On December 12, SouthFront released a translation of the analytical article entitled “Western Strategic Propaganda To Contain Russia”. The following text originally appeared in the “Foreign Military Review” publication in 2014. Nonetheless, it is still useful to understand the concept of the strategic propaganda and how it is used by the NATO.
Written by Colonel V. Olevsky; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2014 #10, translated by Mona Lita exclusively for SouthFront
The first part of the article examined the views of the American military-political leadership’s ways to achieve information superiority over the enemy as the most important factor in achieving victory in a modern war. A new concept of “Strategic Communications” (Strategic Communications) is presented, which emerged as part of a “comprehensive (integrated) approach” to crisis management and foresees the coherence of the use of military and civilian information tools to achieve the global goals of the alliance in peacekeeping activities. The concept of “a common information space of NATO” (CIS) is disclosed as an integral part of the global information environment and one of the components of the combat (operational) space. The information-combat and information-propagandistic components of the CIS, as well as the interrelated groups of elements included in them such as information-control, production and executive are under consideration.
The objectives of the information and propaganda support of the military activities of the alliance are achieved in the course of information and psychological operations (IPO), which means a set of coordinated activities is carried out by the political and military bodies of NATO in conjunction with the member countries of the organization in order to exert appropriate influence on the international community, control bodies, information sources, communication systems and information support of the opposing sides, other states involved in the conflict, while simultaneously countering a similar enemy influence. At the same time, special attention is paid to bringing specially prepared information to the enemy’s military personnel.
According to the concept of “strategic propaganda” IPOs are aimed at solving three interrelated tasks: changing the worldview and forming the required line of behavior of target audiences (Influence Activity); protection of their own information (Information Protection Activity); disorganization of the enemy’s control system (Counter Command Activity).
These tasks are performed within the following main directions (forms) of information and psychological impact:
- conducting psychological operations (Psychological Operations);
- misleading the enemy / misinformation (Deception);
- operational camouflage (Operations Security);
- organization of electronic warfare – electronic warfare (Electronic Warfare);
- conducting counter-propaganda (Counter-Propaganda).
In addition, the following are considered as auxiliary elements of the IPO: ensuring the security of its information (Information Security); conducting operations in computer networks (Computer Network Operations); assistance in disabling objects of the enemy’s information infrastructure (Physical Destruction).
At the same time, NATO conceptual documents emphasize the participation of important officials in carrying out propaganda actions (Key Leader Engagement) and the demonstration of the military presence of the Alliance (Presence, Posture and Profile), which are assigned a primary role in achieving the goals of “strategic propaganda”.
According to the views of the leadership of the Alliance, psychological operations are planned actions to bring specially prepared information to foreign audiences in order to influence their consciousness, emotions, and perception of what is happening. Their end result should be a change in the behavior of governments, various social groups and individuals in a direction favorable to themselves.
Misleading the enemy involves a controlled information and psychological impact (IPV) on its command and staff structures through systems for collecting, analyzing and distributing information by providing deliberately false or distorted information. Disinformation measures carried out under the direct supervision of the commander of a grouping of troops (forces) make it possible to forestall the enemy in making decisions.
Operational camouflage, being a special case of misleading the opposing side, includes a set of information and organizational-technical measures to disorient the enemy’s intelligence agencies in order to ensure the secrecy of the actions of their troops (forces). At the same time, such methods of influencing the target audience as disinformation, imitation of real actions of specially allocated formations, demonstration of false intelligence signs of the activities of troops (objects), ensuring the secrecy of ongoing operational measures are used.
Electronic warfare involves the use of electromagnetic energy or homing weapons to identify and suppress enemy controls, as well as to protect their troops (forces) from radio-electronic effects. Electronic warfare includes elements such as electronic suppression (EW), electronic protection and electronic support.
Radio-electronic warfare involves the active use of electromagnetic radiation and means of suppression in combination with traditional forms of fire destruction to disorganize, neutralize or reduce the enemy’s combat capabilities for the effective use of electronic systems in various levels of command and control of troops and weapons.
