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Communication weaknesses – Ministry of Information

January 23, 2017

Over the however many years this blog has been running, when it comes to reoccurring themes that simply fail to be addressed, alongside consistently ineffective policy implementation, strategic communication (or what passes for it) both domestically and internationally has been ever present upon a list of national woes.

Despite Ukraine now having the most PR aware president in its independent history, effective (and) strategic communication domestically and internationally has hardly seen anything like the dramatic or consistent improvement the difficult circumstances Ukraine find itself faced with.

It therefore comes as no surprise that President Poroshenko’s chum, Information Minister Yuri Stets left a recent NATO-Ukraine Partnership and Collective Security Committee meeting commenting – “Apparently, Ukraine suffers the most from the latest methods of warfare, which Russia today employs. The weakness of public communications makes us extremely vulnerable and poses a threat to our partners. We have to catch up with the civilized world in the ability, and the ability, to communicate our position to the people, both inside the country and beyond it is aimed at within Ukraine’s efforts in strategic communications system development – and in this regard we need the help of the Alliance.”

He went on to bemoan the Kremlin orchestrated disinformation, misinformation, active measures and reflexive control operations (none of which is new and has been around since Octavious defeated Mark Anthony and before) pushed in the information sphere –“Information component has become one of the most important in ensuring the safety and development of any country. We all have to make new rules and approaches, lay them in new laws, to form a fundamentally new framework of reality.”

What The Kremlin does well is orchestrate its efforts with a holistic approach.  The entire national (not just State) machinery is engaged (notwithstanding outsourcing paid and via useful idiots), against those which it targets where ever and whenever and to the fullest extent possible – be that target Ukraine, NATO, the EU, specific European nations or the USA.

Aside from national counterintelligence agencies that rarely appreciate the public spotlight, at best those whom the Kremlin targets have (or eventually form) a small, under-financed department to man the information gates to call spurious bullshit and more insidious operations for what they are, sometimes bolstered by a few clear-eyed academics and journalists.  Clearly not the holistic and national approach engineered by The Kremlin.

Well so be it.

If the scale of the threat is not recognised, or if recognised not given sufficient resources to repel and/or neutralise the offensive actions in the information war that is long underway then losing it cannot come as a surprise.

That is not to say The Kremlin will long ultimately win any such war regardless of battles already won, for there is the issue of diminishing returns beyond any limited effectiveness regarding actions to counter.  Nevertheless current targets are certainly far from winning their individual info wars with The Kremlin – to say nothing of thus far meek and disjointed common efforts.

There will be some that see the words of Minister Stets as simply another less than subtly inferred request for cash and assistance – for his ministry is small, poorly funded and questionable as to effectiveness internally and externally of Ukraine.

He is however nonetheless correct.

The entire Ukrainian leadership, political class and the national institutions domestically continue to fail to effectively inform and engage with the domestic constituency – and it is here that the Ukrainian information war with The Kremlin has to find significant traction.  Perhaps particularly so as it appears a (probably duration limited) Kremlin charm offensive aimed at the Ukrainian people will be the next tactical maneuver.

There appears to be no leadership decisions regarding the universal nature of the messages emitted and how well those messages are bought into by the audience – particularly with domestic policy..

There still seems to be no real thought as to how messaging is disseminated to a wide audience and which channels are most appropriate.  The continued void where an independent State broadcaster would be is notable by its absence despite years of promising its arrival.

An inability to proactively communicate in preparation and/or synchronicity with the most basic of calendar issues, such as significant Verkhovna Rada votes, ever-shifting timelines for high profile (albeit mostly symbolic) issues like Visa-free, belie effective communication coordination, or at the very least communication discipline among ministers collectively and ministries individually.

Perhaps the most obvious question to ask is who is responsible, and thus ultimately has policy ownership, for strategic governmental communication?

If after more than 2 years of kinetic and non-kinetic warfare across the entire political, economic, social and cultural spectrum, a Ukrainian Information Minister leaves a NATO meeting stating Ukraine is still unable to communicate strategically either internally or externally, serious questions are already beyond asking.

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