6 basic principles of Russian propaganda. How to resist them?
The entire history of Russia is a history of wars. A. Kuropatkin, the Minister for War of Nickolay II, wrote the following in his diary on February 16, 1903: “Our sovereign has grandiose plans in mind: to seize Manchuria for Russia and proceed to incorporate Korea into Russia. He also dreams of taking Tibet under his orb. He wants to rule Persia, to seize the Bosphorus and Dardanelles.” In fact, the Empire was the machine programmed to support wars. A.Kuropatkin also estimated that for the period of two centuries — XVIII and XIX — Russia spent 72 years at peace and 128 years at war.
There is no other state that shares borders with this country, where Russia had no so-called “its own interests” that “require a sort of protection”. There is no other state that shares borders with Russia that has never had a conflict with it. The entire history of Russia is the history of savage repressions against its own citizens, of the genocide of other nations, armed aggressions and seizures of the territory of other countries. Furthermore, history knows numerous examples of political assassinations in other countries committed by one and the same Russian terrorist organization. This organization had different names at various times: “NKVD” (The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), “KGB” (The Committee for State Security), “FSB” (The Federal Security Service). But the essence and methods of its work are unchanged to the present day. They are known to everyone: bribery, blackmail, intimidation, murder, lies, and propaganda. Russia has been implementing the policy of international terrorism up till now. This policy becomes official one in the realities of the day.
Repressions against its own citizens, armed aggressions against other countries, acts of terrorism (organized both in their own country and in other countries) and propaganda go hand-in-hand in Russia. They periodically mutate, flowing into each other and complementing each other. De facto, the Russian propaganda became an integral part of the policy of the state terrorism. And it is logical that it should be considered as an element of terrorism.
Veiled, but the main task of the entire aggressive foreign and domestic policy of Russia is to preserve the government in place. In pre-revolutionary Russia, the task was to retain the power of the ruling clique in the form of monarchy. In the current history, the task is to preserve the Kremlin’s power that looks like a state one, but essentially is a gangster-like and kleptocratic one. For the entire history of Russia, it has never had a democratically elected government. In the best case, there was only a fraudulent democracy.
Three main instruments have been always used to save power in Russia:
- Repressions against the citizens of their own country, including the search for “enemies of the people” and genocide of entire peoples;
- Search for an external enemy and unleashing of war;
- Propaganda. It is a brainwashing tool for citizens of their own country and a tool of impact on the opinion and policy decisions of citizens from particular countries.
The aggressive behaviour of Russia cost tens of millions of human lives for the civilized world.
- The First World War unleashed with the direct participation of the Russian Empire cut off about 22 million lives.
- The Red Terror organized by the Russians in Crimea cost about 150 thousand Crimean residents their lives.
- As a result of Holodomor in Ukraine (genocide against the people of Ukraine carried out by the Soviet government), about 8 million (according to various estimates) people died.
- The Second World War, which was started by the agreement on the division of the occupied territories between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, claimed more than 71 million lives (according to various estimates) of soldiers and civilians.
- More than 2.5 million people (according to various estimates) were shot or tortured to death in the camps of the Gulag (System of Soviet labour camps and prisons).
And this is not a complete list of the victims of the Kremlin’s policy. The easiness with which Russian troops enter other countries, declaring them “the traditional area of (some time ago Soviet) Russian interests” is indicative. Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, German Democratic Republic, Afghanistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, China, Vietnam, Afghanistan; Chechnya; Abkhazia; Ossetia; Georgia, Moldova; Ukraine. Montenegro as well became the object of Russian aggression in the recent past.
The Russians are professional aggressors. They have not still abandoned the idea of World domination, which was some time ago “modestly” called the “World revolution”.
The form of aggression called “the Hybrid war” which is used today changes its apparent pretext of occupation, but in fact is the occupation of the territories of neighbouring countries. The mechanism is simple.
