In the News: My interview with Ankara Centre for Crisis and Policy Studies published 13 October 2022

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Why do we continue to lose the Information War against Daesh and al-Qaeda Affiliates? (First published 3 March 2016)


Understanding and harnessing the persuasive powers of narratives is central to US and international counter-terrorism efforts. There is an urgent need to understand the narrative tactics of terrorist recruitment and equal if not greater need to destabilize the weakness of those narratives.” (Ajit Maan PhD, Narrative Strategies: Counter Terrorism

Since 9/11 we have seen increasing sophistication in the use of narratives by al- Qaeda, its affiliates, and especially by Daesh, to shape the minds of their international audience.  Well scripted secular narratives often illustrated by skilfully edited visual images drive home the message to young people that they are being oppressed by the western world- the west is inherently racist and all their experiences: lack of work and education opportunities, marginalization and all social problems, both real and imagined, are because of the corrupt western governments which is being supported by Christian-Jewish elitism.  

Secular narratives are designed to create a culture of blame towards the western nations and those outside their peer group.  Religious narratives, or to be more precise the extremist’s version of Islam, provide not only strong moral justification for violent Jihad but also provides a peer-group of like-minded individuals willing to use violence to address their perceived grievances. The occasional outbursts of resentment from an individual has been transformed into collective action to violently challenge the status quo.

Once an individual has been suitably spoon fed with the urgent need to act, violent Jihad is far easier to sell as a religious duty. The cognitive effects of the combination of secular and religious narratives closely fit Jerome Bruner’s (American psychologist) concept of ‘Narrative Construction of Reality.’ It may also be described as ‘Narrative Based Knowledge’ (Nicolas Szilas).

Although narrative analysis (narratology) can be complex, in principle we can break it down into Emotions, Motivation and the mobilization of Action.


An example of Daesh attempting to increase civil unrest in the USA and promoting the illusion of the Islamic State embracing equality among all races.

Narratology (the analysis of narratives in their many forms)

Since the 1960’s Narrative theorists have always shown interest in the relation between minds and narratives, or to put it another way, the cognitive effects of narratives.  Although many argue that Narratology was starting to be regarded as an important area of research during the 1960s, throughout the 1960s and well into the 1990’s this research was being conducted by scholars from a wide variety of disciples which included: Social Anthropologists, Philosophers, Social Historians, Psychologists and Sociologists. Each disciplined tended to work in isolation resulting in their findings, the development of concepts and analytical tools not being shared with other disciplines and there were no peer-group reviews from outside their profession.  I am pleased to see that Narrative Strategies ( has started to address this major shortcoming by establishing an increasingly influential public platform consisting of a coalition of scholars and military professionals involved in the non-kinetic aspects of counter-terrorism, irregular warfare, and social conflict.

When attempting to analyse narratives from Daesh and AQ affiliates we find ourselves attempting to identify how these various narratives are designed in order to “construct reality” for a specific audience.  Only then is it possible to construct a workable counter narrative. Furthermore, an added difficulty is due to the fluidity of the narratives used by Daesh and AQ. These organisations closely monitor all government communications, the media and pay close attention to international affairs and western military initiatives. They look for every opportunity to distort the original message to fit their propaganda objectives. 

peiople caliphate

A simple example which has been much quoted occurred shortly after 9/11 when George W. Bush said, “this crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while…”  within hours the word ‘Crusade’ was used to project the image of America being the aggressor against Islam. They received a further propaganda opportunity after columnist Alexander Cockburn, suggested in the Counter Punch magazine, that Bush was referring to the “Tenth Crusade” in which he numbered America’s War on Terrorism to follow the nine medieval crusades between 1095 and 1272.  As Bush used the word ‘crusade’ and an American publication ‘confirmed’ the USA was going to continue the medieval European crusade against Islam this was not only used as confirmation that America was bent on destroying Islam, 9/11 was also portrayed as being ordained by God! As can be seen by this example of one word resulting in a huge propaganda victory which was used for moral justification for terrorism, recruitment and proof that Jihad against America and its western allies was the duty of all Muslims, most government communications which lack close scrutiny may be used for propaganda purposes simply through careful manipulation based on cultural and social interpretations; and the distortion of the original message to support the extremist mythology based on their view of an unjust and un-Godly world in which the west continues to be responsible.

The current threat from international terrorism cannot be addressed by conventional and SOF alone and the use of soft power, for example, the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction, are essential for countering this new terrorist phenomenon based on ideology and destruction.

I agree with Paul Cobaugh who says, “The US soft power tool box is half empty and poorly stocked…  we are employing an ineffective, ambiguous, antiquated strategy and there is a limited number of true, trained craftsmen…”

(Paul Cobaugh, Soft Power on Hard Problems (forthcoming) ed. Ajit Maan, Ph.D. and Brig. (retired) Amar Cheema.)

I would add, this is not just a US problem, all western nations share the problems addressed by Paul Cobaugh.   Again, I also agree with Paul Cobaugh’s assertion that “Daesh is a media influence effort supported by arms and brutality rather than the other way around” and “We require sophisticated media campaigns in the media and on the ground…”

Due to the powerful and fluid nature of the plethora of Daesh narratives I also agree with Paul Cobaugh’s view that those responsible for government or military communications must be capable of thinking out of the box and we must also utilize the media, diplomacy, business development etc. This multi-faceted approach which Paul Cobaugh discusses in great detail, are clearly essential for establishing workable and fluid counter narratives both inside theatres of operations and also to address secular and religious narratives which continue to be powerful recruiting tools especially when it comes to valuable men and women living in the west and also provides opportunities for the development of the ‘self-radicalized’ and so-called lone wolf attacks.   

Furthermore, any efforts in the form of refugee aid and stability development, irrespective of whether this is a government or NGO initiative should be widely promoted. (See Ian Bradbury, Narrative Strategies  Humanitarian work of this nature helps counter the narratives depicting western nations being led by the epitome of evil (the United States) and the Christian- Jewish alliance to crush Islam.

The Digital Culture: Finding and analysing the continuous flow of Narratives.

ask fm

Apart from analysing narratives with the intention of countering their message or story, such analysis may also provide information on the target audience, the writer and his/her intentions and this is especially true with western audiences. Of particular interest is language syntax- informal speech patterns, country or regional variations, jargon, teen idioms and expressions, Pidgin English etc. However, an increasing problem is finding the narratives to analyse in the first place. 

It is well known that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube continue to be used by Daesh and AQ affiliates for the dissemination of propaganda and are also used for recruitment. It is also known that as soon as these accounts come to the attention of network monitors they are deleted but only to be replaced by large numbers of new accounts which are often linked to disposable email accounts.  Furthermore, some accounts may deliberately use expressions which are not connected with extremism or religion in order to avoid detection and subsequent suspension of the account.

In 2013 I said, in ‘Narrative: Pathways to Domestic Radicalization and Martyrdom’, every effort is being made to recruit technical-jihadists and IT professionals specializing in security should not be complacent by believing they are the smartest people in their field. Some of my IT contacts remained adamant: they held graduate and post graduate degrees and had far greater knowledge and experience than any terrorists. Since then we have seen an increasing degree of cyber sophistication and media manipulation from Daesh technical jihadists.

Although Daesh continue to use multiple Twitter, You Tube and Facebook accounts and easily form new accounts to replace those which have been removed, these and other mainstream social media networks are now mainly used as conduits to steer willing audiences and potential recruits to more secure networks which us various forms of encryption and the choice of network is sometimes used to target a particular geographical area.


Blackberry Channel

Blackberry’s media platform, ‘Channel’, according to IBRANO, have over 1 million channels which can only be accessed through Blackberry Messenger and users can start channels covering topics of their choice. The Al-Hayat media wing of Daesh, who publish the Dabiq Magazine, have been found using the Blackberry Channels.  According to ARS Technica, Channel is used to target an English speaking audience and is regarded as a versatile recruiting tool which Daesh regards as far more effective and more secure than their estimated 46,000 Twitter accounts (ARS Technica).


In 2015, the BBC reported that “new platforms are popping up on a weekly basis in order to get away from mainstream social media platforms and to hide in corners…” (BBC Trending, 13 March 2015)

We now find that many of the narratives we need to address along with the planning of attacks, recruitment information, bomb making instructions; ideological literature, advise on how to engage in so-called lone wolf attacks against soft targets, and other instructional, motivational material and advice, is being sent to willing audiences and the fully radicalized via secure mobile messaging apps some of which have been designed by technical jihadists.

Telegram, which is described as a cloud-based instant messaging service for both mobile (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Ubuntu Touch) and desktop systems (Windows, OS X, Linux) allow users to send messages and exchange photos, videos and files of any format up to 1.5 GB in size and has extensively been used by Daesh and AQ Yemen (AQAP). This was a natural choice simply because Telegram provides optional end-to-end encrypted messaging with self-destruct timers. According to promotional material it is “Pure instant messaging — simple, fast, secure and synced across all your devices and has over 100 million active users.”

For Daesh, Telegram provides two major security requirements. Firstly, it has been widely said Telegram does not disclose where it rents offices or which legal entities it uses to rent them, citing the need to shelter the team from unnecessary influence and protect users from governmental data requests. Secondly, it is also widely claimed that once the self-destruct timers have been activated and all data has been deleted no data can be recovered using forensic software.  Naturally, both claims are open to debate. 

Telegram and other encrypted apps are also used to distribute their publication ‘Inspire’ which concentrates on training and their glossy magazine Dabiq which has a strong media brand and is designed for the dissemination of ideological congruent propaganda to promote radicalization among sympathizers and foreign fighters mainly from the English speaking nations.

Daesh also maintain their electronic presence and distribute their narratives by adopting per-to-peer technology.  For instance, anonymous peer-to-peer networks such as Ask.Fm was used for one-to-one interaction, and the distribution of information on how to join Daesh.

It is also known that Firechat app has been utilized for covert planning of coordinated attacks and also for international recruitment.

According to the Office of University Programs and Technology Directorate, US Department of Homeland Security, in December 2014, “After profiling this group’s {Daesh} use of cyber technology for over a year they found the use of a variety of technical platforms, diverse languages and tailored messages… cyber technologies also facilitate internal co-ordination (e.g. Command and control) and focused information flow externally with the broader Umma {the whole community of Muslims bound together by ties of religion} and potential foreign fighters.”

This paper also explains Daesh has a sophisticated understanding of cyber marketing, organisational branding and has robust and a fluid recruitment arm and highlights the kind of personal information they can access.

Apart from the intelligence and security implications associated with encrypted communications over several platforms it also presents a series of hurdles we must overcome before we can counter the stream of narratives from Daesh and the various AQ affiliates. 


Daesh using race to promote the ‘virtue’ of their ideology.

The Virtual Caliphate: Daesh and Their Use of Social Media (First published 2 May 2016)



The Islamic State, widely known by opponents as Daesh, has proved itself to be an innovative organisation skilfully using technology and inventive methods to manipulate users of social media and compelling global news networks to run their stories. The methods they employ to radicalize without physical contact and the relationship between individual radicalization and the consumption of extremist material which, by its very nature involves a complex mix of variables, continues to evolve. Consequently, a detailed examination of the Virtual Caliphate is beyond the scope of this paper and the following is intended as a brief introduction to the subject.


According to Hemelin, attitudes are part of the brain’s associated networks; people interact with the environment based on how they perceive and interpret it. This is, people form an internal (cognitive) map of their external (social) environment and these perceptions rather than objective external reality determine their behaviour. Persuasive media messages, in this case social media, are built on the premise that behaviour follows attitude, and attitude can be influenced by the right message delivered in the right way. (Trigger Factors of Terrorism: Social Marketing as a Tool for Security Studies, Nicolas Hemelin, Al-Akbawayn University, Morocco)

Likewise, world events and social issues, both real and imagined, are beacons by which a person forms a cognitive map of one’s environment from which an interpretation of reality is formed.  Furthermore, in the case of extremist narratives of hate and retribution, these do not act in a vacuum, they must be accompanied by supporting ideas to reinforce the belief so the target audience becomes detached from reality. 

The technically astute and media savvy Islamic State’s (Daesh), official messages on social media are supported by several thousand sympathizers and followers, called ‘fan boys’, who regularly re-circulate official content from Daesh propagandists. In the case of Twitter, to greatly increase the coverage of their extremist messages a hashtag campaign was organised. This simply entailed hijacking popular hashtags such as those related to major sporting events to promote links to extremist websites where anyone can anonymously post messages and upload images. Daesh also created their own app, ‘Dawn of Glad Tidings’ to efficiently tweet messages to followers.

Although the accounts of extremist organisations continued to be closed and their material removed from social media platforms, this group, like other extremist movements, remain flexible and resilient. After an account has been closed other accounts are created and quickly publicized via various links and websites. ISIS also maintains a large number of backup accounts and continues to identify more social media platforms to increase their digital presence.

An estimated 10 million people live in Daesh occupied territories (BBC Islamic Group Crisis and maps, 27 April 2016) which is a closed world with no journalists or independent observers. The only source of information for the world’s media originates from the Daesh media center called Hayat which has offices throughout the occupied areas and is controlled by the Media Council. Different areas of propaganda are managed by different departments within the Council and before being released all communications are structured to meet a variety of requirements. This includes ensuring the global media use their content so their messages and visual images gain access to millions of homes.  Official communications from Daesh is greatly supplemented by unofficial material uploaded to social media and websites by their supporters.

The glossy and professionally produced Dabiq magazine, which is translated in English, French and German and is available via the Internet, is thought to be written by professional journalists in occupied areas who were given the option of either working for Daesh or be killed.

Virtual world

The virtual world

Daesh and other VE narratives found on social media and various websites cover a number of separate themes which may be woven together in order to appeal to a certain audience or to encourage an appropriate emotional development. This is essential for the successful engagement and radicalization in virtual space which differs from real-world face-to-face radicalization.  According to Von Behr, whose research is based on the conviction of 15 extremists, “the Internet affords more prospect for radicalization… {the internet} was a key source of information, communications and propaganda for their extremist beliefs… {it} also provided greater opportunity than offline interaction to confirm existing beliefs…”

Research conducted by et Al, in 2014, found that after sampling 199 lone actor terrorists, 35 percent of the sample virtually interacted with a wider network of activists and 46 percent learned aspects of their attack methods through virtual sources. They also found that 65 percent of al-Qaeda inspired actors were significantly more likely to learn through virtual sources.

Forms of virtual interaction include: reinforcing prior beliefs, seeking legitimacy for future actions, disseminating propaganda and providing material support for others, attack signalling, and attempts to recruit others (Gill and Conway,2015).  Forms of virtual learning include, ideological content, opting for violence, choosing a target, preparing an attack and overcoming hurdles.

It is also evident that Daesh and other terrorist movements use the Internet to create a ‘brand image’ to assist them in marketing their ideology, recruitment and influencing media coverage.

