Opinion digest: Kremlin in danger of losing sense of reality (5)
According to Ingo Mannteufel, head of the Department for Russia and Europe at Deutsche Welle, there is a possibility of the Kremlin starting to believe its own propaganda, which could lead to dangerous decisions both domestically and internationally.
In an interview given to Estonian daily Postimees, Mannteufel stated that Deutsche Welle's goal is not to compete with state-sponsored TV channels in Russia, which would be impossible. Instead, Deutsche Welle sees itself as a trustworthy web-based alternative for the people in Russia and Ukraine who want to check the veracity of the news they hear from other sources. Even though the censorship in Russia is not at the same level as in China or Iran, Mannteufel admitted that forming collaborative partnerships has become more difficult over the last decade.
Speaking on the information war between Russia and the West, Mannteufel opined that journalists should not see themselves participating in it as “information warriors” by publishing counterpropaganda. "The word ‘propaganda’ is often used to describe things one does not like, which is why I consider the term ‘propaganda’ devalued," he explained. "Instead, I prefer to use ‘disinformation,’ because it shows that we are talking about information which is deliberately trying to paint a distorted picture of reality."
Mannteufel mentioned the 2007 Bronze Soldier incident in Tallinn as the first instance of Russia using disinformation abroad — a skill that the Kremlin has since perfected, but the West was trying to ignore until recently. He credits the “Lisa case,” when Russian media claimed in January that a Russian-German girl was raped in Germany, with changing the attitude in Germany. Even though Russian disinformation is discussed more in German media now, Mannteufel does not think there is any simple solution to the problem.
The department head pointed out that even though the Kremlin presents itself as strong, it could fall victim to its own disinformation, which in turn could lead to unpredictable actions. He emphasized that Russian people are smart enough to form their own opinions and the Kremlin's belief in being able to control the nation for a long time is dangerous. “At some point, the system of disinformation will stop working, and we don't know how the Kremlin in its distorted reality will react to it," said Mannteufel. "They need someone to tell them the truth."