Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Russia: Legislation adopted in Russia is a means of protecting our media

Alexei Pushkov: Information warfare is always part of political confrontation. Photo: Alexander Korolkov / RG

Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov, former Deputy of the State Duma, former head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma, is on the attack.  He gave an interview to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, RG, in which he says Russia must now defend itself against information warfare from the West.  

His most egregious lie, however, fails in the light of the mountain of evidence against Russia.

Yes, Theresa May accused us that we use information as a weapon. In my opinion, this is an absolutely cynical statement: if someone started using information as a weapon, it’s definitely not us.

 Russia revels in playing the victim.  Russia has the most advanced, well funded, and well-organized information warfare program in the world, attacking the West with impunity, but somehow still plays the victim.  

I’ve corresponded with several seniors in the Russian information warfare machine. I’ve asked most of them, point blank, ‘do you actually believe the bullshit you’re throwing in our direction’?  They all said “absolutely”.  Actually, I had one TV anchor who hosts a show about Agitprop that question, and he laughed. He admitted it’s all a facade. Peter Pomerantsev‘s book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia, says the same, but it’s a very long read to get that point. 

 Here, Pushkov shows how the leadership of Russia reinforces the narrative that Russia is the victim, of course, we do not engage in information warfare, so we must defend ourselves against Western aggression. 

I’ve left in the links to related stories, but they’re all in Russian.

Apparently, Theresa May’s words had a chilling effect in some parts of Russia. 

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(translated from Russian by my Chrome browser)

Legislation adopted in Russia is a means of protecting our media

The guest of “RG”, the senator and the chairman of the temporary commission of the Federation Council on information policy and interaction with the media, the journalist, told about the information war of the West against Russia, its origins and possible consequences, as well as about who invented the information weapon and how to create a defense system. Alexei Pushkov.

The reason for this conversation were amendments to the law “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” approved by the State Duma. Will they affect only the US media or, in your opinion, will affect all other foreign information resources working in Russia?

Alexei Pushkov: In my opinion, we should not take such measures with respect to the media of those countries where our media operate unhindered, where they can be criticized, but they are not subject to legal and administrative measures. For this it is retaliatory measures. Recently I was in the UK. British parliamentarians and journalists asked me: what happens if they start the same pressure on RussiaToday, as in the United States? I replied that mirror measures will be taken. At the same time, I hope that this will not come to this point, although RT there already tried to make life difficult, and the head of Foreign Office Boris Johnson tried to press on some deputies – and even publicly, that they stopped speaking on RT. The TV channel was also denied accreditation by the press service of Emmanuel Macron. But with his coming to power in France, as in other European countries, there were no compulsory measures taken against RT. Criticism of the channel is one thing, and legal actions are quite another. Therefore, I think we should apply mirror measures to the media precisely those states that resort to administrative measures against our media. I do not think that we are interested in involving states that behave correctly and do not violate the rights of our media in this conflict.

And will it affect the Russian media, which receive foreign advertising? After all, in a globalized world, this is quite normal.

Alexei Pushkov: As far as I know, commercial advertising in the adopted law is not considered at all. But the main thing is that no Russian mass media can be declared a foreign agent under this law. It is only about foreign media.

How do you assess the statement of British Prime Minister Therese May in this vein that Moscow launches fake news to “sow discord in the West”?

Alexei Pushkov: Yes, Theresa May accused us that we use information as a weapon. In my opinion, this is an absolutely cynical statement: if someone started using information as a weapon, it’s definitely not us. It all began before the war in Yugoslavia. Serbs in the Western media were turned into a felon of hell, while shielding those who committed proven crimes in the field of human rights, but belonged to the Muslim and Croat communities of Yugoslavia. By the way, this was also reflected in the course of the Hague Tribunal: the overwhelming majority of the defendants on the bench of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia are Serbs.

