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How to fight information war with Russia

November 20, 2014

Macon Phillips, Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs at the U. S. Department of State and Ariel Cohen, Director of Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security discuss Russian information wars in Kyiv on Nov. 19 at the Kyiv Post Tiger Conference. © Anastasia Vlasova

by Oksana Lyachynska

Kyiv Post staff writer

Nov. 20, 2014, 10:54 a.m. | Ukraine — by Oksana Lyachynska

Macon Phillips, Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs at the U. S. Department of State and Ariel Cohen, Director of Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security discuss Russian information wars in Kyiv on Nov. 19 at the Kyiv Post Tiger Conference.
© Anastasia Vlasova


What does the Russian propaganda war mean for Ukraine and the world? How do you fight it? Experts from the United States, Britain and Ukraine attempted to answer these and other questions at the Kyiv Post Tiger Conference. Below are some of the highlights from their talks.

Macon Phillips, coordinator of Bureau of International Information Programs at the U.S. Department of State

Macon Phillips

“Russia, the Kremlin push a lot of disinformation and you nearly want to argue about every individual piece of information, why it’s right or wrong. … We need to do more in terms of response. We need to actually protect the open system of media that is by far the best way to respond to these things.”

“The most effective way to counter the information war here in Ukraine is for Ukraine to succeed. We can spend all of our time trying to respond to this or that. But ultimate reality is going to drive that. If the Ukrainian government continues to implement reforms, continues to move forward, continues to sustain itself, eventually the reality will reach everyone.”

“The best way to respond to misinformation is with the truth. But the truth is a difficult thing to talk about.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ambassador-at-Large for Strategic Communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

Dmytro Kuleba

“Russian information aggression is a threat not only to Ukraine but to all democracies. … The only difference is that Ukraine is in the front line.”

“What Russians are doing is not information attacks or information campaigns or information operations. They created a comprehensive reality encompassing all aspects of their interests. When you have to confront reality you have to create your own reality.”

“Russian information machine is built on fakes and manipulation, so if we want to win this game we have to focus on credibility.”

“It’s about changing communication culture inside the Ukrainian government. For example, minister of defense is key here. And we are working to change the communication culture to become more available for media. This is critical.”

“Russian strategy is based on the use of weapons of mass destruction. By this I mean Russia Today, Sputnik, army of trolls, bots, proxies, paid commentators. We base our strategy on something completely different, we base it on opinion leaders. I call them precision weapons. What cannot be done by us, can be done by opinion leaders in their countries. They can help us to disseminate the message. All we have to do is make them trust. They need to have trust in us.”

Ariel Cohen, director of the Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security

Ariel Cohen

“We believe that Ukraine can make it as a European, free, Western-minded country. So does Vladimir Putin. And he is scared of that because an alternative Slavic, Eastern Slavic, Orthodox, half-of-the-country Russian-speaking country next to Russia is something they cannot tolerate. And information warfare is a very-very important part of the fight that has been launched.”

“To me Ukraine is now fighting its war for independence. This is where the United States was in 1776, where Israel was in 1948. This is creation of a nation. A part of it is an understanding that information is one of the battle fields, it’s an integral part of the strategy, of the war fighting.”

“To answer your question about Ukraine, what this is going to be in terms of the information campaign or information warfare, there is a famous quote from the cult novel of the Soviet times “The Twelve Chairs”: ”Saving of those who sink is the matter for those who sink themselves.” So, it will be up for Ukraine.”

Timothy Ash, London-based head of emerging market research for Standard Bank

Timothy Ash

“Over twenty years Russian interests infiltrated the West.”

“To know your enemy is key. The Russian state knows exactly how West functions because they infiltrated business, banking, academia, journalism, politics in the West. … The infiltration of Russian interests in the West is a huge threat to Western values and Western civilization. … The weaknesses of European Union is certainly been exploited.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for radical change. Countries very really get this opportunity. Crises create opportunities, they force change. Ukraine is in desperate need of deep structural change. Putin has done a huge favor by uniting the population around this concept of European values. There is the price, but the fighting for democracy and freedom is worth it.”

Paul Niland, managing director of PAN Publishing

Paul Niland

“The Russian media is acting to continue this fight to encourage people as volunteers to come and to kill people in the east of Ukraine. And for that reason my conclusion is that the Kremlin is directly responsible for all those deaths. They are directing media campaign, they are responsible.”

