International Agreement for Control of Cyber Weapons

Category: Information War

Cyber Defense Triad

In the deterrence theory of nuclear war, the “triad” is an essential concept. It refers to three different delivery platforms for thermonuclear weapons.

  1. Land Based –– Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) are located in silos scattered around the United States, and perhaps in other places as well.
  2. Air Based –– Intercontinental Strategic Bombers such as the B-2 will fly to their targets and delivery the thermonuclear weapons.
  3. Sea Based –– Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) are launched from submarines, which are exceedingly impossible to detect.

In a typical scenario, the United States is attacked by incoming thermonuclear weapons. The land based missiles are destroyed. Many strategic bombers are caught on the ground and also destroyed.  Those bombers that are heading to their targets are shot out of the air.

Still, the SLBMs will be launched, and that force alone is enough to completely destroy the attacker, no matter how large they are.

As a result, any attacker is assured that if they attack, then they definitely will be destroyed also.  This is the basis for nuclear deterrence, and the basis for the world’s peace that we have enjoyed since the beginning of the nuclear age.

The Cyber Defense Triad

Since 9/11, the United States has made a very large investment in national security.  It has prepared not only for fighting terrorism overseas, but also for fighting it inside the United States.  This has resulted in a blurring of responsibilities between more than 3,984 federal, state and local organizations that are involved in anti-terrorist activities. Doing the math, that is more than 76 anti-terrorist organizations per state.

By taking out a small subset of these organizations, we can see the organizations involved with cyber security and cyber warfare. See Figure 1.


Figure 1 – The Cyber Defense Triad.

The two major government organizations responsible for cyber security are the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. These organizations are supported by the intelligence establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which sit on top of the eighteen (18) intelligence organizations operating in the United States.

One of the peculiar problems of cyber defense is the blurring of national borders. It is actually almost meaningless to think of a national border.  So in a sense, the dividing up of responsibilities between the Department of Defense and Homeland Security is archaic. You will notice that no such division exists in Russia.  (See previous post on Russian Cyber Defense Doctrine.)

But looking at this complex web of cyber defense capabilities, one wonders how well it will really work when under extreme pressure of a major cyber incident?

Cyber Deterrence Theory

It is an open question regarding whether or not the cyber capabilities that have been deployed by the United States are capable of cyber deterrence. Given the massive number of cyber attacks that have been reported, the answer is “no”.

Cyber Deterrence Theory needs more exploration. See future blog entries.


Escalation Levels in Cyber War

Cyber Readiness Levels

Cyber war may be thought of as a low-level type of conflict. In its initial stages, it does not have an offensive nature, but instead is focused more on intelligence collection.

Intelligence collection. There are two aspects: (1) the collection of specific pieces of information (data) that can be used later as an input into intelligence analysis; (2) collection of macro-information that helps to make a “cyber map” of the information space of the enemy. This would include understanding of (a) the major networks and components of the enemy cyber structure; and (b) the types of a characteristics of vulnerabilities of the enemy cyber structure.


Figure 1 – Levels of Readiness for Cyber War. Kinetic, Information and Cyber Operations stand in a general hierarchy leading to increased levels of violence.

Active Cyber Disruption. The second level of cyber operations is more aggressive and offensive in nature. At this level, cyber weapons are deployed for specific purposes of disruption.

Information Operations. Beyond cyber, any national defense campaign employs the use of propaganda, information operations, disinformation, or other tools, in order to shape the psychological environment both of the target country, but also of the national audience. Information operations involve the placement into the meme-space of alternative ideas, the objective of which is to compel public opinion to move in a way more favorable to the originator’s way of thinking. Propaganda and information operations are a well-known tool of statecraft.

Kinetic Operations. After the battleground has been prepared by cyber and information operations, the next level of actual military conflict. Killing people, destruction of property, and other arts of classical warfare. In all nations, this level of conflict is seen as being the “last resort”, an action taken when all other means fail in solving the national conflict.


Figure 2 – Levels of Escalation of Cyber War. Prior to initiating cyber attacks, there are several precursor levels of escalation.

Levels of Escalation of Cyber War

There are at least five (5) levels of preparation before offensive cyber operations begin.

General Intelligence Collection. Cyber has emerged as a major tool of intelligence collection. Economic, military, and government intelligence can be collected through cyber in a way that is at least two orders of magnitude less expensive than any other means. The use of automation in particular can change the need for specific targeting (because web-bots can simply scan everything). In addition, collection can be asynchronous; that is, information can be collected for use later, even though when it is collected, there is no specific purpose to get it.

Targeted Intelligence Collection. More specific cyber intelligence is collected with there is a known target. Examples would be a specific person, or a specific facility (government, commercial, military). Cyber can either be a support for other means of technical intelligence TECHINT, or can itself be a tool, e.g., cyber could be used to support collection of MASINT (Measurement and Signature Intelligence), FISINT (Foreign Instrumentation Signals Intelligence). Targeted intelligence collection occurs when a tangible and known threat has been identified.

Cyber Target Preparation. Once cyber targets have been identified, a number of steps must be taken to perfect the attack. This means testing or simulating the attack on a mock-up copy of the target, and if necessary placing into the target cyber infrastructure (such as a server, control device, or other location) of malware that can be activated when needed. It is crucial that the cyber attack profile of each target be identified and verified prior to launching an attack.

Preparation of Disinformation. Planning and preparation for disinformation actions. This involves changing information, inserting information, destruction of information, or denial of access to information.

At this point preparations have been put in place. Malware is positioned, and relevant information has been collected analyzed.

Initiation of Cyber Attack. The active phase of the cyber attack begin. Keep in mind that in a nation-state confrontation, this refers to initiations of hundreds of targets at the same time.

