Anytime Russian influence campaigns are addressed in an article, you can count on two comments popping up in short order. The first will be from an old timer that doesn’t believe perceptions can be managed through the digital sphere, so they’d prefer to keep their head planted firmly in the sand, and the second is from the geopolitically righteous youngin’ that wants to make sure we constantly acknowledge that the United States has done its fair share of meddling too.
Our contemporary interest in the ways governments manipulate people both within and beyond their borders, of course, is often short sighted. As SOFREP contributor and Psychological Operations expert Salil Puri points out, “influence is the function of every nation’s perception management efforts, and the digital realm is merely the newest platform utilized to that end.”
From an objective standpoint, the Russian government has has some success in this realm, but don’t let the headlines fool you. Being good at influence campaigns means utilizing a layered approach that achieves multiple objectives simultaneously, allowing you to misdirect questions about intent with answers about unrelated results. For a case study in this method of manipulation, we don’t need to peruse leaflets blowing around Red Square in Moscow. In fact, we need look no further than the United States Army’s Cyber Command, and the new promotional comic books being released as a part of their ongoing “Threatcasting” endeavor in conjunction with West Point Academy and Arizona State University.
Their first releases, entitled, “Silent Run” and “Dark Hammer,” depict near future conflicts with Russia and North Korea, both of which find the United States operating at a distinct disadvantage.