Mapping Russian narratives about the war in Ukraine. What Putin wants us to hear. How his message gets through in the US

Aug 23, 2023

Russia’s information warfare against the West has been carried out for years. But in February 2022, it became a part of an actual war, when Vladimir Putin employed techniques to convince the world of the necessity of “a special operation”, as Russia likes to call its invasion of Ukraine. Russia has put all its efforts since the very beginning of the war to convince public opinion about the necessity of a new world order. The main message Putin is pushing is that the West – mainly the US – should lose its leading role in international affairs. On the one hand, according to Putin, the US controls other countries and NATO, disregarding powerful and developing countries alike while exploiting Ukraine and threatening Russia’s existence as a state. On the other, Putin constructs Russia’s image as a peaceful nation that has tried its best through diplomacy.

Ukraine is presented by Putin as a wicked country dominated on all levels by foreign agents, mainly American ones, and used by the US for NATO expansion; politically compromised and weaponized by the West. He questions all of Ukraine’s auto-determination as a separate state, saying that historically it is a Russian land and a part of Russian culture. Therefore, he creates the perception that Russia is going to bring Ukraine back to the right side, and at the same time secure itself from Western threat.

These narratives were mapped and analysed based on five Putin’s speeches, carried out from February to June 2022. Some of the basic arguments and narratives were later identified in “Tucker Carlson Tonight” between February – November 2022, with an emphasis on the mid-term election campaigns. While Putin has been trying to undermine US positions from the outside, Carlson did it from within. Putin’s messages and Carslon’s are shaping the same perceptions of a weak west, a strong Russia, a Ukraine that isn’t worth saving and a demonized US, whether referring to its hegemony as Putin does, or its leadership as Tucker Carlson does.

The study can be accessed here.

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