There is also what Gill and Corner call, ‘Current Problem Factors,’ “World events and newspapers provide the heads-up about the dangers of the world and opportunities related to one’s degree of concern towards world events…” and these concerns are exploited through the use of appropriate narratives. (What are the Roles of Internet Terrorism? -Measuring online behaviors of convicted UK Terrorists, Paul Gill, University College London, Maura Conway Dublin City University, 2015)

The full spectrum of narratives produced by Daesh is large: some are interrelated and link various secular and religious beliefs, whilst others provide ‘evidence’ supporting the extremist’s views. 

Common themes include: sociological and political, agitation and integration, extreme violence, mercy, victim and blame, war/Jihad; utopia democracy and apocalyptic.

Sociological and political narratives

Sociological narratives, which are often used in tandem with political narratives, may include poetry, visual images and ‘personal’ stories to help maintain the illusion of Daesh’s self-styled caliphate being a democratic utopia. Whilst the political narratives may be paired with tactical and strategic narratives promoting emigration to the Caliphate; attempts to sell the belief of being the duty of all Muslims to support the Caliphate and the need for the birth of children for the Caliphate to grow, prosper and provide the next generation of jihadists known as ‘cubs. ‘

Strategic Narratives                                                           

Strategic narratives have long-term goals and seeks to establish and maintain the organisational line of ambiance (Quillian Foundation). The content may appear largely mundane and insignificant: stories and visual images of children playing in the streets, various social events, shrines being destroyed; western style clothes, make up and western consumer goods being burnt. As well as further enforcing the message of utopia, it is also designed to project the image of the ‘Islamic purity’ of the Caliphate and rejection of western values and culture.

Agitation and Integration Narratives

Agitation narratives are intended to encourage passive supporters to become active members of the organisation. Active membership includes the recruitment of foreign fighters or joining their support structure as technicians, logistics specialists, being responsible for organizing safe houses and documents etc. Integration narratives are designed to encourage loyalty to the system of beliefs promoted by Daesh. Again, Agitation and Integration narratives are often paired or work in tandem for optimum effect on the target audience.

Rational and Irrational Narratives

Rational and irrational narratives are frequently used to distort facts (disinformation) and are mainly used as persuasive tools to reinforce the message of the movement’s superiority and the image of a utopia which must be defended at all costs. Furthering the synthesis of lies, exaggerations and facts are essential for the survival and growth of Daesh and its caliphate. None of the various themes are discrete elements within the narrative strategy: sociological, political, rational and irrational narratives may be used separately or in combinations to spoon-feed their selected audience.

Extreme Violence

Extreme violence may be regarded as the vanguard element of the various narratives which encourages beliefs such as vengeance; supporting the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic’ superiority of Daesh and justifying revenge on behalf of all Sunni Muslims against the Christian-Jewish crusaders and other unbelievers. Within the long list of unbelievers, we also find Sunni Muslims who refuse to follow the organisation’s religious ideology and world views. As with all narratives and propaganda strategies the content and structure is often tailored for specific purposes.

In November 2014, the Daesh media centre produced a video that documented the execution of three members of the Syrian Army and this was intended for a different audience than the one in which Japanese journalist Kenji Gotto was killed. The video of the barbaric execution of Kenji Gotto contained the caption “A Message to the government of Japan”.  We have also frequently seen executions of alleged spies as part of a terror tactic to discourage dissent from the population under Daesh control in Iraq and Syria.

The promotion of extreme violence is also used for the self-gratification of supporters; to intimidate enemies; and to provoke outrage from the global media to ensure further publicity opportunities.

Mercy Narratives

Mercy narratives often work in tandem with extreme violence and are connected with repentance to God and Daesh. An example often quoted is the April 2015 video entitled “From Darkness to Light”. Here we see captured combatants from the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Syrian Army who were all former enemies of Daesh. The carefully orchestrated and professionally edited video shows them reneging their former ‘Islamic’ beliefs and swearing allegiance to Daesh. According to this propaganda video, Daesh is compassionate and will forgive their enemies if they follow the ‘true’ path of Islam and swear allegiance to Daesh and the Caliphate.

Victim Narrative

Victim narratives designed to encourage paranoia is a constant theme and a powerful recruiting tool. This promotes the belief of the global war to destroy Islam and this narrative and propaganda tools are often used alongside extreme violence. For example, Jordanian pilot, Mudh al-Kasabeth who was burnt alive shows the binary opposites of victim and extreme violence.

On 3 February 2015, Daesh produced the video “Healing of the believers Chest” the words ‘healing’ and ‘believer’ are positive words which suggest beneficial treatment! However, this is the title of the video documenting Mudh al-Kasabeth standing in a steel cage before being doused with petrol and burn alive. Shortly after the Jordanian pilot was engulfed in flames, footage of coalition airstrikes was faded in before showing dead children ‘allegedly’ killed during the airstrikes. This video was intended to reinforce the justification narrative, and to remind its audience of the legitimacy of retaliation and the duty of all Muslims to join jihad. The caption at the end of the video, “What is the ruling on burning Kafir until he dies, Office of Research of Fatwas, 20 January 2015,” was intended to provide religious justification for the murder.

Another example shows jihadists carrying dead children before showing a group of alleged ‘spies’ being burnt alive in a car and another groups of ‘spies’ being beheaded by explosive necklaces. These images were for the benefit of the global news networks who, as Daesh predicted, published still images across the world and the video was shared tens of thousands of times within two hours of being posted on social media. Images and descriptions of dead children remain a powerful driver for creating a victim mentality leading to paranoia and a desire for ‘divine’ retribution by becoming a ‘soldier of God’.

War Narratives

Such narratives are intended to create and sustain the illusion of power, military discipline, valour; and feeding the idea that Daesh has a ‘real’ army, which further adds to the illusion of a ‘real’ nation state or caliphate. War narratives are also a powerful tool for recruiting foreign fighters.

Utopian Democracy

The Utopian building narrative promotes social well-being, brotherhood, sisterhood; the multi-ethnic makeup of the caliphate which embraces all colors and nationalities without prejudice and their claim, “all are equal under the Islamic State”. Daesh propagandists and their supporters take every opportunity to promote the false image of an idyllic and harmonious life under their rule. We see a constant stream of emotive stories of happy families which reinforces the myth of equality and a common identity for all Muslims living in the Caliphate.  20-year-old Aqsa Mamood, (aka Umm Layth) who was slowly radicalized by reading extremist articles and posts online in her bedroom in the UK, is believed to have played a major role in recruiting many women from the west.  As well as being a prolific blogger she also engaged in debates on Twitter and gave advice on how to join Daesh. British sisters, Zahra and Salma Halane, through social media became role models for others to join Daesh. These female groomers promoted the Utopian image of nice houses, friendship, good husbands and a shared common identity.

Through careful branding and a continuous marketing campaign the Caliphate which was created by Daesh and is said to have been ‘ordained by God’ is, for many of its supporters, inseparable from the Umma (world community consisting of all Muslims) and is the unique selling point on social media. As the majority of Daesh supporters have never visited the so-called caliphate and their only knowledge is based on the propaganda version or, to be more accurate, a ‘Cyber Caliphate’, and Daesh remains popular, this may be seen as further evidence of the persuading influence of their narratives which alter and reinforce beliefs and attitudes.

social media

Apocalyptic Narratives

The apocalyptic narrative: the continued war between good and evil and those dedicated to jihad having God and the angles on their side, remains a powerful motive for joining the ranks of the jihadists and a willingness to die for the cause. This approach also allows extremists to add additional enemies against Islam as they see fit.

Whilst western governments continue to rely on military options to address Daesh and other violent extremists and neglect the urgent requirement to employ counter-narratives which work in conjunction with a variety of other soft power options, global jihad will continue to grow. 

