DNC leak: Russia better at information war now than during Cold War

If you want to see how Russian propaganda and information warfare works against America today, look no further than the following previous post:

WAR 2020: Russia’s Information Aggression


Russia’s hacking and exploitation of emails from the Democratic National Committee has created an unprecedented situation for the US election this year.

The goal of distributing internal DNC emails is not only to create disorder within the party, as has happened after WikiLeaks published embarrassing internal documents that led to the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The emails and other information can be used to shape broader views of the US political system among American voters and in the wider world, as a form of information war waged by Russia towards the West.

New America Foundation strategist Peter W. Singer said that, given the situation in the US election, “this is not just a covert intelligence issue any more”.

As an example of the information war strategy, distributing DNC emails on social media amplifies hard feelings over Bernie Sanders’ loss to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. In turn, the overall level of acrimony at the event increases.

Those signs of dissent within the convention can in turn be re-posted and distributed online, re-creating an echo chamber to stress division, confusion and cynicism among Democrats specifically and Americans in general ahead of the November general election.

It’s also a part of wider and longer-standing efforts to sow discord in Western publics, as Russia takes a more aggressive geopolitical stance.

Former US Army intelligence officer Fred Hoffman says years of open travel and globalisation have left the US exposed to a more subtle and powerful Russian propaganda, misinformation and disinformation.

“One ‘advantage’ the Putin regime has over the United States is the ability to disseminate whatever information it wishes, via whatever conduits it chooses, without restraint.”

Compared to Soviet times, he says, the Russians have a much better “understanding of Western society, culture, attitudes”.

“Since 1991 [when the Cold War ended], the level of engagement between Russians and the West increased exponentially,” said Mr Hoffman. “Increased interaction has led to an increased, and increasingly nuanced, understanding of what they’re dealing with.

“And I have no doubt that this has contributed to an improved understanding of how to identify and exploit perceived weaknesses.”

Russian successes date back to the 1980s, when the KGB “successfully penetrated and manipulated” the anti-nuclear movement in Europe.

“What we’re witnessing today is simply a more widespread application of tried-and-true [and yes, successful] tactics from that time,” Hoffman adds.

Russia brought together a “conglomerate of nearly 75 education and research institutions” devoted to the study of information warfare co-ordinated by the KGB’s modern successor, the Russian Federal Security Service.

Eastern European, Baltic countries and Finland have been under this information war onslaught  from Russia for years.

As Jolanta Darczewska, writing for the Centre for Eastern Studies, noted in 2014, Russian information warfare “is set to continue since Putin’s new doctrine has crystallised”.

“This doctrine is geopolitical, Eurasian, anti-liberal and oriented towards rivalry with the West and Russia’s dominance in Eurasia.”

Full article: DNC leak: Russia better at information war now than during Cold War (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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