NEW – August 8, 2022
Military expert Aleksandr Svinukhov just before the start of the special military operation in Ukraine returned from the United States, where he was sent to study at Johns Hopkins University. Aleksandr agreed to talk about his studies and how this type of military activity, which is usually called psychological warfare, is organised in the United States.
Aleksandr, for what purpose did you go to study in the USA?
“Firstly, of course, to improve one’s skills as a military psychologist, to learn from foreign experience. In my studies, the emphasis was on two large annual courses: patient safety and psychological first aid in emergency situations and military conflicts. I was also interested in the theoretical and organisational aspects of psychological warfare.”
Aleksandr, why choose Johns Hopkins University? This is a civil university, isn’t it?
“Yes, it is a private civil university founded in 1876. But the fact is that this is a very militarised university, in the sense that it is one of the largest military contractors. These are research and development projects. In terms of military orders, this university is the second after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is about a billion dollars a year. It is not surprising that this income item is the main one for the university.”
What does military psychology have to do with psychological warfare? The commonality of terms does not always reflect the similarity of activities.
“Today, in the Russian Army, full-time psychologists are assigned duties that were previously characteristic of political workers or, as they said in an even earlier era, commissars. Usually this is understood as the work on the formation of proper moral qualities in personnel, instilling the will to win, explaining political goals and the meaning of specific military operations. In the USSR, this work was managed by GlavPUR (the Main Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Naval Float). In 1991, as part of a perverse campaign to depoliticise the military service, GlavPUR was liquidated. Political workers were not dismissed – they became ‘psychologists’. Subsequently, psychologists with education appeared. Someone should at least take care of the state of mind of soldiers and officers? But for motivation, for instilling the will to win, this is clearly not enough. Without patriotism, without ideological content, this work is incomplete. It is extremely important that our leadership realised this and GlavPUR was re-established on July 30, 2018 by decree of the President of Russia. I would say it was of strategic importance. But the military psychologists are still there. However, our activities are not limited to working with personnel. Military psychologists are directly involved in the work that is known as special propaganda. This concept is somewhat outdated due to the progress of information technology, but the meaning remains the same – influencing the morale of the enemy and the civilian population in an actual or potential zone of armed conflict. This is done by various specialists, but also by military psychologists as well.”
In the United States they are very successful in psychological warfare?
“Of course, this is one of their strengths. But what they do in this area is not limited to psychological warfare and special propaganda as a familiar set of methods since the Second World War. Rather, it makes sense to talk about a certain set of actions of the military and civilians (under the leadership of the military, of course) to achieve the goal of victory in an armed conflict. Now this complex is usually called ‘hybrid’ war.”
And usually in relation to the actions of Russia in Crimea in 2014, in Syria, Africa and everywhere else, where only theoretically the epic heroes Petrov and Boshirov can appear?
“In fact, the United States was impressed with our Crimean operation, ranking it among the best hybrid warfare operations. However, they adopted this story and began to use it in their propaganda, instilling in the world community the paranoid idea of an omnipresent Russia that achieves military goals in the most sophisticated non-military ways.”
It got to the point that even the speeches of our diplomats at the UN on the Ukrainian issue were declared a manifestation of the hybrid war waged by Russia. Is this, by any chance, not a blurring of the concept of war as an armed fight?
“This blurring of the line between concepts is also part of psychological warfare. Inside the Pentagon, everything is fine with concepts, but for those who are outside, it is very convenient to inspire logical confusion. When you control a large share of the global media, there is room for manoeuvre: under some circumstances, any peaceful action can be called a war, even if it is not hostile; under other circumstances, military actions can not be considered a war.”
So, despite the Crimean success, the US Army continues to maintain priority?