Further reading on narratives and soft power can be found on the Narrative Strategy blog which is the public platform of a coalition of scholars and military professionals involved in the non-kinetic aspects of counter-terrorism, irregular warfare, and social conflict.

Basic Analysis of Social Media: Examining the use of narrative-based drivers for remote radicalization. (First published 3 August 2016)

Basic analysis


As I am fortunate to have a large number of data analysts and those involved in the behaviour sciences among my LinkedIn contacts, I would like to point out this paper is not intended to bring anything new to the study of radicalization or extremist behaviour. I also feel sure that many of my contacts in this field will put forward various other methods which may be used to collect the same datasets mentioned in this paper.

Several years ago, as part of my research into the induction and radicalization process used by AQ affiliates via social media (SM), I spent a considerable amount of time reading academic papers on SM mapping and human behaviour.  This information allowed me to research SM, the web and dark web in order to increase my understanding of the drivers associated with violent extremism (VE) and the mindsets of vulnerable people who may be psychologically manipulated to join the extremist cause. It also allowed me to examine and test new theories put forward by various academics.

The following is a basic introduction to the subject which is based on the research of others and which I have modified for my own research needs. Furthermore, due to the limited scope of this paper I have not included data associated with demography, gender; or the analysis of text and visual images which are to be found in the ‘extremists’ virtual world of their making.

Finally, although I and other members of the Narrative Strategies Team ( have a comprehensive understanding of the narrative based drivers associated with VE, I have found the following allows us to examine these drivers working over time and space along with the behavioural changes experienced by some members of the target audience. 

Analysing Social Media (SM networks)

Virtual social networks, like those found in the ‘real’ world, consist of relationships and relationship building blocks. An examination of this network reveals a combination of relationships which create identifiable patterns of connected people, groups and organisations.  As explained later, this virtual social network which appears to allow users to remain anonymous provides a false sense of security where members are willing to express their concerns, frustrations and other personal information which they may not be willing to discuss in the real world. This provides an indication of an individual’s vulnerabilities which may leave them open to psychological manipulation.  When one examines the communications between like mined individuals within this network it may first appear to resemble a peer-group support network which by its very nature encourages additional personal information to be shared with ‘like-minded’ people. Accordingly, extremist groomers and recruiters can select suitable individuals who may be radicalized.  

Virtual Social Networks

It is easier to regard social networks as consisting of social entities: actors, distinct individuals, groups and organisations. We must also be prepared to follow these entities as they migrate to or simultaneously use other SM platforms.  For instance, Twitter is limited to the maximum use of 140 characters (Tweets) and due to this limitation member who are of interests to extremists are often encourage to join a similar network on another SM platform with less restrictions and/or is considered more secure.  Consequently, it is not uncommon to find the same social entities on various SM platforms.

relationship ties

Relationship ties (Contacts)

Some relationships which are tied to others across the network/s are said to be ‘informal’ because they are not widely known by others entities of the network under examination.  For example, on LinkedIn we often find third degree contacts commenting on updates posted by members from outside their network simply because the commentator is connected to one or more of the writers’ first degree contacts.  Such entities, in this example LinkedIn members, are often referred to as ‘Muktiplexity’ or ‘Multiplex’ because these individuals are actors with ties to other actors connected to you. I plan to cover this concept in greater detail at a later date during my examination of Russian trolls and the information war.

The Two Node Network consists of actors who may not have direct ties with each other but they attend similar events within a community (Mosques, sports clubs etc.) or may regularly visit similar websites. Although there are no virtual or physical connections, this provides an opportunity for prominent actors (Focal Actors) to form a false rapport with members of the Two Node Network and the opportunity to form a ‘weak’ link.  The establishment of ‘strong’ links are only attempted after an individual is thought to be of interest to the extremist cause.

Egocentric, also called personal networks, tie directly with Focal actors (those with influence, I.e., groomers, recruiters, propagandists etc.) in the network.  Hanson and Shneiderman describe this as, “Social Centric or complete network consisting of the relational ties among members of a single bounded community. (Social Network Analysis: Measuring, Mapping and Modelling Collections of Connections, D. Hanson and B Shneiderman, 2010).

The examination of networks also allows us to develop what some academics call ‘name generators’ which is simply the names of social entities, in this case people, who frequently communicate with the focal actors.  Hanson and Shneiderman call those names generated by the focal actor, ‘the actors alters’.

The use of name generators, as advocated by Hanson and Shneidrman, allows for the identification of strong ties across a dense network.  To identify weaker ties in more wide ranging networks, acquaintance name generators can be used.

Another useful tool discussed by Hanson and Shneiderman, is the Positioning Generator. This allows the researcher to identify people who fill a particular ‘valued’ role or position within the network and therefore have access to a range of resources. These resources may include professional knowledge, or work related experience beneficial to an extremist group. 

Psychological Manipulation

Apart from the same narrative based drivers being used within the real and virtual world, we also find the same methods used to encourage members of their target audience to express their concerns, frustrations, aspirations and how they see themselves.  This information is used to psychologically manipulate suitable members within the network and tie them to others with similar mindsets. The linking of suitable individuals within a network will often reinforce these concerns and produce suitable conditions for physiological manipulation. A United Nations report describes this as, psychological manipulation, “to undermine an individual’s belief in certain collective social values, or to propagate a sense of heightened anxiety, fear or panic within a population or subset of the population…” (The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes: United Nations Office of Drug and Crime, NY 2012) It is also widely acknowledged that certain cognitive propensities can combine to create a mindset that presents a high risk of being radicalized (see Drivers of Violent Extremism: Hypotheses and Literature Review, RUSI, 16 October 2015) and it is these propensities which extremists seek to identify within members of the network.

Social media has made social connections and networks more visible and open to research. “The internet and its use by terrorist organisations, individual members, supporters and recruits afford new avenues for assessing information about groups and their activities…” (Lorraine Bowman-Grieve, Security Informatics, 2013, 2:9) As Bowman-Grieve says, “individual reasons why people become involved are many and varied, with no single catalyst event that explains involvement.” However, research indicates that involvement is a gradual process that occurs over time and the development of this process, which is driven by narratives and supported by inter-personal bonds that have been created for this purpose, can be examined through social network analysis.

By analysing network activities over a period of time not only do we see the use of narratives as efficient drivers towards extremism, we also see the development of identities being slowly formed. This includes perceived victimization and attempts to convince individuals they are victims and linking this to a common or shared identity and the legitimization of violence to address these perceived injustices. We also see the development of dualist thinking which supports the extremist’s’ view of the world, other cultures, religions and western society. 

PDF version for downloading


Alan Malcher

The Kremlin False Narrative: the myth of fighting the Ukraine Nazi regime and its western supporters


The number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine are known to be high, but figures vary considerably and one of several unconfirmed reports recently claimed, “So far, around 18,000 have been killed and over 30,000 wounded” and many images of destroyed armour, convoys and dead Russian soldiers support  many claims of high Russian losses, but whatever the true costs these continue to be kept from the Russian people.

Alleged war crimes now being investigated

The world continues to hear disturbing eye witness accounts supported by images of mass graves, civilians shot in the streets, mutilated bodies and other alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops which are currently  being investigated by international prosecutors. At the time of writing Russia has been suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council and in response to this decision Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskpov, told journalists “Everything is blamed on Russia”  and like the Kremlin he and other Putin supporters reject evidence to the contrary.  The Kremlin also made the opaque statement, “they will defend their interests.” (BBC News 7 April 2022)


After the introduction of draconian laws, the independent press in Russia was purged and replaced by journalists and news networks  loyal to the Kremlin and by design there is little access to non-Russian news services. According to recent reports from inside Russia Kremlin misinformation/disinformation continues to be a powerful tool for shaping Russian public opinion.