Electronic protection consists in ensuring the stability of the operation of systems and means of commanding one’s troops and weapons in conditions of exposure to electromagnetic radiation of the enemy. It includes protection against electronic suppression and destruction of enemy homing weapons, as well as ensuring the electromagnetic compatibility of their radio electronic means.
Electronic support provides for the detection, determination of the location (coordinates) and parameters (characteristics) of enemy EMR objects that are sources of intelligence or information threats.
Counter-propaganda is understood as the integrated efforts of the formations of information and psychological operations to reduce the effectiveness and neutralize information and psychological measures of the enemy. The solution of counter-propaganda tasks is achieved by revealing the plans of the opposing side to influence the armed forces and population of NATO countries and their partners, organizing counteraction to hostile propaganda actions and coordinating coalition activities in a given direction.
According to the theorists of strategic propaganda, ensuring information security requires a set of measures to protect information and information systems, ensuring their availability, integrity, authentication (authentication), confidentiality and compliance with the rules of authorized access to them (recording the facts of receiving or sending messages). Information security also provides for the restoration of the operability of information systems by means of protection and response to detected threats and malfunctions built into them.
In the system of measures to ensure the security of its information, in recent years, considerable attention has been paid to the problems of protecting the relevant coalition and national infrastructure. For this purpose, the plan is to:
- organize protection against penetration into the information and control systems of state and military authorities, civil infrastructure (telecommunications, transport, energy, financial and industrial facilities, the media);
- guarantee the integrity and security of information circulating or stored in control systems databases;
- provide for timely notification of servicemen and civilians, as well as state, economic and social institutions about the possibility and direction of information warfare measures;
- strengthen the operational control and response groups, conducting continuous monitoring of the functioning of the information networks of the armed forces, to achieve full staffing of trained personnel of information security agencies;
- create national centers for control and security of information networks, designed to work with classified information;
- introduce a mandatory study of the issues of information-psychological confrontation and information security in the preparation of specialists in computer technology and communication facilities;
- improve the hardware and software used for interfacing with external information networks, to introduce a unified automated system for updating the anti-virus databases;
- make timely changes to the guidelines governing the procedure for working with classified information and requirements for its protection.
Simultaneously with the implementation of protective measures, it is planned to conduct operations in computer networks. These actions partially overlap the area of cyber operations and project the possibility of using cyber forces outside the protective borders of the global information network in order to detect and deter the enemy, as well as to prevent aggressive actions and defeat it. The objects of influence are: computer and telecommunication networks, various infrastructures and systems built into them and individual technological elements. The main methods of conducting network operations in cyberspace are computer attacks, the protection of computer networks and cyber intelligence.
Computer attacks are actions that are carried out to destroy important information on computer networks or to disable the enemy’s computers themselves. Network protection refers to activities that monitor and analyze network attacks on computer facilities of NATO and member countries, as well as protection against malicious impact. When the enemy’s computer networks are used for reconnaissance purposes, important information about the enemy and its ACS is collected.
The content and methods of preparing and carrying out computer network attacks are a closed area of ”strategic propaganda” and are regulated by secret directives and manuals. However, an analysis of the cyber operations structures created in NATO countries and the practice of their involvement in armed conflicts over the past decade indicate the purposeful development of means of destroying computer networks and destroying information contained in them.
At the same time, special attention is paid to improving the methods of programmatic and mathematical influence on the enemy’s databases during computer attacks. They include: “logic bombs” (hidden control programs that destroy or distort information or disrupt the operation of technical means); computer viruses (capable of replicating the effect of “logic bombs” and introducing them remotely); “computer bookmarks” and software products such as a Trojan horse, introduced for sabotage, subversive and reconnaissance purposes; neutralizers of test programs; small-sized generators of high-power electromagnetic pulses, capable of disabling electronic equipment.
