Nikita Danyuk on the Need to Defend the Informational Sovereignty of Russia

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Currently in the West strategies to counter Russia are being actively developed, including in the information field of the battle, various reports and analytical notes are being written, the essence of which is channeled towards attempts to evidentially substantiate Russian aggression worldwide, and the need to counteract it, up to information warfare inside Russia itself. Besides this, Russia is on the eve of the main internal political event of the last 6 years — the 2018 president elections of the Russian Federation, and this means that big efforts will be made for the purpose of discrediting the Russian government, the institute of elections, and their end results. Undoubtedly, domestic and foreign Russian-speaking oppositional media will take part in this information attack.

It’s not a coincidence that US congressmen demand to increase in the budget for 2018 financing for the BBG agency, which supervises “Radio Svoboda” and “Voice of America”, having given $81.6 million more than the agency itself asked for in order to combat “Russian disinformation” with their own propaganda. The committee on appropriations of the House of Representatives of US Congress suggested to increase the budget of “Voice of America” by $33 million, and also by $24 million for “Radio Svoboda”, which broadcasts to the Russian-speaking space.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is an “independent” federal agency that controls all American civil (not army) international radio media. Since October 1st, 1999, the BBG became an “independent” federal agency responsible for the realisation of all governmental and financed-by-the-US-Government international broadcasting. The BBG became the assignee of the disbanded United States Information Agency (USIA) — an organ of foreign policy propaganda of the US, which existed since August, 1953, to October 1st, 1999. The broadcasting functions of USIA were given to the BBG, and the informational function of USIA were transferred to the US State Department.

The mission of the BBG is to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy”. The board of the BBG consists of nine members, possessing experience in area of mass communications, radio and television, and also in international relations.

The board members of the BBG:

  • Rex Tillerson — the US Secretary of State, Karen Kornbluh, Ryan Crocker, Jeff Shell, Kenneth Weinstein, Michael Kempner, Dr. Leon Aron.

The following committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the US Congress control the work of the BBG and its programs of broadcasting:

  • Senate Committee on Foreign Relations;

  • The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee;

  • Committees on appropriations of State funds of the US House of Representatives, and the Senate controls the direction and uses of the allocated funds.

The increase in financing of US propaganda projects during the electoral cycle (2018 presidential elections) in the conditions of information war against Russia is directed towards support for the liberal-oppositional media sphere, which is ready to actively promote the anti-Russian line on their information platforms, to groundlessly criticise the domestic and foreign policy pursued by the Russian State, stimulating the protest potential inside the country.

The American structures (BBG) in their 2018 report (in the section “Content for Russia”) don’t even hide the fact of special and active highlighting of so-called “anti-corruption meetings” in Russia, which majoritively were unauthorised political actions organised by representatives of the Russian non-systemic opposition, and also their active work in the regions of Russia. The manner of covering internal Russian events is curious. The structural divisions of BBG (“Radio Free Europe/Radio Svoboda” — RFE/RL) distinguish themselves by their active involvement in the internal political processes in Russia, especially within the framework of highlighting various kinds of mass protests. A noticeable growth in the viewership of the materials of these platforms (more than 3 million views in a few days) published on the Internet by the Russian RFE/RL service and also on the regional website of the Volga region (Idel.Realii) was reached due to the active coverage of the March protest actions and trucker strikes.

The distinctive peculiarity and main aim of the international information broadcasting of the US is not at all the unannounced “countering of ubiquitous Russian propaganda”, but the securing on a long-term basis of its informational presence in the Russian-speaking segment of the Internet, which at first will allow to provide its presence, and further – to dominate the anti-Russian information agenda, capable of making an effective impact on the general population of Russia. In fact, this concerns guiding the consciousness of the masses and information manipulation, which allows Washington, via soft power, to influence the development of the internal political situation in Russia.

The speech of the current head of the BBG Kenneth Weinstein before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on November 17th, 2015, eloquently testifies to this. In his speech the American functionary noted that the BBG engages key audiences inside Russia for the purpose of confronting Russian propaganda, and listed a number of launched programs (more will be said about this below). According to him, with the help of these programs it is possible to attract viewers by paying attention to existing problems. For example, Russians contemplate whether their country moves in the correct direction, whether Putin’s policies are acceptable, whether the Russian social reality is a place where they want to raise children, start or expand a business, or get an education – the key questions concerning the life of each Russian inhabitant. In other words, a media sphere is being formed directed not simply towards fighting against “Kremlin propaganda”, but towards the fight for “the future of Russia”. Such foreign Russian-speaking media as “Radio Free Europe/Radio Svoboda”, “Voice of America”, and “Current Time” are especially prominent.

