For decades, the United States and the West in general have been facing the barrage of disinformation from the Soviet Union and now from Russia under Vladimir Putin. As a kleptocracy lacking conventional means of international power and influence, Putin’s Russia is increasingly reliant upon nonlinear methods of undermining Western democracies. An amalgam of influence operations allowed Russia the opportunity to shape events by manipulating public opinion. This ability was highly coveted by the Soviet Union, but never achieved during the Cold War. Modern Russia acquired a unique set of tools, allowing hostile actors to blend in with legitimate news sources and opinion-makers.
While much of this hybrid war is being waged through hordes of bots, trolls and imposters, one vector of the Kremlin’s influence army is operating in plain sight. Like Trump, Putin is obsessed with television. Observing firsthand the role played by television in the realm of political power, Putin knows the importance of controlling the narrative. Having subdued and defanged the media in Russia, Putin moved on to attacking his external enemies by aggressively influencing public opinion in the West. RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan described the outlet as an unofficial, “soft power” branch of the Russian Defense Ministry, waging information warfare against western democracies.Read more