Cyber Command and Control. Any successful cyber program must have some type of command and control structure to (1) control initiation of attacks; (2) monitor performance and effectiveness of attacks; (3) monitor the overall cyber conflict and be able to report on lethality (effectiveness) of attacks.

Russian Cyber War Doctrine

What is the Cyber War Doctrine of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation? Examining The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, we can see a number of references to the information aspects of war. Below we examine the Russian Military Doctrine of 2010 and compare it to the updated version published in 2015.

Analysis of Russian Cyber War Doctrine

Much of Russian cyber military doctrine is similar to what we would find in the United States. For example, there is an emphasis on the role of information technology in command and control. There also is a specific emphasis placed on development of advanced weaponry using cyber. In addition, the Russian military is charged with protecting the information infrastructure of the Russian Federation.

But it appears that Russian military doctrine defines the cyber and information aspects of warfare in a considerably broader way than in the United States. Here are a few examples:

Information Actions Precede Combat Action.  Before being used, Kinetic force (traditional military action) is to be preceded by all other non-violent instruments of statecraft. Information operations (cyber operations), therefore, are viewed as a precursor to kinetic warfare.


Figure 1 –– Differents function of cyber in Russian military doctrine. The references refer to parts of the official Russian Military Doctrine published in 2015(*). These are translated below.

Protection of Russian Territory Includes Information Territory. Apart from protecting the physical territory of Russia, the concept of territory has been extended to include “cyber space” or “national cyber space”, and the military is specifically tasked with protecting all of the cyber space within the Russian Federation.

Cyber Weapons Are Viewed as Increased Threat. In the Russian view, the conventional (including nuclear) strength of the Russian military is such that it is less likely Russian will receive a conventional attack. Paradoxically, the Russians view this as increasing the risk that Russia will be attacked through communication and information technologies. It is a cyber version of guerilla warfare.

Very Broad Definition of Cyber Attack. The type of cyber incident considered by be an “attack” is very broad. It needs only to have an effect on political independence or sovereignty. Any attack against infrastructure also is included. This would cover denial-of-service, or malware. But if a cyber incident has a destabilizing effect on the “social” or “political” situation, then it also is considered to be an attack.

Spiritual and Patriotic Traditions Protected Against Cyber Attack. An information incident can be classed as a “subversive information activity” if it is “aimed at undermining” the opinions of young citizens towards “historical, spiritual and patriotic traditions”. This would mean, for example, that it is the duty of the Russian military to protect Russia against information that undermines Russian traditions.

The Non-Military Population Can be Used for Cyber Defense. The Russian military is empowered to work with non-military elements in Russia for the purpose of taking “information” measures for defense. This refers to the “army” of civilian hackers that work ostensibly outside of government control.

Cyber Attacks Are Authorized Anywhere. The Russian military is authorized to launch a cyber attack (defensive action) against the enemy anywhere in the “global information space”, e.g., not only within the territory of the enemy state.

Cyber Weapons “Indirect and Asymmetric” in Nature. Cyber weapons, and other means, are viewed as being potentially indirect and asymmetric in their utility. In this case, “asymmetric” means “low cost; high impact” or “low cost; high defensive cost”.

Information Operations. The Russian military is empowered to engage in information operations that are aimed at influencing public associations and political groups. The military is empowered to “neutralize” threats through political and non-military means. This is a very broad mandate.

Cyber Espionage is Doctrine. The use of information technology and “modern technical means” is authorized for assessment and forecasting. This is the classical function of foreign intelligence operations.

Control Over Internet to Protect Third Countries. The military is empowered to take steps to make it impossible for any force to use information and communications technologies to influence sovereignty and political independence not only of Russia, but of other states as well.

Excerpts from Russian Cyber Military Doctrine

(The operative terms are underlined.)

Part I §5. The Military Doctrine reflects the commitment of the Russian Federation to taking military measures for the protection of its national interests and the interests of its allies only after political, diplomatic, legal, economic, informational and other non-violent instruments have been exhausted. (В Военной доктрине отражена приверженность Российской Федерации к использованию для защиты национальных интересов страны и интересов ее союзников военных мер только после исчерпания возможностей применения политических, дипломатических, правовых, экономических, информационных и других инструментов ненасильственного характера.)

Part II §11. There is a tendency towards shifting the military risks and military threats to the information space and the internal sphere of the Russian Federation. At the same time, despite the fact that unleashing of a large-scale war against the Russian Federation becomes less probable, in a number of areas the military risks encountered by the Russian Federation are increasing. (Наметилась тенденция смещения военных опасностей и военных угроз в информационное пространство и внутреннюю сферу Российской Федерации. При этом, несмотря на снижение вероятности развязывания против Российской Федерации крупномасштабной войны, на ряде направлений военные опасности для Российской Федерации усиливаются.)

The main external military risks are:
Part II §12(k)(l) use of information and communication technologies for the military-political purposes to take actions which run counter to international law, being aimed against sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity of states and posing threat to the international peace, security, global and regional stability; (использование информационных и коммуникационных технологий в военно-политических целях для осуществления действий, противоречащих международному праву, направленных против суверенитета, политической независимости, территориальной целостности государств и представляющих угрозу международному миру, безопасности, глобальной и региональной стабильности;)

13. The main internal military risks are:
Part II §13(a) activities aimed at changing by force the constitutional system of the Russian Federation; destabilizing domestic political and social situation in the country; disrupting the functioning of state administration bodies, important state and military facilities, and information infrastructure of the Russian Federation; (деятельность, направленная на насильственное изменение конституционного строя Российской Федерации, дестабилизацию внутриполитической и социальной ситуации в стране, дезорганизацию функционирования органов государственной власти, важных государственных, военных объектов и информационной инфраструктуры Российской Федерации;)

