Russia’s Neighbors Respond to Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’

[Excerpted from FOREIGN POLICY, read full article here: Russia’s Neighbors Respond to Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’]

RIGA, Latvia — On Aug. 30, the western Latvian region of Kurzeme suddenly lost cellular service for seven hours, an unusual event in the tech-savvy Baltic nation.

Though the Latvian government has yet to say just what caused the disruption, the country’s intelligence services announced last week that they are investigating if the unusual loss of service resulted from a Russian electronic attack; a Russian ship equipped for electronic warfare was reportedly just offshore at the time….

Latvia’s concern is a reflection of the growing array of hybrid war capabilities in Russia’s arsenal — from the use of disinformation and propaganda to sow internal discord within a country, to crippling cyberattacks, to old-fashioned military power. Those capabilities have been honed in recent years in the Russian campaigns in Ukraine and Syria. But the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and their Nordic neighbors, have increasingly become a testing ground….

Across the Baltic Sea, Finland has also been moving quickly to fortify itself against both old threats and new ones.

Helsinki is spending heavily on defense, maintains a large conscript army of 280,000 soldiers, and has a growing array of civil defense initiatives. But Helsinki is also beefing up resources outside the barracks, launching a public diplomacy program to train government employees about what disinformation is and how fake news goes viral. The Nordic country has also looked to boost its already close ties with NATO, opening an EU and NATO-linked center in Helsinki in early October dedicated to researching how governments can push back against information warfare.A shooting war is probably unlikely — “it would mean World War III,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told journalists last week — but a quiet one is already underway. In addition to a flood of fake news, including stories designed to inflame ethnic tensions, pro-Russian activists have targeted and harassed a Finnish journalist who was investigating the activities of troll farms in Finland. (Russian internet trolls routinely spread disinformation and amplify societal divides, in Europe as in the United States.)

So far, Finland has proven more resistant than most to the information onslaught….

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AT FOREIGN POLICY:

Russia’s Neighbors Respond to Putin’s ‘Hybrid War’

The U.S. Struggles against Russian Cyber Disinformation

As the Kremlin wages an unyielding disinformation campaign against the United States and its European allies, Washington is still reeling from Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election and only just beginning efforts aimed at tackling this major national security threat.

Almost a year after election day, there are some signs of life in U.S.-led efforts to counter disinformation. While allies across the Atlantic have long faced off against this Russian weapon, the 2016 presidential election — filled with revelations about the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack, use of Facebook advertisements, and Russian troll armies on social media — opened the eyes of many in Washington to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s preferred tactics.

“When we look at the U.S. election, the size and the risk appetite was probably something that was of surprise — but as far as the methods and interest to actually attempt to sway the opinions, that is nothing new, at least in Europe,” Jānis Sārts, director at the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, told The Cipher Brief.

By using “fake news,” social media manipulation and amplification through bots, targeted advertising, weaponized stolen information, and other information warfare tactics, Russia has sought to sow discord, exploit societal divisions, and make an impact on the U.S. political scene….

[Read the rest of Mackenzie Weinger’s article at “The Cipher Brief”: https://www.thecipherbrief.com/article/international/u-s-struggles-russian-cyber-disinformation]

His Bravery Unsung, Varian Fry Acted to Save Jews

The American journalist Varian Fry in 1967. He helped artists like Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp escape the Nazis during World War II

In June of 1935, two years after the German government falsely portrayed the burning of the Reichstag as a Communist plot to overthrow the state and just at the moment that it had banned all but “Aryans’’ from serving in the military and made homosexuality a crime, Varian Fry, a young Manhattan editor who was preparing to take over a magazine called The Living Age, traveled to Berlin.

About one month into his stay, he witnessed a night of gruesome rioting in which Jews were kicked, bloodied and spat on, leaving him to provide one of the earliest accounts of Nazi cruelties in the American news media. Relaying his observations to The Associated Press, Fry remarked that the police “nowhere’’ seemed “to make any effort whatever to save victims from this brutality.’’ Occasionally, he said, “they attempted to clear areas for motor traffic,’’ or to keep people from congregating in front of beloved cafes, but “that was all.’’ The crowds — made up of people young and old, well-bred-looking and common — chanting “‘The best Jew is a dead Jew,’” he continued, conducted themselves as if “in holiday mood….’’

Read more in the New York Times

Trump’s Global Democracy Retreat

Under the leadership of Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson, the State Department is considering a mission reform that includes the abandonment of democratic assistance and human rights. The current mission statement reads, “The department’s mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”

Dropping the words “just” and “democratic” would be fully consistent with the transactional realism that has characterized Mr. Trump’s rhetoric.

And such a change might reflect a growing feeling that most of the programs to support democracy abroad and the importance of democratic ideals are wasteful, inefficient, unappreciated or even damaging. In America, the public (especially Republicans) has increasingly favored nationalism and isolationism, according to some polls, in which the United States focuses on its own problems, with many wary of global humanitarian engagement….

 

For more, read the article in the New York Times

The Unraveling of Roosevelt’s World

In the 1940s, after two world wars and a depression, Western policymakers decided enough was enough. Unless international politics changed in some fundamental way, humanity itself might not survive much longer.

A strain of liberal idealism had been integral to U.S. identity from the American founding onward, but now power could be put behind principle. Woodrow Wilson had fought “to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles.” Keeping his goals while noting his failures, the next generation tried again with a revised strategy, and this time they succeeded. The result became known as the postwar liberal international order….

Read more at Foreign Affairs!