Ukraine’s Information War: Strategy (Part II)
Pervasive Russian propaganda appears to be quite effective not only in Russia itself, but also in some Western countries
The winner of MindSketch February Competition
Pervasive Russian propaganda appears to be quite effective not only in Russia itself, but also in some Western countries. In the second part of his article Andrii Tymofeiuk argues that Ukraine needs to prove that it is not and will never be a failed state and show its prospects. The first part is here.
Let’s consider how can Ukraine counter-attack?
The optimal, easy and straightforward way is to emphasize on the obvious facts of our enemy’s aggressiveness. It will prove to the other nations that Kremlin must be stopped in Ukraine right now.
For example, in this video a pro-Russian combatant looks at destroyed DPR’s tanks and says: “We will repair these tanks and will go to Boryspil, Lviv, Berlin, London!”.
The main thing is that it is not a joke and it is said not by an anonymous Facebook commentator – it is said by the real DPR soldier right on the battlefield. He is totally serious and he has the weapon in his hands. Even if Kremlin does not really think about invading London and Berlin – it gives weapon to the ones who do.
Another example. In this video guys from Russian TV-channel discuss the possibility to send tanks to Warsaw and Berlin during the Victory day.
Ordinary Russian people watch such stories and they like it – just because these people like to feel themselves citizens of a powerful Empire which can send its tanks anywhere.
Moreover, it is necessary to emphasize on massacres made by pro-Russian separatists’. Boeing was hit by pro-Russian combatants. Destruction of the eastern part of Mariupol. Volnovakha massacre. And so on. Lots of crime was made by pro-Russians separatists which is the consequence of Kremlin’s policies.
It means that the Empire strikes back. For ordinary Europeans it may sound like a rhetoric of XIX century’s Great Game or XX century’s Cold War, but not like something real from current XXI century. Is it just foolish Ukrainian propaganda or does the Empire actually strike?
Yes, dear Europeans. It does.
Putin during his speech in Luzhniki stadium, Moscow, February 2012. Considering that Dmitri Medvedev is a person of Putin’s team, it can be said that Putin rules Russia for more than 15 years in a row.
Trying to save its influence in ex-USSR countries Russia creates different controlled quasi-states there. They had already created Transnistria (Moldova), South Ossetia (Georgia) and Abkhazia (Georgia). Now they try to create Donetsk People’s Republic (Ukraine) and Luhansk People’s Republic (Ukraine). Nobody gives a guarantee that the next year Kremlin will not create such quasi-states in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Kazakhstan etc. More than that, they can create some quasi-state even in Germany (similar to GDR that was under Kremlin rule and protectorate).
Novorossiya, another Russian project, is also worth mentioning. Kremlin invented a name for the territory in Ukraine from Odessa to Kharkiv through Dnipropetrovsk that they are interested in. It is a huge region with lots of industry. Control over this region gives Russia a lot of resources, heavy industry factories, dominance in the Black sea region and the route to Crimea. There were organized by Kremlin pro-Russian movements in some cities during spring 2014 (for example, a person from Russia tried to place Russian flag over the top of Kharkiv’s building of administration pretending to be a citizen of Kharkiv) – but they failed and right now instead of big Novorossiya they managed to create only small LPR and DPR. Recently, Kremlin put the Novorossia project on hold.
Meanwhile, Crimea was annexed without any delay. It is worth mentioning that a part of Russian society considers Crimea an ethnic Russian territory because it was a part of the Russian Empire from 1783 to 1920 (when Red army conquered the peninsula and the last soldiers of the Empire were killed in a huge massacre or ran away). According to Kremlin’s propaganda, Crimea must belong to the Russian Federation because it belonged to the Russian Empire in that period. Hence, nobody gives a guarantee that next year Kremlin will not occupy Warsaw saying that once it was a part of a Russian Empire too (from 1815 to 1918).
Prague, 1968. Kremlin sent its tanks to Prague. Earlier, in 1956, Kremlin sent its tanks to Budapest. Later they sent their tanks to Vilnius in 1991. Not long ago Kremlin sent its tanks to Georgia in 2008. Now they send tanks to Ukraine. In a few years they may send tanks to Warsaw, Riga, Vilnius or other European cities.
Kremlin’s logic “Every little military battle between Russia and a NATO country could turn into the nuclear war. The West is afraid to start the nuclear war – it will rather give Russia requested territories than order own soldiers to use weapons against our soldiers. Sanctions also will not be too hard for us, because Europe will suffer from them too. Hence, we can do anything we want!” could be used not only in Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, LPR/DPR but also in other European countries.
Ukraine must emphasize to the Europeans that Russia can possibly attack them any time, but will never use nuclear weapons. The Europeans must not be afraid of nuclear war and must not allow Kremlin to attack other countries just because the Europeans want to save the planet. The issue is that people from Kremlin also want to live and to enjoy life. They evasively threaten the world that they will use nuclear weapons in case somebody will fight against them seriously in their hybrid wars. But it is not true. They will not do that. It is bluff. It is terrorism. And Kremlin must be stopped in Ukraine before they go too far.
Key point Message to pro-Russian and pro-USSR Ukrainians: If you want to stay safe and healthy – support unitary Ukraine. Doesn’t matter who are you by nationality, age, social class and language. Wherever LPR/DPR steps – awful war appears. Wherever the Ukrainian Army stays – normal life is going on. There is no way back to USSR – these guys bring only destruction, pain and death to your cities. Don’t support them and don’t let them act in your city – don’t be the fools!
Key point Message to Europeans: Ukraine is the right side in this conflict. There is no civil war in Ukraine – Ukraine fights for its existence against external enemy which uses the strategy of “hybrid undeclared war”. But Ukraine has all chances to survive, develop and win.
Moreover, Ukraine can be considered as the Protector of Europe from the imperialistic Kremlin.
That’s why Europe needs to support Ukraine. Europe is interested to have strong and successful Ukraine in the East right here and right now.
And Ukrainian leaders must do everything possible to bring this idea to the people of Europe.
Strategy: Show the Prospects of Ukraine
We need to have a long-term strategy in this information war. We need to prove that Ukraine is not and will never be a failed state. We don’t want to show Ukraine only as a territory of conflict between the West and Russia – without the image of Ukraine as a strong successful country here will be no investment, no foreign specialists, no tourists, no development. We don’t want to be considered as a country of eternal war. We don’t want to be just another Somalia or Syria in the eyes of Europeans.
The 7th Message of the Kremlin propaganda says:
“Ukraine is a failed state. There is no Ukrainian language. There was never a country called Ukraine. There is no nation called Ukrainians. Ukraine is only a part of historical Russia. Ukraine must be either split up between Russia and the European countries or federalized into pro-Western and pro-Russian parts.”
It seems easy to answer the majority of these statements. Millions of people speak Ukrainian language – it does exist. Ukrainians have a centuries long history of successful and unsuccessful intentions to create its own state – Kievan Rus’, Cossack Hetmanate, Ukrainian National Republic etc. The majority of people in Ukraine (over 70% during the last census in 2001) define themselves as Ukrainians. Ukrainians consider themselves as a nation for several hundreds of years – hence Ukrainian nation does exist. But even if prior to the EuroMaidan Revolution and the War in Donbas there wouldn’t have been Ukrainian nation – it would have appeared this year just because thousands of people have already shown that they are ready to die for Ukraine.
However, concerning the ‘failed state’ argument we need to be more precise and accurate. It is not enough just to show to the Europeans that some Ukrainian citizens like their flag and anthem – we must show that these particular people in this particular territory can exist as the state and this state can be strong, stable and can earn itself for living. And we must also show that it is not necessary either to split up this territory between Russia and European countries or federalize it into Pro-Western and Pro-Russian parts in order to have order here and to stop the war.
We need to think what long-term Messages we must emphasize. What will prove that Ukraine will never be a failed state? Can we feed ourselves and avoid eternal pleading for money? Can we actually produce something except of metal, coal, boxing stars, good soccer players and beautiful women?
Yes, we can.
Let’s go. We can survive as a country in nowadays borders because of:
- Aeronautics and space industry. We have Antonov State Company, Yuzhmash, National Aviation University and others. Ukraine can build planes and make parts of spacecrafts. It is still possible that the guy who makes the first ever step of humanity on Mars will come there using the spacecraft with Ukrainian machinery.
