According to Gerasimov’s doctrine, informational influencing is an integral part of Russia’s military activity. Based on Georgian and Ukraine examples, there were big military exercises near to their borders before the military campaign against them began. Also, there was an increase of hostile propaganda flow.
Russo-Georgian war took place in August 2008, shortly before it there was an exercise Caucasus Frontier in the region. Information war with Georgia began already in 2006 when the campaign was launched against the Georgians, and Russia started to boycott Georgian import goods. Pro-Kremlin media was actively shaping the attitudes. This picture from a daily Komsomolskaja Pravda is titled “Respect yourself and your fatherland – Do not drink Georgian wine!”
NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence gives a good overview of activities against Ukraine before the active aggression. Propaganda on TV and social media was targeted mainly at the so-called compatriots, the Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Anxiousness was grown, there were threats of ethnic cleansing, cultural discrimination, economic degradation and so on. To seed uncertainty, there was also used fact falsification and production of seemingly tragic events. For example, before Crimea annexation, there was a woman who was acting different roles in various news pieces – a Crimean activist, soldier’s mother, a resident of Kiev, a resident of Odessa, a resident of Kharkiv, Anti-Maidan participator and war refugee from Donetsk (read more).
Before both attacks on Georgia and Ukraine, there was created a convincing enemy figure – the Georgians are thieves and robbers, and nationalist Ukrainians are gas thieves, supporters of Stepan Bandera and fascists. Russia defines its role as an arbitrator, peace builder and “older brother”. Kremlin propaganda has precisely calculated its target audience fears and dreams, and plots are chosen based on historical memory: great Russian empire and high culture, Second World War and the fascist atrocities, the greatness of the Soviet Union and its collapse.
NATO analysts point out, that based on Georgia and Ukraine, Russia has considerably developed its capabilities to use informational influencing in military conflicts. All the main information channels have been centralised, and messages are forwarded in coordination. Russia has responded to information age with high proficiency and creatively.
Should Estonia be aware of Zapad 2017, that will take place in September? For years there have been information campaigns against Estonia and its neighbours. Similarly, as it was with Ukraine, there have been formed channels and target groups (TV, social media; local Russians). Certain subjects are continuously repeated. Some methods are also recognisable, like professional protesters (it was covered in local daily Eesti Päevaleht) who seem to be very similar to fake soldier’s mother case.
Propastop does not find that the usual level of propaganda flow has increased, and become something more serious. For certain there are subjects that should be kept under inspection, such that could be used by Russia to escalate quickly in the media. Provocations are also possible. For example, in this year 8th of May, there was a video published on a Facebook page imitating Rossija 24 (belonging to Kremlin), claiming that Estonia is planning to attack Russia and invade Leningrad’s oblast. It is the same absurd propaganda piece that was circling already five years ago in the media.
2017 Victory Day rehearsal in Moscow. Dmitriy Fomin / Flickr / CC
Propaganda poster against Georgia. Wikipedia
Screenshot from a republished propaganda video, on fake Rossija 24 Facebook page, Roissija 24.