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Russia Needs A Ministry Of Truth But Can’t Have One As Its Head Would Outrank Putin – OpEd

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In order to conduct a serious disinformation campaign, the powers that be in Moscow certainly need to create an Orwellian Ministry of Truth to oversee the release of any information, Aleksandr Golts says. But the regime can’t have one because its head would be more important than even Vladimir Putin.

That is because, the independent Russian security commentator says, “practically everything that the domestic bosses report does not correspond to reality” and therefore everyone, including the Kremlin leader, would have to clear his remarks with the minister of truth in advance (ej.ru/?a=note&id=34548).

Golts’ observation about Russia’s need for a ministry of truth and the impossibility of establishing one comes at the end of an article concerning the Russian defense ministry’s end-of-the-year report of its successes in 2019 and its warning that it will respond to dishonest slander with “correct slander” of its own.

The kind of “information diversion” the defense ministry is warning about, Golts says, is now coming from within that “most patriotic” of bureaucracies in that a deputy minister is contradicting the defense minister by pointing out that only two regiments and not three had been rearmed and that the program was fulfilled only 70 percent and  not 100 percent as Shoygu said.

This suggests that the ministry while making progress in coming up with an agreed-upon version of reality still has work to do. Things have improved in that it has at least dawned on top officials that if they are going to talk about achievements, they at least familiarize themselves with what they had promised was going to be the case.

For several years, the security commentator says, they haven’t bothered to do so and the results have been truly appalling with promises and accomplishments having little relationship to each other. Now, these officials are becoming more careful but the gap between the deputy minister and the minister shows there is more work to be done.

“In fact,” Golts says, “this entire history yet again shows that all the data which the officials of the military ministry provides do not have any relationship at all to reality.”  They are all about making someone sound good and nothing more.  He adds that he “suspects” that the defense ministry decided to conduct “information war” and thus felt this was all right.

But “the ministry of defense is a very large agency,” he continues. “And each commander seeks to give an interview” and make himself look good. As a result, “the data which they release do not in any way agree with each other.” Consequently, the defense ministry very much needs a ministry of truth to ensure that lies are agreed upon in advance.

Unfortunately, Golts concludes, under Russian conditions, there is little possibility that such a much-needed institution will be created.  That means that all reports need to be crosschecked on the assumption that not one of them is accurate or reliable but only an indication of what someone in Moscow would like others to believe.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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