Isn’t it time to declare that the United States has lost information war against Russia? Despite the fact that the Russian economy suffers from economic sanctions imposed by the West after its annexation of Crimea, Putin and Co are still capable of spreading its propaganda all over Europe.
Over a month ago, Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate subcommittee: “Russia has engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I’ve seen since the very height of the Cold War.” Furthermore, Kerry told another panel the same day that the Kremlin is “spending hugely on this vast propaganda machine,” while attributing Putin’s success to the fact that “there’s nothing countering it.”
And that’s a true statement considering what Putin’s propaganda machine has achieved in getting support for its policies in Europe during the past year. And the Baltic states are in the most dangerous situation here as Russia seems to really care about them.
As a proof of that, Russia has recently threatened to use nuclear force against the United States and its allies if NATO moves more forces into the Baltics or if attempts are made to return Crimea to Ukraine.
In 2014, Latvia and Lithuania, both the Baltic states, temporarily banned Russian broadcasters. The third Baltic state of Estonia is poised to launch its own general televised channel aimed at the Russian-speaking minority, which is the quarter of Estonia’s population.
Russia learns the West’s behavior and provokes it
What’s even more sad is that Vladimir Putin is constantly increasing his approval rating at home (the most recent Putin’s approval rating has reached 86%) thanks to Russia’s propaganda. Why sad? Because Russian people can’t think on their own. They can’t do the math and make decision for themselves. Why bother if you can just turn on your TV and ABSORB all the lies directed at you?
One year before annexing Crimea, the head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Valery Gerasimov, made a statement that in today’s world it’s possible to destroy enemies using a “combination of political, economic, information, technological, and ecological campaigns”.
And he’s right, disinformation and psychological pressure have long been used by governments. One year ago Russia showed the world that it’s possible to take over a territory without firing a single shot.
Timothy L Thomas, an analyst at the US army’s Foreign Military Studies Office, and an expert in recent Russian military history and theory, said that Russia’s tactic in its information war involves learning their adversary’s (read: the West’s) behavior and attitude in order to be able to provoke them into doing whatever it wants.
$400-$500 million vs $20 million
According to the recent federal agency report, the US’s government-run news operations fail to prove themselves effective among foreign audiences.
“Competitors with anti-US messaging are fomenting an information war – and winning – while US international broadcasting is challenged to keep pace with competitors and changes in the media landscape,” the report said. “US international communications strategy should be rebuilt from the ground up,” it recommended.
It was reported that Russia spends around $400-$500 million a year on its foreign propaganda, while the US allocates its Russian-speaking news services about $20 million. Is it enough to counter Russia’s propaganda? Apparently not.
Rossia 24, Rossia 1, Sputnik, Russia Today (RT) and other Russian propaganda channels are countered by one single Russian-language program “Current Time,” (30 minutes on weekdays), which is aired on the Voice of America (VOA) channel and sponsored by the United States. The program is part of $23.2 million in programming aimed at Russian audiences and is up almost 50% from last year.
Russia Today (or as it likes to call itself: RT) has an annual budget of at least $241 million and spreads its version of events to the world in such languages as English, German, French, Spanish and Arabic.
Back in 2005, VOA was broadcasted on about 100 Russian media outlets. Now it’s on just one, which will most likely be eliminated by proposed Russian legislation that would ban “undesirable foreign organizations.”
Every Time You Reply To Russia’s Troll – He Gets His Bonus
ValueWalk has recently conducted an exclusive interview with Ex-Russian troll, who had some choice things to say about how the Kremlin’s propaganda works.
The troll named Vladislav said that most of the times trolls get bonuses every time someone replies to their comments. “The way it works is simple: you just have to pique someone’s interest in the comment section. You have to get into a conversation with a person – even better if it’s more than just one person – and try to convince them in something. And that’s it – if they [trolls’ supervisors] mark your conversation as ‘important’, you get your bonus.”
Three weeks ago, NATO’s Gen. Philip Breedlove said that the West, and particularly the United States, must do more to counter Russia by countering Russia’s “false narratives” spread on social media.
Breedlove said: “We need as a western group of nations or as an alliance to engage in this informational warfare. The way to attack the false narrative is to drag the false narrative into the light and expose it.”
For 2016 budget, the United States is requesting $38.6 million for Russian-language programming, which is 66% higher than now, and additionally over $20 million to train Russian-speaking journalists, provide help to independent media and other outlets.