Russia’s Info-War: the Home Front

Grafitti of Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Image: Esther Dyson/Flickr

This article was originally published as Issue Alert No. 18 by the European Union Institute for Security Studies

The use and misuse of information is as important to today’s Kremlin as it was to the Soviet Politburo. But if the ultimate goal is the same – to control the people from above – the techniques used to achieve it are strikingly different. Whereas
Soviet leaders imposed strict censorship in an attempt to isolate the people from the ‘heresies’ of the West, Putin’s government bombards them with fantastical stories designed to paralyse their critical faculties. And if Soviet propaganda was
meant to contribute to the construction of a new society, modern Russian propaganda is wholly destructive. Rather than try, in vain, to persuade the people of the virtues of its rule, today’s Kremlin disseminates lies and half-truths designed less to convince than to disorientate. In so doing, the regime cuts away the ground from beneath the people’s feet, propelling them into a world where, in Peter Pomerantsev’s words, ‘nothing is true and everything is possible’.

On the home front of the information war, President Putin has scored a decisive victory. He has succeeded in persuading his people that the Kiev authorities are fascists and the Americans aggressors, while he himself is all that stands between
Russia and total chaos. » More

Juncker’s EU Army: a Tool of Politics More Than Defence

Juncker greeting members of the Greek Navy during his visit to Athens on 19 May, 2014. Image: Jean-Claude Juncker/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) on 23 March 2015.

Jean-Claude Juncker has revived the debate on a European army, an old, periodically torpedoed aspiration. In the 1950s, when the European integration process was in its embryonic phase, six nations led the European Defence Community. Its goal was to establish a supranational European army as an alternative to German rearmament, but it never saw the light of day due, ultimately, to the rejection of the country that put the initiative forward, France. In the 90s, when the Maastricht treaty set up the Common European Security Policy, its military component was also diminished by the reluctance of the more Atlanticist states to build a common European defence system. » More

Book Review: The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication

The flag of the Lebanese Hizbullah party. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the LSE Review of Books, hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science, on 23 March, 2015.

The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication. Lina Khatib, Dina Matar and Atef Alshaer. Oxford University Press. 2014.

In The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication, Lina Khatib, Dinar Matar and Atef Alshaer offer a comprehensive analysis of the group’s sophisticated political communication strategy since its inception in 1982. Although they offer no startling insights into the group’s socio-political aims and approaches within Lebanon or its relations with foreign powers, their contribution lies in their detailed analysis of how Hizbullah has continuously sought to legitimise and market itself to domestic and foreign audiences. This is a highly valuable contribution that sheds much needed light on a key causal dimension in the movement’s endurance. » More

As Crisis in Venezuela Deepens, Maduro’s Iron Fist Tightens

Venezuelan protester, symbolically wearing chains. Image: Carlos Díaz/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 4 March, 2015.

Since the death of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s political leadership has moved from charisma to authoritarianism. Support for Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution has fallen from 65% when the populist leader died to 22% today.

The revolution’s erstwhile steward is Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s current president and Chávez’s hand-picked successor. Maduro lacks his mentor’s extraordinary charm and intelligence – and to compensate, he is resorting to the iron fist.

Who is Nicolas Maduro?

As a teenager, Maduro aspired to have his own rock band, and was a fan of Led Zeppelin. In an interview with the Guardian, he referred to himself as a “a little bohemian”. Although he never finished high school, Maduro was able to build a successful political career. A robust man of 6’4″, he spent the 1980s working as a bus driver in the capital’s public transport system, where he founded and led an informal trade union. » More

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A Vulnerable Peace: What’s at Stake in the Upcoming Burundian Elections

Flag of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD); a political party and former rebel group in Burundi. Image: MrPenguin20/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 20 February, 2015.

Starting in May, Burundians are scheduled to go to the polls for the third time since the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and subsequent cease-fire agreements ended the Burundian civil war in 2003. These are important elections with significant consequences for the consolidation of peace and economic recovery in the country, as well as for democracy in the wider Great Lakes region.

The ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, is a former rebel movement that belatedly signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003 and then went on to win the first post-war democratic elections in 2005, and the second ones in 2010. Complex power-sharing provisions were agreed upon during the Arusha peace negotiations and enshrined in the Burundian Constitution, which intended to ensure a certain degree of inclusivity in governance. While the civil war was fought partly over the issue of ethnic exclusion, the Burundian Constitution requires that executive and legislative organs are multiethnic. » More

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