In addition, considerable efforts are being made to develop new means of influencing communication systems, collecting and processing information. Thus, numerous experiments are being carried out on the use of hidden “intellectual interference” that block key information (addresses, names and coordinates of destinations, time parameters) and introduce false information elements. Such programs are based on automated analysis of message structure, keyword tracking, and speech synthesis in real time.
Along with the use of hardware and software in order to disorganize enemy control systems, paramount importance is attached to creating conditions for the physical destruction of critical information infrastructure facilities. In the interests of solving this problem, it is envisaged to ensure close interaction of the IPO forces and fire weapons. At the same time, the functions of the “strategic propaganda” formations include participation in the selection of targets for their destruction and in determining the options for influencing them, as well as in predicting the possible consequences of fire damage for the course of the operation and their influence on the information environment.
The leadership of the Alliance considers the sphere of public diplomacy and public relations activities to be the most important components of IPV for target audiences during anti-crisis operations. This presupposes the solution of a number of similar tasks in the interests of achieving the political and military goals of the alliance while maintaining organizational independence and specific features of the activities of these components of “strategic propaganda.”
Given the cross-cutting nature of public diplomacy and public relations, some official NATO publications attempt to combine these two areas of “strategic propaganda” under the common flag of public diplomacy. At the same time, in the concept and policy documents of the alliance, these areas are considered separate – as different levels of activity within the EIS.
European military theorists habitually borrowed the concept of public diplomacy (Public Diplomacy) from their American colleagues. Seen as part of civil-military interaction, it includes a set of methods, forces and means of propaganda used to explain NATO policy, as well as to support operations and other activities of the alliance.
The subjects of the influence of public diplomacy are political leaders, parliamentarians, journalists, scientific and expert communities, non-governmental organizations, student youth and other social groups located both in the areas of application of the bloc’s troops (forces) and beyond them.
This activity is aimed at creating a “correct understanding” of the target audiences of NATO’s policies and practical steps in the interests of maintaining a stable environment, excluding manifestations of hostility from the local population towards the military personnel of the alliance.
The importance of a new approach to working with the public is evidenced by the creation of a committee on public diplomacy within the structure of the highest governing bodies and the transformation of one of the leading divisions of the NATO International Secretariat into a directorate for public diplomacy, headed by the assistant secretary general of the organization.
The specialized structures of the alliance are trying to act in the spirit of Anglo-American approaches, organizing public diplomacy according to the principle of a business model focused on specific tasks, target audiences and predictable results. The emphasis is on planning, collecting statistics, reporting and evaluating cost effectiveness.
Unlike public diplomacy, NATO’s Civil Affairs is geared towards the broader community and has two levels of functioning – civilian and military.
The civilian component of public relations is focused on the interaction of representatives of the alliance with civil structures through the media in order to explain to the population the policy of the bloc and its actions to resolve crises.
The Alliance’s leadership attaches greater importance to military public relations to ensure the success of the Alliance’s crisis response operations. These include planning and maintaining interactions with the media, working on their own information networks and developing relations with civil society.
Interaction with the media involves the use of external news agencies to disseminate the necessary information. Commanders (headquarters) through subordinate public relations bodies should be ready, for example, to prepare responses to media inquiries, make statements, conduct briefings and interviews, organize correspondent visits to active units and subunits, and develop and distribute information materials. Working within the information networks should ensure the dissemination of information among the military and civilian personnel of NATO, as well as their families to perform a number of functions: popularizing the activities of the command and staff, promoting military service and glorifying personnel participating in military actions, and explaining the tasks to be solved. At the same time, the content and direction of the disseminated information differ from the information contained in official documents. Special awareness programs for personnel and family members contribute to understanding the alliance’s goals and operations, which enhances the commitment of the military.
The development of relations with civil structures is aimed at organizing and maintaining cooperation with the local civil society. This form of activity is expressed in the establishment of practical interaction with the local population and various government services, scientific and business circles, public associations and other structures.
An important place in the implementation of the “comprehensive approach” to conflict settlement is given to the coordination of actions to implement the concept of “strategic propaganda” and the policy of military-civilian interaction, which is the relationship regulated by the relevant agreements between the NATO command and the national military structures, civilian authorities, and the local population, international and non-governmental organizations.
