A Theory of Target State Side Determinants of Information Attacks: Russia’s Information Wars in Its Neighborhood and Afar
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CitationBaranovsky, Alla. 2020. A Theory of Target State Side Determinants of Information Attacks: Russia’s Information Wars in Its Neighborhood and Afar. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractWhat factors determine the timing and intensity of information attacks between states? “Timing” means either accompanying traditional military action, or occurring independently of it. “Intensity” means large-scale or small-scale information attacks. The “security dilemma” – the psychological motivations of the attacking state (AS), coupled with sufficient information warfare resources – explains only the eventual occurrence of information attacks. A second set of factors that explains the timing and intensity of such attacks concerns the vulnerabilities of the target state (TS). These include a perception of a polarized political environment within a TS; an open mass media market; a TS undergoing a pivotal historic event; and the TS’s perceived level of awareness and preparedness. These factors combine in various ways to determine when a country decides to attack, and how intensive this attack will be. I apply this theory to the cases of Russia’s information campaigns in Georgia (2008), Ukraine (2014) and the US (2016). The first case empirically examines the theoretical scenario in which three of the TS-side factors are constant (contentious domestic politics, pivotal event in TS history, open media market), and the fourth (level of preparedness of the Target State) varies. I show that the latter determines the scale of the information attack. The second case (the U.S. 2016 election) empirically examines the theoretical scenario in which all four factors on the side of the TS align, and a large-scale attack happens independent of traditional military action. The work presented here has practical implications for gauging the likelihood of Russian interference in future Western elections.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365717
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