Behind the curtain – Euro-Atlantic propaganda about the war in Ukraine
A revealing article from the newspaper “Rizospastis”
“Russia may be winning the shooting war. But Ukraine is winning the information war. That is the key to getting allies’ support and sympathy.”
The above words belong to Sean McFate, senior fellow of the Euro-Atlantic “think tank” under the name “Atlantic Council”, who spoke a few days ago to “The Washington Post” about the successes of the Ukrainian government regarding information warfare.1
This campaign is based on a well geared propaganda machine involving – apart from staff from states and imperialist organizations – more than 150 communications and public relations companies that collaborate with the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order for the Euro-Atlantic narrative to prevail in the field of information.
Indeed, as the “Washington Post” points out, this campaign is so successful that several Western officials underscore that, “while they cannot independently verify much of the information that Kyiv puts out about the evolving battlefield situation, including casualty figures for both sides, it nonetheless represents highly effective stratcom.”
A senior NATO official who also spoke to the “Washington Post” on condition of anonymity noted that “(the Ukrainian government, ed.n.) is really excellent in stratcom- media, info ops, and also psy-ops.”
Furthermore, that same NATO official attempted to portray this skill of Kyiv in propaganda warfare as self-made by adding that he hopes “Western countries take their lead from them.”
In reality, what happens is exactly the opposite. NATO made sure to found “agencies” in Ukraine, which could be vehicles of its “know-how” in the art of propaganda warfare as early as 1997, with the founding of the “NATO Information and Documentation Center (NIDC)”. This is a mechanism that aims to “increase awareness and understanding of NATO in Ukraine”, training “independent” journalists and other Media and Communication experts for decades.2
A “master class” in US and NATO propaganda
McFate is not the only one who is impressed. In that same publication, a State Department official points out that “the Ukrainians have taught a master class in information warfare” and explains that what happens in the field of information is “basic wartime communication”. “You’re going to emphasize everything that’s positive for you- talk up your enemy’s losses, downplay your own. What’s the old cliche- truth is the first casualty in war? States basically say what is most advantageous to them in wartime.”
The US State Department official did not upset anyone with these words. However, what is interesting is his “only fear” about the effectiveness of the Ukrainian government’s propaganda: “The power of the narrative could lead some to assume that things are going better than they are, which could hurt the Ukrainians in the end”.
The assessments of retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who served as the commander of U.S. Army Europe, are on the same wavelength. He notes that while Kyiv’s efforts to shape public opinion in the West have been successful, they have fallen short of their ultimate goal of “persuading NATO leaders to embrace a no-fly zone or supply fighter jets (to the Ukrainian government, ed.n.).”
Propaganda experts from 150 companies
At the heart of the machine that “produces” war propaganda is an international coalition of more than 150 communications and public relations companies from around the world that work directly with the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.
This was confirmed by the founder of a Ukraine-based PR agency, who asked not to be identified, speaking in the PR industry magazine “Prweek”. She said that her company voluntarily assists the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine in its cooperation with the global industry of companies in the sector.3
In fact, she revealed that “today we have more than 150 global agencies who are ready to help us globally.” The anonymous female figure behind these statements is probably Natalia Popovych, founder and president of the “One Philosophy” group of companies which is the largest group of communication consultants in the “post-Soviet markets”, who, four days after the anonymous interview, spoke by her name in another communication industry magazine, “PRvokemedia”.
In her interview, she said that the staff of her companies, crisis managers and communicators, work on a voluntary basis “24 hours a day, 7 days a week”, in order to “defend Ukraine’s information space”.4
Connections with monopolies and powerful mechanisms
The Popovych team alone includes more than 90 specialists managing a strong portfolio of private and public sector clients, including Microsoft, MasterCard, McDonald’s, Opel, Sanofi, and the Ukrainian Ministries of Finance and Health, the National Bank of Ukraine, etc.
After the “Revolution of Dignity”, i.e. the coup of 2014, Popovych and several communication and international relations professionals founded the “Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UCMC)“, an organization whose donors include the embassies of the US and Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands in Ukraine, the Government of Canada, the US “National Endowment for Democracy” and USAID, some other “funds” financing “color revolutions” and other would-be coup plotters around the globe as well as the British “Institute for Statecraft”, whose disinformation campaigns were revealed to have even reached Greece and, of course, NATO.
She was also an adviser to the Chief of Staff of the Administration of the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, from 2015 to 2016, when she secured support at the level of the Presidential Administration for a “strategic plan for communications reform”.
The project was carried out with the support of the US Department of State, with the aim of “building a more coherent and integrated approach to communications at the state level between all branches of power: administration, parliament, government and the National Bank of Ukraine”.
In fact, Popovych led a series of “national public education campaigns” to review history around the anniversaries of World War II, Ukraine’s independence and the anti-communist celebrations of “Holodomor”- i.e. the “great Ukraine famine.”
It is known that after 2014, the revision of history in Ukraine, along with the “de-communistization”, dug up the local fascists who had collaborated with the Nazis against the USSR, such as Stepan Bandera, and declared them “national heroes”.
The “cavalry” of the communication industry
The role of coordinating this gigantic propaganda campaign has been assumed by the Director General of the British entity “Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA)” and at the same time Chief Executive of the “International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO)”, Francis Ingham. PRCA is the largest association in the communications industry, representing more than 35,000 public relations professionals in 82 countries around the world.
In an interview, he confirmed the number of companies that support the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, saying that “agencies have offered up entire teams to support Kyiv in the communications war. Our support for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is unwavering and will continue for as long as needed.”5
Describing the contribution of media companies, Pablo O’Hana, founder of comms agency “Apostrophe Campaigns”, said: “We are working to disseminate official information through influential channels (using our clients and networks to expand this), fact-checking and enforcing key messages about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We are also working with the Ministry and its partners to seek media opportunities, verify sources and materials and assist in any area we are specialised in.
We specialise in political communications (we look after high-level UK, US and European politicians and political parties), so we have volunteered anything we can help with on that front, along with PR, media, comms, fact-checking, graphic design, videography, digital/social media etc.”
State Department “graduates” and “correct phraseology”
Another key figure in the propaganda campaign is Yaroslav Turbil, who since November 2020 has been a Strategic Communications Specialist at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the director of “Ukraine.ua”, which is “Ukraine’s digital ecosystem for global communications”.
Turbil began his career at “Internews,” a US government-funded “independent agency”6 that has trained over 80,000 people in media and communication skills.
“Ukraine.ua” provides, among other things, an online portfolio of ready-to-use propaganda material for international media, including videos and photos.7 Among them is one of the first war disinformation products, the audio of the alleged response given by soldiers on Snake Island to a Russian warship; that same soldiers who were honored by Zelensky for their heroic death and later the Ukrainian Navy itself announced that they were finally alive!8
The portfolio also contains a document that is updated daily with the basic messages that must be reproduced by the media, which among other things establish that the correct choice of words and phrases is crucial.
In fact, there is a separate document that lists “correct” and “incorrect” wording about the war in Ukraine: “Russian clichés such as the referendum in Crimea or ‘will of the people of Crimea’ are absolutely unacceptable,” the document says; “they should be replaced by phrases such as “occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea”.
The terms “Civil War in Donbass ” and “Ukrainian crisis” are considered unacceptable and should be described as “armed aggression by the Russian Federation in Donbass, international armed conflict, Russian war against Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict”, while the phrase “Self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics” is also considered unacceptable and should be called “temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”.
Of particular interest is the document outlining the goal of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which states: “It seems that the core values and DNA of Ukrainian society – a love of freedom, democracy, free thinking and European values – are values that are anathema to Putin; he can neither comprehend, nor tolerate, these values – and so instead he is seeking to destroy them. As a result, the military aggression and outright violation of all international norms and laws is the only thing that Russia is able to propose to encourage independent states to move within the orbit of the ‘Russian world’ – its neo-imperial project.”
Really, all of the above does not sound familiar to what one finds in the bourgeois media of our country? War propaganda does not simply consist of lies and misinformation by officials, lackey-journalists or others. It is the product of large specialized organizations and propaganda mechanisms of all the imperialist powers, which are mobilized to serve the ends of each side, while the victims are always the peoples themselves.
2. “Rizospastis” – Tuesday, March 15th 2022, “The agencies of a parallel war”
Original article in Greek can be found here: