Panel 1: “Internatıonal News, Soft Power and Publıc Opınıon”

Panel 1: “Internatıonal News, Soft Power and Publıc Opınıon”

Thomas Kent


US responses to Russian information operations have often been weak and disorganized. In a way, this is a good thing: Americans don’t like the idea of propaganda by their government, or government involvement in information at all; the US has no state broadcasting network or ministry of information. Of course, US information influence over the world is enormous, from movies to fashion to music to slang to T-shirts. But this has largely been the work of private enterprise. International information operations by the government have largely been confined to wartime and other periods of major international conflict.

In the Cold War, the US government was active in countering Russian information operations, but only with mixed success. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the government was quick to dismantle most of its own information operations. Now that Russia has shown itself to be revanchist power, invading its neighbors and conducting overt and clandestine operations across the globe, many favor rebuilding US information capabilities.

But several factors block this: the US distaste for any government propaganda; the loss of expertise on how to conduct an information war; and a lack of US focus on international affairs generally. There also is a widespread belief that we can never win an information war against Russia because we can never use the same tactics the Kremlin does; if we “descend to their level,” the argument goes, we will give up any moral high ground we have. All that said, one can expect an increase in information activity in coming years as the US increasingly realizes that information assaults by authoritarian countries must be resisted in some way.