Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Must Gear Up to Fight Information Wars, Diplomatic Academy Dean Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 15 – The Russian government must prepare to fight information wars which are becoming an ever more important part of geopolitical life, restoring parts of the Soviet-era system and going beyond that as well, according to the dean of international relations at the foreign ministry’s Diplomatic Academy.
In a major article in the current issue of “Voenno-Promyshlenniy kur’yer” (the weekly newsletter of Russia’s military industry), Igor Panarin argues that the Georgian war highlights just how ill-prepared Moscow is to fight such wars and how important such “combat” has now become (
Panarin, who first attracted widespread attention in the Russian elite with his 2003 book, “Information War and the Third Rome,” says that Moscow must “immediately” move to create “a mechanism” to ensure that the Russian media reflect Moscow’s interests, to repulse information attacks from abroad and to advance Moscow’s interests around the world.
He proposes eight steps to achieve those goals. First, he calls for the creation of a Russian council on public diplomacy, which Panarin says would include representatives of the government, the media, business, political parties and NGOs and possibly be headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Second, the Diplomatic Academy dean calls for the appointment of an advisor to the president of Russia on information and propaganda activities, in order to coordinate the work in this area of the foreign and cultural ministries, the Security Council and other agencies involved in foreign and domestic media management.
Third, he suggests that Moscow should create a foreign policy government media corporation that would “restore the potential of the [Soviet-era] mechanism of foreign political propaganda which was completely destroyed in the 1990s” and use satellite television to spread Moscow’s message across the entire world.
Fourth, Panarin calls for the creation of an analogous institution for the Internet that would oversee “the production of books, video films, video games and other materials for active distribution via the Internet,” an effort to be partially financed by the government and partially by business.
Fifth, he calls for the establishment of an anti-crisis information center, which will be able to respond llike a “spetsnaz” unit to developments. The first days of the Georgian war when President Mikhail Saakashvili appeared more often on Russian television than did Russian leaders must not be repeated, Panarin says.
Sixth, he urges setting up a system, not further described in his otherwise detailed article, to respond to “the information operations of the geopolitical opponents of Russia,” a structure that would include “the resources of the state as well as those of major business and the institutions of civil society.
Seventh, he calls on Moscow to work to create “a network of NGOs of Russia operating on the territories of the CIS, the European Union and the United States,” a network that would follow “the American model” of organizing and supporting NGOs on the territory of the Russian Federation.
And eighth, Panarin says that the Russian government must create a system to train cadres in this area. Among the places which should be involved in that effort are his own Diplomatic Academy, the Russian Academy of State Service (RAGS), Moscow State University, the Higher School of Economics and MGIMO.
Such a system would be extremely expensive, and the Russian government is unlikely to adopt all of Panarin’s ideas. But his article is important for three reasons: First, it is an indication that the Kremlin is very concerned about its failure to follow up its military victory in Georgia with a propaganda one.
Second, it suggests that ever more senior Russian officials are focusing on information war as a major task and that they have given orders to those below them to develop ideas on how Moscow should proceed in this area, ideas that combine both Soviet methods and new technologies.
And third, Panarin’s article indicates that Moscow will continue to expand its effort in this area, even though many of those he identifies as the country’s geopolitical opponents are not as focused on this effort as many in the Russian capital believe and are in fact cutting back rather than expanding their own activities in the information war now heating up.

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