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.