The Swedish Defence Research Agency (Swedish acronym FOI) in March 2015 published a 60-page report on Russian information warfare (Ulrik Franke, War by Non-Military Means: Understanding Russian Information Warfare). In a case study the Russian attempts to discredit Carl Bildt is presented. Excerpts below:
This report is first and foremost a review of Russian official documents and Russian literature on military theory with regard to information warfare. It also offers a few case studies, to shed light on how the theory is applied in practice. One conclusion is that information warfare is not considered to be just a matter for the Armed Forces, but rather a strategic matter that requires the coordination of many government agencies. Another conclusion is that information warfare, according to doctrine and theory. is conducted continuously in peacetime and wartime alike. Information warfare is also highly politicized.
Among the driving forces for this is a view of the world as a zero-sum game, where globalisation is reducing Russian security, and where Russia lags behind Western countries in terms of technology.
In the Russian view of modern war, information warfare is given a lot of weight. Not least recent events in Ukraine have sparked a renewed interest in these aspects. This report aims to explore the intellectual foundations and practical use of information warfare as seen by Russian military theorists and expressed in official doctrine and documents, as well as by examining a handful of case studies.
Why is this important? Because information warfare is rapidly becoming an integral part of modern conflicts. The modern, increasingly digital, media landscape and the rapid development of information and communication technologies have created a new playing field. This needs to be understood by everyone – political decision makers, military officers, and the public alike.
Information warfare is about achieving goals that used to require serious military force and a lot of bloodshed, e.g. annexing a part of another country, by other means. Victory and defeat take place in the minds of the belligerents. Sometimes a message needs to be hammered home by destroying military hardware, civilian infrastructure and innocent life – but sometimes just the message, if cleverly crafted and credibly supported, is enough. The traditional military component need not be removed, but it can take on another role.
The illegal annexation of Crimea is an…example.
To the untrained eye, traditional military operations look like a bunch of vehicles and people in uniforms moving around. However, to the properly trained observer, seemingly scant observations of tanks, artillery and armoured personnel carriers can not only reveal the bigger picture of what is going on at the moment, but even form the basis of a projection of what will probably happen in the near future. In much the same way, this report is intended to be an aid for seeing the wood rather than the individual trees of Russian information warfare. The main part of the report, therefore, focuses on describing information warfare as expressed in Russian official documents and military theory. In terms of official documents, its coverage should be reasonably comprehensive. In terms of military theory, coverage is more limited, and is mostly based on Voennaia mysl, the official military theory journal of the Ministry of Defence.
Throughout the escalating crisis in and subsequent Russian aggression against Ukraine from late 2013 onwards, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt was an outspoken supporter of Ukraine and a critic of Russia until his term in office ended following election defeat in September 2014.
Therefore it is not surprising that he was regularly smeared in Russian state-controlled media such as RT (formerly known as Russia Today). For the domestic Russian-speaking audience, Bildt was discredited in the popular Vesti Nedeli [News of the Week] show on the state-owned TV channel Rossiia 1 on December 1, 2013 (Kiselev, 2013). Bildt was called a CIA agent and a Poltava revanchist, and this was followed by smearing of degenerate Swedish child-rearing and children’s culture (Ennis, 2013b).
In the wake of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 tragedy, Bildt and Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs Radek Sikorski were dubbed “the principal perpetrators of this madness”, having schemed to break “the ties between Russia and Ukraine that had taken centuries to build” (Lozansky, 2014).
In August, an RT columnist celebrated Bildt’s predicted electoral defeat: “If any single European politician has blood on his hands in Ukraine this year, it’s Stockholm’s resident neo-con fanatic” (MacDonald, 2014).
Comment: The disinformation campaign against Foreign Minister Carl Bildt clearly shows that Russia in political and psychological warfare is using Soviet methods from the Cold War.