#RussiaVsISIL propaganda on display

It’s not often you can see examples of Russian propaganda on social media so clearly but this is an exception. The hashtag #RussiavsISIL is showing up on the tag analysis site Hashtagify as being tweeted primarily by organisations with “Sputnik” in the name.

russiadetailSputnik, of course, is the name of Russia’s foreign language media outlets. Since Russia began bombing in Syria in September 2015 in support of the country’s embattled leader Bashar al-Assad, Moscow has gone to great lengths to stress its fight against Islamic State, or ISIL. You could say Russia has more or less marketed its actions in Syria to western nations as a move against ISIL.

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Reports on the ground, nevertheless, show Russia bombing positions that have nothing to do with ISIL. This report says less than one third of the deaths from Russian bombing are IS militants. But it’s important to Russia to promote the message (in English and other foreign languages) that Moscow is all about fighting ISIL. So the information warfare arm, working in conjunction with Russia’s military, kicks into gear. Hence the hashtag #RussiavsISIL.

Evidently the hashtag has proven less viral than hoped, or it wouldn’t be clear that Russian media organs are doing all the tweeting of it. Then again, the Russians wouldn’t pursue this media strategy if it weren’t paying dividends of some kind.

Donald Trump as a post-loyalty candidate

It’s getting closer. The moment when the subject of loyalty reemerges in the US national discourse/political shoutfest. Between IS recruiting and sympathizing, armed militias and Russian propaganda designed to exploit legitimate differences within open democracies, you can only expect the issue of loyalty to return. I don’t know if the US in for a round for McCarthyism Part II, but spasms of national paranoia can come on suddenly.

In a way, it sort of makes sense too.

There was a gasp when candidate Donald Trump brushed off concerns about the targeting of journalists in Russia in his praise of Vladimir Putin. It’s a mini-reality check for how far domestic politics have drifted in the US and Europe.

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Donald Trump (WikiCommons: Photo Michael Vadon)

In the past 30 years, Western society has embraced globalization – borderlessness, which is being exploited by transnational terror groups; the internet, which facilitates the spread of ideology regardless of location; and even a post-Cold War complacency about geopolitical challengers, which has seen governments let their guard down to those risks. That’s part of a broad trend.

Soon voters may want to know there is a border, whether political, ideological, or otherwise, between themselves and the outside world. Playing up loyalty to one’s country would also be a way for elites to show their allegiance to the public, rather than to their global peers, which has been a challenge for some.

So there may be a renewed emphasis on national loyalty as an actual issue, especially if there is the sense that the openness of society is being exploited by outside, unfriendly governments and organizations.

The worry is that it manifests itself in outbursts of xenophobia and racism.

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China’s aircraft carrier/carrier-killer missile riddle

Quite a lot has been made of the game-changing potential for China’s carrier-killer missile. For example, Ghost Fleet, a techno-thriller novel by Peter W. Singer and August Cole, about a US-China war portrays China using DF-21D missiles to sink the US Pacific fleet.

So for me, each time I read about China’s indigenous aircraft carrier building programs, I have to ask: how do China’s carrier aspirations sit with a technology that makes aircraft carriers redundant?

Do these two contradictory weapons programs make sense together?

As I’ve argued before: I’m not so sure that they do.

After all, if carrier-killer missiles made US carriers strategically obsolete, wouldn’t it follow that the US (and other carrier sailing nations) would pursue the same technology to render China’s carriers similarly useless?

Or is the idea that China pursues both carriers and missiles to force the US to over-invest in military technology?

Or are China’s carriers more about domestic naval nationalism designed to show local audiences the PLA Navy’s prowess?

Or does it come down to a misalignment between the PLA and the PLA Navy?

Whatever the case, it seems a great contradiction to me. And rarely do outside analyses of China’s carrier ambitions take into account China’s carrier killer ambitions.

IBM, China, and technology

A US group has published a report claiming IBM has sold sensitive technology to China. Like many western companies, IBM has been motivated by a desire to gain wider access to the growing market in China.

The analysis by Defense Group Inc. says:

Over the past two years, IBM has engaged in a series of transactions with Chinese companies (including those with deep ties to the Chinese government and military) to support domestic Chinese development of high performance computing components, among other technologies. Now that Chinese companies
have the blueprints to various IBM technologies, IBM is working with Chinese firms to implement and commercialize solutions, enabling them to build upon and develop new products that close the technological gap with the United States.
By providing the Chinese with the means to perfect and innovate these sensitive, high-level technologies that enhance Chinese military capabilities and monitor Chinese citizens, IBM is endangering the national and economic security of the United States, risking the cybersecurity of their customers globally, and
undermining decades of U.S. non-proliferation policies regarding high-performance computing.