“The second conclusion is as long as Russia’s media campaign against Ukraine continues we can expect the hot war continue as well. They go hand in hand one to support the other.”


Originally published at 

Russian Humor

November 18, 2014

I received this joke today.  I wanted to share it with you, gentle readers.  Thanks FH!

No RUS troops in Ukraine

Russian Humanitarian Aid brings Artillery

November 18, 2014

Russian Humanitarian aid – not aid but artillery.

Now we know that OSCE is not inspecting the cargo trucks. Now we know Russia is using the ‘humanitarian aid convoys’ to sneak in weapons.


Putinochio: How the Kremlin Chief is Lying to the World

November 18, 2014

The article on the German website is good, the graphic is even better, shown on the right.

This article, in German, exposes five lies by Putin.  Lies, mistruths, half-truths and just plain distortions of the truth.

The first lie exposed is when Putin compares Crimea with Kosovo. What Putin failed to do was to resolve the issue of Crimea diplomatically, instead he went straight for a military solution.  This is typical of a cover story, a mistruth covering a lie. Russia coveted Crimea and just took it.

The second distortion of the truth is that Kosovo became an independent state, whereas Crimea became a part of Russia.  Sorry, Vlad, your facts are so weak, you need to add some stock to that soup.

Vlad made a very flippant remark, “People who want to fight, get even somewhere weapons”.  The problem with this statement is that the world knows Russia is supplying weapons and ammunition to the combatants inside Donbas. There are satellite photos, news reports, intelligence reports, even YouTube videos.  Vladimir’s nose continues to grow.

Putin claims the sanctions on Russia make its economy stronger. He claims Russia is taking over production of goods the world would otherwise have produced. The problem is demand within Russia will most likely never overcome production costs. This is a losing effort.

Oil production within Russia is tapering off, Russia desperately needs Western technology.  Russia Fail.  Your oil is limited and so is your future.

Putin claims the Russian economy will grow, up to three percent.  The problem is twofold. Russia’s economy grew upwards of six to eight percent previously, your economy is in a relatively deep dive. Second, economic growth is expected at 0.3 percent this year and zero (yes, ZERO) next year.

There are “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” and Putin tries to use them aggressively, but he falls flat on his face. His figures are weak, his words land with a thud and his conclusions are humorous. The world knows Russians lie.  The world knows Putin lies. We just did not expect Putin’s lies to become more obvious, more blatant and more shameful.

Podcast: The Kremlin’s Mind Bombs

November 18, 2014

Please enjoy this excellent discussion about current Russian Information Warfare, produced and published by RFE/RL.

If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and denies it’s a duck — it’s probably Vladimir Putin’s duck.

For the past eight months, the world has been subjected to a blitzkrieg of disinformation, distortions, and outright lies from Kremlin officials and the Russian media.

It’s been a wild ride. It’s been a baffling reinvention of reality. And its been a mass hallucination. No sooner is one Kremlin myth, lie, or distortion debunked than a dozen more pop up in its place.

But there’s a method to this madness. And it happens to be one of the strongest weapons in the Russian arsenal.

On the latest Power Vertical Podcast, we discuss Russia’s weaponization of information and its implications.

Joining me are co-host Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia’s security services, and author of the blog “In Moscow’s Shadows.” Mark and I are joined by two authors of a recent report on Russia’s information warfare: Peter Pomarantsev, author of the book “Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible,” and Michael Weiss, editor in chief of the online magazine “The Interpreter.”


Power Vertical Podcast: The Kremlin’s Mind Bombs
Originally published at

China’s state broadcaster struggles to silence criticism it is a propaganda machine

November 17, 2014

CCTV has expanded its global outreach, now broadcasting in nine languages.

Among the thousands of media from around the world covering the G20 this week were crews from China’s state broadcaster, CCTV.

They have been beaming back stories not just to their headquarters in Beijing but around the world as CCTV builds its bureaus and its presence at remarkable speed.

Nowhere is this more fascinating to watch than in Washington DC, where hundreds of staff have been working and broadcasting for almost three years.

They call it a bureau but CCTV America boasts the kind of staff, resources and technology that would make major television networks blush with shame.

It contributes programming to the 24-hour English news service and operates from a high rise office building in downtown Washington.