The joint efforts of the formations of “strategic propaganda” and military-civilian interaction within the framework of the Alliance’s Joint Armed Forces operations to resolve crises are aimed at solving the following tasks:
- maximum use of the country’s civilian resources in the interests of the military contingents participating in the operation;
- raising the level of awareness of all categories of the population about the situation in the conflict area and clarifying the goals of the operation;
- rendering assistance to national authorities in ensuring security, improving the system of public administration and the formation of civil society;
- assistance to humanitarian missions;
- exercising control over the troops’ observance (forces) of the national-ethnic and cultural traditions of the local population;
- establishing a relationship of trust and the greatest possible openness with all parties involved;
- organization and coordination of voluntary assistance to troops (forces) by civilian structures;
- assistance in the performance of civilian functions by military units in the event of the incapacity of civilian authorities.
The process of implementing “strategic propaganda” measures is strictly regulated by NATO directives and methodological instructions, which provide for the consistent implementation of a set of analytical and organizational measures.
NATO Command is mindful of the fact that IPOs can help prevent or end active hostilities, and therefore plans to initiate outreach activities at the earliest stages of joint operations. Its tasks also include informing its military personnel about the cultural and national traditions of the population in the crisis area. The IPO Concept and Plan, approved by the NATO Council, reflects the enemy’s weaknesses, outreach objectives, likely target audiences, and “reliable” information topics.
After identifying vulnerable and important objects of influence, a detailed study of the transmitted information is carried out, which is necessary to achieve the goals of the IPO. At the same time, it is taken into account that the subject matter and content of transmitted messages must be trustworthy and perceived by their consumers as an expression of global (“universal”) or national interests that coincide with the policy of the alliance. In this case, the information received will help the opposing party make decisions that are beneficial for the bloc and move on to appropriate actions.
In addition, the plan contains guidelines for the use of the media, including restrictions on these issues. In the interests of creating a favorable public perception of the ongoing military actions, the command of the inter-specific alignment of troops (forces) is obliged to guarantee unhindered access of loyal media to the places of events, to organize accompaniment and protection of their representatives, to ensure timely provision of accurate information about the current situation and the activities of the international coalition to resolve the crisis.
Info-psychological warfare planning is carried out on the basis of the principles of “strategic propaganda”, which include: qualified centralized leadership, purposefulness, consistency of actions, their efficiency, continuity of IPW, reliability of information, convincingness of its presentation, effectiveness of the use of forces and means.
Qualified centralized leadership presupposes the presence of a unified system of command and control of forces and means of “strategic propaganda” based on a clear understanding by the management staff and specialists of the goals, objectives and characteristics of activities in this area.
Purposefulness consists in submission of the goals and objectives of “strategic propaganda” to the concept of the ongoing military operation, concentration of efforts undertaken to achieve the desired results, as well as in the concentration of IPW on specified audiences (areas, objects).
Coordination of actions implies coordination of activities of all involved military and civilian outreach structures in accordance with a single concept and within the framework of overall planning.
The efficiency of “strategic propaganda” requires that the information and psychological impact be given the necessary focus and a given volume in a timely manner. It is achieved by high activity and quick response to events, by choosing the right audience, time and place of the actions.
The continuity of IPW maintenance involves a constant systematic impact on target audiences in any condition of the situation, which is ensured through the interconnection of planning processes and the assessment of the results of actions with the forms adjustment, methods and scale of the use of forces and means of information and psychological operations.
The persuasiveness of advocacy campaigns is achieved through the use of various means of persuasion and suggestion, the combination of which generates the required perception of the disseminated messages. At the same time, it is recommended to ensure the availability of information with the consistency and clarity of the argumentation, as well as an intelligible presentation of the material, taking into account the national psychological characteristics of the target audiences.
