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Russia’s use of information as a weapon is not new, but the sophistication and intensity are increasing. Belatedly, the West has begun to realise that disinformation poses a serious threat to the United States and its European allies, primarily the “frontline states”—Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine—but also to Western Europe and North America. Across the Western world, the Kremlin promotes conspiratorial discourse and uses disinformation to pollute the information space, increase polarisation and undermine democratic debate. Russia’s actions accelerate the declining confidence in international alliances and organisations, public institutions and mainstream media.
The Information Warfare Initiative at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) analyses the impact of Russian disinformation by drawing on dozens of case studies,
both those directly commissioned by the authors and those made available by allied organizations. This paper synthesises those works and analyses the tools of Russian
information warfare—overt propaganda channels such as RT, proxies disguised as mainstream media outlets and social media—as well as the political forces, civil society actors, businesses and public figures who use them. It also looks at several examples of Russian policies which have been enacted using disinformation: Specific interventions in decision-making (such as seeding fear of Western institutions and alliances (Lithuania); fomenting insurrection (eastern Ukraine); general denigration of a country’s international reputation (Latvia); the development of native pro-Kremlin media (the Czech Republic and Estonia); and support for far-right and ultranationalist movements and sentiments (Poland).
Peter Pomerantsev and Edward Lucas
This report, Winning the Information War: Techniques and Counter-Strategies in Russian Propaganda, is produced under the auspices of the Center for European Policy Analysis’ (CEPA) Information Warfare Initiative. Co-authored by CEPA Senior Vice President Edward Lucas and Legatum Institute Senior Fellow Peter Pomerantsev, it is part of an ongoing effort at CEPA to monitor, collate, analyse, rebut and expose Russian propaganda in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Previous publications in this series provided an analytical foundation for evaluating the methods and aims of Russian propaganda.
This report extends that research, examining how Russian propaganda is being employed across the CEE region, the perils it presents and actionable counter-strategies for addressing it. In preparing this report, the authors conducted an extended assessment of the existing record of Russian, English and Baltic language literature on the subject of information warfare. They solicited written inputs from, and conducted interviews with, members of the scholarly, academic and expert community who are investigating specific dimensions of Russia’s “new” propaganda. Additionally, the authors solicited written and conceptual inputs through practitioner workshops with CEE media specialist, area experts and journalists—individuals who are on the frontlines of the Western response to Russian disinformation campaigns.
Special recognition is owed to the invaluable contributions of Anne Applebaum (CEPA and Legatum Institute), Paul Copeland, Marina Denysenko (Ukrainian Institute in London), Peter Doran (CEPA), Michal Harmata (CEPA), Sanita Jemberga (Baltic Centre for Investigative Journalism), Andis Kudors (Centre for East European Policy Studies in Riga), Ben Nimmo (Institute for Statecraft), Wiktor Ostrowski (Krzyżowa Academy), Alistair Shawcross (Legatum Institute), Hanna Shelest (UA: Ukraine Analytica), Ivana Smoleňová (Prague Security Studies Institute), Virgis Valentinavičius (Mykolas Romeris University), Magda Walter (UK-based media consultant) and Kazimierz Wóycicki (Krzyżowa Academy). Finally, the authors would like to thank the invaluable inputs and insight provided by the monitors and media experts at CEPA’s Information Warfare Initiative, including Dalia Bankauskaite, Urve Eslas, Martins Kaprans and Andrzej Poczobut.
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