In the current situation, Russia is using the absolute dependence of European countries on their energy resources, which is the main argument of EU countries to refuse to end the war by any possible means. There are many instances in history when a less powerful state has won through alternative forms of war, such as a showy denial of freedom. I know a similar example from the life of one person who surrendered to the military forces while seizing his home. This man, called N, obeyed all the soldiers’ orders and showed no aggression toward them. However, throughout his confinement, N misinformed the soldiers, leading them on a false trail while also ferreting out important information about his captors. One day, N found the right moment to contact the allied forces and give them all the data they needed to disarm the invaders. Thus, when backup arrived, N and his family were freed and preserved their lives, while the enemy unit was completely destroyed. Consequently, it is critical to understand that the victory in the unbalanced war might be obtained by appropriately managing the information to one’s advantage, deliberately exposing weakness while knowing the enemy’s vulnerabilities.
Since the terrorist attack of 9/11, the world has undergone a transformation in the way information is used and presented to the broader public. In order to form public opinion about the threats of terrorism to national security and the possible need to alter the approaches to freedom to achieve that security (Kristof, 2002). However, the increased access of authorities to population information cannot prevent a terrorist attack completely, which causes doubts regarding the necessity to collect and retain data for national security reasons (Haynes, 2015). Problems arise when governments use the information that is in their access to weaponize it and use it to push political narratives that got nothing to do with national security in reality (Price, 2016).
Since information becomes a battleground in the area of ‘countering extremism,’ Russia has used an “Information Confrontation” approach in its strategic and military circles in both peacetime and conflict (Price, 2016). The current propaganda and disinformation operations align with the government’s strategic view, with no limitations established as to where disinformation and propaganda are distributed. Misinformation is present in varied sources, such as official government statements, the media funded by the government, proxy websites, false social media personas, cyber-enabled operations of disinformation, and others (GEC, 2020). While Russia has consistently denied the use of propaganda, its portrayal of the Ukrainian government as “nationalists” and “fascists” is a clear reflection of the way in which the country safeguards its national security. The weaponization of the false narratives targeted at a country that really presents no threat to Russia shows that national security can be used as a reason for blatant misinformation.
The multiplier effect of the media has the capacity to cause storms of disinformation, with possibly dangerous effects for parties that Russia perceives as its adversaries at international, national, and local levels. The case of Alexei Navalny’s poisoning and later imprisonment shows that the government will push false narratives, including those transferred internationally, in order to eliminate critics of the regime that are perceived as threats to national security. The issue with this is that there is an intentional misrepresentation of threats to the Russian regime’s security as a threat to national security, and the two do not coincide. There has been a history of Russia leveraging such a dynamic for shielding itself from criticism from its involvement in malignant, terroristic acts.
The approach of misinformation that Russia has deployed repeatedly reflects its government’s opportunism, with a similar situation occurring when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Russia’s propaganda machine has used the pandemic as a hook for pushing the longstanding narratives of disinformation (GEC, 2020). For example, Moscow officially banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people until a specific date, arguing that the measure was necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 (Funk & Linzer, 2020). Even though the restrictions of this kind are logical in the context of a global pandemic, the announcement of the ban emerged the same day when the President endorsed a proposal that would allow him to stay in office until 2036 (Funk & Linzer, 2020). Therefore, under the guise of a national security measure, Russia once again attacked freedom to safeguard the regime and squash any opposition and criticism. Again, information is used as a weapon, and with the recent push of the government to ban free press and social media is reflective of Russia’s desire to maintain its narrative of propaganda in a vacuum.
Due to the complexity of the topic, it is possible to connect it to core ethical values that can inform the decision-making in choosing the standpoint. From the perspective of integrity, it is essential to study the problem of propaganda as a threat to national security because of the need to maintain the truthfulness and transparency of information. From the perspective of empathy, it is vital to understand the adverse impact on people and facilitate guidance in moral deliberation. Authenticity is also highly relevant to the chosen issue because it entails behaving in the way that responds to the world as it is genuinely, and not how one likes it to be.
To conclude, the interplay between security and freedom could take different forms. Despite the efforts to prevent terrorist attacks by collecting information, not all crimes can be prevented. However, there is a way in which freedom is warped to push a specific narrative of security, as in the instance of Russia’s policy of propaganda and the pushing of false narratives to protect itself from criticism and push aggressive agendas toward those opposing them. Therefore, the juxtaposition between freedom and security will remain relevant as long as there are threats to national security and as long as there is an ability to warp the information agenda.
Price, M. (2016). Freedom vs. security. Web.
Kristof, N. D. (2002). Security and freedom. New York Times. Web.
Haynes, D. D. (2015). Liberty vs. security: An old debate renewed in the age of terror. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Web.
Funk, A. & Linzer, I. (2020). How the coronavirus could trigger a backslide on freedom around the world. Washington Post. Web.
GEC. GEC special report: August 2020 Pillars of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem. Web.