It is a few blocks from the White House – ironic, given the complicated nature of the relationship between the Chinese government and the Obama administration.

Mike Walter would wake up early for the drive to the WUSA studios in Washington where he would co-anchor the morning news broadcasts.

He is your all-American prototype of a news presenter – good looks, calm voice, great hair.

But he is now employed by the Chinese government ‘boss’ and is the face of CCTV’s push to be taken seriously as an international broadcaster.

He sees CCTV America’s role as pretty simple.

“When you watch journalism on television here in the US you see FOX that has a decided point of view, you see MSNBC that has a decided point of view, we don’t have a decided point of view,” he told me on a recent visit to the CCTV America bureau.

“Our point of view is put out all the perspectives, put out all the points of view. Let the viewer decide.”

Negative coverage ‘dominates’ international media landscape

CCTV America promotes itself as the “media crossroads where news and views about the world’s two largest national economies intersect and sometimes collide”.

It claims to reach 30 million households in America.

Some still view CCTV as a propaganda machine for the Chinese government but Walter says he’s never come under any pressure to alter his broadcasts or put a certain spin on stories.

He boasts of the interviews he’s managed to score, including Bill Gates.

“What we want to do is be the resource that people turn to for news just like any other news agency,” he said.

He says the stories you tend to see about China on an international landscape are often negative except for its enormous economy.

And that gives a hint of what is also behind this growth in international broadcasting.

This is also CCTV’s attempt to remake its image, particularly here in the US where the communist country is still viewed with suspicion.

Jim Laurie is a respected former foreign correspondent now media consultant to CCTV.

He says the accusations that CCTV is a mouthpiece for the government are unfounded, certainly in the US bureau.

“I have watched the Chinese management and they have at every opportunity tried to push the envelope to what is possible and what is expectable from a Chinese state broadcaster,” he said.

CCTV has deep financial resources and is continuing to expand its global footprint.

Professor David Shambaugh has watched the rise and rise of CCTV for years, as director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University.

“They want to, in particular, break what they perceive to be the monopoly of news interpretation about China by the Western media. They feel there is a profound and deep bias,” he said.

But he questions their impartiality.

“It’s guided. What that means is that there are personnel abroad in every CCTV bureau who vet the way a story is written, produced and aired,” Professor Shambaugh said.

“And indeed they block coverage of certain issues, they select guests that will support a certain editorial line. This is hardly unbiased and objective reporting.”

That doesn’t seem to faze the staff in Washington although business reporter Yun Zou had one message for the critics.

“Sometimes what really frustrates me is that for people who criticize CCTV they actually have never watched our show so I say watch our show and then make a judgment.”

Originally published at

Russia launches Sputnik to silence dissent, combat West’s ‘information war’ against Putin

November 17, 2014

An article in the Washington Times alleges that Sputnik, Russia’s new propaganda outlet, has been launched to silence dissent and combat the West’s ‘information war’ on Putin.  The article alleges that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is reacting harshly to Western news coverage.

According to the Times, Sputnik is not only well funded, but even its name is based on the symbolism of the satellite which shocked the Western world.

Headed by Dmitry Kiselyov, a virulently anti-Western TV anchor who says the role of Kremlin-run media is to “love Russia,” Sputnik replaces the widely respected RIA Novosti state news agency, which was “liquidated” late last year on the orders of Mr. Putin. It also incorporates the Voice of Russia radio station.

Mr. Kiselyov has long been associated with Russian propaganda out of Moscow.

Now Kiselyov is no longer Moscow bound, he is stretching his wings globally.

In yet another sign that Moscow is cracking down on dissent in addition to expanding their propaganda:

In a sign that the Kremlin no longer is willing to tolerate even “token” dissent, Mikhail Mikhailin, editor of the respected newspaper Kommersant, was forced to resign last week over a report on the Kremlin’s possible tough response to Western sanctions.

The Washington Times’ article contained two fairly nuanced jabs at Putin:

So as long we have this kind of low-level indifference and incompetence in Russia, Sputnik is a long way from becoming the 2014 version of [George Orwell’s] Ministry of Truth.


One English-language article now available on Sputnik’s website suggests that Mr. Putin bears a physical resemblance to Dobby, a house elf in the popular Harry Potter movies.



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