Prior to the Russian occupation various “Russian societies” are strenuously established and generously funded in the country the territory of which is expected to be occupied. They can be called in any way. But one thing unites them, i.e. an intensive propaganda of “the Russian world”. People are split into groups by some kind of imaginary problems. For example, “language issue”. Before the beginning of the military occupation, a considerable number of Russian citizens is transported (by trains, buses) in the country, territory (or part of the territory), which is expected to be occupied. These people with the support of a number of people hired from the local population give the appearance of a separatist sentiment. Then, with their participation, riots, with the mandatory seizure of state power centres (as a rule, buildings of the City Council, Police and Security Service), are provoked.
Then, under the pretext of the pseudo “protection of Russian-speaking population”, “establishment of peace”, etc., the Russian armed forces are brought into this territory. “Referenda” are held at gunpoint. As a result, pseudo “local people” pseudo “vote” for joining Russia. Thus, Russia turns appearance of separatist sentiment that was created by it into its own assets. The same happened with Ukrainian Crimea and Donbas occupied by Russia. Military presence of Russia in these areas allows it to respond quickly to regional political events. It gives it a powerful lever of influence on the policy of the country, whose territory is occupied.
For example, when Georgia moved to a strong pro-western, anti-Russian foreign policy, Russia stepped up its support to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and in 2008 used these territories as a staging area for the invasion of Georgia, at the same time showing the reluctance of NATO to help its ally. Shortly thereafter, Russia placed its official military bases on the territories of unrecognized republics, which does not allow Georgia to join NATO and the EU to the present day.
In 2009, when Communist Party of Moldova that was characterized by friendly relations with Russia surrendered power to the pro-western alliance for European integration, Moscow increased its presence on the territory of Transniestria, disrupting the Moldovan government’s plans for the reintegration of the self-appointed republic. The very existence of the Transnistrian Republic limits the possibility of membership of Moldova in the EU and NATO.
With the aggravation of confrontation between Russia and the West, the importance of separatist territories increases. While the West is increasing its cooperation in the sphere of politics, economy, and security with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, Russia is strengthening its presence in these enclaves, increases its tempo of military exercises and provides terrorist forces (in fact their own soldiers in these countries) with more advanced weaponry. Sometimes Russia can make tactical concessions to weaken its own political and economic isolation, but its broad strategy regarding the occupied artificially created separatist territories remains unchanged.
A direct explicit fusion of Russian propaganda and terrorism in the events of Ukrainian Maidan is indicative, as at that time people -the Heavenly Hundred were shot for the sake of propaganda. This was exactly the case when an organization of mass murder for the sake of confirming the reliability of the Kremlin propaganda was required. It was made in order to create a propaganda picture by the bloody events and to scare the world (external and internal) around by the myth about the power of the so-called “Bloody Kiev junta”. And to scare the civilian population by the threat of a fake arrival from Kiev of the so-called “radical-minded elements”. The ultimate goal of the propaganda was to simplify the subsequent rejection and occupation of Ukrainian Crimea and Donbas.
So, as we can see, the modern Kremlin propaganda is not so harmless, as it is commonly believed. A distinctive feature of the Kremlin propaganda is that it is extremely deceitful and impudent. No wonder that putin began to praise his teacher, i.e. Goebbels in the presence of Jewish rabbis.
The current Kremlin propaganda made Crimea a source of pride for the Russian people and reinforced this feeling by the annexation of the peninsula. The Russian Federation also used its involvement in the conflict in Syria as a pseudo-moral crusade against “the Islamic State (ISIS)”, taking into account the alleged failure of the US policy.
Russian propaganda created the myth that the US is trying to defeat Russia. The Kremlin even revived fears of a Third World War and nuclear conflict. Where the West accuses Russia of an aggressive foreign policy, Russian propaganda portrays its actions as a heroic defence of humiliated people, response to the US actions, or a justified response to aggression. With crude propaganda, Moscow used its confrontation with the United States to rally nationalists against the common enemy.
Once Goebbels wrote in his diary that it was propaganda that brought the Nazis to power, that keeps them in power, and that will bring them to world domination. And the Russians have developed this experience very well, investing and continuing to invest in the propaganda incredible amounts of money that were accumulated during the period of rising energy prices.
The very money clouded putin’s mind convincing him that he can contend with the outside world. Throughout the entire history, as soon as Russia accumulated some money, it spent this money on arms and war propaganda. The search for an external enemy has always been one of the ways to save the Kremlin’s power. Thus, only economically weak Russia can be the key to the preservation of peace in Europe. In the future, the international community shall not allow Russia to have any serious military budget.
“The Russian trace” in the Middle East conflicts also is not something new. Hafez Assad (Bashar al-Assad’s father), who came to power with the help of the KGB and as a result of a military coup, always received military support from Moscow. In 1976, Assad sent his army to Lebanon upon the formal “peace” pretext of terminating the war with the Islamists. The war was drowned in blood, and the Syrian army remained in Lebanon for 30 years. History repeats itself – at that time none of the western leaders had the slightest desire to expose Assad to whatsoever ostracism and political isolation.
In 2006, during the war between Israel and Hezbollah grouping, either Russian weapons or those produced with Russian support were used against Israel. The current war crimes of Russian military personnel in Syria and of the regime of Bashar al-Assad supported by them are also accompanied by a massive Russian propaganda. It cynically calls bombing and mass murders of civilians, including women and children, “free good testing ground for new weaponry,” as putin said. At the same time, the Kremlin insistently imposed on the West its idea to come to the negotiating table to achieve a “peaceful settlement”.
Terrorism is the Kremlin’s leverage over relations with the West. Every time when a fall in putin’s “shares” among civilized nations is observed, terrorist activities against the West are strangely activated. It forces Western leaders to come to the negotiating table with putin. The scheme is stupidly simple and transparent, but it works so far.
The unconcealed weakness of European politicians contributes to a certain extent to the success of the blackmail and terror policy of Russia. Aleppo’s children are paying the price for demagogic and expatiative stories about some sort of historical ties with the Russia, which no longer exists – and perhaps never existed. The residents of occupied Donbass and Crimea are now paying their price for the lack of more stringent economic sanctions against Russia.
The recent history knows the examples of the results of such a weak compromise European policy. In April 1936, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I appealed to the international community asking for help against the aggression of fascist Italy. His words were met with indifference – the country is not the most developed one, it’s democracy is not the largest one: what do we have to save? Italy used to express total indifference to sanctions of the League of Nations. The famous British politician Winston Churchill courageously fought for the lifting of sanctions against the aggressor. As a result, at the suggestion of not less well-known politicians the British Anthony Eden and the Frenchman Leon Blum even these minor sanctions were lifted immediately after the public speaking of the emperor expelled from his own country, and Ethiopia was occupied.
Just in four years, foreign troops marched down the streets of Paris and other cities of occupied and liquidated France; Leon Blum recollected his public speeches at the League of Nations being in a concentration camp, and Churchill and Eden tried to protect London and other cities in the UK from bombing. Victims of criminal complacency of the Western politicians were millions of their compatriots and residents of other countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.
We have to admit that this experience has not taught anyone anything. Any compromise with Russia is a sign of weakness, and in the medium term is the threat to your own state. A compromise with Russia, in fact, is a capitulation to an aggressive foreign policy pursued by Russia on Russia’s terms. It must be understood properly. It must always be remembered.
The hybrid war would have been impossible without propaganda. Any form of division of people into “own people” and “others people”, “good” and “bad” can be used by the Kremlin to initiate a conflict. It applies tactics (often hidden) of creating, strengthening and use of contradictions, differences or disputes between two or more parties to control them. It is frequently used by the weaker minority to control the majority. A well-known principle “divide and rule” is used. It is easy to recognize media funded by the Kremlin, for example, by provocations in Europe of religious and ethnic conflicts, using the insulting remarks against the Muslims, the Italians, and the Slavs.
Russian propaganda is a part of the “hybrid war” and aims to distort the truth, to plant a seed of doubt and discord between EU countries, to weaken the strategic unity of the EU and its North American partners, to paralyze the decision-making process, to discredit both the institutions of the EU and the idea of the transatlantic partnership.
Russia allocates considerable financial resources for misinformation and propaganda; it finances political parties and other organizations within the EU to destroy its political cohesion. Having bought in the West the whole broadsides of newspapers and magazines, having there its own television and radio, pocket politicians and journalists, and investing billions of dollars in them, the Kremlin is trying to juggle with public opinion. A significant part of the Kremlin’s propaganda is built on the formation of an opinion that some EU states are a part of the “traditional sphere of Russian influence.”
The policy of the state terrorism is carried out by the Kremlin officially. The statement of the insane leader of Russia boggles the mind: “And let any one of their military personnel shoot at their own people whom… behind whom we will stand. Not in-front, but behind. Let them try to shoot at women and children.” And these are not just words. This is the essence of the current state policy of Russia.
Let us recollect the mass slaughter of civilian population in Chechnya, including mass murders of women and children. Let us recollect bombing of settlements in Georgia by Russian aircraft. Let us recollect the mass shootings of civilians in Transnistria. Let us recollect the massive shelling by „Grad“ multiple rocket launchers of the settlements of Ukraine from the territory of Russia, across the state border. Let us recollect direct fire shooting at houses of Ukrainian settlements by Russian tanks that had crossed the state border.
It was never required for the Russian invaders to have the civilian population of the occupied country within the occupied territories. The terror was aimed at suppressing of protest moods within the occupied territory. Russia continues up to now the terror against the civilian population of Ukraine within the occupied territories.
In fact, the bombing of the civilian population in Syria also aims to force people to escape from the war, to blackmail Europe by creating the refugee problem for the European Community, to push European politicians to come to the negotiating table with Russia for achieving a “peaceful settlement”.
The most shocking things are the explosive devices that were cynically disguised by Russian terrorists (those who occupied the Donbas) as household items and children’s toys that are especially intended to traumatize and damage children.
The cyber-attacks directed at US government resources are not a new phenomenon for Russia. The White House has repeatedly accused Russia of involvement in hacking computer networks of political parties of the United States, in particular, e-mails of Democratic Party leaders. Russia tries the strength of the global information network, from time to time terrorizing the key IT companies. The availability of information to the public is a very serious threat to the Kremlin’s power. As the introduction of censorship on the Internet is a practically impossible task, options of various attacks on key elements of the network are considered.
The policy of state terrorism carried out by Russia has many manifestations. Aircraft bombings, terrorist attacks organized by Russia in different countries (including the terrorist attacks in France and Turkey) are aimed at intimidation of population, blackmail of governments of these countries and facilitation of the entrance to the political arena for Kremlin’s agents of influence and politicians, who in one form or another propagate “peaceful coexistence with Russia”, “lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia” and the like “peace” ideas. The attacks are designed to help politicians who are essentially the mouthpiece of the Kremlin to come to power.
Thus, today’s Russia is an aggressive, ideologically tyrannical, xenophobic and homophobic country. Putin, the Russian President, has always been an idol and a source of support for European far-right parties that were always openly and generously funded by Russia. And now his fans in conventional political parties hold important positions and rise to the top ranks in the opinion polls. It is quite realistic that soon own pro-putin elite will be formed in the West. The Kremlin propaganda does work. Unfortunately, the electorate does not realize the consequences for each of them that will be caused, in the nearest future, by the support of candidates lobbying for “friendship” and/or “compromise“ with Russia.
A clear “sign of weakness” lies in the temptations of such alliances with Russia. As history shows, any attempts to appease the aggressor or to agree to a compromise, to ease sanctions against the aggressor country will guaranteedly result in the escalation of the current local wars and armed aggression of Russia against new countries. As a consequence, more blood will be spilled.
Nowadays, a new hybrid war does not start with a concentration of troops on the border, but with a generous financing of supporters of the aggressor in the occupied country, and with an infusion of cash into propaganda in favour of the aggressor country.
Prior to the military attack, the Russian FSB by means of propaganda, corruption, and bribery creates in the country which is the object of their aggression a considerable group of their covert and overt supporters, preferably at high positions in government and business.
Taking into account all above stated, it is easy now to understand and systematize the main features of the Kremlin propaganda. All of them meet a single criterion, namely: the propaganda is in favour of the aggressor country. There are 6 of them, let us list them.
– Propaganda, in any way directed at any division of people. For example, propaganda of ethnic discord, discord between people of different faiths, abusive comments against any nationality or open propaganda of fascism, including Russian fascism.