“Absolutely. This is an extremely complex and highly organised type of activity, which involves a huge number of units of the US army and its allies, American and foreign contractors, non-governmental organisations and intelligence agencies. They have a very developed and confusing terminology. They distinguish as such ‘psychological operations’ (the infamous PSYOP), ‘information operations’ and ‘civil operations’. Separately, ‘military deception’ (MILDEC) and ‘computer network operations’, i.e. cyber warfare (CNO), are distinguished. Which operations are generic and which are specific, you can’t just figure out, it depends on the current jurisdiction. All this is regulated by the relevant doctrines, a huge number of manuals, instructions and interagency agreements.”
Can we talk about a separate kind of troops that deals with psychological warfare?
“In a sense, yes, because there are Civil Affairs and Psychological Forces that have their own command, known as CAPOC. These forces employ 13,500 people, mostly reservists. However, these forces have the status of ‘airborne’, i.e. an airmobile unit. This tells us something about the importance and readiness of these forces. Strictly speaking, in the United States, there are only 6 branches of the armed forces, which are called ‘types of armed forces’. Psychological warfare is subordinated to such a type as the ‘US Army’, i.e. ground forces. Historically, CAPOC was one of the four main commands of the Special Operations Forces (SOF). However, in 2006, it was transferred to the Army Reserve Command. However, the SOF still includes the 4th and 8th Psychological Operations Groups, the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Training Center. The control structure is very confusing, it is constantly changing, in addition, there are hidden control contours and it is far from easy to understand this.”
What are the best words to describe the atmosphere at Johns Hopkins University?
“In a word – surreal.”
Lots of feminists, freaks, and other psychological mutants?
“And that, too, but every American university is full of them now. There was no direct pressure on us, students from Russia, but the atmosphere around us was quite tense. I was lucky that I finished the second part of the course online while already in Russia. Otherwise, there would definitely be problems. By the way, there were free courses where they talked about the occupation of Ukraine by Russia.”
In a deep historical perspective?
That is, in one of the leading universities in the United States and the world, they simply carried outright pseudoscientific nonsense?
“That’s what it’s all about. It is also worth remembering the courses on international humanitarian law. This is indeed a very important course, and it is in demand for UN observers, participants in international humanitarian missions, etc. The emphasis in this course was placed on local military conflicts. However, it was compiled in such a way that it was fed up with misinterpreted and frankly false examples from the events in Chechnya, Abkhazia, and Syria. A huge emphasis was, again, placed on Ukraine. This is where the key was hidden – they used this course for anti-Russian propaganda, convincing us that we are an evil empire. This demonstrates the truly brutal seriousness of their approach to us, if even in such trifles as the usual course of international humanitarian law is adapted to demonise Russia.”
There is a certain maniacality in this totality of anti-Russian actions…
“This is due to the systemic nature of the state approach in relation to the state, which they consider the main enemy. However, they do not shy away from testing radical methods of influencing public consciousness within their own country.”
Are you talking about the MK-Ultra project?
“About this, too. However, I am sure that the entire MK-Ultra project scandal was a leak organised by the CIA. On the one hand, with stories about dubious para-scientific experiments and other extravagances that amaze the imagination, they wanted to distract attention from projects that really promised significant success. For example, from creating a conceptual and organisational framework for managing the global network that was being deployed in those years. On the other hand, it was part of a psychological war against both opponents and their own people. Do not forget about the reputation of the CIA, which created an incredible fantastic halo around itself. States within their own country are doing incredible things. What is the ‘columbine’ phenomenon worth – mass shootings in educational institutions and on the streets?”
Why would they do that?
“Increase mass hysteria. Ultimately, this is beneficial for gun sellers.”
But after all, these tragedies are the main argument against the free circulation of weapons?
“Argument after argument, and gun sales are growing by leaps and bounds after such actions. People seek to protect themselves from psychopaths and individual terrorists. This country will not ban the civilian circulation of weapons, this is simply impossible due to their social structure. Arming teachers, yes. And this, again, will increase sales of pistols and revolvers.”
Isn’t this a conspiracy theory?
