The Russian Defense Ministry has formalized its information-warfare efforts with a dedicated propaganda division, Russian state-run media said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.
“Propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in reference to the new unit.
Retired Russian Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, who leads the defense-affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said the unit would “protect the national defense interests and engage in information warfare.”
But Russia has long been accused of spreading propaganda in the West. Business Insider’s Barbara Tasch detailed one case where Russian outlets spread a false story of a Russian-born 13-year-old being raped in Germany by a group of three refugees.
Russia’s use of propaganda as an element of “hybrid warfare” proved instrumental during the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the later insurgency in Ukraine.
Russia has vastly improved their conventional and nuclear military assets as well. An Associated Press report on Wednesday said that Russia will deliver 170 new aircraft, 905 new tanks and other armored vehicles, and 17 new naval ships.
Russia’s forces in Eastern Europe now vastly outmatch NATO’s.
A NATO spokeswoman told Reuters earlier this month that “NATO has been dealing with a significant increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.”