Report exposes Kremlin media manipulation

A report from the Riga-based NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE) gives a detailed account of the Russian leadership's sometimes-sophisticated, sometimes-crude methods of manipulating media channels at home and abroad.

Titled "Analysis of Russia's Information Campaign Against Ukraine," the 48-page report covers the period from the Vilnius Summit in November 2013 until the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014.

"Russia has shown a willingness to modernize Soviet-era tools and
adapt them to today’s complex information environment. Critically, it has been willing to afford information-based activities primacy in operations, using more conventional military forces in a supporting role," the report says.

The notion of compatriots deserves particular attention as it allows Russia to legitimize the state’s duty to defend its compatriots abroad from any kind of threat to their rights or physical well-being. 

"It also leads to the explanation of the need to sustain the so-called Russian World which implies maintenance of a unified Russian language information sphere beyond the borders of the Russian Federation," the report continues, before outlining Russia's close control of state-owned media channels and increasing use of bogus commentators and trolls to control internet comment boards.

"The Russian governing elite cultivates a large number of bloggers and trolls in the social media through the Presidential Administration in order to spread information supporting Russia’s narrative and to silence opponents," the report says.

The key "Russian narrative" the Kremlin is trying to promote consists of: "positioning Russian Slavic Orthodox Civilization in opposition to 'decadent' Europe; positioning Ukraine as integral to Eurasianism and the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union; promoting the Russian World which unites Eastern Slavs, implies that Russians and Ukrainians are one nation, and recognizes the natural supremacy of Russia; portraying Ukrainians as a pseudo-nation who are unable to administer their own country and sustain their statehood; referring to the Great Patriotic War thus bringing out the hatred of Nazism and relating it to the Euromaidan protesters who are labelled as nationalists, Nazis and fascists posing a threat to the ethnically Russian part of Ukraine’s population; dividing the West by utilising the differing interests of EU member states and positioning the USA in opposition to the EU; and using legal and historic justifications to legitimize Russia’s actions in Ukraine," the STRATCOMCOE report concludes.

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