Part II §13(c) subversive information activities against the population, especially young citizens of the State, aimed at undermining historical, spiritual and patriotic traditions related to the defense of the Motherland; (деятельность по информационному воздействию на население, в первую очередь на молодых граждан страны, имеющая целью подрыв исторических, духовных и патриотических традиций в области защиты Отечества;)

Characteristic features and specifics of current military conflicts are:
Part II §15(a) integrated employment of military force and political, economic, informational or other non-military measures implemented with a wide use of the protest potential of the population and of special operations forces; (комплексное применение военной силы, политических, экономических, информационных и иных мер невоенного характера, реализуемых с широким использованием протестного потенциала населения и сил специальных операций)

Part II §15(b) massive use of weapons and military equipment systems, high-precision and hypersonic weapons, means of electronic warfare, weapons based on new physical principles that are comparable to nuclear weapons in terms of effectiveness, information and control systems, as well as drones and autonomous marine vehicles, guided robotic weapons and military equipment; (массированное применение систем вооружения и военной техники, высокоточного, гиперзвукового оружия, средств радиоэлектронной борьбы, оружия на новых физических принципах, сопоставимого по эффективности с ядерным оружием, информационно-управляющих систем, а также беспилотных летательных и автономных морских аппаратов, управляемых роботизированных образцов вооружения и военной техники)

Part II §15(c) exerting simultaneous pressure on the enemy throughout the enemy’s territory in the global information space, airspace and outer space, on land and sea; (воздействие на противника на всю глубину его территории одновременно в глобальном информационном пространстве, в воздушно-космическом пространстве, на суше и море)

Part II §15(f) enhanced centralization and computerization of command and control of troops and weapons as a result of transition from a strictly vertical system of command and control to global networked computerized systems of command and control of troops (forces) and weapons; (усиление централизации и автоматизации управления войсками и оружием в результате перехода от строго вертикальной системы управления к глобальным сетевым автоматизированным системам управления войсками (силами) и оружием)

Part II §15(i) use of indirect and asymmetric methods of operations; (применение непрямых и асимметричных способов действий)

Part II §15(j) employment of political forces and public associations financed and guided from abroad. (использование финансируемых и управляемых извне политических сил, общественных движений)

Part III §21(a) to assess and forecast the development of the military and political situation at global and regional levels, as well as the state of interstate relations in the military-political field with the use of modern technical means and information technologies; (оценка и прогнозирование развития военно-политической обстановки на глобальном и региональном уровне, а также состояния межгосударственных отношений в военно-политической сфере с использованием современных технических средств и информационных технологий)

Part III §21(b) to neutralize potential military risks and military threats through political, diplomatic and other non-military means; (нейтрализация возможных военных опасностей и военных угроз политическими, дипломатическими и иными невоенными средствами)

Part III §21(s) to create conditions to reduce the risk of using information and communications technologies for the military-political purposes to undertake actions running counter to international law, directed against sovereignty, political independence or territorial integrity of states or threatening international peace and security, and global and regional stability. (создание условий, обеспечивающих снижение риска использования информационных и коммуникационных технологий в военно-политических целях для осуществления действий, противоречащих международному праву, направленных против суверенитета, политической независимости, территориальной целостности государств и представляющих угрозу международному миру, безопасности, глобальной и региональной стабильности)

Part III §35(b) to provide for a more effective and secure functioning of public administration and military governance system and to ensure communication between federal government agencies, bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and other government authorities in addressing defense and security tasks; (повышение эффективности и безопасности функционирования системы государственного и военного управления, обеспечение информационного взаимодействия между федеральными органами исполнительной власти, органами исполнительной власти субъектов Российской Федерации, иными государственными органами при решении задач в области обороны и безопасности)

Part III §35(j) to improve the system of information security of the Armed Forces, other troops and bodies; (совершенствование системы информационной безопасности Вооруженных Сил, других войск и органов)

Part III §39(d) ensuring the reliable functioning of the command and control system of the Armed Forces, other troops and bodies in peacetime, under the conditions of an imminent threat of aggression and in wartime; (обеспечения надежного функционирования системы управления Вооруженными Силами, другими войсками и органами в мирное время, в период непосредственной угрозы агрессии и в военное время)

Part III §39(h) formation of territorial troops to provide protection and defense of military, state and special facilities, critical infrastructure, including transport, communications and energy, as well as potentially hazardous sites; (формирования территориальных войск для охраны и обороны военных, государственных и специальных объектов, объектов, обеспечивающих жизнедеятельность населения, функционирование транспорта, коммуникаций и связи, объектов энергетики, а также объектов, представляющих повышенную опасность для жизни и здоровья людей;)

Part III §39(l) ensuring effective information security of the Armed Forces, other troops and bodies; (эффективного обеспечения информационной безопасности Вооруженных Сил, других войск и органов)

Part III §46(c) to enhance capacity and means of information warfare; (развитие сил и средств информационного противоборства) Note: The word “противоборства” does not mean strictly “warfare”, but instead means “confrontation” which could be thought of as a level of violence short of full-scale warfare.

