets have been incessantly attempting to portray Russia as the belligerent power over the past year, even though many of the facts contradict this perspective. In order to justify an illegal coup in Kiev – which is part of a grander strategy of destabilising, encircling and antagonising the Russian Federation – the presstitutes are hard at work manufacturing narratives and preparing “Americans for conflict with Russia”, as Dr. Paul Craig Roberts wrote in his article: ‘CNN is Beating the Drums of War’. Considering the majority of conflicts in recent years have been initiated by Western intervention or meddling – including the Ukrainian crisis of course – Russian propaganda relies far more on facts, as there is often no need to invert truth to support Moscow’s position. 

“War for Public Opinion” 

“It’s a war for public opinion because whatever the case may be on the ground Western leaders, specifically NATO-countries, they really need public opinion to be backing whatever moves they are making around the world,” was how investigative journalist and founder of 21st Century Wire, Patrick Henningsen, described the Western media landscape in an interview with RT. In an attempt to win the “war for public opinion”, the West has launched multiple initiatives recently in a bid to successfully influence and shape public perception on current affairs.

The European Union (EU) has launched a 3-month project to prepare a “strategic communication” plan to counter what the EU believes to be Russian “disinformation campaigns”, according to draft conclusions of an EU summit obtained by Reuters. The project will be led by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, who will present her strategy to EU leaders in June. 

A key area of this project will be an attempt to build popular media initiatives for Russian-speaking audiences. One organisation that has been involved in initial discussions on this matter is the EU-funded European Endowment for Democracy (EED), which shares a remarkably similar name to the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – the pre-eminent regime change organisation of Western intelligence agencies. A press release from an EED consultation on the “feasibility [of] Russian-language media” projects states: “Around 90 media experts and organisations examined ways of setting up new media initiatives for Russian-language audiences and strengthening cooperation between existing media actors in the Eastern Partnership countries and beyond.” There is no doubt that these ‘media initiatives’ will be nothing more than Western intelligence operations aimed at subjugating the Russian state and reducing support for Moscow’s stance on Ukraine and other issues. 

The Ubiquitous Nuland 

A key architect in the Ukrainian coup was the neoconservative hawk and US Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, who has been relentless in antagonizing the Russian bear and exacerbating the crisis in Ukraine. A ubiquitous figure in US destabilisation programs around the globe in addition to being a zealous proponent of encroaching Western imperialism, Nuland is also involved in managing and directing information attacks against Moscow. In a testimony on Ukraine before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on 4th March, 2015, Nuland reveals that the US is pouring tens-of millions of dollars into projects to counter so-called “Russian propaganda”: 

Traditional military force is only one of the threats to European security. There are others: the Kremlin’s pervasive propaganda campaign poisoning minds across Russia, on Russia’s periphery and across Europe. We are working across all fronts to harden European resilience to these vulnerabilities…. On Russia’s propaganda, we’re working with the Broadcasting Board of Governors to ramp up efforts to counter lies with truth. This year, the BBG is committing $23.2 million to Russian-language programming, a 49 percent increase over FY14, and is requesting an additional $15.4 million for FY16. We are also requesting more than $20 million in foreign assistance and public diplomacy funds to counter Russian propaganda through training for Russian-speaking journalists; support for civil society watchdogs and independent media; exchange programs for students and entrepreneurs; and access to fact-based news on the air, on front pages and online.
Russia Restricts Foreign Media Ownership 

Moscow has been working tirelessly to create strong media platforms and limit foreign infiltration in the information war. In September of last year, the Russian parliament passed a law that prohibits foreign investors from holding more than a 20% stake in Russian media companies. The law, which is expected to come into force at the start of 2016, is seen by many as a necessary step to try and protect Russia from Western propaganda attacks, although others have criticised the move as an overreach by the Kremlin and a suppression of dissident voices. Considering the barrage of anti-Russian propaganda emanating from Western news outlets however, it seems a logical step by the Russian government to ensure foreign agents are unable to infiltrate the media landscape. The Russian government also created a new media brand at the end of last year called Sputnik, which is “designed for a global audience of billions who are tired of aggressive propaganda promoting a unipolar world and want a different perspective”. A state-owned news outlet which is available in 30 languages, Sputnik will provide a global platform for Russia’s perspective on current affairs. 

As the fallout between the two power blocs intensifies on the global stage in the ensuing months, the information and propaganda war will continue to heat up. 

Steven MacMillan is an independent writer, researcher, geopolitical analyst and editor of The Analyst Report, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”, where this article first appeared.

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