Some researchers claim western sanctions and the invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin call de-Nazification, has been be used to great effect by the Kremlin news services and 83% of Russians approve of Vladimir Putin’s ‘Special Operations’ and seven in ten Russians have negative feelings towards NATO,  United Sates, European Union and others opposing Russian aggression.

The Kremlin’s success during their battle of perception continues to be based on narrative identity and the narrative of the nation by looking at the past to create motivation and justification for the present through constant reminders of the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War (WW2) against Nazi Germany and labelling Ukraine and its elected government as ‘Nazis’ can be seen as the most single most powerful element for unifying Russian national identity whilst using visual metaphors to deny everything including war crimes whilst blaming others.

According to various well placed commentators many Russians believe these war crimes are ‘false flags’ and part of a western conspiracy led by America and NATO during a continued proxy war against Russian and Dunbas was sold to America to allow their nuclear weapons to be aimed at Russia.


According to Alexandre Baeva, Coordinator of the ECHR Program on Human Rights, Putin setup a media channel to encourage ‘good citizens’ to report ‘traitors’ and Russia is like 1939,  also according to Baeva “People are scared and informing on each other.”

Although Kremlin messaging appears to have resonated among normal Russian citizens indications suggest their information war is failing to influence a significant number of people living in western democratic countries and have increasingly began targeting Africa, south and southern Asia and this is supported by the number of trolls from these regions found on social media echoing Kremlin propaganda.


Pdf version for download 




Loyal Guards of the Soviet Border

(First published 24 April 2014)

Russian hard-line nationalists continue to blame the west, especially the USA, for the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 but realists understand this was entirely due to the corrupt and unworkable Soviet political system. Also, to the annoyance of many Russian nationalists the demise of the Soviet Union resulted in the independence of 15 former Soviet states and democratic elections in countries once dominated by the Soviet system further fuelled nationalist paranoia leading to a false narrative of Russia being deliberately humiliated by the United States and NATO which represent a serious threat to their nation, Russian culture and language. Although nothing could be further from the truth President Vladimir Putin continues to skilfully use these fears and uncertainties to further his own political ambitions and a return to a closed Soviet Society where the only ‘truth’ is from Kremlin propaganda.

Post-Soviet era: Resentment ‘historical justice’ and Putin’s Russian ‘inheritance’

Russia is a vast country with 11 time zones but is said to have the economic power of Spain which is appreciably lower than the United Kingdom and the EU and Russia’s economic decline continues to accelerate since the western nations-imposed sanctions in Response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Crimea, but the Kremlin is reported to be modernising its military forces.  

Under the leadership of Putin Russia has shown a continued commitment to increase its military capability: there are said to be a million men under arms, thousands of new tanks, a hundred new military satellites; the development of next-generation weapons and the planned modernisation of its navy, but because of Russia’s information war and Putin’s military posturing it is prudent to question their increased military capabilities whilst at the same time remaining cautious.  Apart from the continuous flow of Russian disinformation/misinformation few understand Putin’s true intentions.

 Former KGB officer, Vladimir Ussolzev, who worked alongside Putin at the notorious Stasi (Ministry of State Security) Headquarters in Dresden, then part of East Germany, described Putin as, “Pragmatic, someone who thinks one thing and says something else… Someone who was a complete conformist, who did not believe in any changes in his native country {Russia}…”   Ussolzev recalls that after he was being critical of conditions in the Soviet Union Putin replied, “Contain your criticism of the Soviet Union and think about your family”

Ussolzev also claimed, since Putin became President he quickly passed a large share of the Kremlin’s power to the intelligence services and Boris Nemstov, a member of the opposition party and a staunch critic of Putin said the Federal Council was responsible for all decisions regarding military action and the council did not approve the invasion of Crimea. Not only did Putin ignore the Russian Constitution, according to Nemstov, his unilateral decision was not challenged and added, the same can be said for Russian rearmament, modernisation and current restructuring of the armed forces, “Vladimir Putting only appears to be answerable to his trusted inner circle.”

Statements from several people said to have known Vladimir Putin describe him as having a fanatical belief in the ‘glorious past of the Soviet Union and Tsarist Russia’. Also, according to several commentators, for Putin and other extreme-nationalists these periods represents Russia’s powerful military force which dominated Eurasia, and a strong political leadership which played a major part in international relations. Putin firmly believes Eurasia, due to ‘historical rights’, is his sphere of influence. According to Eve Conant, “Putin’s view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors… and Parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states which Putin claims to have ownership”.

 Based on what Putin calls ‘historical justice’ and ‘historical rights’, in recent years his so-called inheritance has expanded and includes all countries formally under Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. There have also been claims Putin’s thinking is stuck in 1930’s Europe.

 Since coming to power in 1999 Putin has attempted to restore ‘Soviet greatness’ through various acts of political subterfuge and invading neighbouring countries which were once part of the Soviet system.  For Putin, Russia’s past along with its regional dominance is not a tool with which to create patriotism, it is a model he wishes to emulate in order to restore lost power and respect from the international community.

Military Expansionism and Custom Union

The Russian invasion of Crimea which Putin and his supporters claim is to “protect the Russian speaking minority” is not the first time Russia has invaded a former Soviet state. Following the demise of the Soviet Union Russian soldiers in the region of Transnistria in eastern Moldavia, declared their loyalty to Russia and remained to ‘protect’ the Russian speaking Moldavians. Russia now recognizes this regions’ independence. In 2008 Russia used the excuse ‘we need to protect Russian speaking people,’ to invade Georgia. After capturing southern Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia declared them to be independent republics and troops are still in these Kremlin declared ‘republics.

 In September 2014 Bob Ainsworth, the former British Defence Secretary said, “Vladimir Putin is as dangerous as Stalin and is much more of a threat than ISIS…{Islamic State} No leader of a major power has behaved as overtly aggressive since Stalin in the post-war period, and sadly, Putin would be very pleased with the comparison”

After Putin publicly announced the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century and proclaimed the right to act on behalf of all Russian minorities living in other countries, Ainsworth compared Putin with Hitler and in 1938 Hitler made similar claims after seeding Sudetenland!

Putin’s belief in his right to act on behalf of all Russian minorities, restoring Russia’s ‘glorious’ Soviet and Tsarist past, and blaming the west for their demise are common themes in his extreme nationalist interpretation of history.

To address Russia’s ailing economy whilst at the same time restoring a degree of Russian prestige and dominance within their region of interest, in July 2010 Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan created a Custom Union. Putin was keen to include Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine. After Kyiv decided the far larger EU was more beneficial to their national interests and applied to join, the Custom Union was no longer a viable economic initiative. In response to this set back Putin used a common Soviet reaction to non-compliance – military aggression to force change.   

 In March 2014 Putting described the annexation of Crimea as correcting an ‘historical injustice’ and declared Russian compatriots, wherever they live in the former Soviet States as being part of a single Russian nation. This clearly suggests justification for other military incursions to ensure ‘protection’

Disinformation/misinformation, political coercion and threats of military aggression are throwbacks to the Cold War era.  Soviet style rhetoric has now been mixed with a modern narrative designed to promote tsarist terminology, the revival of Soviet symbolism and mythology. In Ukraine we also see the sponsorship of terrorism under the guise of separatist military formation as part of Russia’s proxy war against the legitimate government in Kyiv.

 Apart from Russia’s current military engagement in Ukraine we also see other Soviet Cold War Tactics including Kremlin instigated and coordinated conflicts in Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan; the use of Gazprom as a political tool and promoting the right to protect Russian speakers abroad and many other examples can be used to illustrate Russian aggressive expansionism.

Revisionist history

At the time of writing it is widely claimed the distortion of history is now compulsory reading for school children and textbooks reinforce Tsarist and Soviet beliefs that the intrinsic value of the state is more important than the individual which means the interests put forward by the Kremlin takes precedence over its citizens.

Putin’s beliefs of historic injustices, protecting the Russian speaking minorities in other countries which represent one nation; his resentment of the western nations and NATO who he continues to blame for the demise of the Soviet Union; and his continued attempts to turn the clock back to tsarist Russia and the mythical glories of the Soviet Union; provide the excuse for military aggression. Unfortunately, it appears these views are also shared by a large number of Russian nationalists.

Russian approach to silencing opposition

Among the most prominent figures alleged to have been assassinated include:

Boris Nemstov, a vocal critic of Putin, who was in the process of organising a protest march against the invasion of Crimea, was shot dead in Moscow, near the Kremlin. 

Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist, writer, and human rights activist known for her opposition to the Second Chechen War and President Putin.

Alexander Litvinenko, assassinated in London to allegedly prevent him exposing Putin’s links to organised crime.

Ivan Ivanovich Safronov, a Russian journalist and columnist who covered military affairs for the daily newspaper Kommersant, died after falling from the fifth floor of his Moscow apartment building. His apartment was on the third floor!

The unpredictable and seemingly irrational Vladimir Putin, who takes every opportunity to remind the world of his nuclear arsenal should not be underestimated and his irrational belief in his ‘inheritance’ of former Soviet states and the need to address ‘historical injustices ‘can only be achieved through the use of subversion and military aggression. The main concern is that nobody knows how far Vladimir Putin will go to turn back the clock to Russia’s glorious past, or whether he truly believes he must honour his ‘inheritance’ by becoming one of the Loyal Guards of the Soviet Border.

Pdf version for download.

Russian Misinformation/Disinformation supporting the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Alan Malcher rt3  

According to several press reports filed before the Russian government passed draconian laws to silence the free press in Russia, an estimated 14,000 war protesters mainly in Moscow and Saint Petersburg are said to have been arrested. The Kremlin’s false narrative directed towards the Russian people which manipulates prior cultural attitudes especially fatalism; the meaning of nationalism, patriotism and the promotion of a distorted view of Russian history are among the Kremlin’s concerted effort to convince Russian civilians the United States and the NATO alliance has hostile intent against the Russian Federation.

Alan Malcher Russian Propaganda   

Through state-controlled news networks the Russian people continue to be spoon- fed a diet of false news and so-called expert analysis to encourage the acceptance of an alternative reality based on the Kremlin’s own moral universe: the Russian people now live in a world which through the power of narrative is little more than a manipulative relationship between the oppressive Russian government and its people. By dominating the news cycle the Kremlin continues to create myth and reality at the same time which is framed by an agreed context within a cognitive environment by shaping public debate and influence without outside distractions (from the worlds media) and Putin hopes his strategy of deception supported by draconian laws to silence opposition will convince the people of Russia to support his desire to rebuild Russia on the Soviet model which can only be achieved through aggressive military expansionism.

To ensure state mews management is not challenged, all independent news networks in Russia have ceased to exist and any journalist questioning the official narrative or even describing the conflict in Ukraine as a ‘war’ or a Russian invasion could find themselves serving 15 years in prison. Independent journalism has been replaced with news networks and journalists loyal to Putin who are redirecting discussions by overtly simplifying phrases and arguments to support the illusion of Russian ‘special operations’ being a force of liberation against enemies of Russia.

Russia fighting to liberate the people of Ukraine from a Nazi Regime

If the Russian people had access to independent news and the evidence put forward by professional journalists, the International Red Cross, the United Nations, and various  non-government organisations they would be in no doubt this is a Russian invasion and most Ukrainian civilians including those of Russian speaking communities have taken up arms to defend their nation against what they call “Russian invaders” and “oppressors” from a tyrannical regime. The people of Ukraine are fighting to maintain their independence, democracy and freedom. Also, Putin’s so-called ‘liberation of the Donbas Region’ is no more than a continuation of the 2014 Russian invasion of the region which was replaced by their proxy war.

1372164611               Alan Malcher Ukraine6    Putin and his inner circle continue to claim the Russian army is fighting a “Nazi regime”, again,  if the Russian people had access to independent news and unbiased expert commentary many would be aware only the Kremlin and Russian forces can accurately be described as Nazis. The continued artillery and rocket bombardment of cities and towns filled with civilians, the bombardment of humanitarian corridors and other war crimes currently being investigated by the international community and the forced deportation of civilians to Russia is reminiscent of Nazi Germany during their invasion and occupation of large parts of Europe during the Second World War and the Russian ‘Z’ Symbol has been likened  to the Swastika used by the Third Reich.

z prop     z   

A freelance photojournalist put the ongoing Russian war crimes into perspective when he told Sky News (25 March 2022) about the smell of rotting corpses of civilians buried under the rubble of their homes, dogs eating body parts,  mass graves at the side of the road and Russian starvation tactics against besieged civilians.

Russian war dead

Although figures are impossible to verify, it has been claimed by various sources around 14,000 Russian soldiers may have been killed and these claims are supported by many images showing columns of destroyed Russian armour and convoys and dead Russian soldiers scattered around the countryside and streets of Ukraine.

Unlike the official Russian narrative this so-called ‘Special Operations’ is not a war of ‘liberation’: most Ukraine civilians including many from Russian speaking communities continue to show defiance against what they call the ‘invaders’ and are fighting Russian forces throughout Ukraine.

Kremlin Narrative: Russia under threat and the shifting of blame

False statements from the Putin regime claiming Russia has been threatened by Ukraine which is controlled by the United States and NATO is not only false but has a striking similarity to lies put forward by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi politician and Reich Minister for propaganda, during World War Two.

It is important for Russian readers to understand Vladimir Putin is responsible for an unprovoked attack against Ukraine and though NATO and other democratic nations support the Ukraine Resistance by supplying defensive weapons and many Russian citizens continue to suffer from economic sanctions enforced by most of the international community, it needs to be emphasised the Kremlin narrative is false: this is not aggression towards the people of Russia by NATO, EU, the United States or the democratic countries which are not part of the NATO alliance, as already stated, this is a reaction to Putin’s unprovoked attack against Ukraine and to prevent Putin reconstituting the former Soviet Empire which threatens eastern Europe and beyond. NATO has sent troops, sophisticated weapons and equipment to eastern Europe to prevent further Russian aggression and there should be no doubt that an attack against a NATO member would swiftly result in the destruction of the Russian military.

Nuclear blackmail

nuclear 2   

After Putin threatened nuclear war, the Russian people should be left with no doubt a nuclear attack against a NATO member would immediately be met by a massive response from NATO’s three nuclear powers: United States, Britain and France. This fact raises an important question: is Putin bluffing or is he crazy enough to start a chain reaction which would ensure all life on earth is destroyed by making the Cold war expression ‘mutually assured destruction’ (Mad) a reality?

Important Advice to Russian readers

I frequently remove the number of Russian viewers from the daily web statistics and suggest anyone living in Russia access this blog via social media. Furthermore, please don’t press the like button or make comments as this could reveal your location and identity.


Further reading: Sky News, BBC International News, Aljazeera news, CNN, France 24, Russia Today (RT), Moscow Times, NATO press releases, United Nations, comments from members of the International Red Cross.

Pdf version for download

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: a summary dated 20 March 2022

Putin Russia

The following summary for March 2022 is based on reports from professional journalists in Ukraine and informed comments from a number of recognised military and security experts.

Russia has one of the largest militaries in the world and for 45 years (1946 to 1991) the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were locked in a tense conflict with the NATO countries during a Cold War consisting of an aggressive arms race and several Soviet proxy wars across the world. These 45 years have also been informally described as a period of ‘Violent Peace’  and ‘War in Peace’.

cold war

During this period of instability and dangerous uncertainty the Soviet Union dominated eastern Europe and the Cold War was a conflict between east and west but after the fall of the Soviet Union on 25 December 1991 when the Soviet hammer and sickle flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin and replaced by the Russian tricolour, nine years later, under the increasing influence and later leadership of Vladimir Putin, who was a former KGB career officer not a professional politician, we increasingly witnessed the gradual transformation of the long conflict between east and west becoming a conflict between the world’s liberal democracies and totalitarian states and a loose alignment of ‘convenience’ between Russia, China, North Korea and other oppressive regimes.

Crimiea 2

2014 Russian invasion of Crimea.

We should not lose sight of the fact Putin’s war against Ukraine started in 2014 after his unprovoked invasion of Crimea which developed into a proxy war comparable with the Soviet playbook of the Cold War period along with false justifications in the form of misinformation for Russia’s continued aggression against an independent and democratic sovereign state.

Russia Victory Day

Over a period of 45 years the west became accustomed to Soviet military posturing: large military parades to project an image of military might, the false narrative of superior Soviet military arms and technology, but after Russia invaded Ukraine again on 24 February 2022 the world suddenly became aware Russian conventional military might was an elaborate illusion.  Some military commentators suggest Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons if ‘outsiders’ intervened was possibly an indication Putin is aware NATO is capable of a swift military victory against his forces.


This map of the former Soviet Union which many believe Putin is obsessed with reconstituting illustrates why many eastern European counties including NATO members are alarmed at Russian aggression.

Misguided Assumptions

According to several commentators specialising in Russian affairs Vladimir Putin is trapped in a closed world of his own making: he is obsessed with his goal to reconstitute the Russian Empire, he believes  the Russian Empire was  destroyed by the United States, and as Professor Michel Clark pointed out on Sky News (22 (March), only last week Putin was telling Russians ”NATO was planning a war against Russia. NATO intends a holocaust of Russia. That is why we are in Ukraine.” Putin’s misguided assumptions, his resentment of the USA and NATO, his willingness to commit blatant war crimes and his threat to use nuclear weapons should be a serious cause for concern.

Putin also greatly underestimated Ukraine’s military capability and the resolve of the civilian population to protect their land and democracy and  early during his invasion it also became apparent he  grossly overestimated Russia as a conventional military power. For instance, a Ukraine military commander recently commented that “Russian tactics are like when Germany invaded France in 1941”.  Although France was invaded in 1940 his comparison is clear and because Putin is a former KGB career officer some commentators also say Putin is a victim of his own propaganda.


Ukraine’s military capabilities have greatly increased since 2014

Unlike the unprovoked Russian invasion of Crimea in 2004 Putin and his Chiefs-of-staff wrongly assumed their special forces could once again play an important role in helping deliver a quick and decisive blow and a western intelligence officer told the BBC that Russia thought it could deploy lighter spearhead units like Spetsnaz and VDU Paratroopers “to eliminate a small number of  defenders and that would be it.”


brit2brit train

It also appears Russia was unaware the Ukrainian forces they would confront were far more formidable than  those they faced in 2014: since Russia’s relatively easy invasion in 2014 the Ukraine military has received extensive training from the British and American army and is equipped with an assortment of western weapons which would not look out of place in a NATO armoury.

russian tank  tank ru2

Since the invasion Russian forces have consistently displayed bad leadership; the Russian army has been using outdated tactics and senior commanders have been unable to coordinate their forces and pass orders due to poor communications.  After failing to seize airfields Russia has been forced to transport supplies mostly by road and this has created traffic jams and choke points which are easy targets for Ukraine forces to ambush or destroy by UAV’s.

According to BBC Defence Correspondent James Beale (19 March 2022) Russia massed a force of around 190,000 troops for the invasion and most of these have already been committed to battle but have lost about 10% of that force. Though there are no reliable figures, according to Beale Ukraine claim to have killed 14,000 Russian troop and  western officials also say there is evidence of dwindling morale among Russian troops with one saying it was “Very, very low”.  Another said Russian troops were “cold, tired, and hungry” as they had already been waiting in the snow for weeks in Belarus and Russia before they were given orders to invade (Beale).

These claims are supported by the fact Russia has already been forced to look for foreign troops and mercenaries to make up for the numbers lost and this approach has been described as “Russia scratching the bottom of the bucket  of desperation.”

convoy      convoy5

Failed Logistics

Logistics are both essential and the Achilles heel of a military formation and as we continue to see armoured columns and lorries are running out of fuel and food, ammunition, other essential stores are failing to reach the front line;  vehicles including tanks are being abandoned after breaking down and being towed away by Ukrainian farmers using tractors. It is also believed that due to the breakdown of logistics Russia is running low on some munitions and it has been estimated Russia has fired between 850 to 900 long-range precision munitions including cruise missiles and the US believe Russia has approached China for munitions. In stark contrast there continues to be a steady flow of western weapons and equipment  for the Ukraine Army.

War Crimes- deliberate bombardment of towns and cities

Russia still has sufficient firepower to deliberately bombard cities, towns and other civilian targets.  The current Russian bombardment of Mariupol which has been   called “an act or terror”  by Ukraine officials and the international community; the deliberate bombardment of humanitarian corridors, residential areas, hospitals, schools, food warehouses and the forced deportation of Ukraine civilians to Russia can only be regarded as a strategy of desperation and the forced deportation as a component  of the Kremlin’s information war which  is little more an than unconvincing attempt to create the illusion of a war of liberation rather than the true reason which is Russian expansionism.

Inside Russia and the Kremlin information war.

WAr protest Russia                                        ruinfo3

 Anti-war protest in Russia

The Russian information war against the international community is farcical at best but still has resonance among a minority of people the former KGB and now the FSB call ‘Useful Idiots’.  Eye witness accounts, the international media and forensic evidence proves without doubt Russian war crimes continue to be committed and the main casualties are women and children. Apart from the increasing number of civilian deaths, several towns and cities have no water, heating, electricity, food, medical supplies and other essentials to sustain life but the Kremlin propaganda machine denies this is the case.  It is interesting to note most of Russia’s misinformation has recently been directed towards Africa, south east and south Asia which might indicate Putin’s strategic objectives.

In an attempt to prevent the Russian public discovering the truth Putin passed draconian laws: it is now illegal to call the conflict in Ukraine a war or an invasion, anyone questioning Kremlin accounts can be sent to prison for 15 years and Russia’s independent news networks has been replaced by state media networks controlled by the Kremlin.  Despite the Kremlin going to great lengths to hide the truth news continues to be received through social media and an estimated 14,000 (numbers vary according to sources) anti-war protesters are said to have been arrested.

The Number of Russian war dead not being reported in Russia and bodies secretly being cremated to hide numbers

There have been several accounts of bodies of dead Russian soldiers not being repatriated to ensure the number of casualties don’t become public knowledge. According to Sarah Newey, (The Telegraph 19 March 2022) more than 2,500 dead Russian soldiers were secretly taken to mortuaries in Belarus and a doctor described terribly disfigured soldiers and said the morgues were overflowing.  According to another newspaper, after there was no room in the mortuaries other bodes were secretly burnt.  These accounts support a comment made by a Ukraine army commander who told Sky News? (it may have been the BBC) that after 12 Russian soldiers were killed their commander was told there bodies could be collected but the Russian commander said “he could keep them because they were of no use to him.”

Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine: An Historical Perspective of European Resistance and the dangers now facing the Russian military. (WARNING – VERIFIED, GRAPHIC War IMAGES FROM UKRAINE USED TO ILLUSTRATE THIS ARTICLE)

Some of the following videos from Ukraine contain patriotic music and comments which are not edited – this would be censorship and in light of the ongoing Kremlin false narrative the people of Ukraine have a right to express their views.  

According to viewer statistics this blog is also visited by people living in Russia, consequently, if this blog suffers a cyber-attack it is likely associated with the Kremlin’s news blackout throughout Russia recently reported by the ‘independent’ international press.     

Ukraine 2022 containing images not dissimilar to the Nazi invasion and occupation of Europe (1939-1945)

I use the expression Putin’s war because many Russian citizens have little knowledge of the War in Ukraine due to news censorship by the Kremlin which has been replaced by a patriotic version and false justification for the illegal invasion of an independent nation with a democratic government.  

The Kremlin narrative is from the Soviet play book consisting of false claims of fighting Nazis, the liberation of the people of Ukraine from a Nazi regime and the use of ambiguous expressions such as ‘Special Operations’ and ‘Peace keeping’ in an attempt to mask the fact Putin ordered an unprovoked attack against an independent and peaceful country. The Soviet narrative being used by Putin also attempts to draw attention away from continued war crimes by the Russian military which is being investigated by the United Nations for the International Criminal Court in the Hague. From what we know of the Soviet doctrine of propaganda and various Kremlin statements during the Russian involvement in Syria we are likely to see Putin and his inner circle attempting to convince Russian citizens America and NATO are the aggressors whilst blaming these war crimes on Ukraine, America and NATO. Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary Putin and his supporters are likely to peddle the lie that evidence given to the International Criminal Court and the subsequent investigation is western propaganda orchestrated by the United States.  

Despite Putin insisting the Russian Army is liberating the people of Ukraine many videos of civilians protesting against Russian troops whilst shouting, ‘Go home’ and ‘Ukraine is our country not yours,” clearly shows Ukraine has been invaded and the troops have no support from the civilian population.    

Maternity hospital after a deliberate Russian bombardment (photo)     

We also see Russian misinformation/disinformation is outdated and unable to compete with the digital community where news, but more importantly the truth, appears on personal computers, tablets and mobile phones across the globe within seconds and what appears on the internet can’t be deleted and a basic internet search can reveal conflicting stories and blatant lies from various Kremlin officials. A recent example is the Kremlin statement that a pregnant woman rescued from a maternity hospital after a deliberate Russian missile attack “was wearing makeup and was an actress being used for propaganda.” The fact this image was seen across the world and photographic software to examine images is commonly available showed the incompetence of the Kremlin propaganda machine and within seconds this claim was dismissed as another Kremlin lie.  

Russian Losses

Unlike previous wars the digital revolution also allows anyone with an internet connection to know the realities of day-to-day life in Ukraine and the Kremlin stopped claiming continued military success after Ukrainian soldiers and civilians used their mobile phones to upload images of dead Russian soldiers, destroyed armour, convoys and Russian prisoners of war.   

We also see the word ‘Nazi’ used by Putin and his inner circle to describe the Ukraine Army and its government is seldom used after images supported by eye witness accounts show the word is more fitting to describe the tactics and war crimes being committed by the Russian Army. In fact, the destruction of cities and war crimes which continue to be documented are no different to the barbaric tactics used by Nazi Germany during their invasion and eventual occupation of many European countries during the early stages of WW2.       

Day one of the invasion Russian helicopter shot down by a Stinger missiles

Russian aircraft shot down by Ukrainian air defence system

Attacks against Civilian targets

Unexploded bomb in a residential area


Ukraine Resistance 

Ukraine officials continue to say the “war against the invaders is a war of Resistance”.  It has to be pointed out Resistance is not simply a war waged by civilians against occupying forces through the use of guerrilla warfare and the war of resistance developed during the Second World War goes beyond what is commonly called guerrilla tactics, it is multi-layered, coordinated; has a coherent strategy for a protracted war and is designed to destroy and disrupt all essential elements of the occupying forces,  all of which is undoubtedly within the capability of Ukraine but a full description is beyond the scope of this article.  

Over a nine- year period the Soviet Army lost an estimated 15,000 soldiers and around 35,000 were wounded. According to unverified reports Russian deaths in Ukraine may quickly be more than the number of Soviet casualties in Afghanistan against the Mujahideen which unlike resistance movements only used guerrilla warfare and often lacked coordination with other factions and numerous warlords.

As several commentators have remarked, a war of resistance could last many years and the history of various underground resistance movements throughout occupied Europe during the Second World War shows a trained resistance movement which has sufficient external and internal support; is coordinated and has a coherent strategy due to its underground nature is more difficult to defeat than most military formations.

As we continue to see, the Russian military is far from being as formidable as once thought and possibly through frustration continue to commit war crimes and as we also see from history similar crimes, reprisals, acts of terror and intimidation intended to prevent opposition to occupying forces greatly fan the flames of national resistance of both a passive and aggressive nature which complement each other to create a potent force.  

Image taken before children were evacuated from Ukraine

Women and children being evacuated from Ukraine  

At the time of writing able bodied men between the age of 18 and 60 are remaining in Ukraine to fight whilst their wives, children and grandchildren are being evacuated to other countries and the hatred towards Russia by children old enough to understand what is happening in their country is not only apparent history shows if close  family members are killed their deaths are likely to create the next generation of resistance fighters bent on revenge.    

Putin insists Ukraine is part of Russia and quotes history to support his argument, but on 9 October 1989 without warning the Berlin Wall, a symbol of Soviet Communist Rule which divided Eastern and western Europe came down, and the people of Ukraine, like other countries previously controlled by the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union based in Moscow eventually experienced freedom and democracy. On 24 February 2022 Russian began their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, an independent sovereign country, and was immediately faced by Ukrainian men and women from all sections of society, of all ages and of all religions fighting to preserve the independence of the Ukrainian people based on freedom and democracy which the Ukraine authorities correctly describe as a war of resistance.

The invasion of Ukraine also has much wider implications: Putin’s unprovoked military aggression has become a wakeup call for other eastern European countries who are now concerned Putin is attempting to reconstitute the Soviet Empire which crumbled with the Berlin Wall in 1989.     

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Messaging from the Ukraine Government.

Ukraine: An historical perspective.

The messaging coming from Ukraine has powerful resonance in parts of Europe. The constant use of the word ‘resistance’ and expressions such as a ‘people’s war’ and a ‘war fought by the people’ goes back to the European resistance against Nazi occupation. In the case of Ukraine, it acts as a reminder this is not simply a war between two armies: like those who resisted subjugation and German occupation during WW2, we currently see Ukrainian civilians who were once shop keepers, farmers, office workers and from a multitude of other non-military employment also fighting to preserve their freedom and democracy.   

Ukraine 2022

Another historical connection are the war crimes and Russian attacks against civilian targets which are currently being investigated and continue to be reported by the ‘free’ press.  Also, like Germany during WW2 the Russian government controls all news entering the country but according to press reports Russia is slowly losing their information war as an increasing number of citizens turn to social media to learn the truth.