Part III §46(d) to improve the quality of the means of information exchange on the basis of up-to-date technologies and international standards, as well as a single information field of the Armed Forces, other troops and bodies as part of the Russian Federation’s information space; (качественное совершенствование средств информационного обмена на основе использования современных технологий и международных стандартов, а также единого информационного пространства Вооруженных Сил, других войск и органов как части информационного пространства Российской Федерации;)

Part III §46(f) to develop new types of high-precision weapons and means of counteracting them, aerospace defense assets, communication systems, reconnaissance and command systems, radio jamming systems, complexes of unmanned aerial vehicles, robotic strike complexes, modern transport aviation and individual protection systems for military personnel; (создание новых образцов высокоточного оружия и средств борьбы с ним, средств воздушно-космической обороны, систем связи, разведки и управления, радиоэлектронной борьбы, комплексов беспилотных летательных аппаратов, роботизированных ударных комплексов, современной транспортной авиации, систем индивидуальной защиты военнослужащих;)

Part III §46(g) to create basic information management systems and integrate them with the systems of command and control of weapons and the computerized systems of command and control bodies at the strategic, operational-strategic, operational, operational-tactical and tactical levels. (создание базовых информационно-управляющих систем и их интеграция с системами управления оружием и комплексами средств автоматизации органов управления стратегического, оперативно-стратегического, оперативного, оперативно-тактического и тактического масштаба)

Part III §55(f) to develop a dialogue with interested states on national approaches to confronting military risks and military threats brought about by the extensive use of information and communications technologies for military and political purposes; (развитие диалога с заинтересованными государствами о национальных подходах к противодействию военным опасностям и военным угрозам, возникающим в связи с масштабным использованием информационных и коммуникационных технологий в военно-политических целях)

Russian Cyber Military Terminology

информация инструмент –– “information instruments”.  This is a general term that applies to any use of information to further nation state objectives, including military objectives. 

информационное пространство –– “information space”. The Russian defines the nation as having an information space. This is the entire cyber infrastructure of Russia, including government, commercial, military and private networks and information processing systems. In this sense, Russians believe it is important to protect this “information space” as much as it is important to protect physical land mass.

информационная инфраструктура –– “information infrastructure”. This refers also to the entire country, but is more specific than “information space” because it focuses on the specific technical details of the computing and telecommunications network.

деятельность по информационному –– “information activities”. This refers to communication of information, such as through publications, the media, social media or other means that can have a negative effect on Russia. These are considered to be subversive.

комплексное применение –– “integrated employment”. Here this refers to the integration of military force with information (cyber) activities by the population.

информационно-управляющих систем –– “information and control system”.  This refers to the cyber components of military weapons. It encompasses everything from general command and control to artificial intelligence or other technologies that enable more intelligence weapons.

глобальное информационное пространство –– “global information space”. This refers to the World Wide Web, and everything connected to it. The doctrine calls for identification of activities on the enemy throughout the world’s cyber infrastructure and then attacking these points, even if they are outside of the national territory of the enemy country.

информационное противоборство –– “information confrontation”. A cyber conflict that fall short of full-scale military warfare.

информационные технологии –– “information technology”. Used the same as in the United States.

невоенные средства –– “non-military means”. Cyber weapons and information operations are viewed as being a type of military action without using kinetic force.

информационная безопасность –– “information security”. Generally the same as the term “cyber security”. It refers to protection of information systems and other infrastructure from hackers.

информационная война –– “information warfare”. Cyber and information operations conducted by the Armed Forces.

обмен информацией –– “information exchange”. Refers to communication within the military.

Russian Military Doctrine Published in 2010

By comparing the 2010 version with the 2015 version above, it is possible to see the giant advance in cyber strategy made by the Russian Federation.

Part I §4. Use of informational instruments for the protection of the national interest.

Part II §9(c). The informational infrastructure of the Russian Federation is a vulnerability because it might be disrupted.

Part II §12(d). Information warfare is an essential component of military conflict.

Part II §13(d). Information warfare should be used prior to kinetic military force so as to shaping international public opinion.

Part III §19(a). Information technology should be used to assess international relations [between countries] and for prediction of political events. (This is a reference to classical intelligence; thus the use of cyber tools to collect intelligence.)

Part III §30(j). Cyber is to be used to provide information support to the armed forces. (This is the same as US doctrine.)

*Part III §41 (c). The armed forces are to develop resources for information warfare.

Part III §41(d). The Russian Federation has an “information space” and the Armed Forces are to have a “single information field” within that space. Cyber is to be improved within those spaces so that information exchange is easier and more efficient. (The concept of a “single information field” for a country is an interesting one. It goes against the idea of the Internet being a global and essentially transnational technical system for movement of information.)

Part III §41(f). Cyber should be used to support “new models of high-precision weapons”.

Part III §41(g). The armed forces will develop information systems that will be integrated for command and control, including automating some functions. This will be done at the “strategic, operational-strategic, operational, operational-tactical, and tactical levels”. (This refers to communication and information exchange within the armed forces.)

Analysis of 2010 Russian Military Doctrine

Much of the Russian doctrine is focused on the use of information technology for improving command and control of the Armed Forces. This includes Part III §30(j), Part III §41(d), Part III §41(f) and Part III §41(g).

Other parts of the doctrine define cyber war as a tool or one method (among many) of protecting the national interest. These include Part I §4, Part II §12(d), and Part III §41 (c).

There is an interesting notion of a national “information space” and the fear that it might be a target for attack by enemies. Part II §9(c), and Part III §41(d).

The final part of the doctrine covers the offensive use of cyber weapons (or information tools) as an extension of state power. First, they should be used to shape international public opinion. Part II §13(d). This is the classic use of propaganda or “public diplomacy” in international relations. Second, they should be used to collect intelligence. Part III §19(a).

The doctrine does not clearly spell out the offensive use of cyber weapons. In Part III §41(f) there is mention of “new models of high-precision weapons”. In generally understood language, this would mean items such as precision guided munitions. It would be possible, however, to define a “new model” weapon as being a cyber weapon. But it is doubtful this is the meaning. In Part III §41(c) there is a call for resources for information warfare, but this is not defined. So possibly cyber weapons could be included under this section.

