Briefs

Kremlin foreign policy: Soft power as an offensive tool

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  • Kremliaus užsienio politikoje „švelnioji galia“ naudojama ir puolimui   Šį straipsnį taip pat galite skaityti lietuvių kalba
On 3 April, Lithuania’s State Security Department and the Second Investigation Department of its Ministry of Defense presented to the public their annual national security assessment, which said Russia’s aggressive foreign policy threatens Lithuania. The report described Moscow’s attempts to dominate the region, fragment Western unity, weaken NATO support for Lithuania’s defense and change the global balance of power. Its findings are an emphatic refutation of Russia’s claim that it must defend itself from Western threats to its security. Lithuania’s mainstream media extensively discussed the report’s findings, largely concluding that the assessment raises important national security issues that should be watched closely.

Moscow is likely to intensify its Lithuanian-language disinformation campaign as a non-military means of aggression, according to Lithuania’s intelligence agencies. Russia hopes to spread a favorable narrative through newspapers, TV, social media and the Internet. In 2016, the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company prepared 1,500 hours of video recordings for foreigners in 10 languages including English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic. It also translated more than 2,500 documentaries, cartoons and other types of programs.

The report noted that in 2016, after a 16-year break, Russia renewed its Information Security Doctrine, which defines the role of information warfare with Russian military doctrine. Moscow’s disinformation and propaganda external activities help strengthen the Kremlin’s intelligence services. In fact, Russian information attacks against the West will likely intensify this year with the approaching Zapad 2017 military exercises.

As expected, Lithuania’s pro-Kremlin media strongly criticized the report. The website sputniknews.lt quoted Dmitry Peskov—a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin—who called it “one more expression of totally hysterical Russophobia.” He said the report “could hardly reflect the real public attitude in these [Baltic] countries, and “definitely it is not the view of Russian minorities of these  countries.” According to Peskov, Moscow has always advocated a good relationship with the Baltic states. He insisted that “time and a political will is needed to decrease anti-Russian propaganda” and that the people in the Baltics “should start receiving objective information.” The pro-Kremlin websites rubaltic.ru and ria.ru criticized the assessment but made only weak attempts to refute its findings.

Putin’s culture of strategic thinking is based on the cult of force, and the assumption that best defense is a good offense. Russia employs soft-power tools to win people’s minds and hearts in extensive, dynamic and creative ways. However, Kremlin military thinkers make little note of “hybrid” warfare, or other Western terms to describe this approach. For Moscow, there is simply war, and information operations—enshrined in Russian military doctrine—are only one way to wage it.