“For those who are familiar with the American reality and mentality – not at all. You see, any social phenomenon, including the worst, can be monetised. From the moment such monetisation is successful, these phenomena begin to be stimulated. And accusations of conspiracy, if you’ve noticed, are especially popular with liberals. If globalists discover that someone has discovered their manipulations and the meaning of their activities, they brand them as a conspiracy theorist and paranoid.”
Generally speaking, for liberal economic thinking, and for political thinking, it is extremely characteristic to believe in the forces of self-organisation of society. A huge number of phenomena and events that are clearly the work of human hands and the result of the design of specific people are declared either the notorious “invisible hand of the market”, then the spontaneous self-organisation of concerned citizens, or simply statistical phenomena of large numbers – they say that rare events tend to be grouped, and only an ignoramus who has not mastered the course can see the meaning critical thinking or crazy.
“By the way, about the so-called critical thinking courses. If you think that this is another name for a course in formal-logical argumentation logic, then you are mistaken. This is a special psychological and propaganda operation at the same time. This course is full of examples from speeches by Russian politicians and opinion leaders who ‘expose’ our propaganda. However, its theoretical content has little in common with classical formal logic. This is another Newspeak. By the way, I would like to point out that I also consider the emigration to Russia of an American technical specialist who spoke about the possibilities of electronic investigation and other horrors of total surveillance to be a similar operation controlled by a leak.”
Are you talking about a person whose last name is “Snowden”?
“Yes, about him. By the way, he is most likely honest in his intentions. But, note how the Americans allowed him to fly out of the airport in Singapore without hindrance. And remember to compare the stories with Bout and Yaroshenko. The Americans need this for some reason.”
Instilling fear of electronic espionage on a global scale?
“First and foremost, that’s it. This is an essential element of the reflexive games they are adept at.”
It is not for nothing that the philosopher and mathematician, author of reflexive games Vladimir Lefebvre left for the USA in the 70s to work at RAND? In itself, the story of Lefebvre’s emigration is mysterious. There is a hypothesis that he himself was an element of a reflexive game to reduce the danger of a nuclear conflict, which assumed partial transparency of intelligence. To minimise the risk, it was necessary to calculate the weights of mutual openness of technical intelligence tools. Lefebvre’s main thesis was that in the reflexive game ‘I know what you know, what I know’, etc.), the winner is the one who has this reflexive rank higher, i.e. who more times knows what the opponent knows about themselves.
“Do you know how the Ukrainian Armed Forces explains the humanity of our military and our interrogators in relation to Ukrainian prisoners?”
How can humanity be explained? It’s a blessing in itself, so why explain it?!
“Nothing like that! Ukrainian media disperse the topic that our fighters are itching to test them, but the strength of the personality of ‘enlightened defenders’ is so great that our knees are shaking with fear to touch them.”
In other words, this means that the case is presented as if our fighters are morally weak for torture?
“First of all, everything is presented in such a way that these nazi prisoners are so fierce! And what you’re talking about is a conclusion that anyone with logic can draw. And this also suits them.”
This sounds totally wild. Is this perverse explanation really believed?
“Yes, it is quite successfully believed. For all its simplicity, this is a non-trivial explanation, which has Western handwriting. These specialists are able to turn a lot of things that are against them to their advantage. In Ukraine, this work against us has reached a new qualitative level. UAF Centres for Information and Psychological Operations do not eat their bread in vain. On the other hand, they earn it themselves.”
“Everything that is created with the participation of Americans is a form of business. At a minimum, this activity should be self-supporting. But this is a bad scenario – it should be profitable. That’s how everything works for them. Everything that is done must have its own ‘product’. There are three types of product: white, grey, and black. The finances of the white product are visible, the grey one is partially visible, and the black one remains secret. If we talk about American intelligence agencies, they have always lacked the ‘white’ funds allocated by Congress. But it’s not just the stinginess of the deputies, the implication is that the CIA and other respected ‘firms’ are quite capable of making money both for their activities and for their own lives. Consider the Iran-Contra case, when the CIA sold billions of dollars’ worth of cocaine to its own citizens in California, then used the money to buy weapons for the Nicaraguan Contras, anti-tank missiles, and spare parts for Iran’s F-14s. Congress would never give money to buy weapons for Iran, even though it was an Iranian condition for the release of hostages from the US Embassy after the Islamic Revolution. And what happened to the journalist who in the 90s revealed the scheme of selling cocaine?”
