ISSN 2330-717X

Distinguishing True From False: Fakes And Forgeries In Russia’s Information War Against Ukraine – Analysis


By John R. Haines*

You, sir, have the honor of adding a new vice to the military catalogue and the reason, perhaps, why the  invention was reserved for you is because no general  before was mean enough even to think of it.”    – Thomas Paine to General William Howe, March 1778

“An ounce of deception is worth a 240-pound tackle.” – Princeton Coach Jake McCandless

(FPRI) — Deception “is a two-faced problem.”[1] That aphorism—worthy of Yogi Berra—is instead from a now-declassified Central Intelligence Agency monograph written in the early 1970s. One must be capable of deception, its authors wrote, and at the same time, understand “what the enemy’s deception capabilities may be and what deception he may be practicing at the moment.”[2]

The intent of Russian strategic deception (strategicheskaya maskirovka) is to alter a target population’s perception of reality in the interest of advancing some strategic objective or set of objectives. One Russian deception technique is disinformation (dezinformatsiya), which includes intentionally misrepresenting events. [3]

Strategic deception has been on full display in Ukraine. In March 2014, the Polish news portal Gazeta reported that Vladimir Zhirinovsky, deputy chairman of Russia’s State Duma,[4] called for Poland, Hungary and Romania to join with Russia in partitioning Ukraine.[5] “[N]ow is the time to take back the land,” Mr. Zhirinovsky said, referring to Ukraine’s Lutsk, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Rivne regions as rightly belonging to Poland, along with its Zakarpattia (to Hungary) and Chernivtsi (to Romania) regions. A few days later, Kresy[6]—a rightwing Polish news portal—republished an earlier report from the Russian tabloid Komsomol’skaya Pravda in which Mr. Zhirinovsky forcefully disavowed the Polish Foreign Ministry’s claim that he repeated these demands in an official letter. Mr. Zhirinovsky insisted his message was this:

It was the idea that perhaps the Polish people might want to hold a referendum in the regions bordering Ukraine and express their view on the question of annexing territories that historically belonged to them . . . By the way, Romania has many times raised the issue of returning the Chernivtsi region, and Hungarians have from time to time raised the question of Transcarpathia and Uzhgorod, where the people speak Hungarian . . . [7]

Photographs are potent disinformation instruments, especially when used to reinforce a larger disinformation narrative. An image can lend credibility to a wholly fictitious narrative. This photograph below was published on the Russian language news portal Lenta under the headline “Gagauzi ask Poroshenko for an autonomous territory within the Odessa region” (Gagauzy poprosili Poroshenko o sozdanii avtonomii v Odesskoy oblasti).[8]

Photograph of Petro Poroshenko used as a part of Russia’s disinformation narrative (Source:
Photograph of Petro Poroshenko used as a part of Russia’s disinformation narrative (Source:

The image here (right)—the location is not Ukraine but neighboring Moldova (it is the People’s Assembly building in Comrat)—is of no consequence other than to validate a fabricated disinformation narrative. The Lenta report—and similar ones published the same day in Vzglyad[9] and Korrespondent[10]—claimed ethnic Gagauzi were demanding an autonomous enclave in Ukraine, echoing earlier purported demands[11] (also false) by ethnic Bulgarians and Romanians. It was part of a larger Russian disinformation narrative (discussed in detail below) alleging that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko acceded to Crimean Tatar demands for an autonomous enclave in Ukraine’s Kherson region. The disinformation narrative was designed to support Russia’s objective of a federal Ukraine, one in which pro-Russia eastern Ukraine was largely autonomous of the central government in Kyiv.

Another favored Russian tactic is to alter a photograph in some way, say, to isolate one ethnic group or to provoke inter-ethnic friction. Such a forged photograph was used to advance Mr. Zhirinovsky’s revanche appeal in Ukraine’s western borderlands. Several months after his inflammatory suggestion to partition Ukraine, Kresy published this photograph of an actual pro-Ukraine rally in Wroclaw.[12] The banner’s wording had been altered to read “Stepan Bandera—Cursed Soldier:”

An example of a photograph doctored by Russia in an attempt to anger a specific ethnic group (Source: Niezależ
An example of a photograph doctored by Russia in an attempt to anger a specific ethnic group (Source: Niezależ

The phrase “Cursed Soldiers” (Żołnierz Wykelty) refers to post-war anti-communist resistance fighters. As Katri Pynnöniemi & András Rácz wrote in their excellent study of Russian deception in Ukraine, “The application of the term, with its implication of heroic status, to the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which carried out the mass murder of the Polish population in Western Ukraine in 1943-1944, would be seen as sacrilegious in Poland.”[13]

Original photograph of the rally before being doctored by Kresy (Source: Niezależ
Original photograph of the rally before being doctored by Kresy (Source: Niezależ

The photograph (right) —Niezależ captured a screenshot from the Kresy Facebook page before it was hastily removed[14]—was a forgery, clearly intended to provoke Polish backlash. Here is the genuine photograph in which the banner reads, “Without a free Ukraine there is no free Poland.”

This was not the last time that Kresy served as a disinformation instrument (witting or otherwise). In May 2014, Kresy posted a video commentary by Max Kolonko, who spoke about violent clashes in Odessa in which 42 pro-Russian protestors died inside the city’s Trade Unions House when it was set afire. Mr. Koloko claimed Ukrainian ultranationalists intentionally lighted the fire.[15] Russian news portals often quote Mr. Koloko with approval. Take, for example, his April 2014 Kresny commentary: “Too bad Putin has to remind Poles of the Polishness of Lviv and Vilnius,” in which he stated that Poles should be wary of Germany:

There is Polish territory that Germany may consider historically belongs to them, just as Poland itself does in Ukraine, and Russia does in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine.[16]

The Russian news portal Russkaya vesna (which itself has been accused of publishing doctored photographs[17]) republished Mr. Koloko’s Kresny commentary under the headline “Putin knows more about historic Polish lands than the Poles.”[18]

British Hybrid Warfare against America

Amidst the American War for Independence, the British unleashed what might today be called a hybrid warfare attack. Their method, wrote Murray Teigh Bloom, “consisted of the preparation and distribution of actual counterfeits of the American paper money . . . and the issuance of propaganda as to the excellent quality and enormous quantity of counterfeits in circulation.” Was it effective? Benjamin Franklin certainly thought so:

[It] operated considerably by depreciating the whole mass, first, by the vast additional quantity, and next by the uncertainty in distinguishing the true from the false; and the depreciation was a loss to all and the ruin of many.[19]

The British employed a simple method to insulate themselves from this effect: no Continental currency, whether genuine or counterfeit, was permitted to circulate in areas occupied by British forces. They were not, however, above using counterfeit currency in the ordinary course of business. The departure of British troops following their surrender at Saratoga in October 1777 was delayed because of a dispute over British use of counterfeit Continental currency to purchase provisions for American prisoners held at the fort.

Modern history is replete with similar examples. Nazi Germany’s Unternehmen Bernhard—named for its operational leader, SS Sturmbannführer Bernhard Krüger—sought to destabilize the British economy with counterfeit currency. A team of counterfeiters selected from inmates at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp (and later, Auschwitz) produced some £134 million in forged banknotes. When the first Bernhard banknotes surfaced in England in September 1942, they were of such high quality that the Bank of England judged them to be genuine.