We did not invent the information weapon, but if it is used against us, we can not pretend that nothing happens

Then the infopage was used against Iraq. That lie on which Tony Blair built a policy of supporting US aggression against this country was an informational weapon in its pure form. Later it was also used against Muammar Gaddafi. Therefore, Therese May would have to look at the policy of her own country, to recall how the United Kingdom acted in recent decades.

We did not invent the information weapon, but if it is used against us, then it is impossible to pretend that nothing is happening. We must at least create a defense system. And the legislation that is now being adopted in Russia is a means of protecting our media. And at the same time, and a means of warning, first of all, for the countries of the Western alliance: that if they begin, in the likeness of the United States, to take discrediting measures against our media, the same reaction will follow. I would call this law an instrument of restraining the information war. Earlier we did not have a legislative base for this. Any measures to foreign media could be taken only through the court, but this is a long story that can drag on for years. Until now, we believed that our so-called Western partners will act, at least, According to the rules they proclaim and adhere to their own official principles. But, as the story with RT showed, the US acts differently.

RT can not compete in the US with leading TV channels. But he provides an alternative position. Photo: RIA Novosti

Now the Western media are very organized front against Russia’s admission to the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Can this have such an impact on the IOC that it will falter?

Alexei Pushkov: In my opinion, the mass media play a secondary role here. I think the political order comes from other structures – from Western states, primarily Anglo-Saxon ones, which largely determine the decision-making in international sports federations. If you look at the leaders of the largest sports federations, you will find that most often they are Americans, British and Canadians. These three countries are in the lead. And representatives of other countries of the West – Germans, Swiss, French, as a rule, are guided by a single Anglo-Saxon position. I have experience working in international organizations, since for four years I headed our delegation to PACE. And I can say that no person who represents an alternative point of view will be able to get serious support in the Western structures. Of course, he will be listened to, after this, “democratically” hold a pre-agreed vote, during which it will support 2-3 people, and 15-20 will be against. Thus, the principle of pluralism seems to be observed, and the result is achieved. This is a proven art of manipulation. Everything is decidedly democratically, but in fact, at the stage of personnel selection, there is a filtration: only those people who are ready to play along with the nearest satellites go to key positions. No, it is not the media, as it seems to me, that are the initiators of the idea of excluding Russia from the participants of the Olympic Games, but they have eagerly picked up this idea and became its carriers. Firstly, because the media like dramas – this is something that sells well. Secondly, there is an order for an “anti-Russian drama”, there is a huge echeloned system of its support. And, in my opinion,

Do you think this is real?

Alexei Pushkov: Yes, this threat is very high. There is a lot of pressure on the IOC. Of course, this will hit both the IOC and the Olympic movement as a whole. This is a serious crisis, because the main principle of the Olympic movement is just universal participation. For example, no matter whoever loves North Korea, she always took part in the Olympics, even though she is considered an outcast country in the West, which is indecent to deal with. And since for political reasons one can not deprive the country of the right to participate in the Olympic Games, Russia has come from the other side. And this despite the fact that scandals with doping shake English football, and American athletes, as we hear, they just do not accept, as it later turns out, “with the permission of the doctor.” I will give just an example of the gymnast Simone Biles, who won four medals at the Olympic Games in Rio, but took various drugs at the same time. As it turned out, she can – because she is very sick. If she does not take drugs, she will not be able to jump. But why should she even jump if she’s sick? Of course, these are double standards. So there was a lot of lobbying work at all levels to make it as difficult or even frustrating as possible for Russia to participate in the Olympics, and the media were mobilized – or mobilized – to support this scenario.

No Russian media under this law can be declared a foreign agent

Do you think Kiev still remembers about the Minsk agreements? How do you see the further development of events?

Alexei Pushkov: I think that in Kiev, of course, they remember about the Minsk agreements. They just do not like them at all. According to these agreements, Kiev must take a number of steps, which he does not want, firstly, and secondly, because of Poroshenko’s precarious position within the country and the pressure on him from the right-wing radicals, perhaps he can not. Finally, the movement towards the implementation of the Minsk agreements means progress towards stabilizing the situation. But stabilization is exactly in Ukraine and is unprofitable.

