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Editorial: The other war

The global condemnation of Putin is a testament to Ukraine outsmarting its enemy in this war of words
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
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The Editorial Board   |   Published 02.03.22, 01:11 AM

There can be no disagreement about the fact that Russia’s military strength is far greater than that of Ukraine’s. The eventual outcome of Russia’s predation upon Ukraine is unlikely to be in doubt, given the disproportionate military advantage that it holds in terms of men and material. But there is a parallel war that is being fought alongside the actual conflict. This one relates to information — a proverbial ‘war of words’ — and Ukraine seems to be at an advantage in this theatre of conflict. Predictably, Russia’s authoritarian leadership has choked credible sources of information. Moscow has restricted access to Twitter while Facebook has been cut off. The media censor has warned not to rely on sources independent of those of the Kremlin. Moscow’s intention is clear: it would like Russia and the world to believe its propaganda instead of other, more trustworthy, agencies, especially since the war is not going as it had been planned. Ukraine, on the other hand, has weaponized information imaginatively. It has flooded the public space with tales of heroism to bolster the resistance. A hotline has even been created for Russian families so that they can communicate with their kin fighting Vladimir Putin’s battle in an effort to show that Kiev — and not Moscow — holds the higher moral ground. Meanwhile, international media, along with social media platforms —the latter have finally redeemed themselves by functioning as repositories of unorchestrated news — continue to puncture Moscow’s claims by bringing real-time footage from the ground.  

These developments reveal an intriguing weapon in modern warfare: information, the dissemination of which is foundational to conflict. Just as regimes have used propaganda to conquer and shed blood — Nazi Germany during the Second World War and the United States of America’s campaigns in Iraq are perfect examples — unbiased information can also play a role in shaping a global discourse against wars. This holds true for Ukraine, as was the case in Vietnam. In fact, the vociferous — global — condemnation of Mr Putin is a testament to Ukraine outsmarting its enemy in this war of words.

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