In any case, the essence of the Russian doctrine is clear. Cyber weapons, or information operations, are to be used in place of kinetic military force preceding a conflict, and hopefully to avoid a further escalation of a conflict. If the conflict deepens, then cyber weapons will continue to be used to support the Armed Forces.


(*) It was published December 25, 2014.

Cyber War is an Extension of Cultural War


The Cyber War we are seeing today is an extension of a deeper cultural war. The only difference is that it is being conducted with different tools, and yet it should have a considerably larger effect today because the means of communication have been so magnified.

The Cold War and the Culture War

Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht(*) has produced an interesting essay that shows the connection between international geo-politics and culture. She argues that the Cold War (in Europe) can be seen in part as a conflict between the cultures of the United States and Europe. The common understanding was that “Americans have no culture”, in comparison to the “High Culture” of Europe. At best, America was a weak shadow of high culture. This followed the views of Joseph Goebbels propaganda which said that “Americans are money-hungry barbarians with no cultural life of their own.” (Quoted by Gienow-Hecht, p. 407) Here, we suppose, one is referencing the masters of classical music, such as Mozart, and the development of sophisticated cultural icons such as ballet, opera, orchestra music, Greco-Roman architecture, the theatre, and classical style painting. Americans, on the other hand, were viewed as having none of that. They were seen as being unsophisticated and “without culture”. As the Cold War developed, the East (Soviet Union) invested in culture as a way to sway minds towards their way of thinking.


Figure 1 – Technology and national information strategy has changed the balance of power between Russia (Soviet Union) and the United States. In the immediate post-war period, the USSR developed a leading-edge strategy. This was followed by similar actions by the United States. The rise of international data communications through undersea cables and satellites, followed by the Internet set the stage for a revolution in the USA that was not followed in the USSR. The rise of social media has added another layer of complexity. The USA does not have coherent national information strategy for either offense or defense.

In this sense, “information warfare” is simply another aspect of a wider cultural warfare. The idea is that if people admire one culture over the other, then eventually they will vote that way also. Much investment was made in the arts by both sides. According to Gienow-Hecht, from 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union, “[b]oth superpowers deliberately employed psychological warfare and cultural infiltration to weaken the opponent and its client states on the other side of the Iron Curtain.” (p. 400, para. 2) Russia exported artistic tours by the Bolshoi Theater, and the USA set up various Amerika Hauser in Germany. Here are a few other aspects of this struggle.

Sowjetische Militar Administration in Deutschland (SMAD). This was operated by the Soviet military. It worked on the assumption that all culture was ideological. SMAD propagated the narrative that the Soviets were Abendlandkultur (saviors of occidental cuture) (p. 402). Sponsored discussions and seminars on German culture, and included artists, writers, sculptors, painters and others to participate. Also worked to denounce non-traditional culture that was leaking in from the United States. This included abstract expressionism and surrealism, which were tied with capitalism and fascism. These ideas were magnified by ideas that the Soviet Union stood for peace, but the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) stood for imperialism, militarism and war.

Deutsche Theater. Located in the Soviet sector of occupied Germany. Offered numerous productions of classical European art. Invitations sent out on regular basis to bring over western cultural icons for cultural exchange, which in this context means to convince them of the superiority of the Eastern model of society.

All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (VOKS) (Всесоюзное общество культурной связи с заграницей). Soviet organization to promote Russia’s “classical tradition”. Jazz was condemned. Shostakovich was praised.

Deutschlandsender (radio). Operated in the German Democratic Republic from 1948-1971. Continued to promote “classical” art, in comparison with “corrosive” western art.

Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft (UFA) later Deutsche Film AG (DEFA). Built theaters and created content for propaganda purposes.

UNESCO. The Soviet Union joined in 1950 and started a program for a “new world information order“, which implied more government control over the press.(**) This interesting debate also developed the concept of “information imperialism”.

GDR Peace Council. East German operation to invite over western intellectuals so as to influence their way of thinking about the East-West conflict.

Ministry of Cinematography (Soviet Union) (Государственный комитет по кинематографии СССР). Creation of films to glorify life under communism. See for example the masterpiece Seventeen Moments of Spring (Семнадцать мгновений весны), which glorifies the work of a Soviet spy working in Nazi Germany.

The American Response

Campaign of Truth. The United States seemed slow to respond. Things started to take shape in the 1950s (half of a decade later). The Americans created a “Campaign of Truth” during the Korean War. This was to advertise the difference between the United States and Soviet Union. It was used particularly during the Korean War, which Kim Il-Sung was operating as a lackey for the Soviet Union. The budget for the State Department increased from $20 to $115 million for information activities.


Figure 2 – Propaganda cartoon issued by Campaign of Truth during Korean conflict. It shows Kim Il-Sung sitting on a pile of skulls. Date of original June 25, 1951. Issued by the United States Army, 8th Division Korea, Psychological Warfare Section. A full collection is available at the Albert Brauer Psychological Warfare Propaganda Leaflets Collection at the Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University Libraries.

United States Information Agency (USIA). Set up to arrange information programs and cultural exchanges to teach Europeans about American society. Encouraged the “export” of US culture.

Fulbright Program. Facilitates the exchange of researchers, and to “internationalize” scientific research. (See also here under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.)

Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and Voice of America. All radio stations. Set up to broadcast pro-western messages.

There was further funding of American cultural exports. These were set up through the Ford Foundation or Rockefeller Foundation. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sponsored the translation of many American classic novels.

Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). A covert CIA program to operate in the cultural realm including conferences, music concerts, and operation of various publications including the magazine “Encounter”.

The Effects on European Culture

It appears that although there remained, and remains today, an image of the United States as not representing so-called “high culture”, the protest and rebellious side of American culture got through. These undercurrents perhaps were at least in part responsible for protests against government power in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe. It set the stage for the Helsinki Accords (Helsinki Final Act)  to have a strong effect in stimulating cultural protest that eventually were at least partially responsible for bringing down the Soviet Union. (See the Accords Part VII. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.)


The Information and Cultural Cyber War of Today

In Figure 1, we have divided the post-war period into four periods.  The figure illustrates that in the immediate post-war period (1945-1950), the Soviet Union and United States were engaged in a battle for the “hearts and minds” of Europe. There was a sense that part of national strategy was to convince citizens in Europe of the superiority of either the communist or capitalist system. Each side had fears. If Germany was “lost” to the West, then Russia might eventually face the re-emergence of a strong competing power. If Germany (and other parts of Europe, e.g., Italy, Greece) were lost to the East, then it would be a security threat to the United States.

During this Cold War, the two sides competed using the traditional media (print, radio, and film, then later television). The East argued that American culture was crude and that the “East” was preserving the High Culture of Europe. The signing of the Helsinki Accords started a process of rebellion, but the seeds of rebellion had been sewn by the disruptive nature of American culture.

The Soviet Union never caught up with the information revolution made possible by the development of international satellite data communications, the integrated circuit and computers. (See the Essay by Gus W. Weiss “The Farewell Dossier“.)  So what has happened is that global data communications and later the Internet enabled the rise of giant multinational enterprises that can operate in an integrated manner across international borders, almost with no concern for the nation state. In addition, the social media applications hosted on the Internet have created the potential for the sudden emergence of powerful social forces, as we have seen in the Arab Spring. These also can operate in a trans-national mode.

In the early stages, social media grew rapidly. Then in response, countries started to take actions to protect their citizens from this giant phenomena. In China, a “Great Internet Firewall” has been set up and government censorship and control of communications is a legal and expected part of life. Similar actions have been taken in Russia, but in a more subtle manner.

At the same time, the Internet has made governments, individuals and organizations of all types vulnerable to hacking.  A giant struggle is going on between countries in this arena. [This blog argues there is a need for a cyber arms limitation treaty.]

But at the heart of the matter is the underlying culture of the Internet and today’s social media. This has spilled out from America to cover the entire earth, and now it is up to adversaries of the USA to develop defensive strategies to “protect” against this threat to their culture. In most cases, it represents a potential threat to their political culture.

But as of this time, no clear strategy has emerged for the United States, which still sees Cyber war as merely a part of computer security, and not as part of a broader competition for the hearts and minds of citizens all around the world.



(*) See Jessica C. E. Geinow-Hecht, Culture and the Cold War in Europe, The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Vol. I., Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad, Editors, Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp. 419. This blog entry draws heavily upon the professor’s work. In particular the list of programs established by each side. The professor, in her chapter, does not cover any aspect of the Internet or events after the fall of the Soviet Union.

(**) See Carrier Buchanan, Revisiting the UNESCO debate on a New World Information and Communication Order: Has the NWICO been achieved by other means?, Telematics and Informatics, Vol. 32, Issue 2, May 2015, pp. 391-399.

The US is Losing the Cyber War Race (II)

The United States has Squandered its Cyber and Information Power

The United States has lost its edge in Cyber. But at on time is had a substantial edge.

In brief, the United States built up a substantial amount of informational power during the Cold War, and used that power first in Europe. This was done in conjunction with the Marshall Plan, which funneled billions of dollars into Europe. As the Second World War concluded, Europeans were living on less than 1,500 calories per day, and aid from the United States was essential to get the economies of Europe to revive.  Otherwise, people would starve to death. The British could not feed the people under their control in occupied Germany.  There already was an emergence of competition between the East and the West, between the United States and Russia, between “unbridled” capitalism and communism.

The struggle was intense; the shape of the power-war system in Europe had not yet emerged. Economic development and recovery through the Marshall Plan, and the careful issue of revival of Germany, was not settled, but soon was, and not entirely to French liking.


Figure 1 –– Since the end of the Cold War, US information power as exercised in support of national strategy has declined, but Russia had dramatically improved, leaving the US at a disadvantage.

Psychological and Economic Warfare

The East and West engaged in psychological and economic warfare.

It is difficult to know the true extent to which the communist leadership in Russia truly believed that revolution was imminent in the West, that soon the devastation of war and the frustration of the common man would overwhelm the political systems of the West, resulting in a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist yoke around the necks of those countries destroyed by the horrible nature of the war just past. But in Washington, there was genuine fear that Europe was not stable, and could be indoctrinated by communist propaganda.

In particular, there was a significant communist movement in Greece, and in Italy, and probably elsewhere. But it was in the Italian election that information operations by the United States had one of their most memorable victories.

US Information Warfare in Italy — A Success Story

The 1948 Election in Italy was a training ground for some of the most famous spies of the post-war period, including James Jesus Angleton, who went on to become the head of counter-intelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Without going into extensive description (there is good documentation available), we can distill the tools of information operations in the election. These included the following:

Strategic Objective. The Government of the United States (GOUSA) decided at the highest levels to oppose a pending victory by the communist party in the Italian election, and this decision was taken as part of a larger and more or less coherent strategy to rebuild Europe and keep it in the Western orbit (so it would not become hostile in the future).

Messaging. The distillation of a clear message that communism was inimical to Catholicism and Christianity. Since Italy was overwhelmingly Catholic, this was a powerful message. This was the major message, but there were sub-messages, such as questions of human freedom under communism, and the superior economic vitality of the West (a more difficult message to get across given the state of the economy in Europe).

Media — Cinema. Movies were created and then to aid their distribution, information operatives traveled through various towns and villages in Italy with portable movie projectors, and then arranged a viewing of these movies in town squares. (Not many Italian villages had cinemas.) Keep in mind that at the time there was no television as a popular or common medium.