What can Ukraine currently trade in foreign markets? Practically nothing. The country is in a very difficult situation. GDP collapsed twice: now it is 96 billion dollars, and under President Yanukovych reached 180 billion. Prospects for Ukraine are bad – this is an unreliable country, in which almost no one wants to invest. Ukraine has no chance to join the European Union and NATO. The only thing they can trade now is the position of the outpost of the struggle against the “Russian threat”. And for this anti-Russian circles in the West are ready to pay. If Kiev goes along the path of implementing the Minsk agreements, the level of tension will begin to decrease. And then the Ukrainian “political goods” few will be ready to buy, Ukraine will disappear from the international agenda. After all, in principle, the Ukrainian conflict is nothing more than a regional conflict. Here, North Korea is a global problem: it can affect Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, the United States of America. The Iranian nuclear program is a major topic, the disruption of the agreement on Iran will inevitably cause a crisis that can acquire a very wide character. After all, if the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Turks and so on follow the Iran along the way of creating nuclear weapons, we will get the nuclear Middle East. And the Donbass is a local crisis, by the efforts of the West artificially turned into a global one. That is why Poroshenko does his utmost to prevent a decrease in tension. It is no coincidence that as soon as the situation stabilizes, new shelling of the Donbass begins. Why? Because otherwise the situation will be removed from the main international agenda. For Ukraine, the unresolved problem of Donbass is an instrument through which it receives the attention of the West, and for its leaders there are offices that would otherwise be closed to them, beginning with Donald Trump’s Oval Office. But even so, Ukraine is fed up with many in the West.

Is it possible to say that Ukraine is waging an information war against Russia? How much today is our country able to communicate its position to ordinary Ukrainians?

Alexei Pushkov: Ukraine, of course, is waging an information war against Russia, primarily on its own territory. And they have already achieved a lot, because Ukraine has been transformed from a friendly country into a country where approximately 40-45 percent of the population has a stable negative opinion about Russia. This is the result of rabid anti-Russian propaganda. The media in Ukraine can be so named only conditionally: they are all adjusted to the stringent demands of ultra-nationalist ideology. Those who are not adequately adjusted, set on fire, like the Inter TV channel, are beaten or even killed. We, in Russia, have liberal media, but I do not imagine such a media on the territory of Ukraine! This is impossible there, because the main criteria are the anti-Russian and, of course, pro-American position.

At the same time, this infowone has natural limits. In the last elections to the Verkhovna Rada 45 percent of the population took part, that is, 55 percent did not vote at all. This silent Ukraine reacts little to Russophobic propaganda.

Ukraine is waging an information war against us outside of the country. But the main efforts, of course, are aimed at the Western media: they turned into a collective lobbyist of Ukraine on the international information field. And the retransmission of their Ukrainian positions is part of a general information war against Russia.

Is there a way out of this situation? It can not last forever.

Alexei Pushkov: Information warfare is always an integral part of political confrontation. Even if one, two, three, four media adhere to the anti-Russian line, but the state is interested in maintaining normal relations with Russia, they are not able to create an atmosphere of information war. For example, in France, even in the best periods of our relations, there have always been media outlets that have consistently held an anti-Russian stance. But at the same time, the general atmosphere of the relationship has long been quite positive. A confrontation can last a long time. Recall, the “cold war” began in 1946 and ended in 1991. So it all depends on the policy, on what line the Western alliance will follow. And outside the West with us, no one leads to an information war. And although, say,

In my opinion, we still have a long time to exist in these conditions. It is very important to understand: one of the reasons for the current information war is that the West feels the limitations of its current capabilities, the violation of its political and information monopoly. First, the US and the West no longer control the situation in the world as they controlled it after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yes, for 13-15 years they completely determined the course of world events, during this period the “unipolar world” dominated. It ended with a war in Iraq: there, the United States won a military victory, but suffered a political defeat. This war caused great opposition to the United States of America, and even in the western camp: France and Germany were against, demonstrations took place in England. Since that time, the US geopolitical monopoly has been exposed to erosion. And then in the West they suddenly discovered that the situation with their information monopoly was the same. And it made a stunning impression on them.