The high efficiency of “strategic propaganda” in the interests of massive dissemination of information, according to Western experts, should be achieved through the implementation of “proportionate and proven actions” in the course of information and psychological operations, maximum audience coverage, as well as the use of various forms and methods of influence.
NATO conceptual documents contain a list of requirements for “strategic propaganda”, which is designed to:
- to build a positive image of the Alliance and maintain the high authority of its armed forces in the areas of operations by introducing “strategic propaganda” targets into the operational planning process;
- ensure the identity of its own information and external news agencies materials by agreeing on plans of joint actions and the exchange of messages;
- create favorable conditions for effective influence on target audiences, using accumulated and constantly updated databases on the moral-political and socio-psychological characteristics of the subjects of influence;
- to study and analyze the possibilities of public information systems operating in crisis regions for maximum use of the media and telecommunication systems in the interests of solving the problems of “strategic propaganda”
- counteract hostile propaganda by detecting, controlling and neutralizing the actions of external information structures;
- to evaluate the effectiveness of NATO’s information and psychological efforts through constant research of public opinion, as well as conducting research on the problems of the direct and indirect influence of the alliance on the consciousness and behavior of target audiences for the subsequent adjustment of IPW methods;
- to accomplish high quality information preparation to achieve the maximum impact on target audiences, using appropriate methods for “Strategic propaganda”, as well as the optimal conditions and forms of submission of messages;
- ensure the rapid development and prompt dissemination of information by choosing the most reliable sources of information, making extensive use of media opportunities, developing cooperation with trustworthy external organizations and transferring finished materials to local authorities;
- prioritize the dissemination of prepared information on the operations and exercises of the NATO Joint Armed Forces to the general public, focusing its main efforts on obtaining and posting relevant materials and providing support to accredited journalists;
- to ensure compliance with information security and privacy when publishing messages about the activities of the Alliance’s Armed Forces.
In the guidance documents on “strategic advocacy”, particular attention is given to the issues of improving the effectiveness of impact on target audiences. In particular, it is recommended to carefully process and comment on the source information material, ensure the continuity and high efficiency of delivering messages to the military personnel and the enemy population, using the most effective forms and methods of presenting information, carefully analyzing and correcting propaganda activities.
To enhance the Alliance’s military outreach capabilities, it is envisaged:
- to complete the development of uniform standards and military documents on “strategic propaganda”;
- to ensure the preparation and allocation of a sufficient number of propaganda personnel by the member countries of the alliance;
- to carry out retraining of the management staff and specialists of information services;
- to eliminate the shortage of high-tech tools for solving problems in a single information space.
The implementation of the SIS concept, along with the creation of complex information systems with a number of subsystems, presupposes bringing the operational and tactical formations of the Alliance’s Joint Armed Forces to a modular organization that allows flexible changes in the composition of command and control bodies and subordinate troops (forces) depending on the goals, scale and nature of the upcoming operation. In this regard, the list of relevant positions has been expanded in the command states of all levels of the NATO Joint Armed Forces, and the deployment of new structures responsible for organizing IPO and conducting activities in this area has begun.
In addition, changes were made to the operational planning system, which provides for the advance preparation and implementation of IPO activities based on the methods of “strategic propaganda”. At the same time, the unit’s combat manuals revised the responsibilities of commanders and chiefs for the coordinated use of the forces and means necessary for this.
In September of the current year the center of advanced experience for NATO strategic propaganda in Latvia (Riga) was launched. In the course of its staffing, preference is given to candidates who speak Russian and Arabic.
The main tasks of the center are: study and generalization of best practices in the areas of public diplomacy and public relations; conducting ideological research in the field of “strategic propaganda”, as well as IPW activities aimed at supporting the current activities of the bloc’s united armed forces, including crisis response operations and organizing training and retraining of personnel.
In general, the analysis of the content of the Alliance’s conceptual documents on strategic propaganda issues indicates the desire of its leadership to expand its capabilities for conducting / information and psychological operations and to provide the necessary public support for NATO’s actions in solving the alliance’s key military-political tasks.
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