Media — Radio. Similar messages were sent through the radio, a widely used media at the time.

Media — Print. A number of flyers, pamphlets and other publications were financed, written and distributed through a number of channels. Financing operations were hidden. A common tool in election propaganda at the time, posters were used widely throughout Italy. Newspapers friendly to the Western cause also were financed, and influenced through a variety of means. Again, financing was kept secret. These were covert operations.

Media — The Pulpit. Although these days the pulpit is not thought of as being an influential source of public persuasion and communication, in Italy it was. In the West, the Church always has exerted a powerful influence on public opinion. In Italy, the Pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church took a strong stance against communism because of its atheistic underpinnings. The Pope also threatened to excommunicate any person who supported the communists. This had a huge effect because it meant that a person would not be able to get married in the Church, or even be buried with Church Services.

Personal Messaging. The GOUSA also put in place a massive letter-writing campaign from Italian-Americans to their relatives in Italy. The messaging was the same: To vote into power a communist government in Italy would undermine Christianity and Western Civilization.

The Result in Italy perhaps was predictable. The communists lost, and a “Christian Democratic” Party was put in place, and has remained in place for most of the post-war period. It was a decisive victory by the GOUSA in changing the election outcome in a European country.


There is no need here to go into a discussion of the morality of one government taking action so as to effect the election in another country. That is another discussion. In the case of Italy, we need see these very effective information operations as being part of an overall strategic plan to rebuild Europe in a mold that would not be anathema to the United States and its values of liberal democracy, individuality, religious liberty, freedom, and of course capitalism.

What is important to note is that these information operations did not take place in isolation, but instead were an integral part of national strategy for the United States. There were a number of dimensions in this strategy including (1) military (prevention of further advances of the Red Army or Russian influence); (2) economic (keeping in place an effective capitalist economic system, and bringing Germany into the fold); (3) political (ensuring that a general philosophy of liberal democracy would become the standard in Europe, in contrast to the “dictatorship of the proletariat” which in practice meant the rule by an unelected clique of communist officials that eventually became a gerontocracy in the Soviet Union and remains so in some of the surviving communist nations such as Cuba and Mozambique, also straining under the weight of despotic senior citizens); (4) geo-strategic (preserving Italy as an important part of the Western world, due much in part to its geographic location, but also due to its historical significance as the site of the Western Roman Church.) (The greater church of the Byzantine Empire in Occupied Constantinople (now called “Istanbul”) long before had fallen to the invading Arabs, the original “crusaders”.)

Later Developments

We started the discussion with Italy, but in Europe, information operations remained an essential element of GOUSA strategy during the Cold War period. The best known example was the development of Radio Free Europe (RFE), and Voice of America which was financed and operated specifically for the purpose of providing pro-US messages to various populations, and in their own language. The tools mentioned above were supplemented in other cultural spheres. One example is in the development of various cultural, academic and scientific exchange programs. Money also was given for the translation of a number of books. Similar programs were put in place in other parts of the world, but with weaker resolution.

Erosion of US Information Power

We argue here that the United States has lost its edge in information power, now known as Cyber power. There are two reasons for this, and they are somewhat inter-related: First, there has been a dramatic change in the technologies of communication; Second, national strategists, such as there are any, no longer have considered information operations to be essential element of national power.

Technology change. The first major change was the growth in speed and capacity of international telecommunications. Apart from the growth of the world’s giant undersea cable infrastructure, primarily used for transmission of telephone voice and telegraphic (including Telex) communications, a major advancement is symbolized by the live television broadcast of the speech of by Pope Paul VI at the United Nations General Assembly October 4, 1965. After that, in both voice, video and data, satellite communications radically reduced the cost of international communications and vastly increased the capacity (bandwidth) for moving information. Upon that infrastructure has been laid the Internet and World Wide Web, which has further increased the utility of international communications dramatically reduced its costs.

National strategy. If national information strategies in the United States had kept up with changes in the technologies of international communications, then we would be living in a different world. There is, however, no indication that information strategy is integrated in national strategy in the same close and purposeful way as it was in the immediate post-war period and in the early stages of the Cold War. Instead, the national leadership of the United States has allowed these important tools of national strategy to atrophy, and the informational aspect of national planning it seems no longer is at the table. Or at most it may be given some lip service. Funding for the United States Information Agency was discontinued. Funding for Voice of America has been lacklustre. But even more serious is that these important assets have been laid to waste through non-use in a coherent international strategy. The United States does not have a coherent and integrated information strategy. 

The only exception in the USA might be the military. In that domain, the role of real-time communications including real-time intelligence is considered to be an essential infrastructure of war-fighting capability. In addition, there are many indications that US intelligence has developed some capability for collection of important information through the Internet. (We do not know how well it is analyzed, but there are indications much is collected.) But the military and intelligence domains are merely specific applications of a national information strategy. They may not be considered to be part of an integrated national strategy used for active promotion of national objectives. (In future blog entries, we will examine the strategy of the National Security Agency (NSA), and we will conclude that it has a mission, but there is no active and integrated information strategy for the United States, at least not yet.)

Instead, the GOUSA has gone down the slippery path of privatization and reliance on market forces to guide the development of the world’s information structure. This has led to the rapid penetration of media around the world, including both the emergence of international television news channels, as well as the rise of the World Wide Web and social media. (Facebook is the world’s largest carrier of email service.)


The United States developed many of the operational concepts that tied information strategy to both national and military strategy. This was effective during the early stages of the Cold War. But at the same time, national competitors, particularly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) developed aggressive overseas information strategies. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Russian Federation, these policies have continued and even strengthened with the development of the Russia Today television channel, followed by Sputnik News, and with the continued use of a number of channels and means to influence international public opinion.

