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Between overt disinformation and covert practice: The Russian special services’ game. Point of View Number 73, March 2019

Darczewska, Jolanta (2019) Between overt disinformation and covert practice: The Russian special services’ game. Point of View Number 73, March 2019. UNSPECIFIED.

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    It is generally believed that one sign that the secret services are doing their job well is that the media says nothing about them. In this respect, Russia is a special case: the services receive an excess of media coverage. This is only partly due to the media’s natural interest in an attractive subject, as well as the services’ own self-promotion (although that is increasingly true around the world). In fact, it is a symptom of Russia’s information warfare, in which the special services’ public image is just one block in building the appearance of a strong state and a strong government. It also justifies and legitimises the high position which the services and elite members of the institutions of force enjoy in the Russian Federation’s political system. However, this artificial, mythologised image of the services conflicts with their non-public practices. These are revealed when their cover is blown, when journalists investigate criminal scandals involving the services, when controlled and uncontrolled leaks of compromising information take place, and when the opposition publicises cases where the special services violate fundamental rights and civil liberties – something they often do under the pretext of fighting the ‘fifth column’ of the West, international terrorists and foreign spies. This produces two different images of the services: the official one and the common one. The former presents the services as professional, patriotic and a stronghold of traditional values, Russia’s ‘sword and shield’; the latter shows them as pampered by the regime, lawless, corrupt and undisciplined, involved in brutal competition with one another, bureaucratised and criminalised. This text attempts to explain the paradox of the Russian special services’ dual public image as reflected in the media. By placing this question in the context of information warfare, it intends to portray a broader picture of how the services operate domestically and externally, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. POINT OF VIEW 03/2019 6 Information warfare itself is discussed only selectively: the services’ active role in conducting that kind of warfare, which involves obtaining, defending and distorting information, is mentioned only briefly; and the text does not address issues concerning cyberspace, even though this is the services’ main theatre of operations at present.

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    Item Type: Other
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > External relations > common foreign & security policy 1993--European Global Strategy
    Countries > Russia
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) > Point of View
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2019 14:16
    Number of Pages: 36
    Last Modified: 24 Oct 2019 14:16

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