The West is paying ever more attention to Kremlin disinformation but has focused almost exclusively on Moscow’s use of the media, classical and electronic. As a result, it often misses the other channels Russia uses to put out lies to muddy the waters and undermine truth as such, Tallinn’s International Center for Defense and Security says.
Among the most important of these additional channels, Yevgen Tsybulenko and Dmitry Teperik of the ICDS say, are international forums, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the United Nations, and informal meetings of opinion leaders, experts and politicians (icds.ee/ru/такая-разная-кремлёвская-дезинформа/).
To make their point, the two focus on Russian activities regarding Ukraine. “Since the beginning of resistance to Russia’s military aggression, Kremlin policy has been transformed into total military disinformation aggression directed at the demonization of the leadership of Ukraine in the eyes both of the Russian and the entire world community.”
To that end, Moscow has made use of various international forums and also has conducted disinformation campaigns against the rising generation of Ukrainians on the territories of eastern Ukraine that the Russian side has occupied, making the remaining educational institutions there primarily tools for spreading Moscow’s false version of events.
According to the ICDS researchers, “the Russian Federation has misused the rights of a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council by using this organization only as a space for the spread of disinformation, the final goal of which is the softening or even the complete lifting of sanctions by the EU and NATO countries.”
It has sought to “present its military interference in Ukraine as a civil conflict” and to suggest that Ukraine is somehow violating the rights of Russian speakers. Neither of these positions is true, and both are just as much disinformation as anything posted by Moscow on the Internet.
The ICDS researchers document how Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have used other forums as well to do the same thing, including at the G-20 in Osaka, Japan, and at meetings of various kinds where the Russian side has offered various kinds of disinformation intended to achieve its goals.
By their constant insinuation that Ukraine and not Russia is to blame for all the problems, they continue, Russia’s leaders “are trying to distract the attention of the international community from the international crimes the Kremlin has committed, including the shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner, the detention of Ukrainian military vessels, political repression of the Crimean Tatars in Crimea, and the distribution of Russian passports to the population of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.”
Most of the statements and actions of Russian officials and diplomats to which Messrs. Tsybulenko and Teperik point have been noted before, but they make an important contribution to the task of countering them by insisting that they are part of Moscow’s disinformation effort rather than the normal practice of international relations.
Paul Goble is a long-time specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia who has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau, as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The article above is reprinted with permission from his blog called “Window on Eurasia” (http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/).