Since launching his February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has shuttered what was left of Russia’s independent media and restricted Russians’ access to major Western social media platforms and various Western news agencies. | Michael Probst, File
The fight for Ukraine will not just be won on the battlefield. For all the high-tech weaponry the West has delivered, psychological war against Russia remains a key opportunity for the United States.
Historically, such an approach focused on selling Russians on the American dream. But this strategy is a relic of the Cold War, ill-suited to present-day Russia. Instead of pitching the benefits of Levi’s and Hollywood, U.S. information operations should use Russian nationalism to turn the tables on the Kremlin — highlighting the war’s damage to Russia, exposing government corruption and inequities inside Russia, and exploiting resentment among Russia’s ethnic minorities. These, dare we say, Russia-style tactics will bear more fruit than tales about the wonders of American democracy.
The U.S. government is no stranger to information operations of this kind. During the Cold War, to highlight the Soviet Union’s weaknesses and provide genuine news to the captive nations of the Soviet empire, Washington pioneered the delivery of world news through its Voice of America initiative and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. These public information programs were instrumental in the fight against communism. Since launching his February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has shuttered what was left of Russia’s independent media and restricted Russians’ access to major Western social media platforms and various Western news agencies. But through the widespread use of VPN internet access, the United States can deliver information inside Russia as well as use Russian surrogates to post social media messages on Russian platforms.