Sometimes propaganda takes a theatrical form. In North Korea, where the Kim regime has over three generations of Leaders established a quasi-religious position in its society, that theater prominently features the ascent of Mount Paektu on the back of a white horse. Yesterday Kim Jong Un took this symbolic ride, Military Times reports. Great Successor Kim and US President Trump have been busily woofing at one another recently, and Mr. Kim's ritual ride is viewed as a signal that some demonstration of North Korea's power is in the offing.
Australia's Government has opened an investigation of foreign interference in its political life, Reuters reports. The inquiry will concentrate on disinformation, "fake news," disseminated largely via social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, and WeChat. Australia's concerns center on Chinese information operations. China has denied that it's up to anything at all, and derides Australian concerns as nothing more than the recrudescence of a "Cold War mentality."
Russian trolls have been active against public opinion in Lithuania, with an uptick in activity noticeable since early September. The fake news feeds generally represent NATO troops as a barbarian threat to the peace and safety of the locals, and the Lithuanian government as a collection of tools and stumblebums. The disinformation campaign is instructive in that it probably foreshadows themes and tactics that will appear in other places, particularly during election seasons. Lithuania’s government is working against the disinformation, but Kaunas is being tight-lipped about specifics lest it reveal sources and methods, Nextgov reports. The topics are tailored to domestic, hot-button issues, and the lies get their customary bodyguard of truth. For example, German Bundeswehr troops are said to be desecrating cemeteries with swastikas. That didn’t happen, of course, but memories of the World Wars remain a lot rawer in Europe than they are in North America, and Lithuania is particularly sensitive to anything alluding to the Holocaust. And besides--here’s the true part: Germany is a NATO ally. Or consider this one: the US is moving the nuclear weapon detachments it used to keep in Turkey over to Lithuania. Did the US establish nuclear weapons detachments in some NATO countries during the Cold War? Yep. Here’s the true part: Turkey is still a NATO ally, and there have been US detachments at Incirlik. And US-Turkish relations have been strained recently,especially since Turkey decided to purchase some Russian-built air-defense systems. Is the US moving tactical nuclear weapons to Lithuania? No, that's not happening either.
Information operations have figured prominently in Russian activity directed against NATO members, and this week NATO acknowledged that it had been slow to react to this particular threat, the Telegraph reports. Colonel Jaak Tarien, chief of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre (CCDCOE) put it this way: “It took a good decade for NATO to really start taking cyber seriously. Unless it’s a real war, NATO moves at NATO’s pace.” The CCDCOE is based in Estonia, which is of course a former Soviet Republic, regarded by Russia as part of the Near Abroad, Its connection with NATO, like that of sister Baltic republic Lithuania, Moscow perceives as particularly menacing.