Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

The world in black and white – Disinformation Review

15 June 2017


The world in black and white

In fairy tales, things have to be black and white and easy to understand. The villain is always cruel, horrible and insidious; the hero is pure, fair, and honest. A look at the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign shows us a similar picture.

Once again this week, we saw the well worn narratives of Good Russia and the Evil West. Some outlets shared the assumption that the goal of the US is to conquer Russia; others propagated the well-known disinformation narrative that NATO enlargement means aggression towards Russia, something that we have debunked before and that is alsothoroughly disproven by NATO. The accession to NATO of Montenegro was presented as aWestern plot to reduce Russian influence in the Balkans, ignoring the fact that Montenegro itself took the decision to apply to join NATO. The illegal annexation of Crimea was blamed on NATO enlargement too, disregarding the fact that it was Russia which took control of the peninsula and that this violation of international law had nothing to do with NATO. The concept of Russophobia is central to this view of the world, and we saw once again this week the false notion presented that “the West” has designed a plot to deprive Russia of all its resources.

The presence of NATO soldiers in the Baltic states was identified as “identical” to the attack of Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union in 1941 and Angela Merkel was described as a“Führer of the Fourth Reich” in another pro-Kremlin outlet – to compare current Germany and especially Angela Merkel with Nazi Germany is another recurring tendency in pro-Kremlin disinformation. NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic states is in fact part of its strengthened deterrence and defence posture, as agreed at the 2016 Summit in Warsaw.

Manipulating terrorism and drug abuse

In the wake of recent terror attacks, we have sadly seen the disinformation campaign exploiting these tragic events for its own purposes, something we have described previously. In pro-Kremlin outlets this week, we learnt that the West supposedly doesn’t want to fight terror; that it is to blame for the latest London attack; and that the US secret services are the creators of Islamic fundamentalism. We also learned that the London attack was staged (the idea of false flag operations is re-occurring myth) and that the CNN staged a Muslim condemnation of the attack – rumours that CNN addressed and denied in a statement.

The “proof” that the London attack was staged, according to pro-Kremlin outlets.
Pro-Kremlin disinformation can’t leave Ukraine alone for a week. This time drugs were in the disinformation limelight. We learned that the Ukrainian secret services are supposedlyusing drug addicts for espionage in the East of Ukraine – there is nothing substantiating this claim (and one can wonder if relying on drug addicts is really an effective way of collecting information). We also learned, from the same pro-Kremlin disinformation outlet, that the Ukrainian Government is trying to increase the number of drug addicted people in the same area. The official TV channel of the Russian Ministry of Defence, TV Zvezda, reported that the Ukrainian secret service is planning to smuggle over 200 kg of cocaine into Donbas in order to destroy and “narcotise” its nation. As usual, no evidence is given.
Click here for the FULL TABLE of recent stories repeating disinformation (.pdf).


New enemies in the West

The respected Levada polling centre has published its annual survey of which countries are seen as most hostile or friendly by Russians. There is a newcomer in the top three.

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How to combat propaganda without doing counter-propaganda?

The director of IRSEM, a research institute within the French Defence MInistry, has made 25 proposals.

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Arrest the ducks!

With this tweet, popular political scientist Ian Bremmer shines a light on a little-covered aspect of Monday’s protests against corruption across the Russian Federation: the arrest of the ducks. In fact, ducks have become a symbol of the anti-corruption protests triggered by Alexey Navalny’s video where he accuses senior political figures in Russia of corruption. The video has now been watched nearly 23 million times. In what Navalny says is Prime Minister Medvedev’s residential complex, there isn’t just an impressive villa, but also a house specifically for the ducks on the adjacent lake. This has led some protestors to demonstrate with ducks and signs that say: “I want a house like the ducks.”

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Every Thursday, the Disinformation Review brings you the latest cases of news articles carrying key examples of how pro-Kremlin disinformation finds its way in international media, as well as news and analysis on the topic. The review focuses on key messages carried in international media which have been identified as providing a partial, distorted or false view or interpretation and/or spreading key pro-Kremlin messaging. It does not necessarily imply however that the outlet concerned is linked to the Kremlin or that it is pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. The Review is a compilation of cases from the East Stratcom Task Force’s wide network of contributors and therefore cannot be considered an official EU position. Likewise, the news articles are based on the analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force, so information and opinions expressed there cannot be considered an official EU position. Any errors or misrepresentations should be reported to the East Stratcom Task Force for correction at
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