From the New York Times, August 28, 2016
A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories
The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War. Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.
The flow of misleading and inaccurate stories is so strong that both NATO and the European Union have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation, particularly claims emanating from Russia.
The Kremlin’s clandestine methods have surfaced in the United States, too, American officials say, identifying Russian intelligence as the likely source of leaked Democratic National Committee emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The Kremlin uses both conventional media — Sputnik, a news agency, and RT, a television outlet — and covert channels, as in Sweden, that are almost always untraceable.
Russia exploits both approaches in a comprehensive assault, Wilhelm Unge, a spokesman for the Swedish Security Service, said this year when presenting the agency’s annual report. “We mean everything from internet trolls to propaganda and misinformation spread by media companies like RT and Sputnik,” he said.
The fundamental purpose of dezinformatsiya, or Russian disinformation, experts said, is to undermine the official version of events — even the very idea that there is a true version of events — and foster a kind of policy paralysis.
Disinformation most famously succeeded in early 2014 with the initial obfuscation about deploying Russian forces to seize Crimea. That summer, Russia pumped out a dizzying array of theories about the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, blaming the C.I.A. and, most outlandishly, Ukrainian fighter pilots who had mistaken the airliner for the Russian presidential aircraft.