– Propaganda denying crimes of the “Russian world”. This includes, in particular: Denial of the Holodomor as a genocide of the Ukrainian people; Denial of crimes of the NKVD, the KGB, the FSB; Justification of crimes committed by communist regimes and/or perversion of the truth about their activities; “White washing” of reputation of Stalinist criminals, excuse of repressions, terror, creation of the Gulag camps.
– Propaganda of various manifestations of the “Russian world”. Including such manifestations of the “Russian culture” as Russian chanson or songs of the criminal world. Movies produced in Russia propagating the lifestyle of gangster or close-to-gangster and thieves communities. Propaganda of “Russian weapons”. Blatant propaganda for annexation by Russia.
– Propaganda that includes a campaign for “peace with Russia”, “lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia”, or “a compromise with Russia”. Russia is extremely interested in easing or lifting of sanctions, as it would allow it to strengthen its aggression against Ukraine, using new types of weapons, and to prepare for the invasion of the Baltic states.
– Propaganda that is directly or covertly aimed at the preservation of territories occupied by Russia. Besides, under the pretense of “compromise”, a variant of “peaceful settlement”, “payment of indemnities under the condition of legitimization of the occupation”, “to temporarily postpone a final decision depending on the course of further events.” It is a dangerous form of propaganda. Especially in relation to the occupation of Crimea. It can lead to a dangerous precedent for the preservation by the occupant country of the occupied territory. The Kremlin propaganda will consider it as an agreement with occupation and will automatically target Russia to occupy territories of other countries. In this case, the Baltic countries.
– Propaganda funded by Russia and/or propaganda that uses Russian resources. The current Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine, headed by Yuriy Stets, a close relative of the current President of Ukraine, is a striking example. This the so-called “Ministry of Truth” conducts open information policy in the interests of the aggressor country as it uses means and methods of propaganda shared with it, including media companies specializing on propaganda (with a staff of Internet trolls) from Russia. The ultimate goal of the Kremlin propaganda campaign is to keep in Ukraine the regime of internal occupation, the kleptocratic government of collaborators and traitors headed by Poroshenko.
We should note that specific proposals for settlement of the situation in Ukraine that differ from those advertised by Russian propaganda do exist for a long time.
It is quite possible to confront the Kremlin propaganda. But we should understand that it is not effective to confront a single propaganda as a phenomenon. In order to confront the Kremlin propaganda, we will have to confront the Kremlin policy. Moreover, it shall be done uncompromisingly.
I would like to emphasize that to counteract Russian propaganda is an effective remedy against international terrorism, as these two phenomena go hand-in-hand, pursuing the same goals and interacting with each other.
Europe shall be united around common values: democracy, freedom, and respect for the rule of law and the dignity of every human being, regardless of their origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political opinions. Europe shall understand what is good and what is evil. Europe shall not, under any circumstances, enter into “the Russian twilight zone”, allowing any compromise in any agreements with the Kremlin. It shall not allow a policy of double standards. Coming to the negotiating table with Russia, we should remember the words of Otto von Bismarck: “Do not expect that once taking advantage of Russia’s weakness, you will receive dividends forever. Russians always come for their money. And when they come – do not rely on the Jesuit agreements you signed, which are supposed to justify you. They are not worth the paper they are written on.” “Never believe Russians, because Russians do not trust even to themselves.”
Bringing the troops in the Crimea, Russia has violated the following international treaties including the UN and the OSCE agreements:
- 1) The Charter of the United Nations (resolution 3314 (xxix) of the General Assembly;
- 2) The Helsinki Final Act of 1975;
- 3) The Belavezha Accords. The agreement that declared the Soviet Union effectively dissolved and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place. December 8, 1991.
- 4) The Agreement with Ukraine on Military Deployment, 1997;
- 5) The Budapest Memorandum, 1994;
- 6) The Charter of Paris of 1990;
- 7) The Lisbon Document 1996;
- 8) The Charter for European Security – the Obligation on the Istanbul Summit of 1999;
- 9) Astana Declaration of 2010, adopted at the OSCE Summit in Astana;
- 10) The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine 1997 (prolonged for 25 years on April 21, 2014, by the State Duma of the Russian Federation and signed by the President of the Russian Federation).
