Oleksandra KYRYCHUK, PhD*
Key words: Baltic-Black Sea Union, hybrid war, information-psychological warfare, Information Chaos, Illusion of Truth, Russkiy mir (Russian World)
One proposed project of a future European security framework is a union of Central and Eastern Europe. A geopolitical Baltic-Black Sea Union was actively discussed by politicians in the early twentieth century. This Union was in specifically organized by the USSR during the second half of the twentieth century as the Warsaw Pact, and is being reanimated in a new form in the 21st century. Ukraine discussed the idea of such a Union within the annual ”Yalta summit” in 1999 at the international conference ”Baltic-Black Sea Cooperation: to the Integrated Europe of the 21st century without dividing lines”. Then President Leonid Kuchma proclaimed that the Baltic-Black Sea axis ”can and should be one of the consolidating and stabilizing backbones in a New Europe and therefore an integral part of it.” In Poland, the project was named ”Mizhmorya” and was supported by the existing President A. Duda. The Strategic Concept of the Union received coverage in ”GeoPolitica” magazine edited by V. Simileanu. It is worth mentioning the basis of a Baltic-Black Sea geopolitical project emerging in the works of the Romanian author G. Văduva.
However, in our mind, practical realization of a Baltic-Black Sea security project would be impossible without adequate methods of disseminating information. In the context of the Russian Federation’s hybrid warfare, an integral part of which consists of information warfare, the efforts of intellectuals directed at forming an informational mechanism covering cultural and historic ties gain greater relevance. It’s easy to foresee that a stumbling block will be the historic relationship of Ukrainians, Romanians, Poles, Hungarians, which will doubtless be used in future informative-psychological confrontations.
Therefore the aim of this essay is to analyse, with Ukraine as a template, some strategies utilizing history in the information component of modern hybrid war, as well as finding potential threats and working out mechanisms to counteract them, including preventing a confrontation between the Ukrainian and Romanian peoples.
The Russian Federation’s hybrid war geopolitical map is split along ”USA-Russia” lines, and the nameless space between them serves as an arena for the two subjects. That’s how Ihor Berkut (A pseudonym used by a Donbass refugee, an Afghan war veteran, Soviet agent, businessman-banker Igor Gekko) in his article ”Ukraine – a trap for the USA” models a modern worldview with historical constructs of an earlier age: the dominant role of Washington is compared with ancient Rome, the USA and the Western European members of the EU – with the Roman Provinces, and all the other countries which are currently under Western influence – American colonies. In his lectures he explains that today Poland and Romania are aiming to upgrade from a colony to a province, while ”healthy” forces (Read pro-Russian) Hungary and the Czech Republic have begun to have doubts if it’s worth getting involved in this fight. Regarding Ukraine, his narrative paints a free nation in alliance with Russia, which after ”Fascist Putsch” of 2013 has turned into a colony of the US. To earn the status of a province, in I. Berkut’s words, Ukraine must ”become a fist of the USA” in the battle against Russia.
It is important to note, that it is Ukraine which has become the laboratory, in which Russia’s information war is tested. To understand, how the human conscience is affected by information-psychological attacks, it is worth describing some of them.
”Informational Chaos” tactics, created by means of exploiting the gains of democracy, including the freedom of speech and human rights. ”Informational Chaos” is created by means of a proven news agency tradition of demonstrating differing opinions of politicians or civic figures, especially in televised shows. The discussions are backed up by shouts, interruptions, scandals and sensations, which bring the viewer into a stupor. The wide range presented (rarely of thoughts which do not contradict themselves) regarding a single event or trend counteracts a balanced view of the facts. Therefore from Ukrainian television we hear that the conflict in southern Ukraine is Russian aggression and for Ukraine it is a battle for its independence, while hearing on other channels that there are no Russian forces in Donbass, only home-grown separatists or terrorists. Some politicians call for a rebuff of the terrorists, others organize ”crusades” with the aim of ”forcing” the ”Kiev’s Government” to peace. Some call for NATO and the USA to give weapons, while others state that there is no military solution to the conflict. All the while in real life every Sunday churches of all confessions will pray for peace, while the nearby markets volunteers raise funds for volunteer units, the nearby café blares Russian music and the local youth carelessly celebrate some event walking by a crowd mourning a soldier, fallen in the ATO. In the atmosphere of ”Information Chaos” the human psyche enters a trance and turns off critical analysis of one’s surroundings.
The aim of such information chaos is to prepare people for acceptance of an illusory, but logically ordered view of the world, offered up by agents of influential figures or a puppet ”Strong Leader”. In this manner the atmosphere among civil society in the Donbass was created to facilitate a large group of the population calling out ”Putin!, Send in the Armies”.
In another example, ”Information Chaos” has as its aim the fostering of a universal skepticism, coupled with complete mistrust of government decisions. For example, the uncovering of corruption in the upper levels of government, journalists’ findings and mutual accusations of politicians on our screens are manipulated to create an image in the mind of the viewer that ”they’re all thieves and bandits”. A demonstration of the helplessness of the government and its functions, (including maintaining rule of law) has as its aim the creation of a negative view of Ukraine in the world, a verification of the Kremlin’s line that ”the Ukrainian Society is unsustainable”.
”Illusion of Truth”, which is formed with the aid of a fluid format. In a multi-faceted hybrid war the pure truth cannot be proven. It is impossible to prove that the ”green men” in Crimea are Russian soldiers, prove that they cannot buy all their equipment in a shop, prove that the ”Boeing” was shot down by Russians, and not Ukrainian servicemen, prove the presence of Russian armies in the Donbass. On what basis stand allegations that the television channel ”Inter” broadcasting Russian propaganda on Ukrainian airwaves? And how can one prove this? (Those are the words of the chief editor of the channel during the parliamentary hearings regarding the burning of ”Inter” property). Against this information-escalation it is not worth looking for proof, for from the beginning each line of reasoning in the information war bases itself on the irrational interpretation of the viewer.
Linguistic programming and audio-visualisation on the basis of painful episodes of one’s memory. Firstly, before any disinformation project will be let loose upon the consumer, the political technologists conduct preparatory work: they work out what ”paintings” will awaken the subconscious of a certain group of people and what audio-visual promptings will cause them to stick. Based on such codes of historical memory are built many projects designed to fan the flames of ethnic hatred. History here is but material, from which an imaginary reality will be formed. An example of such information technology can be seen in the ”Volyn Tragedy”, on the basis of which pride of place is held by the Ukrainian-Polish massacres in the villages of Polissya in 1943. Painful episodes of Polish history were backed up by linguistic and audio-visual cues: eyewitness reports, photographs of the victims, collages of pictures and films. It begins with a singular performance of a radical leader such as Alexander Jablonovsky, who will attempt to personify the voice of a people’s historic suffering. After that a discussion with a discussion of what was said. And at various times during the day for a wide variety of reasons several times we see repeated key words and phrases such as ”we cannot forget”, ”Fascists” and so forth. Such frequent repetition forms in the core of the human brain a ”condition for optimal awakening” (by the works of A. K. Pavlov) – a matrix of hostility. Linguistic programming has been used also during the capture by the Russian Federation of the Crimean peninsula, when every few minutes one would hear the phrase ”Crimea is ours”.
Discussion as a chain reaction of confrontation
The task of information attacks are not to convince the opponent (as was the aim of classical intellectual discussion) or winning of confidence from a crowd, but in the sowing of doubt with the aid of conspiracy theories and numerous falsifications. It’s not worth calling Polish and Ukrainian historians in order to figure out the precise number of dead during the Volyn massacres. 35, 60 or 100 thousand makes no difference – the deep pain has already been awoken in Poles, along with a distrust of their Ukrainian neighbours. For each side will leave with confidence only in their own ”truth”, that which is closer to them, that which is already built-in, while other points will not be noticed or taken into account. P. Pomerantsev emphasises, that ”Any contradiction of the emplaced informational framework will result in stormy aggression”, as the counter-arguments are based on illusory senses, which recreate nostalgia of youth (sympathetic to a socialist past), while others are given hope for ”justice”.
Mythical reconstruction of the past, which is extrapolated onto a parallel reality
This utilizes the method of ”Psychohistory” a multidisciplinary study, which has taken in not only history, but psychoanalysis of Freud and Jung, sociology, mathematic modelling and so forth. With the aid of psychoanalysis we find which historic event or historic-cultural tendency finds a mental trigger in a certain group of people. Around such historical context is formed a modern cult text and a cult view of the modern world. With the help of sociology we find what percentage of the population will go along with the new cult text. With the aid of mathematic modelling we reconstruct the mystification of our view of the past. For such a painting of the past to make headway on the information highways a countless array of instruments and mechanisms are used, which create a parallel reality. The British Author Peter Pomerantsev, who spent nine youthful years in Moscow and has studied in detail the mentality of the Russian people, compares these instruments and mechanisms with ”three dimensional hypnotic hologram”, ”which has something nationalistic in it – the tradition of Potemkin’s villages. The realistic virtual facades of future greatness, even drawings of flowers on drawings of windows, only now they are recreated with far greater realism in the three dimensional hologram reality – you can even see how the flowers flutter in the wind”.
Using history in hybrid war aims to change the worldview of a large group of people and to create a new sort of common sense, which in themselves form a positive image of the Russian Federation headed by its leader Vladimir Putin as a real world power that can resist evil global monopoly of the USA.
The first Russian multidimensional project utilizing falsification of historical context was called ”Russkiy mir” (Russian World) and build on a common link with Ukrainian Kyivan Rus tradition, namely the baptism of Kyivan Rus by Grand Prince Volodymyr, and further common history within the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Armed with a book written in the early twentieth century by Russian scholar Nikolai Danilevsky ”Russia and Europe”, in which the author launched the idea of European civilization’s ”decay” with its immorality and contrasted it with the rebirth of a new highly moralistic Rus civilization. The ideological tenets of N. Danilevsky were popular before World War I among Galicians, Czechs, Serbs and even Polish Russophiles (Moscowphiles). A modern restructuring of this information project was carried out in the late 90’s of the 20th century by Russian philosopher and political strategist, deputy director of the Philosophy Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences P. Shchedrovitski. It was based on popular among Western political analysts thesis that the role of private transnational structures significantly increases in the context of globalization. After the concept of Toffler’s ”third wave”, P. Shchedrovitski proposed a ”fourth wave” outside the Russian state borders, which included forming new technologies of thinking, transitioning from the means of production to production of new human qualities. The scope and scale of ”Russkiy mir” (The Russian World) was seen as a kind of Russian human ”capital”, which is ”a set of cultural, intellectual, human and organizational potential”. This untapped potential will turn such a process into ”A Russian image of the future that will define the scope and limits of economic, political and educational ontopractices (Practical Ontology).” P. Schedrovitsky’s idea introduced a tool to lobby Russian interests via individuals who will be involved in joint Russian or Russian-European projects and transnational corporations (e.g. gas): ”The more people and communities in the world need the Russian Federation, the more resilient it becomes… The more individual foreign citizens need Russia, the more resilient its position in the world.” Thus ”Russkiy mir” (Russian World) has become a global strategic project used by the postmodern Russian Federation to influence on world politics and foreign governments. In the end it foresees the formation of new global Russian governance which is an alternative to the Western one. A simplified interpretation of the ”Russkiy mir” available to the public was developed by the Valdai Club. The myth about historical background of Russian ”spiritual strengthening” was formed by the noted persona Mikhail Dugin.
A wide net of adherents among people of different countries was formed for practical implementation of the informational and psychological construction of ”Russkiy mir” (Russian World). These people have been historically associated with Russianness and being Russian: genetic, linguistic, cultural, religious ties or even historical connections of their ancestors living in the Empire of the Romanovs or within ideological influence of the USSR. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education created the eponymous fund on June 21, 2007 to financially support ”Russkiy mir” (Russian World). Statutory objectives of the Fund foresaw support of mass media, oriented towards the formation of favorable public opinion towards Russia. By March 2012 the Fund opened 82 centers overseas for successful implementation of these tasks. The agreement of Cooperation between the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church and Vladimir Nikonov, CEO of the Fund, was signed in late 2009. Thereafter Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church became the coordinating center for the practical implementation of ideology ”Russkiy mir” (Russian World). Coordination of cooperation relied on the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as other structural units of the Russian Orthodox Church – Synodal Department of Church and society relations, Synodal information department of the Moscow Patriarchate Publishing House and the Secretariat of the Moscow Patriarchate for foreign institutions.
With information technology and creation of lobbying backchannels Russian security services managed to promote their interests through international organizations and international conferences. Even some members of the Council of Europe and the OSCE have been co-opted for lobbying of Russian interests. Western pro-Russian lobbyists broadcast the Russian version of events in Ukraine, in particular the denial of Russian intervention; demands to lift the sanctions against Russian are voiced loudly and often. A lot of such information projects are active in countries of the former Soviet Socialist sphere of influence. These are websites that present themselves as ”alternative media”, bearers of ”an alternative view of reality.” In practice, among the neutral publications and even objective information they regularly publish materials criticizing Western democracy and the current foreign policy of the European Union or even directly express admiration of Putin’s regime. In addition, the Kremlin supports the radical and extremist forces, such as ”National Defense” in the Czech Republic, which tried to open ”the Donetsk People’s Republic Consulate”.
The political side of the ”Russkiy mir” project also meant using information technology to change national picture of the world among the Ukrainians and to prepare the ground for Ukraine’s full transition into a protectorate of the Russian Federation. However, this goal was realized only in Crimea and partially in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. After the failure of the ”Russian World” project in most of Ukraine, and especially after ethnic Russian citizens of Ukraine stood alongside ethnic Ukrainians in defense of their fatherland, the Kremlin began to search for a new project.
The new informational terrain often offers astounding historical constructs that are able to attract the attention with its sensationalism and create fertile ground for the manipulation of consciousness. An example is the book by Igor Berkut ”The true history of Ukraine (142.000 BC – 1938 AD)”, which aimed to change Ukrainians’ subconscious positive attitude towards Western Europeans to a negative one. This pseudo-reconstruction of Ukrainian history begins in 142.000 BC and is interspersed with absurd thesis presented as fact (e.g., Cro-Magnons are ancient Ukrainians, while the Europeans are the descendants of the more backward Neanderthals) ”confirmed” by archaeological finds amounting to punctured skulls of Neanderthals. The finding is that the Ukrainian-Cro-Magnons exterminated not only the European-Neanderthals and gained for themselves European living space, but also ate their brains. To instill sympathy of the Ukrainians to historical figures of Stalin, the organizer of Holodomor, whose image echoes Putin, I. Berkut dedicates reader (listener) in the mysterious story of Generalissimo’s passionate love to a girl named Christina from Western Ukraine. The more absurd a historical simulation is, the more sensational and memorable it becomes. Light-hearted absurd content of the story does not involve critical thinking, because it is used only as a mental background to open the reader / listener / viewer to more sophisticated means of manipulation. But a historical story must meet the mental codes of historical memory, which are able to awaken elements of a hidden emotional personality. In this love story of Stalin it is not difficult to recognize the songs about love story of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to the captured Ukrainian Roksolana.
- Badrak, in analyzing methods of psychological impact of information emissions from media-psychology by Peter Winterhoff-Shpruk, observes that these books need not even be read. Instead, they provide an informed cause to discuss a problem. ”Materials about the book, with few exceptions, usually project several interconnected circles of influence on the audience.” In the example of the abovementioned book we can observe the following:
1) the presentation of the book to a variety of audiences with subsequent posting of a short presentation with the author on ”Youtube”;
2) online presentation of information immediately after the presentation, a ”Blitz” interview, chat rooms;
3) articles in daily newspapers with hardly informative summaries (up to 3-4 thousand letters);
4) analytical publications in periodicals;
5) mentioning of the book under various pretexts during round table discussions and international conferences;
6) translations of the book in different languages;
7) secondary presentation by author with reference to the widespread publicity. So as of August 6, 2016 there were almost 29 thousand links to this book on the Internet.