Interference in the internal affairs of the Russian State will be carried out via active saboteur work with the Russian audience. For this purpose separately functioning publications that broadcast in the regions of Russia were created. Such an approach foresees attempts to shake-up the situation from within by creating multiple centers of protest far from the federal center, having played “regional and national cards”. As a reminder, the BBG plans to finance websites devoted to regional news in the Chechen, Tatar, and Bashkir languages. The broadcasting in the Tatar and Bashkir languages, most likely, is closely connected to the information agenda surrounding Ukraine, which must consist of detailed publicising of the “aggressive actions” of Russia, the “annexation” of Crimea, the “occupation” of the southeast of Ukraine, and also illuminating the “difficult situation” of the Crimean Tatar population. Thus, already in the 2014 report of the BBG, in the description of the activity of “Radio Free Europe/Radio Svoboda” a sequence of such information policy is clearly traced, for example, it speaks about “the severe reality that came to the Crimean Tatars in the annexed Crimean peninsula”.

This is confirmed also by the functioning of the website “Krym.Realii” (both in the Russian and Ukrainian languages) RFE/RS, which is an aggregator of the anti-Russian information agenda. There is even a separate section under the name “History”, which includes such “semantic blocks” as “The diary of the occupation of Crimea”, “Pages of Crimean history”, “Deportation of Crimean Tatars”, “Testimonies of occupation”.

Several information Internet platforms started by “Radio Free Europe/Radio Svoboda” are operational: “Radio Azatlyk” (Tatar-bashkir service), “Idel.Realii” (Radio Azatlyk project for the Volga region). Through these resources media support is given to such extremist organisations as “Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people”, and also its most known representatives (M. Dzhemilev and R. Chubarov), who distinguish themselves by their calls to return the Crimean peninsula by force, and also to participate in the transport and energy blockade of the peninsula. Accents of these news wires are biased towards disinformation concerning Moscow’s policy on the peninsula, undermining trust towards institutes of the government (in particular, among the Crimean Tatar population), strengthening in the consciousness of the population the thesis about the “annexation of Crimea” and the “difficult fate” of the Crimean Tatars as a part of Russia.

Such orientation of the information agenda is reminiscent of the informational and psychological operations of the West during the cold war. Work with the national republics and destructive nationalist forces inside them was one of the tools to informationally influence the Soviet Union. The weakening internal unity and, eventually, the dismantlement of the USSR became possible also thanks to active support for oppositional nationalist groups in the national republics. Already back then an important role was played by radio stations (HQs of psychological warfare) financed by the American government and supervised by intelligence agencies.

According to the memoirs of the Lieutenant-General, chief of the information-analytical department of the KGB of the USSR N. Leonov: “The ‘Svoboda’ radio station broadcasted in all languages of nations that were a part of the USSR, and it was striking how the contents of broadcasts in every language had a character of a narrowly-targeted nationalist beam, counting on exciting the nationalism of precisely these nations. The stirring of anti-Russian sentiments was dominant, but at the same time the seeds of national hatred were being sowed in general”.

In the conditions of the information war launched by the West against Russia, attacks on its informational sovereignty must be perceived as military aggression in the conditions of war of the classical type. In the fight for the “minds and hearts” of Russian citizens it is extremely important not to allow Russian people to become objects of information manipulation aimed at the destruction of national consent and unity, and also of the Russian State itself.

An integral part of State sovereignty is information and digital sovereignty, which, when lost, can lead to irreversible consequences: disorganisation of the State system of governing the country, information chaos, and crisis inside Russian society.

Ensuring Russian national interests and the realisation of a sovereign information policy don’t at all mean the introduction of total control and the destruction of freedom of speech. It is attempts to interfere in the Russian information space from the outside (acts of “psychological warfare”, “ideological sabotage”, and other methods of manipulating the consciousness of the masses) with destructive purposes that are inadmissible. The deliberate spreading of disinformation of anti-Russian orientation must be stopped.

Steps directed towards restricting the destructive informational influence of the western media will predictably lead to the emergence of criticism towards Russia, to accusations that the authorities fight against “freedom of speech” and “independent journalism” (although it is difficult to describe as “independent” activity based on financing from the State budget of a foreign state, within the framework of which there is a clear informational policy formed by the client).

Counteraction of so-called Russian propaganda aimed at the internal Russian audience must be perceived as an attempt to infringe on Russian informational sovereignty.

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