There’s general consensus that the Kremlin’s weaponized propaganda represents a significant component of Russia’s arsenal in the shadow conflict of ideas, information, espionage, and secret warriors that I’ve called Special War.... This is merely an online version of the well-honed Cold War practice of what Kremlin spies term Active Measures, meaning the dissemination of lies and semi-lies at the West for political effect.This has been ongoing throughout the Global War on Terror, or whatever we're now calling it (or, more likely, refusing to call it anything). The former Soviets are trying to do something interesting, and from a position of demographic weakness: they're trying to reassert Russian regional power, while knocking America out of the northern Middle East. They're also trying to portray themselves not as Godless Communists this time, but as the real defenders of Christian civilization against the Islamic tide -- while, at the same time, setting America up as the real enemy of Islam, in the hope that the heat from the various radical Islamic groups will point at us instead of at them.
There’s really nothing new about this except how the Internet gives such propaganda unprecedented reach, quickly. This is merely an online version of the well-honed Cold War practice of what Kremlin spies term Active Measures, meaning the dissemination of lies and semi-lies at the West for political effect. More properly it’s called disinformation – dezinformatsiya or deza for short among Kremlin insiders — a murky amalgam of fact and sordid fiction.
Their alliance with Iran and burgeoning activity in Syria is kinetic, but a major part of the effort really is this sort of "Special War." The United States has some capacities here: the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (now called the Open Source Center at the CIA), the Broadcasting Board of Governors at the State Department, public diplomacy worldwide, and military information operations and psychological operations. The military especially employs contractors in a supporting role here, so that they can draw on industry expertise -- global strategic information operations are run by the Strategic Command.
Schindler lists some other assets, although a number of those resources are Cold War relics that were disbanded ages ago. Still, we've got assets we could use. The problem is, we're really not in the game. It's for the usual reason. Schindler notes a recently abandoned State Department initiative and asks:
Who killed the Counter-Disinformation Team and why? What did the team produce during the time it existed? What has become of this product? How many people were on it? Does the State Department not consider countering Kremlin disinformation to be in its remit? Does the White House agree? What about the National Security Council? Is anybody in the U.S. government authorized to debunk Putin’s lies – if so, who? If not, why not?Good questions.