By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-ukrainian-aspect-information-war/
The joke about two tankmen on the Champs Elysée lamenting Russia’s defeat in the information war very accurately reflects the main national sport of Russians – sprinkling ashes on their heads for no reason and announcing their own successes as failures.
Moreover, this national entertainment is in demand at all levels — from taxi drivers to ministers. Sometimes it seems to me that Russia is indeed governed not by elected authorities, but directly by God, because everyone around is sure that during decades everything is being done incorrectly and the “information war is lost”, and as a result Russia in 20 years returned from the political garbage can that it was firmly entrenched in by the end of the 90’s to the category of world powers of the first rank. And this was achieved mainly due to the jewellery work of the diplomatic department and accomplishments on the information front comparable only with the great Persian campaign of the invincible Alexander III of Macedon.
It is possible to know nothing about the successes of the Russia Today channel, but the attempts to illegally block it that are periodically undertaken in the US and the EU, as well as the campaign of persecution against Margarita Simonyan – concerning who attempts are being made with enviable persistence not for the first year to try to promote her on the Russian Internet and social networks – is vivid evidence of the absolute successfulness of the information project that is purposefully working with the audiences of a probable, as was said earlier, and, as is customary to now say, hybrid opponent.
In the western information field RT feels as free as German tanks in the French rear in May, 1940. The West simply can’t do anything to oppose it.
The constant hysterics concerning “Russian propaganda”, “Russian hackers”, and “Russian interference in elections” are the best confirmation that the western information front has been penetrated and the units of its information army disperse in panic. In order to at least somehow stabilise the situation, the West is obliged to resort to non-conventional actions in the form of a physical ban on the Russian media. This is approximately like a nuclear weapon being used against a chess opponent for the sake of winning the World Championship.
And so in conditions when it is possible to discuss only the brand of champagne that should be opened during celebrations after the parade of information victory, it turns out that, according to the opinion of many, we lost the information war not only to the West, but also to Ukraine. And this is despite the fact that Ukraine prohibited the dissemination on its territory not only of Russian media, but also practically any printed materials; it doesn’t allow Russian journalists on its territory; and it represses its own journalists should they dare to express a point of view that is different to the officially approved one.
Whereas in Russia the Ukrainian propagandists who come to speak on the leading TV channels are even paid extra so that they aren’t too ashamed to show to the Russian viewer the brutal grin of “victorious democracy”. I.e., Ukraine, which lost the information fight, having switched to a deaf defense, tries via police measures to fence off at least its own population from the Russian media. Working with a Russian audience simply isn’t an option at all.
So where is this “defeat”?
I have such an impression that Russian people and many Russian politicians confuse the information and political front. They see that a Nazi-oligarchical regime still sits in Kiev, and understand that even Poroshenko’s departure won’t change anything in this regard – and if something changes, then it will only be for the worst, and for some reason consider this to be an information defeat.
But in reality this isn’t even a defeat political, but it isn’t yet a victory. A full and absolute victory in the Ukrainian direction today is unattainable for objective circumstances of a geopolitical nature.
Let’s look at things step by step.
Firstly, in the geopolitical arena Russia is withstanding not the incidental historical misunderstanding known as Ukraine, but the United States of America — a country that was recognised as a global hegemon only five years ago and consolidated the resources of the collective West and two-thirds of the planet controlled by it in its fight against Moscow.
As of the current moment the situation has changed for the better. Russia obtained numerous allies; the unity in the ranks of the opponent has been undermined and its seemingly inexhaustible resource base has seriously evaporated. But anyway, the US’ total amount of resources available for mobilisation still considerably surpasses Russia’s.
Secondly, being objectively weaker, in order to not lose and be torn into pieces Russia had to define really important strategic points with an absolute precision and concentrate its limited resources exactly there, trying to achieve local superiority over the opponent.
Over the past 10 years Moscow has outplayed Washington in three such local campaigns:
- It landed a knockout blow in the Caucasus in August, 2008, having literally dispersed the Georgian army in only a few hours and having put the Georgian state, which was carefully created by the US, on the edge of collapse. In addition, it didn’t finish it off, not allowing the US to palm off its former active asset, which turned into a passive one, onto Russia.
- It operatively transferred Crimea to the Russian jurisdiction in 2014, having deprived the US of the main planned dividend from the Ukrainian putsch and having turned Ukraine, which was planned as a strategic active asset, into a passive one (moreover, in such a way that the US didn’t even understand immediately that there is nothing for them to gain in this direction and thus senselessly pumped resources into the Ukrainian black hole for 2 more years).
- It finishes the Syrian campaign not simply with tactical success in the form of keeping Assad in power and blocking the idea of the Qatar-Saudi gas pipeline to the Mediterranean Sea (which would give Russia serious competition in the European gas market by disrupting as a result Russian-European political-economic rapprochement), but by strategically squeezing the US out of the Big Middle East and filling the void left by the Americans there.
Thirdly, militarily-politically solving the Ukrainian crisis demanded from Russia at this stage to longly freeze a huge number of resources that, unfortunately, aren’t elastic. Russia would lose the possibility to pursue an active foreign policy in all other regions of the planet. It’s not a coincidence that the Russian pseudo-patriotic fifth column initially demanded to withdraw troops from Syria and send them to Ukraine. The best way to lose a war is to tie one’s resources down to a secondary direction, having handed over strategically important positions to the opponent.
The problem with Ukraine is that Russia initially has nobody to lean on there. Local elites differ from each other only by their degree of hostility towards Moscow. Some of them are overt about it, and others are more covert for a certain period of time but always betray.
I will remind that Yanukovych and all his government – half of which is now in Russia in exile, and the other half regularly serves the putschists in Ukraine – pursued the policy of European integration considerably more effectively than Poroshenko (by the way, more effectively than Yushchenko too), and in this regard was much more dangerous to Russia, although he was considered in Ukraine as a pro-Russian politician.
Not having the local elite to lean on, Russia would be obliged to assume the governance of Ukraine, which, proceeding from the sizes of the Ukrainian state and the population, is simply technically impracticable.
Fourthly, not having the opportunity at this stage to achieve an absolute victory in the Ukrainian direction, Russia frosted [partially froze – ed] the situation. Kiev is already not ours, but it’s not the West’s either. A wishy-washy regime is sat there, capable of surviving only at the expense of the West, compromising by the fact of its very existence the idea of the “western paradise” in the opinion of Ukrainians.
The actual state of affairs incontestably proves to most of the population: it was a nourishing, cheerful, and safe in the conditions of friendship with Russia, and the “breakthrough” towards the west turned the once prospering country into a bandit reserve, to live in which becomes more and more famishing, cold, and frightening year after year.
Fifthly, the information war is ensuring in relation to military-political operations. Its purpose can’t differ from military-political purposes. At this stage the task of militarily-politically destroying Ukraine hasn’t been set. On the contrary, there is a need to preserve its frosted [a partially frozen battlefield – ed] condition, which gives Russia the chance to reactivate the Ukrainian crisis when it will be favourable to it, but which in the meantime lets the Ukrainian regime remain on the balance sheet of the West. Therefore, efforts on the information front are also directed at this.
And should the need to shake-up the situation arise, then we will do it instantly.