Cognitive Wars

Cognitive Wars

It looks obvious, that a debate about information wars (as well as wars in general) should not disappear from the current research agenda. Internal and external political reasons make military topics periodically appear and vanish.

Their current rise is associated with two new circumstances.

Firstly, a romantic thesis "We simply need to stop shooting" has crashed.

A withdrawal of a three hostile Ukrainian TV channels' beneficiary turned TKG from being an active instrument of legitimate hostile planning into a unimportant propaganda tool. An available niche of information attacks immediately had been filled with the Russian political hysterics and a demonstration of the ORDLO's military capabilities.

Those activities, so far, have served as a test for the Russian ambitions' adaptation to new American political realities.

Secondly, the above mentioned US foreign policy circumstances (an advancement towards EU and Eastern European issues) forced the Ukrainian authorities to become unexpectedly bold in reforming their own agendas.

We witness an increased number of conflicts among the official Ukrainian politicians with some odious representatives of a "shadow state".

Ukrainian oligarchs during all these years of war with Russia were ready to generously finance any patriotic masquerade that camouflaged their business with the enemy.

A decrease in those impacts on the state policy, which argued a chance to become a really national one, has created fundamentally new societal stresses. Some new "communicative gaps" have appeared in an old corruption body. Political traumas of that kind of changes have a nature of open cognitive wounds, which have been always a target of the hostile special services attacks.

It is important to add that we have had a terminological chaos in a cognitive sphere for thirty years. Foreign terms that describe the stories of success in other countries were perceived by us as charming mantras. Their immediate usage in the Ukrainian language has indeed made it to sound modern. However, taken from an English language semantic and pragmatic context, they did not improve the Ukrainian business language. Instead they made it sound chaotic with different foreign terminology meanings.

For example, a NATO doctrine with a relevant digital code STANAG and supplements for the NATO participating countries in an AJP format is close to what we interpret as a "statute". What we proudly call a "doctrine" reminds a "strategy" or rather a "vision".

If we talk about information wars, it is important to remember that a segment of Strategic NATO Communications includes more than a dozen of mutually linked instruments of information influence.

Those directions have its methodological support, including doctrines. The doctrines are associated with other documents, which are called IRC (Informational Related Capabilities). They include the specifics depending on forces specializations. Navy, aviation or land troops and their informational operations have a common basis, but different tactical recommendations.

Generalizations of processes under an information war slogan give a unique opportunity for journalists and bloggers to advertise themselves. The Ukrainian society has learned to widely use a stylish word "fake", which does not really change a lot. It is generally a useful phenomenon, since a state propaganda narrative does not exist.

A subject of information influences is not limited to the army. Special services specifics in counter-acting hostile information influences are more complicated.


After two years of discussion in early 2017, NATO has been established a combined intelligence and security agency. However, each NATO member primarily protects its own national interests and own intelligence within any alliance. There are more stable communities, such as the union of five English-speaking countries called "Five Eyes". Due to the existence of a common enemy, there are less stable situational units as well. In 2004 President Bush signed the law on establishment of the US National Intelligence, which has a function of a political regulator of the intelligence community within its 16 subjects. Information influences in this area are pragmatic and therefore more effective. However, inter-agency conflicts of interest did exist in this sphere as well.


Russian information attacks in different directions have been using various techniques with two strategic goals.

The first goal is economical.

A task is to draw Ukraine into an exhausting information arms race/IAR". Russia, as a country with still a strong economic potential, tries to make Ukraine to participate in an IAR competition that requires money, time and research. It distracts an attention of Ukrainians from other important internal problems. A Ukrainian side, in principle, has agreed lively, because it is a pleasant option of budgeting without any consequences: "You know, we fight the hybrid war".

The second goal is cognitive.

A cognitive system/cognitive structure (from a Latin word "cognitio", "knowledge") is a system of personal knowledge which is formed as a result of character formation, education, training, observation and reflection of the surrounding world. This system  includes a set of decision-making on how to act in a certain situation trying to avoid contradictions.

A cognitive goal means a creation of a strong and irreversible set of semantic influences on the human psyche in the occupied regions to acquire a new identity which, consequently, changes social behaviour. In ORDLO during seven years we have already received a kind of our own "German Democratic Republic" with its own "Stasi" under a FSB/GRU control.

The first stage of that influence is a restriction of normal communication and, in general, a restriction of any access to information or so-called "deprivation".

There is a mental state when a person can not satisfy basic mental needs for a long time. Circumstances of the Russian-Ukrainian war sharply reduce economic opportunities of people, their social prospects and suppress their vital plans.

Deprivation creates a "negative pressure" on cognitive abilities of a person, causing imbalance and nervousness.

Such a negative information pressure leads to search and acquisition of "other" information which (according to its Russian authors) is more relevant and useful. Not many are able to abandon an access to such "other" information, which is  destructive in its core. Ukrainians are forced to participate in a surrounding communicative process, even if such a process is depressing and causes a complete distrust.

It reminds the purchase of a low quality buy eatable food. People realize that their current situation makes them to buy such food because they believe that they could buy something better later. But next time never comes. A goal of such influences is to create a different context of false feelings, which lead to certain behaviour.

Consequently, a real goal of informational influences is the change of behaviour. If a person continues to follow his/her own ideology or faith, but acting (or vice versa, hiding) under the influence of hostile informational operation, it is called an effective informational campaign. People under its influence are called "useful idiots". Their intensification or omission of certain acts at the right time is the task of the enemy's special operations.

Informational spectrum of vulnerabilities and their cognitive segment are a current "theater of hostilities" in the proxy war with Russia.

A cognitive system of responsible decision-makers under such influences will turn them into "useful idiots". They will make sincere mistakes. A social process will change its trajectory towards a favourable for the enemy direction.

Methods of "convincing influence" are known since the late 40's including the models developed by Lasswell, Shannon–Weaver, Osgood– Schramm, Latane and others. Those models do not receive an appropriate attention, because social procedures and processes are not easy to evaluate and model.

In order to achieve effectiveness of influence sometimes certain actions need to be prolonged in time before they bring any result. Modeling of social influence factors requires interdisciplinary approaches relating to informatics, marketing, political science, social psychology, etc.

Ukrainian securities bureaucracy, as any other, is not creative. In addition, as all bureaucracies, it must be highly specialized. If a Ukrainian national security system aims to fight threats, it is necessary to take into account that a threat and vulnerability are not the same things.

A threat is a person or an event that has a negative impact on potential valuable resources. Vulnerability is a quality of the resource or its environment, which allows to realize the threat. Dealing with vulnerabilities, we encounter a wall of a bureaucratic silence, because we can not criticize ourselves.

Our current problem of early risk prevention is in those kinds of risks that do not fall into a list of the respectable "official threats." Our security system, as well as the entire state system,  remains within a framework of the Soviet administrative model. Some profound changes can only be made while being threatened by a deprivation of funding, both internal and external.

Americans after a tragedy of 9/11 adopted the Patriot Act to strengthen American national security by ensuring appropriate means necessary to stop and prevent terrorism (2001-2015). It is a voluminous and meaningful document. In 2002 Bush signed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which had been updated several times in accordance with the actual challenges. Its action is extended until December 31, 2027.

A separate exciting article could be written about the above mentioned documents. A major thing that caused their appearance was an official recognition that the existing system of interaction among law enforcement, counter-intelligence and intelligence structures did not cope with threats of a new type. That happenef in the US, where their defence budget is about sixteen times larger than the Russian one. Though those documents are not about money, but brains.

On November 25, 2002 the American system responded to existing threats by an establishment of the National Security Department working with a civil segment. Its declared goal was to prepare, prevent and respond to domestic emergencies, in particular terrorism.

A Ukrainian response to new information threats could be made in two ways.

Administrative - a creation of new, modern type of institutions with a simultaneous elimination of the old ones. However NABU/DBR/SAP (irrespective of their current activities) demonstrate a powerful resistance including legal and political problems which are on the way of reforms in Ukraine.

The second way is an appeal for help from a society. More precisely, an appeal for partnership with a new and relevant legislative base including mutual obligations.

A US system of civil outsourcing in their security sector has been very strong. After 9/11 it was increased and had remained strong so far. Those are not our "public councils", but full-fledged civic-government partnerships.

A contemporary cognitive war with the current Ukrainian archaic approaches to own security creates vulnerability of a completely new type. Media, civil society and by all means government structures are not able to prevent it.

We soon might experience new and unexpected Russian threats if our regular reforms continue to save our already insufficient national security budget and employ the same people for new jobs.

Asymmetric and modern security measures in a cognitive sphere along with collaboration with people could prevent the potential Russian threats.