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Russia’s Biggest Weapon: Disinformation

One of Russia’s largest weapons in the war with Ukraine is not any sort of tank or missile– it is disinformation.

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab recently released two reports on the Kremlin’s use of disinformation and “fake news” in the war, studying the many different tactics used by Putin to create chaos in news both nationally and internationally.

Russia has so far used disinformation news, manipulated imagery like deepfakes, forged documents, and targeted propaganda to spread false narratives about the war to undermine support for Ukraine and weaken morale in the fight.

Copyright ©2023 R. Stevens / CREST (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In Russia, the Kremlin banned Western social media apps in order to suppress accurate information about the war and even passed a law threatening 15 years in prison for spreading international news about the war.

The disinformation abroad began with false narratives justifying the war before the invasion even occurred and quickly ramped up to a level in which 35 unique pieces of Russian propaganda or disinformation narratives were detected each day, according to non-profit LetsData.

In Ukraine, much of the propaganda was spread on Telegram, an unmoderated app where footage of the war was easily circulated. The propaganda sought to weaken morale among citizens and sow distrust in their own government and military.

The Kremlin has countless resources to create customized messages for many different audiences across the world, such as European citizens who have taken in Ukrainian refugees and right-wing groups in the United States.

“By maintaining these information operations at a global scale, Russia has successfully prevented international consensus rallying behind Ukraine at a level that is often presumed in the West,” said the report.

As American citizens, we must stay wary of the Russian propaganda we may encounter on the web and in the media, and make sure to renew our support for Ukraine in their fight for freedom and democracy.



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