Soviet Active Measures in The
'Post-Cold War' Era 1988-1991



A Typology of Active Measures
Themes and Messages


One particular type of Soviet active measures operation has received disproportionate public attention: crude, anti-American disinformation, such as the Soviet campaign that falsely claimed that the United States had created the AIDS virus in a military laboratory.

In fact, such crude, defamatory disinformation represented only the tip of the Soviet active measures iceberg. The outrageous and distasteful nature of these claims made them instantly identifiable to many audiences worldwide as attempts by the Soviets to manipulate public opinion. But there were many other types of Soviet active measures operations of equal or greater importance that were only dimly perceived or passed completely unnoticed. These less well known types of active measures operations were the ones that were, in fact, the most important during the "post-Cold War" era.

The Soviets spread a wide variety of information, arguments, and slogans in their efforts to influence foreign publics and governments. The Soviets referred to the information they spread for the purpose of influencing foreign audiences as "directed information." If the "directed information" was false or had been fundamentally distorted, it was disinformation. But accurate information was circulated as well - if the Soviets thought it would serve their interests.

It appears that the Soviets chose arguments and designed slogans with similar criteria in mind. They apparently selected them on the basis of whether the Soviets thought the slogans and arguments would induce their target audiences to take actions in line with Soviet interests. Thus, the Soviets eagerly propagated arguments and slogans regardless of whether they were genuinely believed or disingenuous.

The information, disinformation, slogans, and arguments spread by the Soviets can be further differentiated on the basis of whether they were sophisticated or crude, and whether they contained derogatory, conciliatory, or alarmist themes and messages. For example, one Soviet active measures message might consist of a disingenuous, sophisticated, alarmist argument. Another could be a genuine, crude, derogatory genuine slogan. A third could consist of sophisticated, conciliatory disinformation.

This framework yields 36 theoretically possible types of active measures messages, as illustrated by the accompanying chart. The use of conciliatory and alarmist slogans and arguments was particularly important to the Soviets in the "post-Cold War" era.

 

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