March 8 2022, 13:27 pm

To Combat Russia’s Ukraine Disinformation, Western Democracies Should Take a Page from Putin’s Own Playbook, Carnegie Report Argues

The Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace, a US think tank, has pub­lished a report on how West­ern democ­ra­cies should com­bat Russia’s dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions on Ukraine, argu­ing that they should “take a page from Putin’s own play­book.” Accord­ing to the Carnegie report:

Feb­ru­ary 24, 2022 After months of amass­ing troops around Ukraine’s bor­ders, Russia’s inva­sion of its neigh­bor was met with fran­tic con­dem­na­tion from world lead­ers and an out­pour­ing of sup­port on social media. Rus­sia has long been prim­ing the infor­ma­tion envi­ron­ment for this inva­sion, iden­ti­fy­ing and exploit­ing region­al griev­ances in east­ern and south­ern Ukraine since the country’s inde­pen­dence in 1991, and more recent­ly in fab­ri­cat­ing pre­tens­es for start­ing a war of its own mak­ing. While Russ­ian nar­ra­tives con­tin­ue to be ampli­fied by state media, as well as Amer­i­can politi­cians seiz­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to attack oppo­nents at home, West­ern democ­ra­cies must not be sucked into mere­ly refut­ing Russ­ian claims. They must shift focus to the dis­as­trous con­se­quences of this war. At the same time, they must not lose sight of oth­er pres­sure points Rus­sia has been push­ing in its dig­i­tal sov­er­eign­ty efforts.

Read the full report here.

The report notes that Rus­sia has used a vari­ety of dis­in­for­ma­tion nar­ra­tives on Ukraine, includ­ing claims that parts of Ukraine are Russ­ian and need to be recov­ered or that eth­nic Rus­sians in Ukraine are fac­ing geno­cide in rebel-held areas. Accord­ing to an EU dis­in­for­ma­tion watch­dog, these nar­ra­tives have “become ever more detached from real­i­ty, and at times car­toon­ish­ly unhinged.”

To counter Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion on Ukraine, the Carnegie report sug­gests west­ern democ­ra­cies should “take a page from the Russ­ian play­book,” including:

  • West­ern media out­lets and offi­cials should recy­cle exam­ples of how Rus­sians have mis­led audi­ences in the past
  • They should appeal to a Russ­ian audi­ence and spot­light the costs ordi­nary Rus­sians are paying
  • They should pro­vide coun­ter­facts to Russ­ian nar­ra­tives, f.e. ques­tion the true inten­tions of Russia’s “de-naz­i­fi­ca­tion” nar­ra­tive as Rus­sia has a proven track record of sup­port for far-right ele­ments in Europe.
  • They need to keep an eye on the wider geopol­i­tics and for­mu­late a response in line with demo­c­ra­t­ic values.
  • They need to back up their words with actions.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report has exten­sive­ly cov­ered Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion on Ukraine. While the Carnegie report focus­es on pol­i­cy sug­ges­tions for west­ern pol­i­cy­mak­ers, we have also rec­om­mend­ed guides for ordi­nary cit­i­zens on nav­i­gat­ing social media and avoid­ing ampli­fy­ing propaganda.


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