- IT industry. Ukraine has a lot of talented IT specialists and IT industry is growing here despite of the crisis. Lots of skillful Ukrainian developers currently work abroad and lots of other developers work here as outsourcers. We can create a new Silicon Valley somewhere near Lviv in the future.
- Agriculture. Ukraine has always been a developed agricultural land. Our black-colored soil called Chernozem is very fertile and produces a high agricultural yield. By the way, in XXI century the population on of the Earth is growing rapidly – so in a few decades Ukraine will be providing food to the millions of people from densely populated countries (India, China, Arabian countries, African countries and many others) and will receive lots of revenue from this business.
- Tourism. Ukraine is a very good place to visit for a tourist. Yes, in a few years we can recover our country after the War in Donbas. Croatia is our benchmark here. In 1990s this country suffered the awful war but now Croatia is very attractive for tourists. We can do the same thing. We have famous historical monuments in Kyiv, Carpathian mountains for summer and winter activities, Crimean seashore, beautiful cities like Lviv or Chernivtsi, opened-air museum of Chornobyl catastrophe, historical battlefields in Donbass, Odesa with its beaches and parties etc. Indeed we have a destination of choice for every tourist.
- Military technology. Since USSR times Ukraine has a powerful military industry. For example we can produce good tanks, military vehicles or air defense equipment. This war in Donbas is a good chance to test modern Ukrainian weapons. Recovered military industry can provide a lot of working places to our citizens. We can be one of the world leaders in military production.
Ukrainian soldier holds the position in Donbas and protects the civilized West from the barbarians from the East
Of course, we can produce a lot of other stuff. But in our messages we must emphasize the industries where we are or can be really strong. For example, we can produce cars and some clothes but we will not be very good in it in the nearest future – that’s why it will never impress the Europeans and will never give them the idea that Ukraine is powerful in something.
Moreover, we must deliver three following Messages to Europeans. These Messages will distinguish us from the other developing countries which also promote themselves trying to attract investors and will make us unique:
Talented Ukrainian migrants. There are really a lot of well-educated Ukrainians who currently work abroad due to recent crisis in Ukraine. Once the economic situation in Ukraine will develop – thousands of talented professionals will come back. They will change the business culture in Ukraine dramatically. Ukraine will become a state worth investing.
By the way this statement is not true for all developing countries: for example, it can’t be said about Bangladesh or Mexico. These countries do not really have so many skilled specialists working abroad. But for Ukraine it is true.
On the other hand, Ukraine can be a very comfortable place to live for Russian-speaking people. Again, there is absolutely no Nazi government in Ukraine. Nobody is being pressed because he speaks Russian or does not have Ukrainian roots in his family. Meanwhile some huge ex-USSR countries are totalitarian states: there is no freedom there, there is huge corruption and pressure on citizens. Ukraine can be the place to host all the specialists from these countries who don’t want to live in a corrupt totalitarian state and simultaneously want to live in a country which is close to them in terms of culture. Hence everybody from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other countries who respects Ukrainian culture is welcomed to work and live in Ukraine. We can become the new Grand Duchy of Lithuania (regional leader) one day.
European mentality. The EuroMaidan Revolution of 2015 showed that Ukrainians are a developed nation. We can make significant steps according to our will and at the same time keep our culture. We didn’t crash our capital during the EuroMaidan Revolution: there were no massive robberies of the shops, there were no frequent rapes of the women. Ukrainians on average are much more Europeans than illegal immigrants from European big cities’ suburbs for example. It is proved by hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who live in Europe now and don’t force everybody around to follow our culture – we don’t create Ukro-towns, we don’t kill the journalists who write something we don’t like, we don’t have Ukrainian mafia. Ukrainians can keep calm and act with pride.
So. here, in part II, we looked briefly at our Strategy in the information war against Kremlin. It must be totally aligned with our Tactics. Strategy is the main part of actions in the information war – because Kremlin will continue to attack us even if the War in Donbas stops today. Otherwise, Ukraine will not gain the support of European society. It will not get strong allies we need to fight against powerful enemy. And will suffer a lot. For years.
We must avoid it. With the support of the Europeans Ukraine must survive and be the successful state.
Awesome place to work. Inspiring place to love. Amazing place to live.
The winner of MindSketch February Competition
The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations