Psychological weapons of Russia: the main thesis of the online conversation about the dangers of propaganda and combating it

For many years, Russian propaganda has imposed hostile and divisive narratives on both Ukrainian and European society as a whole. Despite that, only after a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the world realized the danger of Russian lies. On April 12, the Aspen Institute Kyiv held an online conversation for Aspen alumni and members of the Aspen Community on “Russian Propaganda – Weapons of Mass Destruction?”.

The main thesis of the event:

  • Unlike Ukraine, the West has only now realized that the propaganda media are not about freedom of speech but about information forces. Their presence in a certain country is almost identical to the presence of a rival army.
  • Most Russian propaganda is aimed directly at the Russian audience. Most Russians easily believe in false information, because they do not want and are not ready to admit their involvement in the war in Ukraine. Also, this propaganda captures the segment of the Russian-speaking population in other countries and lays the groundwork for future invasions of other countries.
  • A separate area for propagandists is the Western audience. Narratives about “Nazism in Ukraine”, “mutual forgiveness and reconciliation of Ukrainians with Russians”, “good Russians”, as well as “superpower Russia, which will win in any case” are spread there.
  • Ukrainian society does not believe in Russian propaganda, but at the same time, many Ukrainians are still in a state of uncertainty. Most often, these people support the narratives of “peace at all costs”, “good Russians” and insist that “Russia is not Putin”.
  • For counter-propaganda, it is necessary not only to deny the propaganda media but also to create one’s broadcasters for the West’s audience in Russian and Ukrainian.
  • Even though the support of China and India would strategically strengthen Ukraine’s position, communication against propaganda in these countries is not planned for the near future. The reasons are the language barrier and the rather complicated process of joining the local information space. At the same time, there are positive changes in the Chinese media and there are more articles mocking the Russian army.

Conversation speakers:

  • Mykola Davydyuk, Ukrainian political scientist, author of works How Putin’s Propaganda Works and How to Make Ukraine Successful.
  • Sonya Koshkina, co-owner, and editor-in-chief of the LB media.
  • Maksym Savanevsky, managing partner of PlusOne, co-organizer of Media Center Ukraine.
  • Taras Shevchenko, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.

The conversation was moderated by Andriy Kulakov, Program Coordinator for the Aspen Institute Kyiv Community.

We truly thank all the participants of the event for a deep and meaningful dialogue!

The event was held within the framework of the Integrity and Governance project. The Integrity and Governance project is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy.