Russian defense minister announced that the country’s armed forces have set up troops for “informational operations.” He also declared that “propaganda must be smart, competent and effective.”
Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu made these several explosive announcements, when addressing the lower house of parliament, he also confirmed reports that Russia’s military has “counter-propaganda” troops.
Defense minister confirms setting up operations for counter-propaganda
The Russian state news agency Itar-Tass also reported him saying that “In the meantime, an army for informational operations has been set up that is much more effective and stronger than what we had previously created for the purpose of what we call counter-propaganda.”
The head of parliament’s Defense and Security Committee, Vladimir Shamanov, explained to the Interfax news agency that the new unit would likely deal with cyber warfare, but he did not specify how it would go about doing that.
Alexander Kokcharov, Russian defense analyst at IHS Markit, said, “my understanding is that this is not just the cyber warfare capabilities, which the Russian Ministry of Defense most probably has, but also information warfare capabilities.” He went on to say that, “Shoygu’s comment on the importance of “clever and efficient propaganda” are indicative of that.”
Pertinently he addressed a concern that has already arisen in Europe by saying “the news will probably be of concern for Western countries, especially those countries in Europe which have elections scheduled for 2017—Netherlands, France and Germany.”
A Russian military expert at Chatham House, Keir Giles, says a unit of this type was expected ever since the Russian armed forces faced difficulties in getting their narrative across to the Russian people and the world during the 2008 conflict with Georgia. Giles stated that its role would be much more than just cyber warfare.
will include activities the West calls strategic communications, psychological operations and influence activities among the population
“Some people may confuse this unit with the setting up of a cyber command unit, but that is a mismatch of definitions, since in Russia cyber is not a distinct area of warfighting,” Giles said. “Under the broader Russian definition of informational confrontation, you are not limited just to computers and networks, but you are looking more generally at other types of information space as well—the media, or what is in people’s heads.”
The proposed unit’s activities of “information operations” would probably include activities the West calls strategic communications, psychological operations and influence behavior among the population, as well as cyber warfare, he said.