By Esther Tanquintic-Misa
December 6, 2014
The United States, NATO and its allies may already be successful in hurtling sanctions after sanctions against Russia, to the point the latter had already admitted to a painful economic recession in 2015. But they are losing the information war needed to capture the attention of the very people involved in the crisis.
Elina Lange-Ionatamishvili, a NATO specialist on counter-propaganda, revealed that Moscow has staged an info war in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and has been highly effective with it. The tool was its Russia Today television broadcasts that are aired in the respective national languages of the Baltic nations. Such strategy, Lange told an interview with Tallinn’s “Eesti Paevaleht,” meant Russia is able to capture a much wider audience that eventually will get inclined to trust the information because it was delivered in their native tongue.
Moreover, broadcasting those messages in Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian languages allows Russia Today broadcasters “to conceal the source standing behind them,” thus boosting the “impacts of television broadcasting.” Lange said Russia Today tries to find sources whom the target audience know. These people may not be fervent supporters of President Vladimir Putin but still may like some of his government’s policies such as their strong aversion to homosexual rights.
Additionally, the NATO counter-propaganda expert says Russia Today is not above using “invented experts who do not exist or who are not those which [the Moscow service] advertises them as being.” That too often works to the station’s advantage in influencing opinion in the three Baltic countries and elsewhere.
Lange said Russia Today delivers a clearly defined narrative, never mind if it uses “invented experts who do not exist or who are not those which [the Moscow service] advertises them as being.” What’s important, she said, was the narrative creates an impact and that it presents all events from a single perspective and for a single purpose.
The bottom line is, “it influences opinion in the three Baltic countries” and elsewhere, she said. On Thursday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favour of Resolution 758. Part of the decree called for the president and State Department of the United States to seek ways to “distribute news and information” Russian to countries with Russian-speaking populations.
The Russian government’s long-developed control over mass media has been an important factor in the effective implementation of the information campaign against Ukraine, Lange said in a paper presented at The Riga Conference 2014.
“Russia’s narrative was instrumentalized with the help of concurrent messaging. For example, the main Russian TV channels were actively involved in framing opinions about the situation in Ukraine long before the actual crisis began.”
Marie Elizabeth Harf, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson, when interviewed by RT News, said the plan to “distribute news and information” is not a fight for “more US influence in the region.” She said it is a plan to “fight for the people of Ukraine and indeed the entire region to get the truth about what’s happening on the ground” and to “talk about exactly what is happening in a much more truthful way.”