Just as currency counterfeiting is a longstanding tool of economic warfare, so, too, forged documents are integral to intelligence and counterintelligence operations. The simplest are forged passports[20] and identification documents (like those produced by Bernhard and its predecessor, Andreas). For the Soviet Union, the emphasis on clandestine and deep-cover activities made documentation a matter of prime importance. Soviet foreign intelligence devoted much effort to document forgery starting in the early 1930s when they operated documentation units in Moscow, Berlin, and the United States.[21]

Beyond that, more sophisticated forged and false documents were a central instrument of Soviet psychological warfare operations. These sometimes involved the use of an isolated document. In July 1958, Czechoslovakia’s 2-Správa[22] forged an entire issue of the exile newspaper Czech Word (České slovo) and mailed it to the newspaper’s five thousand subscribers (an estimated one-tenth of which were later smuggled into Czechoslovakia and circulated covertly). The forged issue announced the newspaper was ceasing publication because its editors were disillusioned with the West. The false story was propagated first by quoting it in the official Czech Community Party (Komunistická strana Československa or KSČ) newspaper Rudé právo and in Party newspapers in Austria and Luxembourg. It subsequently was reprinted as far afield as Chicago’s Czech American National Alliance newspaper Free Czechoslovakia (Svobodné Československo), which tended to follow the KSČ propaganda line.[23] The scheme exemplified the isolated use of a false document, in one rather breathless description, as “sniper shots at individual important targets.”[24]

The United States is no stranger to trafficking in counterfeit and false documents. Consider this from a now-declassified 1943 secret directive signed by William J. Donavan:

The Office of Strategic Services is responsible for the execution of all forms of morale subversion by diverse means including. . . False rumors, ‘freedom stations’, false leaflets and false documents. . . [25]

Deception, Destruction, Disruption

“Our friends in Moscow call it
‘dezinformatsiya.’ Our enemies in America
call it ‘active measures,’ and I, dear friends,
call it ‘my favorite pastime.’”[26]
                                                  – Colonel Rolf Wagenbreth

Deception using counterfeit currency or forged documents can serve two objectives. One is economic gain derived from passing counterfeit currency or selling forged documents. It is an obvious, but nonetheless significant motivator. A lucrative trade in false identification papers and passports thrives in Europe today, thanks in no small part to the influx of hundreds of thousands of undocumented persons and organized crime networks with readymade solutions.[27]

The second objective is not economic, but instead, political. The effect may be destructive—devastating the economy through an influx of counterfeit currency—or disruptive—discrediting émigré opposition groups through false information and forged documents. Or it may be both. Beyond its hyperinflationary effect, counterfeit currency’s mechanism is clear: if the forger makes it known that some currency in circulation is counterfeit, then the authenticity of all currency is called into question. The effect is likewise when one intersperses false text into the body of an otherwise genuine document, or when a false document is interspersed in a batch of genuine ones. Even a practiced eye may find it challenging to separate the true from the false with certainty.

A highly effective disruption method is to use genuine text or documents to mask false text or documents. The objective of interspersing false text or documents within genuine text or document batches is to make the adulterated appear credible.

[T]he USSR is not engaged constantly in an active, positive deception program designed totally to mislead us as to its intentions and objectives. To do so would be counterproductive to its own interests, and moreover would undermine the effectiveness of a positive deception program when it would be important that we accept it. A prerequisite for effective deception is to establish some degree of credibility.[28] [Emphasis added]

Another variation is to insert ostensibly false text to adulterate—and so intentionally discredit—an otherwise genuine document (or likewise, an ostensibly false document into a batch of genuine documents). Such actions are covert rather than clandestine since a clandestine action, if properly conducted, remains totally concealed, which would in this instance be self-defeating.

False information—especially in the form of fraudulent “official” documents and papers—is a potent disruptor. Just as the belief that some currency may be counterfeit undercuts faith in all currency, so, too, the belief that some documents (or some parts of some documents) are forgeries intentionally and effectively corrodes the credibility of all similar documents. This effect can be more debilitating when the target is intelligence professionals rather than lay readers.

Alertness to deception presumably prompts a more careful and systematic review of the evidence. But anticipation of deception also leads the analyst to be more skeptical of all of the evidence, and to the extent that evidence is deemed unreliable, the analyst’s preconceptions must play a greater role in determining which evidence to believe. This leads to a paradox: The more alert we are to deception, the more likely we are to be deceived.[29]

Disruption entails a greater degree of freedom in counterintelligence operations than mere deception. Ostensible forgeries interspersed within a larger document batch are a well-honed technique. Circulating fake and fraudulent documents, or causing false information to be published in legitimate outlets, is useful to provoke others to come forward to challenge the information or to amplify it.  The same applies to fake or quasi-fake organizations.

The Fraudulent Instruments of Information War

“It being the instrument with which we
combatted our enemies, they resolved to
deprive us of the use of it; and the most
effective means they could contrive was to
counterfeit it.”
                                                  -Benjamin Franklin[30]

“The free flow of information . . . the public’s right to know is essential to a country of, by and for the people.”[31] That fundamentally American postulate maintains that information has an instrumental value—an informed electorate—as well as a non-instrumental one. Information is instrumental because it enables a desired end, which in this case is self-governance. Its non-instrumental value derives from its instrumental one. Most Americans prefer democratic processes to non-democratic ones irrespective whether the same end might be achievable with the latter as with the former. Put another way, democracy has intrinsic value, or as John Dewey wrote, it “is a way of personal life.”[32] The political philosopher Elizabeth Anderson summarized it this way: “Even if a dictatorship could give them what they wanted, as the government of Singapore claims it does for its subjects, democratic citizens would prefer to govern themselves.”[33]

That Russian President Vladimir Putin sees it differently is no surprise. Consider this observation made during an October 2014 teleconference:

With the rapid development of electronic media, this domain has assumed great importance and become, perhaps, a formidable weapon with which to manipulate public opinion. Intense information warfare has become a sign of the times, as some nations attempt to establish a monopoly on the truth and to use it to their advantage. . . [34]

It is the perspective that electronic media are means with which to model information in the interest of some social purpose. A Kremlin spokesperson put it this way some years ago:

When the nation mobilizes to achieve some task, that imposes obligations on everyone including the media.[35]

To Mr. Putin, electronic media—acting as an information-vector—is an instrument to control access to information and to determine content. Russian intelligence agencies possess robust means of doing so, from the notorious SORM (Sistema Operativno-Rozysknykh Meropriyatiy) Internet and telecommunications surveillance programs to the Roskomnadzor[36] registries of banned websites (known as the Yedinyy reyestr zapreshchonnykh saytov) and banned information (Yedinyy reyestr saytov s zapreshchonnoy informatsiyey).

The fundamental conflict is whether information is an instrument to inform, or alternately, to influence. Mr. Putin clearly subscribes to the latter. One effective means of exerting influence is what Robert Entman calls framing. He defines that process as “selecting and highlighting some facet of events or issues, and making connections among them so at to promote a certain interpretation.”[37] It is the idea that redefining a situation changes it. One writer uses this illustration:

If Guamians see the return of the US military to their island in 1945 as ‘reoccupation’ rather than ‘liberation’; if they begin to see Japan not as an old enemy of the past but also as one of the big powers behind their present militarization. . . [38]

The use of fake stories is a well-honed tool of Russian disinformation.[39] United States Ambassador John B. Emerson put it this way at a 2015 Berlin conference on the subject:

[T]he Russian government, and the media that it controls, are trying to prevent the publication of information that doesn’t conform to Russia’s aims, and are manipulating the presentation of information to cloak Russia’s actions. The Kremlin’s disinformation campaign goes far beyond controlling its own media. It is aimed at nothing less than presenting a parallel version of reality and disseminating it as if it were news. The Kremlin’s goal is to make people question the value of media at all; to reject the idea of an absolute truth; and to persuade the public that ‘reality’ is relative.[40]

