“Is it possible to win the information war? Unfortunately, I have to disappoint you that the information war is not going to end in the next ten years. Maybe even longer if Russia will remain the same as it is now. It can only become stronger. What is interesting is that if military factors begin, then the propaganda becomes stronger, even in text messages when family members re being intimidated” – said Auksė Ūsienė, the Chief Specialist of the Strategic Communications Department in the army of Lithuania Lietuvos žinios reported.
Even though Rimvydas Laužikas, a professor at Vilnius University, states that when speaking about informational threats, we cannot single out Russia, but according to the expert, Russia states NATO as a military threat in official documents. And as Lithuania is a NATO country and share a border with Russia, the main topic on information war is Russia.
According to the specialist, Russia has the largest propaganda machine and information is the main weapon of Russia is shown by the fact that Russia has information military force that has about 1,000 people. Russian defence Minister Sergej Shoigu had stated that those forces „will be much stronger and more effective”.
The data that was collected on a survey, done by the company “Zecurion Analytics” show that Russia spends about 300 million US dollars for cyber warfare forces. A. Ūsienė stated that those forces are created to carry out cyber-attacks, spread propaganda, and carry out psychological operations.
She considerst that even false to call hostile information and propaganda as information warfare because we don’t respond with the same tactics so it should be called information terrorism.
“This is not an information war but terrorism, because neither we nor NATO respond in the same way. It would be war if we responded with propaganda, but we don’t do that. We put a lot of focus on publicity and unmasking propaganda. Truth is our main weapon and if we could call the truth retaliation, then this being done almost by the whole NATO alliance “, – said A. Ūsienė.
What is propaganda?
Today the word propaganda is used very often, there are many definitions of it, and as said by A. Ūsienė, it is important to select a clear definition. We cannot mix up spread of information, free media, freedom of expression or other opinions with propaganda in the information war as those have nothing in common.
“Propaganda – this is a deliberate systematic attempt to shape perceptions, knowledge and direct behaviour. With this the aim is to get a response from an audience or a certain part of society. The effect reveals itself as active or passive behaviour, “- said A. Ūsienė.
Passive behaviour is when a person decides not to resist.
“Everyone probably knows this message “NATO won’t defend us” or “America didn’t defend in 1944 -1953 and it won’t defend us now”. It seems very simple and you wouldn’t even find who broadcasted it, would would maybe find it somewhere between the comments. But one of the instruments of propaganda is constant repetition of the message. Then the person starts to thinking, “Well, if no one really will defend us, maybe I should emigrate, stay quiet. That’s passive behaviour “, – said A. Ūsienė.
But propaganda can influence the human mind in a way that the behaviour will be active and action will be taken.
“That would be the worst in a case of war, when the person affected by the propaganda would collaborate with the invader. What is even worse, is he also would join the hostile army and shoot at the citizens backs. This propaganda here affects in a way that you decide to become the enemy of the state instead of doing nothing “, – said the specialist.
It breaks the will to resist
When speaking about Lithuania, A. Ūsienė said that Russia’s main goal of hostile information activities is to affect the public’s will to resist, since it’s cheaper to convince the opponent that resistance is pointless than to begin a fight. “If the society doesn’t have resistance, the will to resist is broken when the propaganda affects us so that we decide not to resist, and then we’re ready for an occupation. The core of the propaganda of information war is to prepare the soil for the occupation without the use of weapons, “- said the specialist.
According to A. Ūsienė, there were 2 times in the history when our country lost its sovereignty because its will to resist was broken. In 1795 and 1940.
“It wasn’t for the whole nation, because they people didn’t agree with the decision, they fought in three bloody uprisings and a bloody war. However, political decision-making was influenced and they only needed to consolidate their power. In 1940, a large part of society even didn’t even realize that an occupation happened because it was a crawling occupation. Only when mass repressions started did they realise. We have to talk about it and know what is propaganda in order to prevent something like that, “- said A. Ūsienė.
She adds that because of propaganda soil for an occupation was prepared in the case of Crimea as well.
“The public has been so affected by it that they the army, the public and political decision-makers have failed to respond fast to the occupation. Only later when the war broke out in the Donbass, patriots of the public did responded patriotically, those, who haven’t been affected by the propaganda and the first blow was held back by the volunteers, “- said the specialist.
The strongest effect is through culture and media
According to experts, when talking of national security in the space of information there are a number well-known concepts like as “information war”, “propaganda”, “war for the hearts and minds”, but to many don’t know the concept of” soft power “. According to A. Ūsienės it is difficult to understans but the propaganda usually carried out by the use of soft power.
“Soft might be associated with something pleasant, soft but we are affected it is through this and especially through the culture. Of course sport, economics, and business can be influenced through soft power. But culture is mostly used for this”, – said A. Ūsienė.
There is no question why we’re affected the most by culture. We know of how our cultural elite was affected before the war when they drove to get the sun to Stalin.
However, according to the specialist, in articles of propaganda we won’t find bad reviews of our culture and vice versa. Articles can be found that say good things of our culture but only about the Soviet one. This induces nostalgia for the Soviet Union, saying life was better back then.
