Russia’s disinformation is all the same

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Russia's disinformation is all the same

I had the plea­sure of trav­el­ing to Esto­nia this past week to pre­pare for an upcom­ing exer­cise. While I was there, some of the Eston­ian offi­cers briefed me about how Rus­sia is run­ning a dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign in Esto­nia. That part was no sur­prise to me; we know the Rus­sians have been doing this for years. What was sur­pris­ing was the sim­i­lar­i­ties to oper­a­tions con­ducted against the United States.

The Rus­sians never liked los­ing the Baltic states of Esto­nia, Latvia and Lithua­nia, and have wanted for years to bring them back into the Soviet fold. All three coun­tries have sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter economies than Rus­sia, and in the case of Esto­nia the GDP is almost dou­ble. There are sig­nif­i­cant Russian-​speaking minori­ties in each coun­try, but the gov­ern­ments have done a good job at giv­ing them a voice and allow­ing gen­er­ous free­doms to the press.

Russia’s mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign attacks along three lines of effort:

  1. Iden­tity pol­i­tics to keep the Russian-​speaking minor­ity think of itself as Russ­ian and not a cit­i­zen of another state.
  2. De-​legitimize the cur­rent government.
  3. Down­play any eco­nomic growth.

Rus­sia uses a vari­ety of media, from RT and Sput­nikNews to Balt­News, to push their pro­pa­ganda. A favorite tac­tic is to dig up some old Russian-​speaking per­son on the street and inter­view him or her. Inevitably, that per­son says that life was “bet­ter under Rus­sia,” despite every eco­nomic and health indi­ca­tor show­ing otherwise.

Yup, those Baltic States are doing so much worse on their own…

In terms of NATO, the Rus­sians have a hey-​day when­ever NATO con­ducts maneu­ver exer­cises. Esto­nia is small (a lit­tle over 1 mil­lion peo­ple) and it con­ducts exer­cises annu­ally that mobi­lize its mil­i­tary and police force (typ­i­cally in May). This means that at some point, civil­ians going about their day to day busi­ness will brush up on tank move­ments, police responses and the like. Most peo­ple roll with the punches, rec­og­niz­ing that a small incon­ve­nience is nor­mal to ensure mil­i­tary and police readi­ness. But, Russ­ian news will find the one farmer that didn’t like mil­i­tary move­ments down the road and inter­view him. Even if they can’t find him, they will recy­cle the inter­views from pre­vi­ous years.

While 89 per­cent of Esto­ni­ans are in favor of NATO mem­ber­ship, the indi­ca­tor for the Russian-​speaking respon­dents is con­sid­er­ably lower, only 32 per­cent. A total of 48 per­cent of the Russian-​speaking respon­dents are against Esto­nia belong­ing to NATO, and one fifth has no spe­cific preference.

From https://​news​.err​.ee/​834697​/​s​u​r​v​e​y​-​s​u​p​p​o​r​t​-​o​f​-​r​u​s​s​i​a​n​-​s​p​e​a​k​i​n​g​-​r​e​s​i​d​e​n​t​s​-​o​f​-​n​a​t​o​-​m​e​m​b​e​r​s​h​i​p​-​s​t​i​l​l-low

If the above lines of effort seem famil­iar, they should be. A sim­ple view­ing of RT shows high­lights of increas­ing sec­tional divide in Amer­ica, attempt­ing to de-​legitimize Amer­i­can elec­tions and down­play­ing Amer­i­can eco­nomic growth. Unfor­tu­nately, our media is par­rot­ing these lines, either out of lazi­ness or because they con­ve­niently line up with their own beliefs.

Despite how very dif­fer­ent our two coun­tries are, Esto­nia and the United States have both drawn the atten­tion of the Russ­ian mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign. We would be smart to rec­og­nize that in both cases, the Rus­sians don’t have our best inter­ests at heart.

This post rep­re­sents the views of the author and not those of the Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of the Navy, Eston­ian Mil­i­tary or any other gov­ern­ment agency. Please hit Da Tip Jar at the top if you care about inde­pen­dent media!!

I had the pleasure of traveling to Estonia this past week to prepare for an upcoming exercise. While I was there, some of the Estonian officers briefed me about how Russia is running a disinformation campaign in Estonia. That part was no surprise to me; we know the Russians have been doing this for years. What was surprising was the similarities to operations conducted against the United States.

The Russians never liked losing the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and have wanted for years to bring them back into the Soviet fold. All three countries have significantly better economies than Russia, and in the case of Estonia the GDP is almost double. There are significant Russian-speaking minorities in each country, but the governments have done a good job at giving them a voice and allowing generous freedoms to the press.

Russia’s misinformation campaign attacks along three lines of effort:

  1. Identity politics to keep the Russian-speaking minority think of itself as Russian and not a citizen of another state.
  2. De-legitimize the current government.
  3. Downplay any economic growth.

Russia uses a variety of media, from RT and SputnikNews to BaltNews, to push their propaganda. A favorite tactic is to dig up some old Russian-speaking person on the street and interview him or her. Inevitably, that person says that life was “better under Russia,” despite every economic and health indicator showing otherwise.

Yup, those Baltic States are doing so much worse on their own…

In terms of NATO, the Russians have a hey-day whenever NATO conducts maneuver exercises. Estonia is small (a little over 1 million people) and it conducts exercises annually that mobilize its military and police force (typically in May). This means that at some point, civilians going about their day to day business will brush up on tank movements, police responses and the like. Most people roll with the punches, recognizing that a small inconvenience is normal to ensure military and police readiness. But, Russian news will find the one farmer that didn’t like military movements down the road and interview him. Even if they can’t find him, they will recycle the interviews from previous years.

While 89 percent of Estonians are in favor of NATO membership, the indicator for the Russian-speaking respondents is considerably lower, only 32 percent. A total of 48 percent of the Russian-speaking respondents are against Estonia belonging to NATO, and one fifth has no specific preference.

From https://news.err.ee/834697/survey-support-of-russian-speaking-residents-of-nato-membership-still-low

If the above lines of effort seem familiar, they should be. A simple viewing of RT shows highlights of increasing sectional divide in America, attempting to de-legitimize American elections and downplaying American economic growth. Unfortunately, our media is parroting these lines, either out of laziness or because they conveniently line up with their own beliefs.

Despite how very different our two countries are, Estonia and the United States have both drawn the attention of the Russian misinformation campaign. We would be smart to recognize that in both cases, the Russians don’t have our best interests at heart.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Estonian Military or any other government agency. Please hit Da Tip Jar at the top if you care about independent media!!