A subgroup of particular interest here is the use of fraudulent electronic documents including e-mails. Adapting Franklin’s aphorism, if electronic information—disseminated via the Internet—is “the instrument with which we confront our enemies,” then false information—in particular, dezinformatsiya electronic documents—exploits the intended instrumental role in order to deceive. The deception need not be long lived to be effective, as a 1983 State Department circular made clear:

Many forgeries aim at the media. Although the fabricators are aware that once a document appears in print the supposed author will deny its authenticity, the Soviets calculate that a denial will never entirely offset the damage from news stories based on the forgery.[41]

The ease and rapidity with which fraudulent electronic documents can be disseminated directly via the Internet make them potent dezinformatsiya instruments. Especially when part of a larger false narrative, fraudulent electronic documents impose a pattern on experience. That is to say, fraudulent electronic documents frame a preexisting narrative that describes observed events. The practice of selectively intertwining fraudulent electronic documents within a narrative explains why such documents—even plainly dubious ones—are such effective instruments of deception. The analogy to counterfeit currency is this. Once the public believes counterfeit banknotes are circulating, two effects will manifest simultaneously. One is that persons disinclined to accept any given banknote as valid will reject all as counterfeit (including genuine ones), stopping economic activity in its tracks. The other is that persons willing to accept a given banknote as valid become unwitting agents in perpetuating the fraud and enable its hyperinflationary impact. This dual effect is why a determined currency counterfeiter can wreak such calamitous economic and social destruction.

Looked at from another perspective, if counterfeit banknotes are known to be in circulation, then it is probable (that is to say, the chance is greater than zero but less than fully certain) that any batch contains both counterfeit and genuine ones. Absent knowing for a fact which is so for a given banknote, both propositions are true at the same time—the banknote can be said (with apologies to Schrödinger) to be counterfeit and at the same time genuine since both are at some level probable and neither is known in the instance to be true (genuine) or false (fraudulent). Therein lies the disruptive effect of making known that counterfeit Continental currency is circulating. It is likewise for information: if one is aware that some information is fraudulent then all information in the moment is fraudulent (including genuine information). Likewise, if one is aware that some information is genuine, then all information in the moment is genuine (including fraudulent information). The practice of counterintelligence exploits this abnegating symmetric quality by purposefully interspersing select information into a social narrative, either to discredit an otherwise valid narrative (by interweaving patently false information) or to validate a fraudulent one (by interweaving genuine documents). There are no absolutes here; everything becomes relative.

A fraudulent electronic document will cause some to reject all documents in a batch because any one may be fraudulent, while others accept the fraudulent document as valid and so perpetuate the fraud. The former destroys confidence in all information, while the other disrupts by circulating fraudulent information. A patently fraudulent electronic document interspersed into an otherwise factual narrative can effectively discredit the narrative. So, too, a fraudulent document can bolster a false narrative by validating it—making it appear valid.

Ukraine in the Crosshairs

The levels of guilefulness at any given point in
time between any two contemporary entities
are apt to be asymmetric.

Let us move from the abstract to the concrete. What appears below is purportedly the text of one electronic document in a hacked e-mail chain. It appears on its face to be a draft decree by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. A self-declared hacktivist group known as CyberBerkut[43] claimed credit for obtaining the e-mail chain and posted it online in April 2016. The text of the electronic document authorizes the establishment of an autonomous ethnic enclave for Crimean Tatars[44] and Meskhetian Turks[45] “on the territories of Crimea and the Kherson region.”[46]

Document released by the hacktivist group CyberBerkut allegedly pertaining to the creation of an autonomous ethnic enclave for Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks.
Document released by the hacktivist group CyberBerkut allegedly pertaining to the creation of an autonomous ethnic enclave for Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks.

According to the document’s text, the presidential decree calls for drastic action. It would acknowledge the Kherson region as “the historic center of the Crimean Tatar people” by formally abolishing the Kherson region and transferring its territory to the new autonomous region. It would “rename the city of Kherson as ‘Giray Khan,’” and “allocate land to resettle 500,000 Crimean Tatars and 200,000 Meskhetian Turks” in the former Kherson region.[47]

Pravda drove home the point home by accompanying its report[48]—published under the provocative headline “Poroshenko gives Kherson away to be torn apart and occupied by Turks” (Poroshenko otdayet Kherson na rasterzaniye i zaseleniye turkami)—with a photograph of Mr. Poroshenko with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

Photograph of Mr. Poroshenko with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that accompanied the controversial report about the Kherson region (Source:
Photograph of Mr. Poroshenko with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that accompanied the controversial report about the Kherson region (Source:

The referenced territories—one a Russian federal subject, and the other, a Ukrainian province[49]—are shown in the map below.

Map of the Kherson region in reference to Ukraine and Russia (Source: Wikipedia)
Map of the Kherson region in reference to Ukraine and Russia (Source: Wikipedia)

The content of electronic documents published by CyberBerkut exemplifies a point (made by Alfred North Whitehead[50] in another context) about imposing a pattern on experience. Two years prior to CyberBerkut publishing online the document in question, the Crimean Tatar Kurultai[51] announced that it was abandoning a planned referendum on self-determination. It would instead petition Kyiv to declare “national-territorial autonomy” (natsional’no-territorial’noy avtonomii). Rustam Minnikhanov, the leader of Russia’s Tatarstan Republic, addressed the Kurultai on Mr. Putin’s behalf[52] while Russian officials blocked representatives of the Kyiv government from attending. Some Kurultai delegates attempted without success to amend the autonomy resolution to specify the enclave “will be a part of Ukraine,” with a majority opting to leave unanswered whether it “will be a part of Ukraine or Russia.”[53] It is notable that Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join the Russian Federation several days before the Kurultai abandoned its planned autonomy referendum.

Fast-forward from April 2014 to May 2016. A leading Ukraine-based Crimean Tatar activist, Lenur Islyamov,[54] claimed the group was proceeding to establish an autonomous ethnic enclave, this time “on the Ukrainian mainland.”[55] He also claimed the Turkish government was actively supporting a newly organized Crimean Tatar militia.[56] This prompted Vladimir Konstantinov, who chairs the Crimea State Council, to declare Turkey’s actions as “yet another ‘stab in the back’” (udar v spinu).[57]

While Mr. Poroshenko’s government supports the principle of Crimean Tatar territorial autonomy, it is conditioned on the enclave lying within the territory of Crimea. The necessary precondition is that Russia must abandon Crimea and recognize Ukrainian sovereignty over the peninsula.

Proclaiming the establishment of national-territorial autonomy for Crimean Tatars gives Kyiv powerful arguments in its dialogue with the international community. Indeed, in this case, it will allow Kyiv to talk not only about restoring territorial integrity and returning to stable borders, but also about restoring the rights of Crimea’s indigenous people.[58]

The incendiary nature of the electronic document posted by CyberBerkut is clear. If genuine, it indicates Mr. Poroshenko was prepared at the time to accede to demands for an autonomous Crimean Tatar enclave within the Kherson Oblast. And if Mr. Islyamov’s claim of Turkish support is credible, it further meant Mr. Poroshenko was prepared to accept Turkey’s direct interposition in his country’s internal affairs, similar to Turkey’s controversial interposition in nearby Bulgaria.[59] Finally, if the document is genuine, it indicates that Mr. Poroshenko was prepared to abandon his longstanding opposition to the principle of autonomous enclaves. This would be significant given the near certainty that Crimean Tatar autonomy would spur other groups to seek the same, and because autonomous enclaves effectively advance Russia’s hoped-for federalization of Ukraine.

