Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia


BY ON 6/18/17 AT 1:10 PM

We need to be clear on one point right from the start: Russia’s leaders and operatives don’t do anything for “the heck of it.”

One of the favored tactics of any authoritarian regime or dictatorship is to offset an opponent’s center of gravity, disorienting them, sowing confusion and causing them to constantly adapt their offensive and defensive strategies on the fly. Such off-center disorientation exposes an opponent’s structural weaknesses (vulnerable voting systems, for example, or gaps in cyber technology and infrastructure systems, or division among policy makers, or insecurity among the citizenry).
Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 17.SPUTNIK/ALEXEI DRUZHININ/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS
But, rarely is the obvious or overt move the one the opponent should focus on, and nowhere is this more true than in the 2016 election meddling. What Russia achieved by probing and playing with the U.S. election process was not in and of itself Russia’s long-term goal, and I’m relatively sure the U.S. intelligence services are well aware of that.

The Russians are masterful manipulators of other nations’ centers of gravity. Vladimir Putin wakes up every morning looking forward to a new day of fomenting disorientation and discord throughout Western governments. You have to remember that Putin, like so many Russian/Soviet leaders before him, plays the long-game; he has all the time in the world (relative to the West’s election cycles and ever-changing executive and legislative officials) to push, probe, violate, incite, worry, gnaw at and undercut the opposition’s confidence at all levels of democratic society.

What Putin is seeing now is a West that is dividing, cracks opening up between the U.S. and our allies, increasing levels of anxiety and frustration beginning to undercut the confidence that once bound all Western nations into one unbreakable stronghold. Trump’s election, allegedly doused with some form of Russian stink, has tainted the public’s trust, wound up the media to a fever pitch, driven a wedge deep into our representative government, and resulted in a shift in our national center of gravity with long-term effects felt far beyond our shores.

If we don’t get past this, and focus on the real threat posed by Putin to subvert Western democracy, he will achieve the deeper Russian goal of destabilizing Europe, and creating a yawning chasm of security and economic dysfunction between us and our friends.