If I remember correctly, he was first awarded the prestigious prize because there was a scandal. Then he was forgotten and lost his job. And it’d been forgotton – they killed them.
“That’s right. And this story is not a special case at all. These are the basics of their work in any field of activity. There must be a ‘product’! Right now, Sweden is supposed to join NATO, and the profit is already obvious – Swedish steel will become cheaper for the Americans.”
So what kind of profit can Centres for Information and Psychological Operations bring? What is this product?
“They has a network of call centres under its control, some of which are held on a contract basis. Their product is the proceeds from telephone fraud in Russia. This is not a secret – a large proportion of fraudulent calls to our citizens on behalf of Sberbank were made by them. Ukrainian call centres and troll factories for creating public opinion, mass registration of left-wing accounts on social networks are the western shoulder. Then there’s the eastern one. It is located in Malaysia.”
What is the ratio of white and black finances?
“According to my estimates, about 70% of the old and grey money to 30% black. These people do not shy away from any criminal business: financial fraud, direct theft of assets by hackers, drug trafficking, organ trafficking.”
All of the above is present in Ukraine?
“All this was and is in Kosovo, and all this is in Ukraine. At the moment, I am in the free zone and periodically observe traces of such activities, including communicating with the civilian population as part of our humanitarian operations. Ukraine was finally captured by them at Maidan and became a self-sustaining and even highly profitable project to destroy Russia. Everything was going smoothly for them. They miscalculated one thing during Maidan – they revealed the facts of using combat psychopharmacology to pump up local protest activists for violent actions. This was a very serious argument against those who tried to present the case as a manifestation of natural social processes.”
Are you talking about those who are inside the country or outside?
“About everyone. But, first and foremost, about those who are inside, including those who make decisions or influence them with their assessments and analytics. When these facts were revealed, there was no room for any illusions.”
Aleksandr, what do you think is the budget of this CAPOC?
“This is all a very dark forest, but as I understand it, CAPOC is funded in a white and grey way not only by the army, but also from the budgets of the Air Force and Navy, in particular from the budget of the Marine Corps. Generally speaking, the sources for such activities may be the most exotic. The money involved in this work on a global scale is enormous. In fact, they are quite comparable to the budgets of the Air Force and Navy themselves.”
Are you talking about hundreds of billions of dollars?
“Yes, about hundreds. In addition, it should be understood that the formal leadership of this Command for Psychological Operations and the real leaders of psychological and information warfare are far from the same thing. There is a hidden management circuit, secret regulations and regulatory documents. I am convinced that the actual management system for this extremely specific type of activity is very different from what you can read on numerous Pentagon websites.”
Why spend so much money?
“In addition to current expenses, there are strategic investments that are very significant. Thus, one of the most successful long-term US investments in this area has been in education and health care reform in other countries and in international organisations that support these reforms. If we talk about our Motherland, then, as it has now become clear, the reforms in these sectors actually pursued destructive goals. We suffered terrible damage, which today affects, among other things, the degree of our combat readiness. This means that we underestimated the strategic vulnerability in the field of education and health in principle, many officials perceived such warnings as nonsense. Now we are forced to correct the damage caused. It’s good that we can do that. And the damage to the consciousness and health of people, including reproductive health, in some countries dependent on the United States is so terrible that there are serious doubts that it can be compensated in principle in the foreseeable future.”
Aleksandr, what can we do against this brainwashing machine?
“The truth – our strength is in the truth. And the will to win.”
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