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There has been a steady shift in opinion toward support of the Russian narrative. Public support for Kremlin’s "Eurasian Union” concept has risen to 31% in just a few years. The percentage of people who believe that Georgia would benefit more from abandoning its Euro-Atlantic aspirations has increased from 19% to 30% in just last year.
Pro-Russian and xenophobic politicians have had meteoric rises in popularity.
Russia is willing to provide nearly infinite resources to advance its narrative, and new initiatives are needed to combat the corrosive ideas that the Kremlin uses to convince people in the region that it is easier to remain in their “gray zone“ than it is to build open, tolerant, inclusive societies where people have real opportunities for peace, prosperity and security.
Russia’s war in Ukraine made clear that the Kremlin is focused as much on winning the information war as any physical conflict. It wages this war with many tools, but Russia’s sophisticated multi-billion dollar propaganda machine is a critical component of the fight.
The primary goal of the Kremlin’s information war is to create a narrative that will justify their continued domination of what the Kremlin refers to as “their backyard” — their “sphere of influence,” which includes Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and other former Soviet republics.
After the war with Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin re-oriented its PR strategy. They no longer work to bolster the image of Russia. The goal of information war is to demonize the whole idea of the West and devalue liberal values and institutions.
Putin tries to portray Russia as a champion of “traditional moral,” against Western values, which are “eroding morality.” The Head of Russian Orthodox Church agrees with him: “Liberalism will lead to legal collapse and then to the Apocalypse.” His voice is echoed in the other Orthodox churches in the region, including in the Georgian Orthodox church.
Putin’s propaganda has been tailored to embrace many groups for self-serving purposes. Xénophobes and other far-right groups are convinced by the Kremlin’s position against immigrants and homosexuality; they present Russia as a guardian of Christian values forgotten in the “postmodern West.” The far-left has been seduced by the idea of fighting US hegemony.
Simple demonstration of how seriously Kremlin takes information war is Global television network RT (formerly Russia Today) which is supplemented by international multimedia initiatives in a wide range of languages. Sputnik News, for examples, has become a network of news hubs in 34 countries — producing radio, social media and news-wire content in 30 languages — in just over a year.
Apart from international media, Moscow works to expand its influence on public opinion outside Russia through a variety of institutions and sources: the Orthodox Church; pro-Kremlin intellectuals masquerading as independent experts; pseudo-independent public groups, Kremlin-backed NGOs, and compatriot groups, far-right and far-left politicians and political parties, especially in Europe; and other means.
Liberty that has been gained by the captive nations as a result of the defeat of the Evil Empire is under attack again. We are witnessing a resolute drive by Vladimir Putin to reverse the outcome of the Cold War. He first invaded Georgia in 2008 – a warning that the world did not notice. Now, he is investing hard into its propaganda machine and is engaged in a full-fledged multi-layered information war. In situation like this, efforts such as GeorgiaForLiberty are indispensible and that’s why I support it. I wish my Georgian friends good luck.
Defend Liberty is a useful and courageous project that comes at a time when such initiatives are sorely needed. Information warfare by Russia has intensified and this is the case in Georgia as well. If Russian propaganda is not countered, consequences can be grave, as has been demonstrated on various occasions in post-Soviet states since 1991. The best way to counter propaganda is to spread truth and facts, and to put considerable effort into this. That’s the purpose of Defend Liberty and I wish this project and its participants the best of luck.
I fully support the Defend Liberty project in Georgia. What we see today is an all-out effort by Russia to restore its domination over the neighbours. In this effort, all kinds of methods are used. Important part of this is the propaganda war. The hybrid warfare that Kremlin employs is impossible without propaganda. As to Georgia, it is now heavily targeted by Russia, just like Ukraine and Moldova are. And recent news coming from Georgia are disturbing. It is not impossible to imagine Georgia as the next place where the main Russian effort could be directed. In such circumstances resistance to the Russian propaganda is of imperative importance. Such resistance is the goal of Defend Liberty.
At the core of this [the Kremlin’s] strategy is the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth. This notion allows the Kremlin to replace facts with disinformation... The aim was to distract people from the evidence, which pointed to the separatists, and to muddy the water to a point where the audience simply gave up on the search for truth.
The Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world is something that can be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy, but which cannot be charmed or talked out of existence.
Russia has hybridized not only its actual warfare but also its informational warfare. Much of the epistemology democratic nations thought they had permanently retired after the Cold War needs to be re-learned and adapted to even cleverer forms of propaganda and disinformation.
The more you doubt, the less you trust, is the premise of Russia’s broadcasts to the world. Information warfare is not just about getting your own message across. It also involves confusing, distracting, dividing and demoralising the adversary. That is what Russia is doing to the West.
The Kremlin's disinformation campaign goes far beyond controlling its own media. It is aimed at nothing less than presenting a parallel version of reality and disseminating it as if it were news. The Kremlin's goal is to make people question the value of media at all; to reject the idea of an absolute truth; and to persuade the public that “reality“ is relative.
Mr. Putin doesn’t want to talk about Russia. We should. We should talk about how Mr. Putin and his cronies have enriched themselves, all the while doing little to improve the lives of ordinary Russians. We should shine a bright spotlight on the plundering that Mr. Putin and his gang have been committing against Russia, materially, spiritually and intellectually.
The media strategy of Russia in all of the former Soviet republics is basically the same: to promote Russia’s foreign policy objectives and discourage democratic developments in the former Soviet republics.
Goal of Defend Liberty is to minimize the impact of Russian propaganda on Georgian society by fostering debate and public dialogue on critical issues — especially to help communities understand how Europe and access to Europe can benefit them at a local level. We will show communities and individuals how to solve local problems with support from Europe — and that Russia often isn’t the solution it purports to be to the challenges they face in their everyday lives.
Russia has encouraged Georgians to be skeptical about the messages from the government and from politicians about the benefits of European integration — and in some cases, to fear the outcome of that integration. Confronting the Russian narrative requires direct engagement with people and communities to show them that access to Europe and Western resources can address their problems and better their lives. Defend Liberty will employ a grassroots approach, going community by community, handshake by handshake, to counter Russia’s aggressive propaganda campaign against the West in Georgia.
We will do this by:
— debunking Russian myths about how the West is weakening Georgia and its values— explaining how national initiatives will benefit Georgian regions and communities;
— giving practical and technical advice to individuals, organizations, and communities about accessing Western resources that can benefit them and help them address the problems their families face everyday;
— broadcasting these events to a national audience so every Georgian region can learn from the challenges and solutions of their neighbors.
To do this, Defend Liberty will visit host two 3-day events in each Georgian region (plus Tbilisi) per year, bringing prominent figures from Georgian society to interact with local populations, discuss the challenges they face, and provide fact-based arguments for how Euro-Atlantic integration can change their lives for the better — economically, socially, and politically. These events will include: public debates; open dialogue via townhall-style meetings and educational events; and social and cultural events and exhibitions. We will also bring experts to provide technical and practical advice on how residents can apply for state and international programs and financing that can help them access the training and resources that will bring solutions to the local level in Georgia.
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