by Ben Nimmo

To understand how information warfare fits into the Kremlin's strategy, a good place to start is Russia's military doctrine.

This document, approved by President Putin in December 2014, characterises modern conflict as the "integrated employment of military force and political, economic, informational or other non-military measures implemented with a wide use of the protest potential of the population and of special operations forces."

The RT television station - formerly Russia Today, but rebranded in 2009 to make it seem less obviously Russian - fits into that structure. Its editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, was asked in a 2012 interview why Russia needed RT:

"Well, for about the same reason as why the country needs a Defence Ministry."

She explained that in 2008, when Russia fought a war against Georgia, "the Defence Ministry was fighting with Georgia, but we were fighting the information war... against the whole Western world!"

In a separate interview in 2013, she talked about the "information weapon", and explained RT's task in peacetime as building an audience:

"Of course, the Defence Ministry can’t start training soldiers, preparing weaponry and generally making itself from scratch when the war already started. If we don’t have an audience today, tomorrow and the day after, it’ll be the same as 2008."

These are not the words of a journalist: they portray an information operator whose dream is to take on the world for Russia.

RT's behaviour fits Simonyan's philosophy. Ofcom has repeatedly found it guilty of violating basic standards in its coverage of conflicts - the "information weapon" coming up against the rules of real journalism.

Ben Nimmo


When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, four RT programmes violated standards by failing to report Ukraine's point of view adequately. After a Turkish jet shot down a Russian plane in 2015, two RT shows violated standards by omitting Turkey's stance. After NATO's Warsaw summit in 2016, an RT talk show violated standards by sidelining NATO's viewpoint.

In effect, RT fights alongside the Russian MoD. Russia's enemies are RT's enemies, and in peacetime, RT's job is to build an audience, just as the MoD builds an army.

This is the same RT which has interviewed MPs from all UK parties; it is the RT on which Alex Salmond now has a talk show.

Mr Salmond and the many interviewees have their own motivations. RT's motivation, to judge by Simonyan's words, is to use them for the "information weapon".

Ben Nimmo is an analyst for the Atlantic Council, a think tank linked to Nato