For Kyiv, there are certain risks in taking such steps. Proclaiming [Crimean Tatar] national-territorial autonomy in Crimea could serve as an example for other regions where national minorities are densely clustered. First of all, we are talking about the Transcarpathian region [in western Ukraine] with its ethnic Hungarian community. Some political forces in Hungary maintain Transcarpathia is Hungarian territory. Nationalistic myths about Hungarian Ungvár [the Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod] in some ways compare to Russian Krymnash [literally: “Crimea-ours!”]. So, too, Chernivtsi, with its ethnic Romanian enclaves, where radical politicians in Bucharest sometimes call for revising Soviet era borders.

In the event national-territorial autonomy is declared for Crimean Tatars, ethnic Hungarian and Romanian communities will likely seek the same, [if] Yanukovych’s infamous law on regional languages is any indicator. [. . . ] After its adoption, local governments in some Transcarpathia districts declared Hungarian to be the regional language. And while less widespread, some Bukovina villages, in Chernivtsi and the Rakhiv region of Transcarpathia, declared Romanian and Moldovan to be the regional language.[60]

The broader geopolitical implications of a Balkanized Ukraine—with ethnic enclave-heavy regions dominating the country’s eastern and western borderlands—are significant.

Ethno-Linguistic & Geographic Ukraine (Sources: (left) Eurasian Geopolitics & (right) United States Central Intelligence Agency)
Ethno-Linguistic & Geographic Ukraine (Sources: (left) Eurasian Geopolitics & (right) United States Central Intelligence Agency)

So it is unsurprising that in early August 2016, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Information Policy Emine Dzhaparov forcefully denounced “the myth that Crimean Tatars are going to establish an autonomous enclave on the territory of Kherson,” calling it “a ‘trump card’ which the occupiers play almost daily through their agents of influence in the Kherson region.”[61] She “noted Crimean Tatars continue to defend their inalienable right to self-determination in the territory of the Crimea as a part of a unified Ukrainian state.” According to Andrey Gordeev—a political ally of Mr. Poroshenko, who appointed him Kherson’s governor in April—”the Russian government wants to ‘drive a wedge’ between Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians by spreading false information about ethnic conflicts . . . and the creation of an autonomous Crimean Tatar enclave within the Kherson region.”[62]

Russian media relentlessly worked the narrative about an imminent Crimean Tatar enclave. It sought to link Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar leaders to terrorism and to revanchist Turkish territorial ambitions in the northern Black Sea, contemporaneous with CyberBerkut’s release of the purported hacked email chain. “With the active support of Turkey,[63] Crimean Tatars asked Ukraine to allocate land for a Crimean Tatar enclave.” So claimed the Russian tabloid Moskovskiy Komsomolets, asserting in January 2016 that the enclave would become “a base for an ‘Islamic Battalion.’”

They plan to turn the Kherson region’s Heniches’k[64] district into a military base and to establish a volunteer battalion. . . . Crimean Tatars will form the battalion’s core but it will be open to other nationalities. And there is strong suspicion these ‘other nationalities’—in other words, mercenaries from other countries—will account for most of the battalion. So says the vice-premier of the Crimean government Ruslan Balbec,[65] according to whom the battalion’s backbone will be made up of members of the Turkish radical nationalist ‘Grey Wolves’[66] who fled Syria via Turkey, as well as ISIS militants from North Africa and others. Turkey does not even attempt to hide its intention to fund the battalion. That decision was taken at the highest level, after Crimean Tatar leaders met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry.[67]

In April 2016—the same month in which CyberBerkut posted the hacked email chain—Novostnoy Front reported “Poroshenko Gives Kherson Region to Turks and Crimean Tatars.”[68] Later that month, it published a “dispassionate analysis [of] the Crimean Tatar autonomous territory in the Kherson region.”

From a legal point of view, the Constitution of Ukraine does not provide for the creation of these autonomous entities. . . . Talk in the country’s southeast about federalization always evokes hysterical opposition. ‘Ukraine—a unitary state’ is one of their main slogans. As the saying goes, when you can’t, if someone important really wants to, then you can. . . “

Crimean Tatar leaders in Ukraine created a militant unit—the ‘Crimea’ battalion—based in the Kherson’s Heniches’k district. They see it as the embryonic armed force of their autonomous territory. In order to justify its presence, they conducted a terrorist attack on 14 April in the Heniches’k district. As a result, one person died and four were injured. The authorities and media claimed the next day that the perpetrators were ‘Russian agents’. That version is unlikely. It is more likely the terrorist act’s authors were leaders of the blockade of the Crimea. . . They have the most to gain from the April attack.

Russia’s foreign enemies may consider an autonomous Crimean Tatar enclave in the Kherson region as a tool to exert military-political and economic pressure on Crimea. [. . . ] From the perspective of Crimean Tatar leaders and within some Turkish circles, [Crimean Tatar autonomy or statehood] is a necessary prerequisite to an historic rematch to capture Russia’s Black Sea territories.[69]

Nasha versiya added that “Poroshenko is going to settle 200,000 Meskhetian Turks in the Kherson region who, ‘are unable to return to their historic homeland’ in Uzbekistan.”[70]

Decrying “the tentacles of Turkish ‘soft power’” (Shchupal’tsa turetskoy «myagkoy sily») and “the ‘green light’ for Turkish colonists” («Zelonyy svet» dlya tyurkskikh kolonistov), Russian media aggressively worked the anti-Turkish aspect of the narrative. Take for example Svobodnaya Pressa, which declared “Kherson Khanate for Sultan Erdoğan:”

The appearance within the Kherson region of a Turkish enclave under the protection of Ankara is hard to imagine, but things are moving in that direction. In the towns and villages of the southern Ukrainian region, graffiti have already appeared in Turkish and Arabic saying ‘Kherson is a Turkish Land’, ‘The Ottoman Empire is reborn’, and ‘The Caliphate begins here’. And you never know what will happen if [Turkish President Recep] Tayyip Erdoğan flies in and mouths the phrase ‘Kherson belongs to Turkey’, just as a few years ago, while visiting the city of Prizren, he said, ‘Kosovo is Turkey and Turkey is Kosovo’. [. . . ]

A main argument advanced by Russian leaders for the military operation in Syria was to destroy the terrorist plague before it reached our country. But now, right under Russia’s nose in the Kherson steppes, Turkey with the complicity of Ukraine’s rulers have created a hotbed of terrorism and militant Russophobia under the guise of Crimean Tatar autonomy. This cancer will not resolve itself. Sooner or later, it will have to be removed surgically.[71]

Immediately before CyberBerkut posted the hacked email chain, Russian media were actively building a narrative about a Turkish-led Islamist vanguard—with connections to Chechen separatism—establishing a foothold in the Kherson region and conspiring with Kyiv to provoke Russian intervention:

The Majlis came under the Turkish intelligence service’s full control back in the 1990s . . . as a tool to balance Russian influence in Crimea. [. . . ] Another important instrument of Turkish influence in addition to the Majlis is Hizb ut-Tahrir,[72] which first appeared in Crimea in the late 1990s. . . . ‘Tahrir’ went through its baptism of fire in Syria and other hot spots in the Arab world. They gained combat experience, were tempered in battle, and strengthened ties with their ‘brothers’ and ‘mentors’. Various estimates put the number of ‘Tahrir’ in Crimea before the Maidan as two or three thousand, to as many as seven or eight thousand trained fighters, a considerable force. . .

