In early May of this year, China’s National Computer Virus Emergency Response Centre and Chinese cybersecurity company 360 published a report stating the involvement of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in organising ‘colour revolutions’ and cyber attacks around the world. As stated in the document, the CIA has overthrown or attempted to overthrow at least 50 legitimate governments abroad causing turmoil in related countries for decades. Whether it is the ‘colour revolution’ in Ukraine in 2014, the ‘sunflower revolution’ in Taiwan island, China, or the ‘saffron revolution’ in Myanmar in 2007, and the ‘green revolution’ in Iran in 2009. Protest activity is based on young people mobilised through the Internet. This ‘revelation’ stirred up the information space and gave rise to a huge number of comments, although by and large nothing new was announced. The conclusions of Chinese researchers about the role of Washington and the Internet as a mobilising tool in the ‘colour revolutions’ are just the tip of the iceberg in the process of rebuilding the modern world and the American doctrine of maintaining its own dominance.
The President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko,
“Any colour revolution makes a country weaker and its people poorer. There have been no examples of people having a better life after such unrest. The main remedy for this trouble is well-known: intensifying and strengthening ties and integration in all formats: bilateral, the EAEU, CIS, CSTO. First of all, I mean co-operation in economy, security, and human contacts.”
During an interview with Belarusian and foreign political observers on November 13th, 2020
Who owns the information…
The issues of managing individual and mass consciousness as an element of achieving one’s own goals in international politics have deep historical roots. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the United States, convinced of the futility of attempts to directly defeat the Soviet Union, set out to destroy the enemy from within. To do this, the emphasis was placed on psychology, the promotion of Western values, the manipulation of information and the tools of ‘soft’ power. The entire research, financial and technological potential of the ‘democratic’ world was involved in order to restore sole control over the world and its resources.
The manipulation of consciousness was based on postmodern technologies for creating and managing conflict situations. The foundations of this scientific direction were laid by Herbert Marcuse, Martin Heidegger and other scientists. The instrumental component of their ideas was further developed after World War II. In 1968, the theoretical developments of scientists were embodied in the form of a ‘student revolution’ in France, which resulted in the resignation of President Charles de Gaulle. The essence of the process was very clearly formulated by the 37th US President Richard Nixon, who, with Anglo-Saxon pragmatism, declared, “One dollar invested in propaganda and information is more valuable than $10 invested in the creation of weapons systems, because the latter is unlikely to ever be used in practice, while information works hourly and everywhere.”
Subsequently, all theoretical developments were generalised and implemented within the framework of the technology of ‘colour revolutions’ by Professor J. Sharp of Harvard University in 1973. In terms of content, it is an information operation carried out using non-classical methods of struggle (‘methods of nonviolent action’) in order to change the conservative political regime to a more loyal analogue of it, while simultaneously depriving the elite and the people of the opportunity to independently determine the path of development of the state.
Maximum effect with minimum cost
It was the ‘colour revolution’ that became Washington’s dominant tool in the process of ‘democratisation’ of the rest of the world in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The US State Department and the CIA have been key components of implementation for decades. Cyberspace, which absorbed previously independent areas, was the most important area through which a complex impact on the individual and society as a whole was carried out: information, communications and entertainment. This process has become global, and the ability to manipulate consciousness has increased significantly with the advent of the global information web — the Internet.
Events in the post-Soviet space, North Africa, the Middle East, and Hong Kong have become vivid examples of the effectiveness of the ‘colour revolution’ technology. It is natural that the provisions in the field of operating in the virtual space are reflected in the governing documents of the United States.
A special place in this list is occupied by the Force XXI concept of Pentagon expert Robert Bunker (1996), in which the theatre of operations was divided into two elements — traditional space and cyberspace, as well as the theory of hybrid warfare by Frank G. Hoffman (2007). The basis of the tools of hybrid warfare are elements of ‘soft’ power, which allow achieving not so much physical destruction (overthrow) and material damage, as changing behaviour, recognising an acceptable option for the development of the situation at the rational-mental level of perception.
Long before the open phase of confrontation, three forms of influence are carried out: information processing of the population and the national elite of the state in order to discredit the traditional system of values and national culture; economic and financial expansion, formation of dependence on external loans; encouragement of national separatism.
Within their framework, the provisions of the theory of virtual constructions are implemented, when, as a result of purposeful manipulation of information, an individual begins to act on the basis of artificially created fictitious needs, not realising the fact of harm to himself or herself and the state. ‘Source material’ is needed for the effective implementation of this scenario — a society with a low educational level, average needs, incapable of creative thinking and amenable to informational influence. Thus, it is the information and psychological impact through cyberspace, but not the military component, that is decisive in the framework of a hybrid war.
Beneficiaries and victims
It is no coincidence that the information space today has become an arena of fierce confrontation. Moreover, the operation in this field is carried out in two main areas: information-psychological and information-technical (software-technological).
The objects of influence within the framework of the first are the individual, society and the state as information-psychological units capable of perceiving and processing information. The goal of the operating side is to form the required worldview, principles, ideals, behaviour patterns. In fact, to reformat the individual and group consciousness, taking into account psychological characteristics.
For this, the mass media, formal and informal associations, secular and religious movements, and other tools are used to implement the stages of psychological programming. It is this direction that is decisive in terms of the final effect and allows you to implement the function of ‘manipulation of consciousness’.
The second component — information technology — is aimed at developing technologies that allow operating in cyberspace, influencing information, infrastructure, and data arrays. Hacker attacks, malicious viruses, data fraud and theft of confidential data are all elements of information technology impact.
However, they are a consequence of the global informatisation that engulfed the planet at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, at the origins of which stood the United States. The development of technology spurs the market and allows one to create a profitable environment. States with less scientific and technological potential are forced to give away real wealth (natural resources, tangible assets) in exchange for a virtual product. The United States and NATO legally equated a cyber attack with an armed attack, and classified cyberspace as one of the areas of military operations. This opens a new page in the history of interstate confrontation.
The mentality of the population is the object of destructive information and psychological impact, and the task is to damage the spiritual and moral life of the people, their historical and cultural memory, worldview, moral ideals. The most important goal of this process is the formation of a consumer society, devoid of an internal core and unable to resist the information and psychological expansion.
Under these conditions, the state system must have the necessary tools and capabilities to neutralise modern and future security threats in the relevant area. They are in the national arsenal.
As for the assessments and conclusions of Chinese researchers, this indicates that Beijing is clearly aware of who poses a real threat to its interests and declares its readiness to defend them.
By Nikolai Buzin, Doctor of Military Sciences, Professor, Assistant to the Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly