When Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the order to invade Ukraine, most observers expected Russia’s significantly superior military forces to quickly conquer the country. On the ground, that didn’t happen. “Ukraine is winning the information battle, hands down,” said Graham Shellenberger, a propaganda analyst with the Miburo Solutions firm.
The information war, often known as the propaganda war, has had a significant impact on how Ukraine and the rest of the world have reacted to Russia’s invasion. Since the Bolsheviks gained power in 1917, Russia has been honing its deception talents. The Kremlin has developed effective, highly feared cyber-ops capabilities under Putin, a veteran intelligence officer.
“Russian propaganda is collapsing, but Ukraine has been hitting home runs for a week now,” Ian Garner, a Russia historian who has studied Russian-language propaganda during the crisis, says. “Every day, I’m more convinced than ever that Putin’s leadership has grossly misjudged its ability to win a media war,” says one observer.
What Strategy Is Russia Employing To Market Their Invasion?
Nazis and NATO, in a nutshell. Putin has alleged that Ukraine is governed by a Western puppet government of Nazis committing “genocide” against Russian-speaking Ukrainians since Russia took Crimea and backed rebel pockets in the Donbas area in 2014. Putin stated that the purpose of his “special military operation” was the “demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine.”
“The Kremlin’s other propaganda message was that Ukraine posed an existential threat to Russia, that they needed to create a buffer between NATO (a proxy for the U.S.) and the EU,” writes Politico‘s Zoya Sheftalovich. Putin has spent the last 22 years attempting to keep Ukraine from allying with Western Europe and leaving Russia’s sphere of influence. “Russian leaders and propagandists have for years bragged that Moscow’s army could overwhelm its smaller neighbor in days,” writes The Wall Street Journal.
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What Is Ukraine’s Message To The World?
Ukraine is equating Putin’s invasion to Adolf Hitler’s slaughter of Ukrainians during World War II if Russia is trying to sell the idea of freeing Ukraine from phantom Nazis. But, above all else, “Ukraine’s online propaganda is largely focused on its heroes and martyrs, characters who help dramatize tales of Ukrainian fortitude and Russian aggression,” The New York Times reports.
“If Ukraine had no messages of the righteousness of its cause, the popularity of its cause, the valor of its heroes, the suffering of its populace, then it would lose,” Peter Singer, a strategist at the New America think tank, told the Times. “Not just the information war, but it would lose the overall war.”
According to Singer, Kyiv is promoting stories of Ukrainian heroes and martyrs, Russian cruelty against civilians, and civil resistance. As a “Man of the People,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has “established the new norm,” winning over both Ukrainians and foreign leaders by communicating from the besieged capital’s streets and bunkers. And, he says, the Ukrainians have done an excellent job of “humanizing” the conflict. “This is when the cat becomes the most lethal information warfare weapon.”