#RussiaFail · #RussiaLies · Active Measures · CounterPropaganda · Information Warfare · Russia

Understanding Russian Information Warfare


We have known for years that Russia is attacking the West using Information Warfare.  This has been constant, consistent, and insidious.

Russia has three basic goals, when attacking the West.

  1. Foster divisiveness, sow chaos, incite dissent.
  2. Promote Russian national interests.
  3. Undermine Western democracy.

2008 Panarin Russian IW (RIW) Organization.  

In 2008, Dr. Igor Panarin submitted a proposal for an Information Warfare organization. It is the most comprehensive organization which adequately describes the majority of the Russian Information Warfare efforts against the US.  It has nine parts.

The names have been Anglicized and changed for simplicity.  All descriptions have been changed from the original Russia, edited for clarity.

  1. Information Warfare Operations Center.   This is the central planning and response center, directing overall information efforts. Issues Temniki or guidance sheets.
  1. National Leadership. This office coordinates information efforts by the President, the Foreign Minister, the Spokesmen/Spokeswomen, the Russian Security Council and several Ministers, in order to offer a synchronized and unified message at the national level.  It is believed the overall effort is run by Vladislav Surkov, with Drs. Igor Panarin and Alexandr Dugin assisting.
  1. Public Diplomacy. Members at the national level, major businesses, and political parties receive guidance for their narratives.
  1. All State television and radio media would be subordinate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, what they publish and broadcast is coordinated from here.
  1. Online Activities. This office coordinates online media for upload to Russian State and other friendly pro-Russian websites. It is assumed online messaging for pro-Russian trolls may be coordinated here.  It is thought that Russian hacking activities are coordinated with this office, with the preponderance of operations run by the FSB. It is thought that many of the fake news sites and Russian proxy news sites are funded and coordinated through here.
  1. Counter Foreign IW. Three activities are coordinated here: identify foreign media and online efforts to be overwhelmed; identify efforts which must be undermined; identify any other information warfare efforts by Russia’s political enemies for countermeasures. Also all online counterintelligence activities are run through this office.
  1. Non-Governmental Organizations operating in CIS, EU, and USA territories are formed into a network to assist in Russian information warfare activities.
  1. Multiple level training for conducting information warfare training activities.[1]
  1. Information Commandos. The ninth directorate, Information Commandos, are thought to be assigned to Spetsnaz of the GRU, the SVR, and the FSB, depending on the location of the operation. This probably includes the use of political agitators, professional protestors, and actors.

Supporting operations. RIW operations have dedicated support from various elements of the Russian government

  1. Intelligence. Intelligence collection, intelligence operation, and Active Measures contribute heavily to the overall RIW effort.    It is also believe that agitation is funded and coordinated here.  This included the FSB, GRU, and the SVR.   Many of the pro-Russian efforts are synonymous with pro-Trump efforts.
  2. Military.  Although not directly involved in operations against the United States, the military supports all RIW efforts when possible.
  3. Legal warfare is used as another means of overwhelming any country’s sensory capacity. An example is a case brought against Lithuania.[2]
  4. Russian Security Council. On 22 April 2014, the Security Council approved the plan to invade Crimea, following an all-night planning session. The participants were later awarded congratulatory medals, to include Drs. Igor Panarin and Alexandr Dugin.

Tools used to conduct Russian IW

  1. Russian propaganda is “high volume and multi channel,”[3] overwhelming Western efforts to make sense of what Russia is saying and doing. It is a veritable “Firehose of Falsehood.”[4]
  2. Russian State-Controlled Media. Russia tightly controls mass media in Russia. Of 93,000 media outlets in Russia, most are either wholly owned and controlled or take their marching orders from the State[5].   The flagships of Russian state-controlled media are Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Rossiya Segodnya, RT and Sputnik News.  The government’s official outlet is Rossiyskaya Gazeta or RG.ru, the government owned daily newspaper of record which publishes the official decrees, statements and documents of state bodies. Russian state-controlled media are located within the borders of Russia, except for satellite offices, mostly RT and Sputnik News. Many have a .ru extension, although some maintain a .com extension.
  1. Fake News aka Pro-Russian proxy media. Pro-Russian proxy media is usually located outside Russia but carry at least a small percentage of Russian stories. The minimum range varies from as little as 5% up to about 20%, carrying Russian state-originated stories to be considered a pro-Russian proxy media. During the US 2016 elections many of these sites were labeled Fake News Sites, by their nature it is practically impossible to separate their purposes.
  2. Russian and pro-Russian trolls. Russian trolls overwhelm comment sections of numerous online comment sections. Their function is threefold: overwhelm dissenting opinion, push the Russian narrative, and undermine Western messages. There is no confirmation in open source that professional Russian trolls are directly sourced by Russia, although they are closely associated with an associate of Russian President Putin. They do, however, receive guidance from what we call the Russian Information Warfare Operations Center. In March 2014, a temniki or guidance sheet was first obtained as evidence of central Russian information control,[6] I later discovered that Alexandr Dugin, a Russian Information Warfare philosopher, wrote initial guidance for the trolls in 2014.[7]
  3. Useful idiots. Russian propaganda television, radio, and online media have a long list of “experts” on whom they rely to write pro-Russian papers, give pro-Russian quotes, and generally support Russian positions, regardless the circumstances.[8] These “experts” also appear as panelists, speakers, and provide testimony, with an anti-Western opinion on any subject. The most famous in the U.S. is arguably Dr. Stephen F. Cohen, who generally writes for The Nation, owned by his wife. On multiple occasions he has been called Putin’s cheerleader in America[9].
  4. In Crimea we did not see cyberwarfare as a major factor. Prior to the US 2016 elections we saw hacking of the DNC and other servers. These emails and files, in turn were shared with Wikileaks. We also saw numerous DDOS attacks sponsored by anonymous sources, presumably Russians.  Russian hacking did obtain private emails from the DNC and other political servers and were used to disrupt and influence the US elections of 2016.

[1] The version cited here contains “Information Commandos”, but since there is no evidence of their use, it is not included. Alexei Baranovsky, “The information war over the conflict in South Ossetia: the analysis and conclusions”, November 11, 2008, accessed January 15, 2016. http://www.osetinfo.ru/main/194/page/1

[2] “Russia Reopens Cases against Lithuanians Who Refused to Serve in Soviet Army,” accessed December 5, 2015, http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2014/09/13/russia-reopens-cases-against-lithuanians-who-refused-to-serve-in-soviet-army/

[3] Christopher Paul, Miriam Matthews, “The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model: Why it Might Work and What Might be Done About it”, RAND, prepublication.

[4] Christopher Paul, Miriam Matthews, “The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model: Why it Might Work and What Might be Done About it”, RAND, prepublication.

[5] Joel Harding, “Russian News And Russian Proxy News Sites”, November 15, 2015, accessed June 6, 2016. https://toinformistoinfluence.com/2015/11/15/russian-news-and-russian-proxy-news-sites/

[6] Joel Harding, “Russian Trolls Love Comments:, November 17, 2015, accessed on June 6, 2016. https://toinformistoinfluence.com/2015/11/17/russian-trolls-love-comments/

[7] ‘The Rules of Polemics with the Internal Enemy’, Aleksandr Dugin, 10 March 2014 as found in Jolanta Darczewska, “The Anatomy of Russian Information Warfare the Crimean operation, a case study”, Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw, Poland, May 2014.

[8] Slawomir Sierakowski, “Putin’s Useful Idiots”, New York Times, April 28, 2014, accessed June 13, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/29/opinion/sierakowski-putins-useful-idiots.html?_r=0

[9] Cathy Young, “Meet Stephen F. Cohen, Vladimir Putin’s Best Friend in the American Media”, The Daily Beast, March 16, 2014, accessed June 12, 2016. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/03/16/meet-stephen-f-cohen-vladimir-putin-s-best-friend-in-the-american-media.html

</end editorial>

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