By strengthening cooperation with the Turkish secret services, Tatar radicals have become the Turkish vanguard in Ukraine. . . the Kherson region is destined to be ‘fodder’ for a Turkish Black Sea enclave, and possibly a ‘sacrificial lamb’ to force the confrontation in Ukraine to continue, especially if a genuine reconciliation emerges in Donbas. . . . [I]t is not difficult to predict their ultimate goal—to provoke a Russian military response and cyber attacks (informatsionnyye ataki) ‘Putin-Kherson’ style. And for Ukrainians, their country is more and more like a ‘besieged fortress’ as it strengthens its information and propaganda weapons. After all, without a real or imagined war, the Kyiv government is doomed, and it is by war alone that [Mr. Poroshenko] can remain in power.[73]

One purpose of this extended recitation is to make the point that forged electronic documents are not so much intended to stand on their own, but instead are part of a densely woven and complex narrative. For Ukrainian leaders simply to disavow the e-mail chain is of little value since the purported presidential decree is consistent with widely held perceptions of events on the ground. That is as to say, it imposes a pattern—Kyiv acceding to the establishment of an autonomous enclave for Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks within the Kherson region—on experience. The direct involvement of other NATO member-states inside Ukraine is an important element in that broader narrative and a constant theme of Russian media. For example, “Western [sometimes appearing as “foreign”] military instructors were preparing a series of provocations in the Donbass.”[74] That report also acted to validate CyberBerkut (at least to Ukrainians open to believing it) since readers could relate the content of the documents—purportedly acquired in separate CyberBerkut hack[75]—to the visible presence of foreign military personnel.

One published report of the hacked email chain deserves special attention. The reliably pro-government Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote this:

The first impression on reading this document is that it is a pure forgery, or as it is now fashionable to say, a fake. But if you take into account the level of the political mentality among Ukraine’s leaders today, it may be that it is not all that farfetched.[76]

Komsomolskaya Pravda positions the questionable presidential declaration as a figurative brick in a wall and not in the earlier phrase, as a “sniper shot.”[77] It allows a skeptical reader to question the document’s authenticity while at the same time driving home the point that Ukraine’s increasingly unstable political climate—and Crimea’s “blockade” by Islamist “militants” (aktivisty)—may worsen conditions and conspire to cause the country to fracture:

The worst Poroshenko might expect is that the [Crimean Tatar] battalion will support him if things get very rough, out of gratitude. But it’s not clear this hope is destined to come true. Since that scenario presumes an outbreak of serious turmoil in Kyiv, the former Kherson region may not want to be an autonomous territory for Crimean Tatars but instead, to declare itself an independent republic or to become an autonomous region within Turkey.

Like their Soviet predecessors, Russian intelligence agencies constantly engage in “active measures” (aktivinyye meropriatia) of deception purveying false and misleading information with the intent to influence the opinions or actions of individuals and governments and to weaken opponents.[78] From at least the time the Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti or “KGB”) established its Department D[79] in 1959—where “D” stood for dezinformatsiya—Russian intelligence services have had conducted active programs to defame and discredit its adversaries’ governments.[80] As a 1965 Central Intelligence Agency report noted, “One of the preferred instruments utilized by the Soviets to disseminate disinformation is the forged document. . . The principal purpose of such forgeries has been to discredit, to denigrate, [and] ultimate[ly]. . . to isolate.”[81]

And Now, Here

“In the name of state secrecy, the membrane
of personal secrecy around the individual is
stripped away.”

“Secrecy is the membrane separating” state intelligence agencies and the public.[83] Peter Gill describes this dynamic (in a somewhat overcooked but still apt metaphor) as “the Gore Tex state,” which he elaborates as “the ‘rain’ of public inquiry” cannot penetrate in, but that same barrier does “not inhibit the ‘sweat’ of the secret state from penetrating outward . . . in its search for information and its implementation of countering techniques.”[84]

Just recently, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski declared on air that for the first time, foreign intelligence agencies are attempting to intervene directly in an American election.[85] That astonishingly uninformed assertion is all the more confounding for the fact that it came from the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, perhaps the leading cold-eyed realist within the American foreign policy establishment.[86] Ms. Brzezinski’s assertion would no doubt surprise intelligence veterans. Consider these excerpts from an earlier period—the 1960 Presidential campaign between Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy.

  • “A Soviet official in London acknowledged recently that the current anti-US phase of his country’s policy is planned to last through the American elections and is aimed primarily at weakening world confidence in the United States, and added that Moscow realized such a course involved certain dangers as well as advantages.” [87]
                                                    – Central Intelligence Agency “Current Intelligence Weekly Summary,” 18 August 1960.
  • “In a bid for the votes of Americans of Polish origin, Vice President Nixon made a statement in which he promised that if he was elected president, he would consider the present western border of Poland on the Oder-Neisse final. . . . However, AP soon transmitted a statement of the State Department from Washington, which completely refuted the position of Vice President Nixon. . . the United States is of the opinion that the region between the former and the new frontiers is not Polish territory but territory administered by Poland. . . . This confirms the hostile position of the present U.S. Government, and, it is known, Nixon is a member of this government.”[88]
                                                      – TASS, 22 October 1960
  • “There is a lot of talk in the United States about the need for change, and there is reason for such talk. The eight years the Republicans have been in power led the country up a blind alley. . . . In spite of loud declarations about longing for peace, the Eisenhower administration has not worked for relaxation but for an intensification of international tension. . . . Vice President Nixon, for instance, asserts without blinking that America’s prestige is greater than ever. His attitude is quite understandable. If he was to admit the contrary, it would mean total bankruptcy for his party. . . Mr. Kennedy accused the government of not being up to the revolutionary changes taking place in the world and failing to side with newly developing nations in their fight for liberty and for raising their living standards and improving their lives. You must agree with Mr. Kennedy’s charges. . . “[89]
    Radio Moscow 24 October 1960 English language broadcast to the eastern United States.

While the ability to rapidly disseminate disinformation through electronic media and the Internet may amplify its effect, the suggestion something new is happening is nonsensical. Russia and the Soviet Union have long sought to influence American voters through various instruments of disinformation, including the intentional misrepresentation of events and the use of counterfeit documents. Nothing has changed but the medium. It is perhaps worth reflecting on whether Russian efforts today are as perceptible as they are because they are intended to be so, that is, to devalue all information by suggesting that some is false. Whatever it is, it is nothing close by degree to the disruptive disinformation campaign directed at Ukraine. Russian leaders’ sophisticated understanding of social and political factors within Ukraine allow them to stir long simmering antagonisms toward, for example, Turkey or Poland, in an instant.

Then, there is the suggestion that America should respond in kind. It is akin to George Kennan arguing, “We should gather together at once into our hands all the cards we hold and begin to play them to their full value.”[90] Chip Bohlen’s response mutatis mutandis (Dr. Kennan was advocating implicit recognition of a balance of power that acceded to Europe’s partition into zones of influence) is apposite to the suggested American response:

[A]s a practical suggestions they are utterly impossible. Foreign policy of that kind cannot be made in a democracy. Only totalitarian states can make and carry out such policies.[91]

In this instance, perhaps both are correct. The United States has manifest, not abstract, geopolitical interest at stake in the NATO states neighboring Ukraine—to the west, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, and to the south, Turkey—that are of a greater priority than its interests in Ukraine. Those NATO allies are more convincingly positioned to rebut Russian disinformation targeting its citizens—in particular, the Polish and Turkish examples discussed earlier—than the United States, which has yet to define convincingly its interests in Ukraine. Then, there is Mr. Bohlen’s “Wilsonian” (Henry Kissinger’s characterization[92]) objection. It is at the same time true, following the line of Dr. Kennan’s argument, that the geopolitical interests at stake in Ukraine are not equal for the United States and Russia. “The West,” Dr. Kissinger wrote, “must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country.”[93] At the same time, Mr. Bohlen’s objection rings true. The United States is ill suited to guileful disinformation of the sort of which Russia excels. It seems inarguable that Russian-style raw consequentialism—“For although the act condemns the doer, the end may justify him,”[94] as Machiavelli wrote—is not in the United States’ toolbox, whether one wishes it were so or not.

