Home Opinions Andreas Umland: lies will neither help Kiev nor Moscow

Andreas Umland: lies will neither help Kiev nor Moscow

Andreas Umland: lies will neither help Kiev nor Moscow
Информация о конфликте в Украине изначально часто попадала на Запад в упаковке российской пропаганды

Информация о конфликте в Украине изначально часто попадала на Запад в упаковке российской пропаганды
Information about the Ukrainian initially appeared in the West in Russian propaganda’s envelope.

If Ukraine starts to copy the Kremlin’s propaganda machine and to manipulate facts, it will not be believed anymore, just like Russia.

One of the main challenges that Ukraine faces nowadays is the effective countering of Russian propaganda, both inside the country and on the international scene. But this is also a very tricky issue: if too much emphasis is put on the information warfare, the risk is high to start using methods similar to the Russian ones, like for example disseminating misleading information. But following such a path would be a great mistake: Kiev would lose any moral superiority and facts manipulation would only lead Russia and Ukraine to be seen in the same way by the international community.

A few precedents already took place: from time to time Ukrainian media relayed news that later proved themselves unreliable. Even if they were sometimes mere mistakes without malign intent, these events already led the foreign media to say that information warfare is waged by both sides without distinction. As a result, both Ukrainians and Russians are seen as acting in bad faith, while in reality the two situations cannot be compared.

The best way to counter propaganda at every level is to systematically expose lies relayed by Russian media, just like project Stopfake does it. This effort should be conducted despite the fact that in most cases lies disseminated in Russian media are obvious and primitives. For example, pictures taken in Iraq or Syria are said to be footage from Ukraine.

Exposing all these lies is necessary simply because Western countries still have a false understanding of the events in Ukraine and the role of Russia in them. It is time to admit the fact that Western societies, including in Germany, see the situation in Ukraine through a distorting filter. This is mainly due to the fact that every event in Ukraine was initially very quickly distorted by Russian propaganda which filled the vacuum left by the lack of information and knowledge about Ukraine in the West. This lack of knowledge about what kind of country is Ukraine actually played a significant role. The lack of scientific studies on Ukraine and a general disinterest of the public opinion on this country were largely in favour of Russian propaganda.

But the Ukrainian government is also to blame: the country has virtually no foreign cultural policy. Almost every cultural activity abroad is organized by the diaspora, or sometimes the oligarchs, but never by the State itself.

Of course, the situation is now changing: articles relating to Ukraine are published nearly every day, and in this sense they are increasing awareness about the country. But what is now perceived more precisely is the importance of civil society. The recent attempts by the government to take a greater control of this matter can therefore be perceived negatively. I am here referring to the recent creation of a Ukrainian Ministry of Information Policy. Of course, Western administrations have information departments, but these departments do not fall under the authority of a single political body which dictates the information policy for the country.

The temptation to distort information for its own benefit if obviously high, but it is also risky. Truth is the best weapon, even when we are talking about unsuccessful reforms or dire economic situation. It is the second key point relating to our relationship with the West and the fight against propaganda. All the issues must be openly addressed, and not focus only on successes in order to receive the next bailout package. In the West, an ally opened to self-criticism is generally more trusted than one who keeps arguing that everything is fine, whatever the situation.

The West understands that given the war and the post-revolution situation in general, all the necessary reforms cannot be carried out simultaneously. But this indulgence will wane with time. I believe that within six month, the trust that we have been issued will expire if the situation does not improve.

The success of the political reforms and the resolution of the conflict with Russia are two interrelated matters.

In order to prove its willingness to change the political system, the new government should immediately take two resolutions. First of all, it should tackle the problems of corruption within the administration and reduce the staff. The budget funds are currently spent on the salaries of tens of thousands of government officials, while reducing their number and offering decent wages to the remaining ones would be much more efficient. Secondly, the Constitution should be changed in order to strengthen the role of the Parliament in the political system.

The West is tired to hear speeches which often remain empty words without reality – or “warm air” as they are often called in Germany. This is why any statement which is not followed by actions will be pointless. And this is true both for Russia, and for Ukraine.

Soyrce:Novoye Vremya (New Time)