Pomerantsev: beyond crying foul

21 02 2022

There are some deeply insightful nuggets in this interview with Peter Pomerantsev, who is among the best analysts of contemporary information warfare. Pomerantsev describes twenty-first century conflict as radically different from the form the U.S. and western countries are used to. Conflict now is multifaceted, mixing informational with political and economic strategies to create a murky terrain where the lines between war and peace are blurred.

“The Russian and the Chinese governments,” he says, “do it all the time. They’re doing army stuff, they’re doing their troll farms, they’re doing their TV channels, and they’re thinking about different audiences. So already,” with western governments calling him out for his planned invasion, “Putin is pivoting: ‘The West have cried foul. They said it’s war. We never said it was war.’”

“Putin likes to be in the murk. He likes to be in this ambiguous space where you can’t really tell what’s going on. And that makes it very hard for NATO and allies to get their act together.” That they are succeeding more than Putin might have predicted is a good thing, but insufficient. They may hope for an “off ramp” for Putin, but “It’s not about an off ramp. It’s an Escher staircase. It’s going to go round and round and escalating and de-escalating and on and on and on and on.”

Perhaps most importantly, Pomerantsev raises the real questions we ought to be answering collectively: “what is public diplomacy for the 21st century? What is our long term dialogue that we’re trying to have with the Russian people about Russia’s role in the world? What is our communication to specific audiences in Ukraine to explain what we’re doing? All that needs to be happening. It really means having a kind of communication statecraft policy and institutional capacity for the 21st century.”

Read “Ukraine, Russia, and the 21st Century Permanent Information War.



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