‘Information warfare is a key means of achieving its ambitions’
Viewing the United States as its main threat, Moscow is utilizing psychological information warfare as the key means of achieving its ambition to dominate the world stage, deploying disinformation tactics used by the KGB during the Cold War, according to a new Defense Intelligence Agency report.
The DIA assesses the Kremlin “is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine,” states the 116-page report, “Russia Military Power.”
The report, published last week, is the first of its kind since the 1980s, when the Reagan administration directed DIA to begin highlighting the strategic threat posed by the Soviet Union, reported national security reporter Bill Gertz in the Washington Free Beacon.
Former Soviet bloc spy chief Ion Mihai Pacepa — the highest-ranking intelligence defector during the Cold War — warned in December that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the “first intelligence dictatorship in history.”
“It is a brand-new form of totalitarianism, which we are not yet familiar with,” he told WND.
“During the Cold War, the KGB — which killed tens of million people within the Soviet empire alone — was a state within a state,” said Pacepa, who was President Nicolae Ceauşescu’s adviser for industrial and technological development and the deputy chief of the Romanian foreign intelligence service from 1972 to 1978, when he dramatically defected to the United States.
“Now the KGB — rechristened FSB — is the state.”
The new DIA report provides new information on Russia’s cyber-enabled psychological warfare operations.
“Russia views the information sphere as a key domain for modern military conflict,” the report said. “Information warfare is a key means of achieving its ambitions of becoming a dominant player on the world stage.”
One channel of Russian disinformation is state media such as RT and Sputnik, which the report said Moscow uses to “influence, confuse, and demoralize its intended audience, often containing a mixture of true and false information to seem plausible and fit into the preexisting worldview of the intended audience.”
“The variety of techniques for disseminating Russian propaganda include pro-Kremlin ‘news’ websites and TV and radio channels such as Russia Today and Sputnik News, bots and trolls on social media, search engine optimization, and paid journalists in Western and other foreign media,” the report said.
Gertz points out the report makes no mention of Russian security service and military information operations targeting the 2016 presidential election.
Pacepa noted to WND in December that the Soviet Union’s massive intelligence apparatus, like the Romanian service he headed, was focused less on spying and more on activities such as rewriting history, manufacturing false documents, defaming noble people and planting anti-American disinformation in the liberal Western news media.
Pacepa tells his story in his groundbreaking book, published by WND Books, “Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism.”
Pacepa, having survived multiple assassination attempts, lives under deep cover in the United States due to ongoing security concerns. His international bestseller “Red Horizons” exposed the massive crimes and corruption of his former boss, Ceaucescu, and was regarded by President Reagan as “my bible for dealing with dictators.”
Pacepa pointed out that on Dec. 31, 1999, the KGB took over the Kremlin at the end of a palace coup, and a year later former KGB colonel Putin, Russia’s new president, restored Stalin’s national anthem, which had been prohibited after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
During his annual speech to the nation in 2005, Putin, who met President Trump for the first time Friday at the G20 summit in Germany, declared: “The breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”
Pacepa cited a study published in the Russian Novaya Gazeta and republished by the Center for the Future of Russia finding that as of 2003 there were some 6,000 former KGB officers running Russia’s federal and local governments.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s current foreign minister and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s counterpart, is just one of them.
He said it’s noteworthy that the current Russian version of the KGB is also responsible for guarding the country’s more than 7,000 nuclear warheads.
“That makes the KGB, now called the FSB, the most powerful — and most dangerous — intelligence organization in our world today.”
Did the Russians influence the election?
Pacepa said that while he has no specific knowledge of the Kremlin’s current intelligence operations against the U.S., he can confirm that during the Cold War, influencing foreign elections was one of the main tasks of the Soviet bloc intelligence community.
He said that KGB general Aleksandr Sakharovsky, who had been Romania’s chief intelligence adviser and Pacepa’s de facto boss before leading the entire Soviet bloc espionage community, used to compare classical espionage to a pickpocket’s snatch.
“If the deed were discovered, the result would be painful but not life-threatening for the victim,” Pacepa said.
“Our disinformation operations aimed at influencing elections, on the other hand, were a continuous process, conceived to invade people’s minds and consciences and to implant solid roots there.”
Pacepa said it was no wonder that during the Cold War, the Soviet bloc had more people working for the KGB disinformation community than for the Soviet army and defense industry put together.
“The American media are now making a big deal out of allegations that Russian intelligence has been trying to influence our elections,” Pacepa said. “Actually, that is what all of the world’s major intelligence services do.”
He said West Germany, Italy, Japan and Chile are just a few known examples of U.S. interference in foreign elections, citing President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, who once quipped: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”
Pacepa said that after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. intelligence community slowed down its covert actions, but an American hand may still be detected behind a range of more recent elections, from Honduras to Venezuela to Ukraine.
“Instead of complaining that the Russians are trying to interfere with our elections, we should concentrate on protecting them from foreign interference,” he said. “Let’s hope that the Trump administration will do just that.”
The Free Beacon’s Gertz noted the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency said in January that Moscow conducted a “cyber-enabled” influence operation against the American election by hacking private emails and disseminating them to pro-Moscow outlets.
‘Little green men’
The new DIA report points to Russian information operations against Ukraine, including the use of Russian military special forces with no military insignia — so-called “little green men” — in the takeover of Crimea.
In a preface to the report, DIA director Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart warned the Russian military threat likely will increase.
“Within the next decade, an even more confident and capable Russia could emerge,” Stewart said. “The United States needs to anticipate, rather than react, to Russian actions and pursue a greater awareness of Russian goals and capabilities to prevent potential conflicts.”
In any future conflict, Russia plans to create an “information blockade” and achieve “information dominance.”
“Russia continues to emphasize electronic warfare and other information warfare capabilities, including denial and deception as part of its approach to all aspects of warfare,” the report said.
It aims to target all aspects of society with its cyber-technical and information and psychological operations “to change people’s behavior or beliefs in favor of Russian governmental objectives.”
“The weaponization of information is a key aspect of Russia’s strategy and is employed in time of peace, crisis, and war,” the report said. “In practice, information battles draw upon psychological warfare tactics and techniques from the Soviet era for influencing Western societies.”
Pacepa, after his change of heart and spectacular defection in 1978, provided invaluable intelligence to the CIA, working with the agency on various plots against the Eastern bloc. The CIA regarded his collaboration as “an important and unique contribution to the United States.”
In response, the Ceausescu regime served two death sentences on him. The dictator created a special Securitate unit, U.M. 0195, staffed with about 1,000 officers and given the single task of assassinating Pacepa in the United States.