A book by Bilyana Lilly
I started reading this book about four weeks into the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, making this quite the timely read. Unless you have been living under a rock, Russia has been firmly placed into a perpetual adversarial role in the media for a while now, and especially since 2016. While I feel that certain politicians want to use them as some sort of 1984 forever enemy (“Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia”), Vladimir Putin and his regime do not really help matters with how they handle foreign policy in any way whatsoever. The controversial book by Aleksandr Dugin, Foundations of Geopolitics (which you all should read about, it’s somewehat scary) basically echoes everything Russia has done in the past twenty years to destabilize The West, and a book like today’s topic – Russian Information Warfare – Assault on Democracies in the Cyber Wild West by Bilyana Lilly is a heavily documented record of those policies in action.
“Russian Information Warfare: Assault on Democracies in the Cyber Wild West examines how Moscow tries to trample the very principles on which democracies are founded and what we can do to stop it. In particular, the book analyzes how the Russian government uses cyber operations, disinformation, protests, assassinations, coup d’états, and perhaps even explosions to destroy democracies from within, and what the United States and other NATO countries can do to defend themselves from Russia’s onslaught.”
You can take the information in this book and apply it to things like the rise of extreme right-wing Facebook groups, trucker convoys, Twitter astroturfing campaigns, and the spread of conspiracy theories that collectively plagued social media from 2016-2020 – ironically rendering an entire generation of people, that lived through the entirety of The Cold War, unwitting Russian assets. As someone far outside the State Department Intelligence Bureaus, it seems to the layman that these destabilization efforts have “mysteriously” slowed to a crawl ever since Russia invaded Ukraine. One can assume the war is diverting resources away from these projects in the broader world at large. This is something I have tried to explain to people for a long time, especially those that easily fall for conspiratorial content on social media. I somewhat feel vindicated after reading this book and witnessing the Russian espionage industry disappear overnight after February 24, 2022.
The gist of this book is that the author analyzed and collected most known and suspected Russian espionage/destabilization efforts from around 2006 to 2020. The author details attacks on various neighboring countries such as Estonia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, as well as more brazen attacks and information warfare campaigns on the United States and the United Kingdom. Each chapter goes into heavy detail on all of the whos and whys regarding each attack, and grants the reader a fairly firm idea of exactly what Russia is up to and why they are doing what they are doing. The beginning of the book lays out the book’s parameters and methodology and can be a bit of a slog, but once the chapters regarding the attacks get going the book becomes quite interesting. It’s not a long read, but it is VERY densely packed with information.
Overall, this is a well done highly researched book. The foundations here are definitely more of an academic paper turned into a full-on book (as the author states), but once you get going it is a great read. Like I stated before, I suspected a lot of this was going on, but sadly had to parse information together through a highly politicized media lense (the US in the last decade) – having a cohesive book on this topic that strives to be somewhat impartial is a godsend and does a lot to help the layman understand exactly what is happening in Europe right now and what Russia seemingly went to war with Ukraine “on a whim”. As you will find out, things like that are all according to plan and the way Russia plans to carry out their foreign policy, assuming regime change doesn’t occur. Russian Information Warfare – Assault on Democracies in the Cyber Wild West by Bilyana Lilly comes out this fall from the US naval Institute, do yourself a favor and check it out as it is quite eye-opening.
For more books by the US naval Institute Press and their comic imprint Dead Reckoning, Click HERE.
NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.