Washington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & Security
Washington, DC 20001
Innovating American Public Diplomacy To Counter Russian Disinformation

Videos featuring well-known American celebrities, such Elijah Wood and Mike Tyson, appeared online portraying Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, as a drug-addled neo-Nazi; however, they were not authentic. These were deepfakes from Russia, part of a larger campaign of deception against Ukraine and those who back it in the West. The national security of the United States is threatened by Russian misinformation, which calls for a multifaceted strategy to counter. When paired with the right policies, public diplomacy, an undervalued instrument in the American toolbox, can once again become a really effective tool of American national power, especially in the Global South.  

Harnessing Technology

Russia and the former Soviet Union have been using information warfare against the US and its allies since the end of the Cold War. Since Russia sees facts as a means to a goal rather than an end in and of itself, it seeks to muddy objectivity and create a culture where people do not trust facts by disseminating false information. Historically, the United States has used public diplomacy initiatives including media broadcasting organizations and cultural exchange programs to combat Russian misinformation. In a perfect world, global audiences would become more trusting of these organizations because of their accurate and truthful reporting and the personal accounts of their subjects. It may diminish opinions that fuel Russian disinformation campaigns and cause people to become unsatisfied with the United States.   

Strategic Messaging

The national security of the United States is still seriously threatened by Russian misinformation. Utilizing a variety of modernized Cold War myths, Russia accuses the United States of aggression against it and declares that the end of Western civilization is near. Disinformation campaigns have changed to fit the digital era, with social media playing a major role in many of the more recent campaigns. 

Russia can now spread its lies much more quickly and loudly than in the past by using trolls and bots. These activities support Russian-owned media outlets like RT and Sputnik, which further the anti-American agenda of the Kremlin and impede international governments from collaborating with the US. Given that Russian influence is spreading throughout Latin America and Africa, the U.S. The Agency for Global Media (USAGM) needs to think about establishing a “Radio Free Africa” and expanding the scope of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting to include additional news coverage of the region. 

Building Partnerships

In order to keep Russian narratives from alienating substantial segments of the African and Latin American populations, it is critical to increase the presence of credible and trustworthy reporting in these regions. This might eventually impact wider ties between the United States and the nations in these regions. The positive aspects of these media initiatives are demonstrated by Radio Free Europe, whose endeavors played a part in introducing democracy to the countries of Eastern Europe. 

Programs for cultural interaction, such as Youth Ambassadors (YA), have to be extended as well. Young high school students can travel to the United States for three weeks to participate in YA’s civic education, community service, and youth leadership development programs. Defending against misinformation is a major programmatic subject. This works against Russian misinformation by creating a good view of the United States and information literacy among the people these ambassadors represent in their localities. YA’s whole influence is limited because it is primarily applicable to Latin American nations. The systematic divide between the people of the United States and these places would be lessened if the YA program were to be expanded to Africa and the Middle East.  

Investing in Education and Media Literacy

But probably the most important shift in America’s activities is what’s required to improve the efficacy of American public diplomacy. The United States Government should act on the ideas it purports to cherish, according to a major proposal made in a white paper on public diplomacy by the American Security Project for American officials. In the information battle, Russia makes no pretense of adhering to any set of values. Instead, it aims to demonstrate that the U.S. does not either by engaging in persuasive “whataboutism” and drawing attention to the differences between the statements and deeds of the country. The United States must take action on both the domestic and international fronts to end contradictions between its beliefs and deeds in order to strengthen the legitimacy of its public diplomacy efforts.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, the fate of the Ukrainian conflict and the development of contemporary great power competition will depend on how well Russian misinformation is countered. The stage is prepared for China and Russia to attempt to reshape the post-World War II international order that the United States established in their own image. The United States will need to put more effort into winning over the Global South and the nations that are wavering between the two blocs if it hopes to stop that.  


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