The translation of all source material is by the author. The essay’s title is from Benjamin Franklin’s 1798 essay “The Retort Courteous.”

About the author:
*John R. Haines is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Executive Director of FPRI’s Princeton Committee. Much of his current research is focused on Russia and its near abroad, with a special interest in nationalist and separatist movements. As a private investor and entrepreneur, he is currently focused on the question of nuclear smuggling and terrorism, and the development of technologies to discover, detect, and characterize concealed fissile material. He is also a Trustee of FPRI.

This article was published by FPRI.

[1] Euan G. Davis & Cynthia M. Grabo (1973). “Strategic Warning and Deception.” Studies in Intelligence. 17:1, 32. Last accessed 7 September 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Katri Pynnöniemi & András Rácz (2016). “Fog of Falsehood. Russian Strategy of Deception and the Conflict in Ukraine.” FIAA Report 45. (Helsinki: The Finnish Institute of International Affairs) 16.

[4] The Russian State Duma (Gosudarstvennaya Duma or “Gosduma“) is the Federal Assembly’s lower house.

[5] “Żyrinowski proponuje Polsce udział w rozbiorze Ukrainy. ‘To były polskie ziemie wschodnie’.” Gazeta [published online in Polish 18 March 2014].,114871,15641700,Zyrinowski_proponuje_Polsce_udzial_w_rozbiorze_Ukrainy_.html. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[6] “Żyrinowski proponuje Polsce rozbiór Ukrainy.” Kresy [published online in Polish 18 March 2014].ładimir+Żyrinowski. Last accessed 15 September 2016. The name Kresy (“Borderlands”) is taken from Kresy Wschodnie, an eastern region of the interwar Second Polish Republic (in Polish, Kresy Wschodnie II Rzeczpospolitej) that was dismembered under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and its territory partitioned among Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania.

[7] “Vladimir Zhirinovskiy—«KP»: Ne bylo nikakogo predlozheniya o razdele.” Komsomol’skaya Pravda [published online in Russian 24 March 2014]. Last accessed 15 September 2016. It is worth noting that published reports claim Russian President Vladimir Putin to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in February 2008, “Ukraine is an artificial state, and Lviv is really a Polish city. Why don’t we solve this together?” See: “Putin chciał rozbioru Ukrainy.” Gazeta Wyborcza [published online in Polish 21 October 2014].,134154,16836073,Putin_chcial_rozbioru_Ukrainy.html?disableRedirects=true. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[8] “Gagauzy poprosili Poroshenko o sozdanii avtonomii v Odesskoy oblasti.” [published online in Russian 16 June 2016]. Last accessed 15 September 2016. The article claims that a genuine group known as the “Gagauz Union of Ukraine” had demanded territorial autonomy in a post on the group’s Vkontakte (a Russian Facebook-like portal) page. The Gagauz Union of Ukraine forcefully denied that it ever made such a claim. A detail dissection by StopFake ( established that the Vkontakte page in question was controlled by persons unassociated with the group with well known links to Russian disinformation.

[9] “Gagauzy obratilis’ k Poroshenko s pros’boy o predostavlenii avtonomii.” Vzglyad [published online in Russian 18 July 2016]. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[10] “Gagauzskaya obshchina Ukrainy khochet referendum o sozdanii avtonomii.” Korrespondent [published online in Russian 18 July 2016]. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[11] “Bolgary Ukrainy poprosili Poroshenko ob avtonomii.” Vzglyad [published online in Russian 4 July 2016]. Last accessed 15 September 2016. See also “Bolgarskaya partiya podderzhala sozdaniye avtonomii v Odesskoy oblasti.” Life [published online in Russian 7 July 2016].новости/874842/bolgharskaia_partiia_poddierzhala_sozdaniie_avtonomii_v_odiesskoi_oblasti. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[12] Kresy forcefully denied that it had altered the photograph, which it claimed was a screen shot from a Telewizja Republika broadcast. Many commentators rejected this explanation including Główna Założenie, who wrote “But this is a lie and political provocation, because there was an actual banner, and the challenge was to strike at the enemies of Putin and to discredit Television Republic.” [ Last accessed 15 September 2016]

[13] Pynnöniemi & Rácz (2016), op cit., 258.

[14] “Mistrzowie fotomontażu. Ujawniamy manipulację portalu” Niezależ [published in Polish 25 March 2016]. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[15] “Mariusz Max Kolonko o wydarzeniach w Odessie.” Kresy [published online in Polish 6 May 2014].,polityka?zobacz/mariusz-max-kolonko-o-wydareniach-w-odessie-video. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[16] “Mariusz Max Kolonko: Szkoda, że to Putin musi przypominać o polskości Lwowa i Wilna.” Kresny [published online in Polish 10 April 2015].,spoleczenstwo?zobacz/mariusz-max-kolonko-szkoda-ze-to-putin-musi-przypominac-o-polskosci-lwowa-i-wilna. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[17] See for example: “Photo Fake by Russkaya Vesna: American Tanks in Antiterrorist Operation Area.” [published online 16 August 2015]. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[18] “ Putin znayet ob istoricheskikh pol’skikh zemlyakh bol’she polyakov.” Russkaya vesna [published online in Russian 14 April 2015]. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[19] Benjamin Franklin (1882). The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume II. (London: Benjamin Franklin Stevens) 504.

[20] These include government-issued passports that have been stolen and altered. For an interesting discussion of the place of passports in intelligence operations, see: Stefano Musco & Valter Coralluzzo (2016). “Sneaking Under Cover: Assessing the Relevance of Passports for Intelligence operations.” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. 29:3 (Fall 2016) 427-446.

[21] Of these, the Pass-Apparat in Weimar Germany was the largest, with branches in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Free City of Danzig. Established during 1919-1920, the Pass-Apparat operated covertly under cover of the Comintern’s Western European Secretariat in Berlin and printing offices operated around Europe.

[22] 2-Správa—its formal name is the 2nd Directorate of the Federal Interior Ministry (II. správa Federálního ministerstva vnitra or “II. S FMV”)—was the counterintelligence branch of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (Československá socialistická republika or “ČSSR”). From 1953 to 1964, 2-Správa’s was responsible for counterintelligence against external threats. A 1964 reorganization of Czech State Security (Státní bezpečnost “StB”) expanded 2-Správa’s portfolio to include “internal threats” and “protecting the economy” of the ČSSR. 2-Správa reverted to its narrow external counterintelligence role after a July 1974 reorganization of the StB, and then returned to the wider one after an October 1988 reorganization, which remained in place until the StB was dissolved in 1990.

[23] The Ceske Slovo forgery was discussed in a since-declassified (in September 1995) c.1961 paper published in Studies in Intelligence, an internal journal published by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. See: Alma Fryxell (1961). “Psywar By Forgery.” Studies in Intelligence. 5:1, 25-51 at 26.

[24] Ibid., 25.

[25] Joint Chiefs of Staff (1943). “Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive: Functions of the Office of Strategic Services.” JCS 155/11/D SECRET dated 27 October 1943. One archival copy of this document maintained by CIA has an undated handwritten cover noted from General Donavan to Walter Bedell Smith, who was Director of Central Intelligence from 1950-1953. The note reads, “The enclosed may be of help you in dealing with some of your jurisdictional questions.” [sic] See: Last accessed 5 September 2016.

[26] Cited in Günter Bohnsack & Herbert Brehme (1992). Auftrag: Irreführung: Wie die Stasi Politik im Westen machte (Hamburg: Carlsen) 19. The speaker, Colonel Rolf Wagenbreth, ran Directorate X, (disinformation) of the Staatssicherheitsdienst or East German foreign intelligence service, more commonly known by the portmanteau name Stasi (from Staatssicherheit or “State Security”). He was addressing a group of Directorate X recruits in 1986.