The TV channel Russia Today can not compete in the United States with the leading TV channels. But it provides an alternative position, a new platform of views that can be addressed. And it’s very annoying. It is no accident that the former Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, expressed serious concern about the appearance of an alternative point of view and called on her to resist. And the same reaction in NATO countries. If we compare the impact of RT in Europe with the combined influence of the media in Germany, Britain, France, Italy, it is clear that it is not that RT is competing with them, but that it violates the info-monopoly. Hence – and the US measures against RT. That is why the information war will continue – the ruling elite of the West will try to restore its monopoly on information. Information is the blood of modern society. If this blood changes the composition, then the whole organism changes. And if you lose control over the information, then the control over society will be lost.

How should Russia treat US President Donald Trump, given that his position on many issues is constantly changing?

Alexei Pushkov:Of all the presidents of the United States since the days of Ronald Reagan, Trump is probably the closest thing to traditional Americans. This is the same America, which was not represented in Washington for a long time. And George Bush Sr., and Barack Obama, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, and, of course, George Bush Jr. – is all flesh from the flesh of the traditional American ruling elite, which for a long time broke away from its roots and lost contact with a significant part of the American nation. But Trump represents those Americans who were not listened to for a long time, which they forgot about. They actually chose him. And much of what Trump does, he does in order to maintain this base. They ask: “Why did he drop the largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan?” After all, the militants did not suffer. ” And he has a completely different thinking. Imagine: an American is sitting in Minneapolis, he drinks beer from a can, as they do, and watches television. On TV they say: Trump dropped a superbomb on Afghanistan. But there are terrorists, but Obama did nothing, and Trump – dropped the bomb! This is a demonstration of strength that excites a simple American. And how many Taliban died and whether they died at all – this is uninteresting to him. In my opinion, a number of things that the current president of the United States is doing and for which he is criticized are working for this base. Trump tries to impress his electorate. Here, Barack Obama has never struck Syria. He thought, hesitated, waited for the decision of the British Parliament, and then all the same refused. In general, the indecisive president. And Trump took and “zhahnul.” What for? There was not a single Syrian, there was no chemical weapons. But for the current president’s electorate is a sign that America is led by a strong leader. I do not want to justify Trump, but it was banal to blame him for inconsistency, which I do not quite agree with. If he had been “consistent” with North Korea, he would have already started a war.

As for the Russian direction, I believe that Trump was going to proceed from common sense. And common sense pushed him to contacts with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But then he saw that US policy is often not built on common sense. For example, common sense aroused his question: why does the US pay 75 percent of the NATO budget? Why do the rest of the members not pay at least half of this budget? Why is the US 75 percent, and they are 25 percent? And he said: such an alliance of the US is not needed! But then he went to Europe, met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then all the generals came to him and said: “Mr. Trump, it’s not just about money.” NATO is the supporting structure of our world domination. ” And this is really so: NATO is the backbone of American geopolitical power. Then Trump reversed. He realized that, although hard common sense requires a reduction in US funding for NATO, the political expediency is such that it can not afford it. And the same thing happened in a number of other areas. Trump’s ideas, as it turned out, are not feasible, because they contradict the whole logic of American foreign policy and the traditional ruling elite. And in his administration a lot of its representatives, and all the others from it expelled. His statement that he will try to find a common language with Putin, I am convinced, was sincere and, even more so, still remains sincere. But when he took up his chair, he was told that it was impossible. However, note that during his year in office he did not say a single bad word about Vladimir Putin. Like Putin about Trump. Common sense is still not dead.



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