In opposition to Russian policy, we should think not about today, but about tomorrow. This is the policy, i.e. a strategic plan, looking to the future. Any concessions to Russia today, tomorrow will turn into the presentation of claims to international community concerning the new “traditional zone of Russian interests.”
It should be remembered that impunity always generates new crimes. The following Russian crimes shall be investigated and brought to the consideration of the international tribunal.
- –Aircraft explosion with the Polish government delegation in Smolensk, where among others Lech Kaczynski, Polish President, was killed.
- –Military incursion into Ukraine, where more than 10 thousand people were killed.
- –Annexation of Crimea.
- – Mass murders by Russian terrorist forces of passengers in Boeing flight #MH17.
- – War crimes of Russia in Syria, including the bombing of civilian cities by Russians, which led to mass deaths of civilians, including women and children. The targeted bombing of kindergartens, schools, and hospitals.
Only the fact of a real threat that crimes of Russia in Ukraine and in Syria can be considered by the international tribunal can suppress the Kremlin’s plans to aggravate the situation in those countries and to continue to kill people. Only international tribunal on war crimes of Russia today will be able to stop the recurrence of such events in the future.
The international community should take unprecedented and drastic steps, and to recognize the “NKVD”, the “KGB” and their successor the “FSB” as terrorist organizations. The following terrorist organizations created by Russian invaders in Ukraine shall also be recognized as the terrorist ones: the so-called „DPR“ and the so-called „LPR“.
Creation of fake republics is one of the key elements of the Russian hybrid war, used by it since the time of aggression against Finland. That is why even the precedent of recognition of such organizations as terrorist ones will automatically complicate for the occupants the task to justify aggression and to create the appearance of the legality of the occupation.
It is impossible for old staff to implement a new policy. Yesterday’s Politicians demagogues that were only able to “express deep concern”, as a maximum, shall be replaced by Politicians realists, who are able to call things by their proper names. Putin always considered “deep concern” as a well-disguised connivance of his policy, which, in essence, was true. Politicians of a new system shall be able to call things by their proper names. As correct decisions and actions can be made only when people start to give an adequate and correct definition of what is happening, it is time for the world community, seeing so many victims, to wake up and say directly that Russia has revived fascism.
In the long term, the EU policy shall be aimed at actions that would make Russia withdraw its troops from all occupied countries. This task shall be a fundamental one for the EU. Any other policy based on the so-called “compromise with Russia” will be self-deception and encouragement of occupant’s actions. Let us recollect that we have already got a real threat of Russia’s invasion of the Baltic countries, including Finland. We got it exactly as a result of a weak policy and a series of compromise agreements with Russia.
Measures to arrange and counteract the Russian propaganda shall be taken at the level of governments. It is important to disseminate as much accurate information based on facts as possible; to do it on television, radio, through press and the Internet for people to have an opportunity to hear an alternative opinion and to draw their own conclusions. If the Kremlin propaganda is the official information policy of the occupied country, as it is happening now in Ukraine, also there is a way out. The patriots of Ukraine did organize themselves and did successfully confront the Russian propaganda in social networks.
The competent EU services should effectively monitor the sources of financing propaganda against the EU, including sources of funding for political and/or public organizations which are “the mouthpiece of the Kremlin.” If to stop funding, there will be no “the mouthpiece.” A relevant legislation shall be adopted in the EU countries aimed at more effective counteraction to the Kremlin propaganda. In particular, it is necessary to be cautious of any investments in the European economy from companies whose capital is of Russian origin.
The West shall understand that only “blocking oxygen” for pro-Kremlin media, the European political circles will be able to convey to their voters and inhabitants their undistorted point of view, otherwise pro-Kremlin media will successfully impose its own point of view. Europe finally has to start the information war with the Kremlin, Losing the war today, Europe is at risk to lose the “hot” war when the Russian troops will move to the West after the occupation of Ukraine.
The author thanks @HannaGun and @AllSystemsOpe and for their help in writing this article.
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