[27] There are many contemporary examples. So-called counterfeiting “workshops” located in the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine produce large quantities of false documents sold through distribution channels in those countries and the Balkans. Some documents are sold online through such portals as dark websites and closed Facebook groups. See for example: “Balkán zaplavily falešné pasy, padělatelé mají dílny i v Česku.” [published online in Czech 22 December 2015]. Last accessed 7 September 2016.

A Czech law enforcement task force targeting organized crime concluded a two-year investigation in May by detaining ten persons accused of forging Lithuanian driving licenses and passports, which were sold directly and through intermediaries to undocumented persons “who did not qualify for residency in the European Union.” Five of the detainees are Ukrainian nationals whom Czech authorities identified as member of an organized crime syndicate. The others were identified only as “persons from the former Soviet Union.” See: “Policie zadržela 10 lidí kvůli výrobě falešných pasů pro cizince.” Deník [published online in Czech 31 May 2016]. Last accessed 7 September 2016. See also: “Policie zadržela 10 lidí kvůli výrobě falešných pasů. Cizincům pomáhali do Evropské unie.” [published online in Czech 31 May 2016]. Last accessed 7 September 2016.

[28] USCIA (1973). “Deception,” op cit., 34.

[29] Richard J. Heuer (1981). “Strategic Deception and Counterdeception: A Cognitive Process Approach.” International Studies Quarterly. 25:2 (June 1981).

[30] Benjamin Franklin (1882). The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume II. (London: Benjamin Franklin Stevens) 504.

[31]The speaker was Congressman Martin Stutzman. See: “Info flow crucial to democracy.” Politico [published online 17 June 2013]. Last accessed 7 September 2016.

[32] John Dewey (1939). “Creative Democracy—The Task Before Us.” In John Dewey and the Promise of America. Progressive Education Booklet No. 14. (Columbus, OH: American Education Press, 1939)

[33] Elizabeth Anderson (2009). “Democracy: Instrument vs. non-Instrumental Value.” In Thomas Christiano & John Philip Christma, eds. Contemporary Debates in Political Philosophy. (New York: Wiley-Blackwell) 213.

[34] The teleconference with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner marked the commencement of television broadcasts in Argentina by the Russian government-controlled Russia Today. “Telekanal Russia Today nachal veshchaniye v Argentine.” Statement by President Vladimir V. Putin [published online in Russian 9 October 2014]. Last accessed 7 September 2016.

[35] “Kremlin Tells Press to Toe the Line.” The Moscow Times [published online in English 25 January 2000].

[36] Its formal name is Federal’naya sluzhba po nadzoru v sfere svyazi, informatsionnykh tekhnologiy i massovykh kommunikatsiy or “Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications.”

[37] Robert M. Entman (2003). “Cascading Activation: Contesting the White House’s Frame After 9/11.” Political Communication. 20:4 (published online 24 June 2010), 417. Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[38] C. Douglas Lummis (2013). “Afterword: Defining the Situation.” In Under the Occupation: Resistance and Struggle in a Militarized Asia-Pacific, Daniel Broudy, Peter Simpson & Makato Arakaki, eds. (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing) 274.

[39] See for example: “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories.” The New York Times [published 28 August 2016]. Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[40] Ambassador John B. Emerson (2015). “Exposing Russian Disinformation.” Opening remarks at Exposing Russian Disinformation in the 21st Century conference held 25 June 2015. Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[41] United States State Department (1983). “Soviet Active Measures: Focus on Forgeries.” Foreign Affairs Note (April 1983). Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[42] Barton Whatley (2016). Practise [sic] to Deceive: Learning Curves of Military Deception Planner. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press) xiii.

[43] For more about CyberBerkut, see the author’s February 2015 essay “Russia’s Use of Disinformation in the Ukraine Conflict.”

[44] Crimean Tatars are a Turkic ethnic group some 250,000 of whom lived in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea prior to its March 2014 annexation by Russia. According to Ukraine’s 2001 national census, Crimean Tatars account for 10.2% of the Crimean population and 0.5% of the Kherson Oblast population, respectively.

[45] Meskhetian Turks are a Turkic ethnic group that originated in southwest Georgia and lived there until forceably dispersed by Stalin in the 1940s. An estimated 3000 Meskhetian Turks lived in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region prior to the onset of hostilities there in April 2014.

[46] “Poroshenko darit Khersonskuyu oblast’ turkam i krymskim tataram.” Document posted by CyberBerkut 1 April 2015.

[47] The referenced “Giray Khan” is to the Geraylar dynasty that reeigned in the Crimean Khanate until its annexation by Russia in 1783.

[48] ” SMI: Poroshenko otdayet Kherson na rasterzaniye i zaseleniye turkami.” Pravda [published online in Russian 7 April 2016]. Last accessed 13 September 2016.

[49] The Republic of Crimea is a federal subject of the Russian Federation geographically located on the Crimean Peninsula on territory annexed by Russia is March 2014. The Kherson Oblast also known as Khersonshchyna is a Ukrainian province or oblast that borders Crimea to the north.

[50] The quote is from Alfred North Whitehead (1954). Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead as recorded by & Lucien Price. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company) 225.

[51] The Crimean Tatar Kurultai is an elected representative council that is the highest political authority of the Crimean Tatar nation. It is comprised of delegates who are elected every five years. The Kurultai elects a 33-member Mejlis, which functions like an executive council.

[52] “Krymskiye tatary otkazalis’ ot referenduma v pol’zu avtonomii.” Rosbalt [published online in Russian 29 Match 2014]. Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[53] “Vneocherednaya sessiya Kurultaya krymskotatarskogo naroda pokazala, s kem budet stroit’ svoye budushcheye korennoy narod Kryma. Nakanune perekhoda poluostrova na moskovskoye vremya, krymskiye tatary nameknuli, chto teper’ oni ne proch’ sveryat’ chasy po Kremlyu.” [published online in Russian 31 March 2014]. Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[54] Mr. Islyamov was formerly the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea and a principal organizer of the economic blockade of Crimea—first called for in September 2015 by the Crimean Tatar Mejlis—after Crimea’s March 2014 annexation by Russia. Mr. Islyamov owns ATR, a Crimean Tatar oriented television channel that began broadcasting from Kyiv in June 2015, relocating from Crimea after it was denied a broadcast license by the Russian telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor. In December 2015, Mr. Islyamov announced that he was forming a militia battalion named after the Crimean Tatar political activist and first president of the short-lived (December 1917-January 1918) independent Crimean People’s Republic, Noman Çelebicihan. On 21 January 2016, Crimean state prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya announced that Mr. Islyamov’s name had been added to the Russian Federation’s “most wanted” list by the Federal Security Service—commonly known as the “FSB” for its Russian transliterated name, Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti— after the FSB initiated a criminal case against him and others “over the establishment of an illegal armed formation in the Kherson Region.” [].

[55] “Krymskiye tatary sformiruyut pravitel’stvo na materikovoy Ukraine—Islyamov.” [published online in Russian 20 May 2016]. Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[56] “Lenur Islyamov: ‘Ukrainskiye oligarkhi prodolzhayut rabotat’ v Krymu v obkhod sanktsiy’.” Odesskiy krizisnyy media tsentr [published online in Russian 27 December 2015]. Last accessed 11 September 2016. The interview was covered extensively in the Russian media. See for example, “Turkey is trying to re-play the Crimean Tatar card.” “Turtsiya vnov’ pytayetsya razygrat’ krymsko-tatarskuyu kartu.” Vzglyad [published online in Russian 26 December 2015]. Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[57] “Islyamov: Minoborony Turtsii okazhet pomoshch’ organizatoram blokady Kryma.” RIA-Novosti [published online in Russian 26 December 2015]. Last accessed 11 September 2016.

