Both Russia and Ukraine employ disinformation in hopes of effectively determining who decidedly depicts their version of events.
As best stated within the Politico article by Mark Scott, “As the war in Ukraine enters its third week, the battle for hearts and minds — via social media posts, viral videos and outright propaganda — is entering a new phase.” Amidst the Russia and Ukraine crisis a new format of warfare and propaganda occurs. This new form of warfare is not won through traditional means of combat nor through usage of what one would consider typical weaponry. Continuing, this battle is fought over the perceptions of actors (Russia and Ukraine) within the crisis through the selective engagement of social media and news (whether true or not). Due to the current climate where individuals potentially have quick access to news at the click of a button, it becomes necessary to maintain some format of control within this sphere. Nevertheless, building an established and trusted news source takes large amounts of investment both in time and funding. However, any individual with access to the internet can post on social media in hopes of gaining traction and continual attention from viewers. Furthermore, the original post can be picked up by multiple individuals and spread throughout the site until it becomes difficult to decipher truth from lie. Both actors (Russia and Ukraine) fully understanding the importance of controlling the depiction of events invest large amounts of resources to dominate this sphere. This is done through the continual spreading disinformation and propaganda from both sides of the aisle.
Russia is no stranger in effectively employing disinformation in order to further advance necessary means. In fact, one would not necessarily be incorrect in stating that they are built behind such practices. This holds true currently as the Russian warship (Moskva) was confirmed to have been sunk in the Black Sea. Nevertheless, Russia continually denies this fact and goes to the extent of stating that the current whereabouts of both the ship and crew are unknown. As explained in the New York Times article, “…campaign by the Kremlin to suppress bad news about the war and control the narrative that Russians receive on its progress.” Many individuals, if asked prior to knowing the results of this conflict, would most likely have argued that Russia would emerge victorious in a short time. Nevertheless, this statement proves untrue as Russia still struggles to secure the defeat of Ukraine. Each day this crisis continues brings newfound hope to Ukraine and highlights weaknesses to Russia’s claim as a dominant world power. This is due to the platform of power Russia depicts and yet is unable to to secure a much “weaker” country who is not a world power. Knowing that this would most likely cause their citizens to lose faith Russia choses to continually spread disinformation in hopes of stifling this.
Contrarily, Ukraine understands that in sheer amount of force they are perceivably at a great disadvantage. This is not only apparent in population size but access to weapons and technology which shift the tides of war. As a result, Ukraine must stay united whether through truth or lies as this may be the only method of survival. Thus, Ukraine, similar to Russia spreads disinformation amongst its citizens with the goal of keeping them united. For example, a popular myth circulating around was an individual Ukrainian pilot (Ghost of Kyiv) taking down a multitude of Russian fighter planes. To expand, a CBS article states, ” As the myth of the ghost grew, so did his exploits, with the single pilot being credited with downing 40 Russian jets.” Though false, Ukraine officials continually spread this myth due to the simple necessity of giving their citizens something to believe in. That even though the odds are completely stacked against them there still is hope as long as citizens still hold the spirit to fight. This hope is necessary when times are at their toughest and must be gained even if under the guise of false pretenses.
To conclude, both countries have continually spread disinformation for gain as this became necessary in gaining an advantage. Being a world power holds certain expectations in the performance of any battle. Continuing, if this performance is not met, questions will arise as to whether they are worthy of said title. Fearing this, Russia continually employs disinformation as losing face to the world and their citizens is not a viable option. Contrarily, Ukraine employs disinformation in hopes of giving their citizens something to believe in. Fighting a war is difficult enough but becomes impossible when one’s own citizens determine victory unachievable. As a result, everything must be done to continually rejuvenate hope as this defends against the aforementioned fear. As technology further develops more and more wars have the potential to be determined by who controls information.
Macfarquhar, Neil, and Alina Lobzina. “With Sunken Warship, Russian Disinformation Faces a Test.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Apr. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/21/world/europe/russia-moskva-warship-disinformation.html.
“Ukraine Admits the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ Isn’t Real, but the Wartime Myth Worked against Russia.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 2 May 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/ukraine-admits-ghost-kyiv-isnt-real-wartime-myth-russia-rcna26867.
Brown, Sara. “In Russia-Ukraine War, Social Media Stokes Ingenuity, Disinformation.” MIT Sloan, 6 Apr. 2022, https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/russia-ukraine-war-social-media-stokes-ingenuity-disinformation.
Scott, Mark. “As War in Ukraine Evolves, so Do Disinformation Tactics.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 11 Mar. 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/ukraine-russia-disinformation-propaganda/.
“*Photo by Rahul Chakraborty, “A Trailer of the Future” (Unsplash), Creative Commons Zero License.”