So at this time, the US has allowed its tools to go to waste, and perhaps even forgotten how to use them as part of a coherent information strategy, while its strategic competitors have made the investment in both money and time to build up formidable national capabilities. In contrast to the United States, these strategic competitors are fully capable of creating content as part of a national strategy.

The United States is Losing the Cyber War Race (I)

Part I

Much of the original thinking about Cyber War was developed in the United States. But America has fallen behind. Russian cyberwar doctrine is more comprehensive, more integrated, has more powerful weapons, and is more up to date.

Cyber Warfare must be seen as part of a larger strategy of “Information Warfare”, known in Russia as “Информационная война“. Information warfare is a very broad subject, and includes a number of actions outside of the cyber domain. (Derkachenko writes that “information warfare” as a term is being changed to the term “information operations”,   but the term “cyberwar” is becoming more popular. The United States does not have a regular television show on information warfare, but Russia does. Dimitri Taran runs a very comprehensive show on Channel 1 TV Crimea.

Much Russian writing about Cyber Warfare and Information Warfare draws upon a number of different examples and case studies of conflicts that had, in the Russian view, an important information content. Information warfare is seen to be a type of Twilight Zone somewhere between a Cold War and a “Hot” War. “Thus, by its nature information warfare it occupies a position between the “cold” war . . .  and actual combat with the participation of the armed forces.” See Svargaman, Что такое информационная война? who describes the so-called “next-generation” information warfare as including:  Substitution — Information warfare can take the place of traditional military action, or as Svargaman writes “contactless destruction” [“бесконтактного поражения”]. Use of TV as Weapon — Television channels can be used to manipulate public opinion either by highlighting or obscuring crucial events. The Russian view is that information warfare has limited power, but should be thought of as complementing and enhancing “traditional methods of warfare”. [“информационная война имеет свои границы возможностей . . . дополняет  и усиливает традиционные средства ведения войны”]

In the Russian view, the state (the government) has a strong role to play in management of information on a national basis. According to Pocheptsov, this includes tactical mass mind control, agenda-setting (information management), and strategic  management of mass consciousness. [“Тактическое управление массовым сознанием; Управление информационной повесткой дня; Стратегическое управление массовым сознанием”]  One can just imagine what would happen in the United States if the President asked for budget authority to conduct information operations so as to accomplish “mind control” or “strategic management mass consciousness”. Pocheptsov sees films and other cultural exports of the United States as being a type of “sociological propaganda” [Социологическая пропаганда], and even fine arts are seen as a type of information warfare. The Cold War is seen as a “war of mass culture” with abstract expressionism pitted against socialist realism.  ” [“холодная война оказалась войной массовых культур, например, абстрактный экспрессионизм против социалистического реализма”]

This viewpoint is generally more comprehensive (larger in scope) that views in the United States.

Cyber War in Crimea and Ukraine

This blog is not intended to take a position on the situation in the Ukraine and Crimea. The Crimea has been controlled by different powers through history: Greece, then Rome, then the Byzantine Empire, the Empire of Trebizond, control by Venetian Republic. Catherine the Great in 1783 got the Crimea from the Ottoman Empire, which had occupied Constantinople. In 1921 it was a Soviet Socialist Republic, and became a state of Russia from 1945-54, then the Ukrainian SSR from 1954-1991. (Khruschev transferred the Crimea to the Ukraine.) After 1991 it was slightly separate from the Ukraine as  the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea with Sevastopol City. Now it has been annexed by The Russian Federation. Most of the people who live in the Crimea are ethnic Russians (61%) and speak Russian and many are inter-married with families living in Russia proper. Nevertheless, Russian actions in 2014 were viewed as being a violation of international law by Europe, and this triggered a series of sanctions. But here, we want to look at the information or cyber warfare aspects of the Russian annexation.

The annexation of the Crimea took place within the context of the revolution in the Ukraine. During those events, the Ukrainian leadership which was friendly to Russia was thrown out. Ukraine was divided ethnically. Away from the Crimea, the ethnic Russian share of the population drops off sharply. In the simplest terms, in the West, Ukrainians are in the majority, in the East, ethnic Russian are in the majority.

As events unfolded, there was a military component, but the information component of the takeover was stunning. The Russian operations should be studied as a textbook case of superiority. Public meeting, newspapers, radio, television, social media, and other informational networks was quickly harnessed by what can best be described as a coherent trans-media strategy. It went well beyond anything that happened in Libya or during the “Arab Spring” in Egypt.

Interviews with citizens Crimea showed evidence of a completely different sense of reality. The ethnic Russians there were 100% convinced that Ukrainian fascists from Kiev were marching towards the Crimea. These fascist invaders were “burning Russian homes and raping Russian women”.  There was a complete sense of panic, and the scarcity of information (except what was being supplied), made the uncertainty even greater.  Having watched the speeches that were being streamed on YouTube, this writer can attest to their emotional content and dramatic content.

When the time came, it was a foregone conclusion that the vote would be overwhelmingly in favor of union with the Russian Federation.

In terms of information warfare doctrine, the Ukraine is a perfect example of how a coherent and well-managed campaign can complement other actions, here the use of military force, much of which was covert.

If we compare US actions in the Middle East, there is no such coherency between military action and information operations. The Russian actions in Crimea appear to indicate the United States has lost the ability or does not have the skills to conduct an equally integrated cyber strategy. If there is a “cyber race”, the Americans are losing.

In the next part of this blog, we will examine other examples and cases of cyber and information warfare.



References (courtesy of

Ярослав Деркаченко, Эволюция понятия «информационная война», 2016.

Георгий Почепцов, Информационная политика и безопасность современных государств, 2011.