[58] “Shcho potribno znaty pro avtonomiyu dlya krymsʹkykh tatar.” Espreso TV [published online in Ukrainian 25 May 2016]. Last accessed 12 September 2016. Espreso TV is an Internet television station based in Kyiv perhaps known outside Ukraine for broadcasting the Euromaidan protests in late 2013 and early 2014.

[59] For more on Turkish involvement in Bulgaria’s internal affairs, see the author’s “The Suffocating Symbiosis: Russia Seeks Trojan Horses Inside Fractious Bulgaria’s Political Corral.”

[60] Espreso TV (25 May 2016), op cit.

[61] “Emine Dzhaparova: «Predostavleniye vozmozhnosti realizatsii prava krymskotatarskogo naroda na samoopredeleniye—test dlya Ukrainy na demokratiyu».” Ministerstvo informatsiynoyi polityky [published online in Russian 8 August 2016]. Last accessed 12 September 2016.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Reports in Moskovskiy Komsomolets and elsewhere were able to capitalize on a December 2015 report published in the Ukrainian weekly newspaper Korrespondent in which Lenur Islyamov said the Turkish Defense Ministry “has already started providing military assistance to the newly-created Crimean Tatar battalion ‘Noman Çelebicihan’. See: “Tatary khotyat Kherson. Posledstviya blokady Kryma.” Korrespondent [published online in Russian 28 December 2015]. Last accessed 12 September 2016.

[64] Heniches’k (sometimes spelled Genichesk) is a port city on the Sea of Azov just north of the Kherson-Crimea border.

[65] Mr. Ruslan Balbec is Vice Premier of the Crimean Republic of the Russian Federation.

[66] Formally named Ülkü Ocakları, the Grey Wolves (Bozkurtlar) is a Turkish ultra-nationalist organization and the unofficial militant arm of the far right Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi or “MHP”). Alparslan Türkeş founded both the National Action Party (in 1969) and the Grey Wolves. The Sputnik news agency (part of the Russian government-controlled news agency Rossiya Segodnya) called the Grey Wolves “the Turkish Frankenstein.” []

[67] “Krymskiye tatary pri podderzhke Turtsii poprosili avtonomiyu na Ukraine. Na granitse s Krymom planiruyut postroit’ bazu dlya islamskogo batal’ona.” Moskovskiy Komsomolets [published online in Russian 19 January 2016]. Last accessed 12 September 2016.

[68] “Kiberberkut: Poroshenko Darit Khersonskuyu Oblast’ Turkam i Krymskim Tataram.” Novostnoy Front [published online in Russian 4 April 2016]. Last accessed 12 September 2016.

[69] “«Krymsko-Tatarskoy Avtonomii» v Khersonskoy Oblasti Bez Emotsiy.” Novostnoy Front [published online in Russian 24 April 2016]. Last accessed 12 September 2016.

[70] “Khersonskuyu oblast’ daryat krymskim tataram i turkam.” Nasha versiya [published online in Russian 5 April 2016]. Last accessed 12 September 2016.

[71] “Khersonskoye khanstvo dlya sultana Erdogana.” Svobodnaya Pressa [published online in Russian 31 May 2016]. Last accessed 12 September 2016.

[72] Hizb ut-Tahrir (“Party of Liberation”) is a transnational Islamic religious-political organization with a presence over twenty countries. It seeks the creation of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia. According to the Russian Federal Security Service aka “FSB” (Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti), Hizb ut-Tahrir has links to Chechen separatists the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. In February 2003, the Russian Supreme Court added Hizb ut-Tahrir (and 14 other groups) to a list of banned terrorist organizations.

[73] “Pochemu krymskiye tatary otvernulis’ ot Turtsii Erdogana.” POLITRUSSIA [published online in Russian 25 February 2016]. Last accessed 13 September 2016. The editor of POLITIRUSSIA, Ruslan Ostashko, is a frequently-quoted defender of Kremlin policies.

[74] “Imena zapadnykh instruktorov na Ukraine raskryl ‘Kiberberkut’.”Pravda [published online in Russian 13 April 2015]. Last accessed 13 September 2016. According to the report, “the military instructors are citizens of Poland, Estonia, Finland, Turkey, Norway, Latvia, France, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Germany and other countries. The greatest number of experts sent to Ukraine from the United States.”

[75] “KiberBerkut: USA budut postavlyat’ oruzhiye Kiyevu cherez chastnyye kompanii.” Pravda [published online in Russian 28 February 2015]. Last accessed 14 September 2016.

[76] “Khersonshchina ili Khan-Gireyshchina?.” Komsomolskaya Pravda [published online in Russian 6 April 2016]. Last accessed 14 September 2016.

[77] Fryxell (1961), op cit., 26.

[78] Thomas Boghardt (2009). “Soviet Bloc Intelligence and its AIDS Disinformation Campaign.” Studies in Intelligence. 54:4 (December 2009) 2. These active measures consist of traditional disinformation techniques as the use of forgeries and rumors (so-called “black propaganda”) as well as agents of influence.

[79] Department D of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate was subsequently re-designated Department A, where the “A” stood for Aktivnyye as in Aktivnyye meropriyatiya or “Active Measures”.

[80] United States Central Intelligence Agency (1965). “The Soviet and Communist Bloc Defamation Campaign.” Internal report dated September 1965, 1. Author’s copy.

[81] Ibid., 19-20.

[82] Hugh Gusterson (1997). Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press) 84.

[83] Katherine Verdery (2014). Secrets and Truth: Ethnography in the Archive of Romania’s Secret Police. (Budapest: Central European University Press) 80.

[84] Peter Gill (1994). Policing Politics: Security Intelligence and the Liberal Democratic State. (New York: Frank Cass) 80.

[85] Ms. Brzezinski made the statement during the 15 September 2016 broadcast of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.

[86] Dr. Brzezinski is no stranger himself to Russian disinformation efforts. In March 2016, the Russian language YouTube channel Velichayshiye tayny kosmosa (“Great mystery of the cosmos”) accused him—as part of the “secret cabal of Anglo-Saxon led global elites”—of pursuing a centuries-old effort to divide Russia into separate republics (ironically, exactly what Russia’s “federalization” effort seeks today to do to Ukraine). See: Velichayshiye tayny kosmosa YouTube broadcast published 26 March 2016. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[87] United States Central Intelligence Agency (1960).  “Current Intelligence Weekly Summary” (18 August 1960) 3-4. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[88] United States Central Intelligence Agency (1960). Special Memorandum. Foreign Comment on Republican and Democratic Tickets. No. 6—3 November 1960, 3-4.

[89] Ibid., 16-17. Last accessed 15 September 2016.

[90] From a 26 January 1945 letter to Chip Bohlen, who was acting as President Roosevelt’s Russian interpreter at the Yalta talks. Quoted in John Lewis Gaddis (2011). George F. Kennan: An American Life. (New York: Penguin Press) 98.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Henry Kissinger (2014a). World Order. (New York: Penguin Press) 284.

[93] Henry Kissinger (2014b). “To settle the Ukraine crisis, start at the end.” The Washington Post Op-Ed [published online 5 March 2014]. Last accessed 16 September 2016.

[94] From The Discourses, I. 9. Niccolo Machiavelli (1970). The Discourses, Bernard Crick, Ed. (Hammondworth, UK: Penguin Books) 132. He wrote in a similar vein elsewhere, “In judging policies we should consider the results that have been achieved through them rather than the means by which they have been executed.” Count Carlo Sforza (1942). The Living Thoughts of Machiavelli. (London: Cassell) 85.

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Published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute

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