The examples above of the Kremlin’s manipulative projects clearly demonstrate how to use modern informational and psychological technologies to derail friendly cooperation of government leaders, politicians, civic figures and the public in the 20th century. It should be a lesson to Romanian-Ukrainian relations and all those involved in them.
However, most theorists and practitioners of information technology have been left stunned in the face of the Kremlins’ information-psychology attacks. Such attacks are often mistakenly treated as ordinary propaganda. Therefore majority of experts on combating information threats, including Ukrainian, aim to identify misinformation spread by the Russian media and refute such fraud. However, while refuting misinformation the journalists become conduits of this propaganda and thus more and more people find themselves captives of the new way of thinking offered by the Russian Federation.
The search for tools and mechanisms with which the European Community can adequately respond to the challenges of hybrid war are hampered by the fact that so far leading theorists of European integration (Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, C. Deutsch, E. Haas, R. Bar, W. Hallstein and others) ignored cultural and historical context, considering that the basis of international organizations should be economic benefit. As long as its citizens see real benefits, they will support it without caution. However, the effect achieved by using methods of psychological manipulation of human consciousness returns to the theoretical foundations of S. Hoffman, who once drew attention that ”denial of ideological, irrational motivations of foreign policy of the state amounts to needless absolutism”. There are problems that affect the vital interests of the state and force it to forego economic gain.
One can agree with the Ukrainian author V. Badrak, who believes that in order to avoid a new ”Cold War”, which in modern terms can have far greater consequences, ”there is an increasing need for Central European countries to offer their ideological vision of the multidimensional world, with the aid of which the expansion of Russia’s informational sphere would be made difficult.”
To prevent the use of historical clashes between our current allied peoples in the war of information, we have to be one step ahead of the game. First, for the successful promotion of the Baltic-Black Sea project historians should be mobilized to write updated histories of Central and Eastern Europe. In the early 90s at the Ukrainian-Polish conferences the sentiment was often heard: ”Let us find what unites us, not which divides us.”
One of the successful projects could be a study and re-enactment of the Battle of Orsha on September 8, 1514 in which the united Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian troops under the command of Kostantyn Ostrog and Yanush Sverchevskyi smashed Moscow’s army led by commanders Ivan Chelyadin and Mikhail Bulgakov-Holitsa. The victory was of great historical significance. It set back Moscow’s attacks on the West for nearly a century, a period of peace used to create the Lithuanian Statute (the first prototype of the Constitution), and get printing started.
In the information space it is worth to revive the rich history of Polish-Ukrainian-Romanian friendly relations of the second half 16th – first half of the 17th centuries. It is worth mentioning the links between Lviv and Simeon Mohyla, a host of Semyhrad. His son Peter Mohyla was a godson of Polish crown hetman Zolkiewski, studied in Ukrainian Stavropyhiysk Brotherhood school in Lviv and became Metropolitan of Ukrainian church in 1632, founded the Kiev-Mohyla Academy. A farther of Wallachian host Leon Tomshi – Stephen VII Tomsha was buried in St. Onuphry Church in Lviv. On the wall of the Church of St. Assumption of the Virgin in Lviv there is a sign of gratitude to Moldavian master Myron Bernavskij who sponsored its construction and ornaments. And on the upper inner dome there is an emblem of Moldovan and Wallachian princes. During the 16th-17th century Wallachian bishops came to the city for religious holidays. The relations between churches were so great that even the Church of St. Assumption of the Virgin was still called Wallachian in the 20th century.
All these and other historical phenomena can offer a good incentive for an information drive to promote the idea of Baltic-Black Sea Alliance. In our opinion, Romanian, Polish and Ukrainian intellectuals should go beyond the narrow framework of cross-border cooperation and form a joint large scale information project. With the reconstruction of the common historical past of our nations we can achieve strong synergistic effect in countering hostile manipulative technologies.
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* Conferenţiar universitar doctor – Catedra de integrare şi Drept European, Institutul Regional de Administraţie Publică al Academiei Naţionale de Administraţie Publică de pe lângă Preşedintele Ucrainei, Lviv
 Тарнавська М. Саміт лідерів країн ЯЛТА, 11 вересня. / ДІНАУ http://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-politycs/ 8061.
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