Russia and Information Warfare: a Whole-of-Society Approach
Volume 18, Issue 1 (2020), pp. 163–175
Pub. online: 1 December 2020 Type: Article Open Access
1 December 2020
1 December 2020
The Russian Government has become relatively proficient at deploying disinformation as a tool of statecraft. The 2014 events in Ukraine and the 2016 US presidential election brought the issue to the forefront of the contemporary political debate and scholarly inquiry. While the reach and effectiveness of the Russian information operations is often exaggerated by western commentators, the Kremlin certainly has grand ambitions in the information domain. Indeed, statements by the Kremlin seniors underscoring the need to compete in the information sphere have been myriad since 2012. The talk has translated into capabilities and capabilities have turned into operations on numerous occasions. Always changing to incorporate ‘lessons learned’, Russia’s approach to information warfare is fluid. This article examines a particularly novel twist to that approach, i.e., the inclusion of civil society entities to proliferate the Kremlin’s messaging. Institutions not typically associated with information dominance have become increasingly operationalized to serve the regime’s interests abroad. Many have followed the same path as journalism – subjugated to the Kremlin’s wishes early in Putin’s reign; exploited as a tool for domestic control; and finally, employed externally with near seamless coordination within state information campaigns. While this whole-of-society approach is still in an early stage of development and might not appear too disconcerting at the moment, countries that are particularly vulnerable to Russian meddling would be wise to recognize the trend and consider countermeasures.