This piece was originally published in Return.
For years, Americans and Europeans have been warned of the growing power and reach of Russian information warfare. From the Brexit referendum to the election of Donald Trump, there was hardly an important election Putin hadn’t hacked. Western experts had warned for years about hybrid warfare, blending disinformation, astroturfed campaigns, economic leverage, FSB-sponsored corruption, and special operations.
And so, as Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s borders in early 2022, intelligence analysts and national security officials braced for the worst. The anticipated Russian invasion would not only represent the largest use of military force in Europe since the Second World War, but would also employ Russia’s characteristic skills in distorting and controlling the information environment.
That the Russians got smoked on the battlefield once fighting began has its own explanations: inexperience, incompetence, corruption, lack of initiative, poor equipment, unrealistic assumptions. But the fearsome Russians performed even worse in the battle to control information and shape the narrative, beginning with the Biden administration’s public revelation of Russian military plans in the lead-up to the war. If the Kremlin is such an expert and wily puppetmaster, why did it fail so badly?
Click here to read the full piece in Return.