Those who have been saying that the West has turned Russia into a scapegoat to be blamed for each and everything that goes wrong have been proved right. We have witnessed concocted stories invented to denigrate Moscow that have gone viral as directed by the secret services. The UK, the country that is spearheading the anti-Russian information campaign, offers a good example that illustrates how this is being done.
An online group of hackers known as Anonymous has just revealed covert UK activities in the EU. According to the documents released by that group, London is in the midst of a major program to interfere in the internal affairs of EU members, the US, and Canada. Anonymous threatens to release more information on the clandestine operations of the UK government, unless it agrees to remove the shroud of secrecy protecting those information-warfare efforts. On Nov. 24 Twitter deleted RT comments on the issue. The UK knows it has friends it can rely on in a crunch.
The Integrity Initiative is a London-based organization set up and funded by the government-friendly Institute for Statecraft, in cooperation with the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to wage information-warfare operations against Russia. Anonymous calls it a “large-scale information secret service.” It aims to “change attitudes in Russia itself” as well as the influence of Russian natives living abroad. The Integrity Initiative’s budget for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2019 is estimated at £1.96 million ($2.51 million). The network has received grants from NATO, the US State Department, and Facebook.
The Initiative’s operations have been kept under wraps. Its activities are conducted by “clusters” of local politicians, journalists, military personnel, scientists, and academics involved in anti-Russian propaganda efforts. The list includes William Browder, a US-British businessman convicted in absentia in Russia for tax evasion.
The Integrity Initiative network has offices from which to conduct its covert operations in France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Norway, Serbia, Spain, and Montenegro. Its plans to expand to the US, Canada, Eastern Europe, and the MENA region are already underway.
The Anonymous hackers mention Operation Moncloa that was launched in June in Spain to prevent Pedro Baños, a colonel known for his Russia-friendly views, from being appointed the new head of Spain’s influential national security agency.
It’s all part of a broader picture. In March, Prime Minister Theresa May promised to “defeat” Russia with a new cyber-warfare initiative titled the Fusion Doctrine. Back then, Ms. May told British intelligence services to use social media “to prevent the spread of misinformation.” In other words, she has pulled the military into this anti-Russian propaganda effort. Security sources have floated the idea that that the UK must harness “soft power” and “counter-propaganda” on social media networks. Is it possible to imagine any media remaining independent in a country where they’re part of a “soft power strategy” implemented by the government under the rallying cry of protecting national security?
This is the origin of so many fantasies about Russia and the imaginary threat it poses. The plan included an enhanced role for the BBC World Service to promote British “values” abroad, ensuring that the Ofcom shuts down media organizations that fail to meet “high British standards.” Only gullible people can believe that such “values” and “standards” exist. Russia has been used as a bogeyman to justify measures aimed at killing off the freedom of the media. Any story about Russia’s nefarious deeds spread by British news outlets should be taken with a grain of salt.
The UK government is facing some hard times. The Brexit deal with the EU is headed to parliament for approval. It’s impossible to predict whether the MPs will vote yes or no. Both outcomes threaten the very existence of the United Kingdom. The use of the “Russian threat” is seen as one way to keep the nation united and the media under control.
Keeping its activities out of the public eye, the government is doing exactly what it has so indignantly accused Russia of. The pot is calling the kettle black. As the freedom of the press is being suppressed and the media networks are following the government’s instructions about what information they should offer their readers, UK officials continue to brazenly deliver their pompous speeches about the need to protect those very values to which the government itself poses the greatest challenge. Anonymous is right—any responsible government must explain the intentions behind the Integrity Initiative, how exactly it is funded, and why its activities should be shielded from public view.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Alex Gorka is a defense and diplomatic analyst.