A. Ūsienės said that we’re affected by Russian media and culture, we receive a lot of it, many Russian music concerts, events, theatre, film are brought to Lithuania.
RT is the largest international media RF channel which has 22 satellites, 644 million viewers in more than 100 states. This channel can be seen in 3 million hotel rooms. In 2015 it managed to allocate 400 million US dollars. The channel is broadcasted in several languages: Russian, English, Arabic, Spanish, German and French. RT has the most views in www.youtube.com when compared with other news agencies.
Sputnik is a large platform with online news sites, social networks, news agencies. It can broadcast more than 800 hours of radio programs per day, and running 34 countries and 130 cities. It is also broadcasted in 30 languages.
There is an increase of Russian production in our TV channels as well. Lithuanian journalist research shows that over the last ten years, the broadcasting of Russian production in Lithuanian channels, has almost doubled. In 2007, Russian production in Lithuanian channels consisted of 79 hours per week and now it reached 198 hours.
“Television executives say that it’s cheaper. We guess that the production in Russia is subsidized so it could be sold cheaper in Lithuania. Or when our television representatives want to buy something, they are being told to broadcast something if they want to see something”, – said A. Ūsienė.
Symbols, misinformation, “trolling”
According to A. Ūsienė, hostile information can not only be verbal, but also presented in symbols. This technique is used especially in films, often for children.
“In the cartoon “Masha and the Bear” Masha is running around with a hat that has a five-pointed star. We are well aware that it was and is a symbol, which now represents a terrorist state. Looking at the uniformed man, we immediately draw our attention to the signs, symbols. If it’s a Lithuanian in a uniform, we immediately distinguish him by the flag, which we associate with something. So our thinking is also affected through symbols”, – said A. Ūsienė.
Also, one of the forms of propaganda is the spread of misinformation. According to experts, there are many cases of misinformation, because special Web pages are constantly created that falsify the names of Lithuanian media articles, and change words.
“This year, a case was heard in our media, where in order to deprecate NATO, on February 14th it was stated that soldiers from a NATO battalion had allegedly raped n underage girl. When our media denied it, spreaders of misinformation created a special web page on February 16th. The falsified the names of the articles in “Kaunas day”, “Jonava news”, “bernardiniai.lt” and stated that our Government is hiding and say that nothing happened, even though it did, “- said A. Ūsienė.
She added that one of the ways to spread propaganda is “trolling”, which seeks to cause another anger, divert the attention, and divide the society. However, its capacity have also expanded. If “trolling” could happen only in comment sections, now it can happen in various different platforms: editing the information in the free encyclopaedia” Wikipedia “, create blogs, create “fake” accounts in social networks, upload videos on youtube.com.
Every year the Strategic Communication Department of the Lithuanian Army sets 10 targets, which are the most affected by propaganda. Right now these targets are:
1. Lithuanian history
2. The Lithuanian Army
3. NATO, EU
4. Lithuanian foreign policy
5. Lithuanian domestic policy
6. Lithuanian-Polish relations
9. Ethnic communities (mistreated Poles and Russians)
10. The Lithuanian defence capabilities
According to A. Ūsienė, the first three targets are attacked the most and the target that is constantly changing is Lithuanian defence capabilities.
2014 was the year when the occupation of the Crimea began and war in Ukraine started, NATO became the number one target. Because celebrate the January 13th, our history last year and this year has been strongly attacked, “- said the specialist.
How to resist?
According to A. Ūsienė, it’s important to recognize propaganda. Children should be taught this in educational institutions, and the society must be educated as well, and they have to know that there is hostile information that is being spread in our information environment.
“We have to be able to critically evaluate information in media. It’s vital to check the information in various sources, to see what the Russian sources write about a NATO process, and what the Western media is saying about that. Not only Lithuanian National Defence System should expose propaganda but also other institutions and citizens as well. Each of us can stop propaganda, by informing about it to the authorities “, – said A. Ūsienė.
However, she added that propaganda is not always thought to be a crime, Lithuania lacks a legal basis for us to fight it more effectively.
“Money laundering is a crime, we all know that, even though we can’t see it but we for it. Brainwashing by using propaganda should be a crime too. If we say that a war is happening, even though we can’t see it since no cannons are shooting, but should some definitions should be given in our laws, where the spread of propaganda would be prevented, and controlled better “- said A. Ūsienė.
The specialist stressed that how the public is able to resist the propaganda, if it is “immune” to misinformation, affects and what kind of army is formed in the state and how it is able to defend the country.
“It’s very important that our country, the public could resist information threats and propaganda. Army is extremely important for us because it has to be joined by those who are motivated to serve and are not confused. We, the military, are basically a part of society and the success of a national defence success is to be the dominant force in the information space, “- noted A. Ūsienė.
A.Ūsienė shared her insights on the challenges and threats in the informational space to the national security of Lithuania on Friday at the Parliament in a conference “Public media literacy – the condition of a safe state”.