Read the original text at 112.ua.
Within the last year, the Russian propaganda has reached far beyond the post-Soviet countries, thus destroying the myth of certain European politicians about it being a phenomenon of purely the Socialist camp former parts of the USSR.
Putin’s propaganda has already affected elections in the USA, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, and Austria.
In today’s world, Europe in particular, lessons that could be learned from the military conflicts in Ukraine and Georgia, are not being sufficiently considered. This experience is worth paying attention to on the highest political level, in terms of a defense of the mass media and information fields of a number of EU countries as well as those not having a common border with Russia but facing common geopolitical threats.
Studying these impacts, one needs to define several criteria and instruments most frequently used for influencing other countries.
First of all, these are fake news and provocative acts, and fabrications, so-called false news, very often used by Kremlin for media and political pressure.
The story about the rape of the German-Russian girl Lisa is one of such examples. It was talked about for the first time several years ago when Russia tried to discredit German government and police, to mobilize the pro-Russian community against Germany’s top officials. This attempt failed due to prompt and transparent actions of German law enforcement authorities, as well as because of warnings from German top officials that it was not worth interfering into the country’s internal environment.
The second example is the story about Ukraine’s former-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk fighting and killing people in Chechnya in 1991. In his own defense, the accused politician provided proven facts that at the stated time he was a university student in Chernivtsi. At the same time, Russian propaganda spread a completely different message difficult to compete with, considering the scale of Putin’s information influence.
The third case happened recently in Poland: a Ukrainian was beaten for his nationality in Gdansk. This information was captured by Polish and Ukrainian mass media, facilitating hostility between two nations. However, later it was revealed that this act did not happen in reality. The information was not confirmed, thus no ethnic struggle occurred in this situation. In spite of the fake being revealed, the news affected a number of people, leaving a sort of bitter aftertaste.
Fake news is normally used for the only purpose of playing on international, inter-state or the country’s internal hostility, arousing a conflict between countries and social groups which are on friendly terms with each other and can jointly resist the Russian influence. Kremlin tries to make them quarrel with one another.
The Russian propaganda also manifests itself through fake phone calls, seemingly from high-level politicians and officials to arrange leak of non-public information.
Prankers can be considered Kremlin’s innovation, especially when they start operating not only in the internal political arena but affect the external relations as well. For instance, there was a fake phone call to the Ukrainian President from Kyrgyzstan. Later it appeared to be work of Russian prankers instead of the President of Kyrgyzstan. The question arises how prankers managed to get access to Kyrgyzstan’s closed presidential phone lines. However, the outcome was that this news found its place in a number of reputable media.
Another example is the call of seemingly the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia concerning the sensitive issue of Mikhail Saakashvili, thus leading to speculations. The same things happened with terrorists, public figures, leaders of the public opinion, whom prankers called, creating fake sensations to receive the media attention needed for Kremlin.
Among defensive measures against such innovations from the Kremlin’s side, one can mention only immediate response of the state authorities’ press services. For instance, within the last years, the state bodies in Ukraine have radically changed their information and media offices. While in the past they used to have purely nominal functions, now they can be characterized as quite efficient information centres, though not ideal ones, which learned to resist to false information.
Successful work of such information centres can be illustrated with the Anna of Kyiv case, whom Putin named Anna of Russia during his meeting with President Macron, trying to state that the Ukrainian princess had Russian roots.
After that, the twitter accounts of Ukrainian officials responded so promptly and vividly that next time when Macron met with President Poroshenko, he mentioned this situation in his speech, making all things clear. Thus, the fake with Putin himself acting as the troll failed.
The third case is social media used by Russia to fill them with traffic from its own Russian-language web resources, applied exclusively to make the propaganda messages reach the audience.
Ukraine eliminated this factor of the Russian propaganda by forbidding Russian social media (owned by funds and oligarchs standing close to Kremlin) and stopping operation of the main news aggregators, search engines, and other websites used for several purposes:
- As source of traffic for propagandist websites;
- Collection of big data for analyzing the spirits of Ukrainians and planning Russia’s influence instruments;
- Mobilization for military actions, which was frequently used, for instance, in the East of Ukraine. At that time, people were recruited for money to fight on the Ukrainian territory and to kill Ukrainian military people.
Blockade of Russian social media in Ukraine has already brought certain results, because these resources are receiving 20 million viewings less than before, thus enabling to restrict access to propagandist information.
However, this instrument also brings certain danger – the internal Ukrainian political competition, which can later influence those who are implementing these novations.
Russian Propaganda and Facebook Global Political Challenges
The social medium, which has been treated until recently as a place for entertainment, socializing of friends and relatives, commenting pictures of nice cats and dogs, have now become a serious political instrument of a worldwide level, with 2 billion users. For this reason, Facebook was used by Kremlin for interference into the US presidential elections, Brexit referendum, elections in France and the Czech Republic.
Because of this, Facebook stands before the new challenge: from one side – becoming mature and getting to a new level, from the other – acting as a threat to countries which may appear defenseless in front of the skillful Kremlin propaganda manipulations.
How to Respond?
Finally: there are only two things which can help resist the information aggression:
- Strong civil society is the best weapon against such autocratic manifestations – conscious and smart journalists, bloggers, citizens actively opposing such propaganda and lies, who are ready to defend themselves, their country, and truth.
- Socio-economic condition of the territory. It was well demonstrated by Donbass, that the poorest or the richest (0.1%) appeared to be the easiest target for the Russian propaganda. It is clear that the richest comprise the political and financial elites who were simply bribed. As for the poorest – they were used only as the easiest objects for manipulation. By the way, the same things recently happened in Germany during the elections. The Alternative leftist and populist party were mostly supported by Eastern Germany, which is the poorest compared with other regions.
It might be for this reason that the today’s ruling political force is raising the pensions, apart from struggling against political propaganda.
The Government and Parliament are trying to restrict the Russian propaganda, what is not always enough. They have to increase the level of life in the country, to shrink the amount of the people, who may be influenced by Kremlin’s propaganda.
For instance pensioners, whom Kremlin frequently uses as the key factor helping leftist politicians to come to rule under the pro-European flags.
Nowadays, the nostalgia for the Soviet Union and the best Soviet years is widely used, as it can bring to rule the political parties needed for Kremlin, to later defend Putin’s interests.
For Ukraine, these can be the same pro-European parties and famous politicians saying correct things, however using their political influence and electoral achievements with only one goal – to play in the aggressor’s favor, when the time comes.
Therefore it is extremely important to care about strong civil society, the reasonable and sufficiently well-off electorate, and the main thing – the state interests, because its loss as well frontier trespassing can lead to enemy troops marching in.