Vladimir Sazonov: How does Russia itself understand the information war?


At the end of August, Postimees published an opinion article by Vladimir Sazonov on how Russia itself understands the information war.

Sazanov puts forward a number of questions on the primary points of Russia’s influencing activities and seeks to respond to them on the basis of various documents on information warfare.

He writes: „ A lot has been talked about what and how Russia does. However, how does Russia understand the current information war (as well as in the context of conflicts)? This topic has not been thoroughly looked at. What do we read from public sources? Is it just what the Kremlin wants us to read or is it something else, something more? By analyzing the aspects and the ways of conducting Russian information warfare as well as the mechanism of working propaganda, we can conclude several things.“

When looking for answers, through the assistance of information he goes through the rise of influence activities in Russian military strategy as well as outlining the key points that are being spelled out by army leaders in one way or another through today’s practical applications.

For example, from the new concept of Russian foreign policy (2016) he highlighted the paragraph: „ Russia seeks objective acceptance in the world, develops effective public opinion information operations abroad, and contributes to strengthening the position of Russia and Russian language mass media in the world. It gives them state support, actively participating in international cooperation in the field of information and will take the necessary measures to protect its information against security threats. To this end, there is a widespread use of new information-communication technologies.“

Sazonov points out that a year ago, the head of the Russian military Academy, General M.A. Garejev claimed that it is important to develop new tools related to „soft power“ – wars must be conducted not only by traditional ways  but also by cybernetic, informational and other means – this is our weakest area“.

Going back in history, Sazanov brings to mind a well-known Russian strategist and military theorist, Svetšin, who in 1927 already brought attention to aspects of information-psychological influencing of opponents. He wrote: „ It is necessary to be a psychologist, to know the ethnographic specifics, of the opposing peoples as well as all of their social groupings and orientations. To sharply focus on the smallest of details without losing sight of the bigger picture – and only then will it be possible to decide the right course of action through the behaviour of our enemies“.

Sazanov cannot forget Gerassimov, noting that the Commander of the General Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces also emphasizes in his article „The Value of Science is in the Foresight, New Challenges Demand Rethinking the Forms and Methods of Carrying Out Combat Operations“, published in 2013. It has become very famous when discussing the Russian hybrid war in the West as well as importance of information in war: „The focus of applied methods of conflict has altered in the direction of broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian and other non-military measures – applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population. All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character, including carrying out actions of international conflict and the actions of special operations forces“. Gerassimov adds that, „ new information technologies have made it possible to significantly reduce the spatial, temporal and informational gap between the military and governing bodies“. In reality, Gerassimov does not say anything new, repeating the thoughts of others previously expressed.

Russia’s strategies on influence activities is in the centre of the country’s own subordinates, for which the need for attention is spelled out, for example in the 2014 Russian military doctrine (Военная доктрина Российской Федерации), which takes into account the dangers in the area of information both in the internal and external spheres. The Doctrine also pays attention to among other things, internal audiences and youth not loyal to the nation, who are seen as frequent „targets“ in the influence activity area.

In conclusion, Sazonov writes: „ The main goal of Russia’s information warfare is to influence its own people: to keep them „restrained“ and to feed them with information that helps Putin’s regime to continue to be in power. Russia wants to break up the EU and NATO because then Russia could expand its sphere of influence.

The text of Saronov is part of an article series, of which the next one was released on August 25 and looks at the Russian information war against Estonia.

Photo: Sille Annuk/Scanpix/Postimees