: Foreign Policy: How Putin stirs up conflict using bikers, militias, and state-controlled TV

16:58 Apr. 15, 2016

Foreign Policy: How Putin stirs up conflict using bikers, militias, and state-controlled TV

Russian PM Vladimir Putin rides a motor tricycle at the International Bike Show on August, 29, 2011 (Getty Images)

Moscow creates a network of advocates and activists to promote its nativist policies under the guise of the ‘Russian World', journalist says

In late February 2014, the Russian Community of Crimea, a pseudo-NGO largely funded by Moscow, appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking officials to prevent a potential "genocide of the Russian people." Shortly after, reports of looming ethnic cleansing in the Ukrainian peninsula dominated the Russian airwaves.

A few days later so-called "little green men" in Russian military uniforms took control of airports. On March 1, 2014, the Russian parliament authorized sending its troops into Ukrainian territory. By March 18, the annexation of Crimea was complete.

This is how Crimea was taken without a shot — and Chatham House, a London-based think tank, sees Moscow's conquest of the Ukrainian territory as a textbook example of Moscow's evolving strategy of blending military force with grassroots advocacy by ostensibly independent groups that are actually in the pocket of the Kremlin. The organization maps Moscow's new approach in a new report.

"Their purpose is to project Russian ‘soft power' abroad and help turn the hearts and minds of citizens in neighbouring countries towards accepting Russia's supremacy," said the report.

The report's author, Orysia Lutsevych, told that Moscow is increasingly using state-controlled media organizations and pseudo-activists working for the Kremlin to create friction and stir up conflict in neighboring countries to justify increased Russian involvement in the nation's internal affairs.

Read also Turkey bans Russian propaganda site

"Russia wants to have its sphere of influence, and one way or another it will find a way to attain it," Lutsevych said. "What the Kremlin is doing is less using soft power and more using soft coercion."

Using civil society groups to advocate a country's foreign policy wasn't a tool invented by Russia, but it is increasingly integral to Russian foreign policy. The United States funds democratic civil society groups around the world and China invests heavily into Confucius Institutes, which promote Chinese language and culture. But Russia, says Lutsevych, has taken the concept to a new level.

Read also  Russian opposition picks holes in state TV 'exposé' of Navalny

"The goal isn't to look at the local agenda and see where the Russian experience can fill a void. It's simply to promote the Kremlin's agenda and amplify it," Orysia Lutsevych said.

The origins of this emphasis on controlling information and using proxy groups to change public perceptions began in the chaotic aftermath of the color revolutions in former Soviet countries: the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan.

These events were widely viewed by the Kremlin as being fomented by American NGOs and exaggerated by U.S. media companies working at the behest of Washington.

Full story

comments powered by Disqus


News15:27 Dec. 4, 2016
Shootout during a Spec Op: 5 policemen dead
News16:00 Nov. 28, 2016
Suspension mechanism to be dicussed on November 29 - RFE/RL
News12:15 Nov. 25, 2016
Record number of ceasefire violations in Donbas since 2014 - OSCE
News18:40 Nov. 24, 2016
Iraq suicide attack: at least 80 killed
News18:27 Nov. 24, 2016
European Council president speaks Ukrainian at Brussels summit
Subscribe to receive regular email updates about Ukraine and Eastern Europe