Putin Would Have Won
When Putin was relying more on disinformation for political leverage than military means, he was arguably winning. And if he continued to use disinformation he probably would have won over the hearts of Eastern Europeans eventually.
In my home country alone, Slovakia, about 50% of our citizens are on Putin’s side in the war. And these numbers are not reserved to my country.
Putin’s disinformation campaigns have reached Latin America and Africa.
And if Putin chose to rely solely on disinformation, he would have done a lot more damage in Ukraine. Instead, he chose military action which brought all of Ukraine (as it did in 2014) closer to the West once more.
To show you why I think Putin was winning before he chose military intervention in Ukraine, we have to first define disinformation. In order to do that, it will be useful to delineate it from misinformation.
Disinformation is a type of purposeful and false propaganda meant to influence the opinion of others.
The difference between disinformation and misinformation is straightforward then, as misinformation is commonly assumed as unintentional, whereas disinformation is the active misleading of the population.
The “four Ds” of disinformation campaigns — Dismiss/Deny, Distort, Distract, Dismay — further help delineate the two from one another.
But there is more to it.
As Richey Mason helpfully explains in his article, “Contemporary Russian Revisionism,” in a hybrid-war context, Russian propaganda serves four goals:
- “dissuading rival political entities;”
- “generalizing cynicism about domestic and international politics,” including global governance guided by international law, and instead promoting Russian policy agendas internationally;
- “legitimating artificially constructed facts on the ground;”
- “causing dissension within and among states allied against a given Russian action.”