The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and

November 13, 2014
04:00 pm - 05:30 pm


Michael Weiss
Editor-in-Chief of The Interpreter

Peter Pomerantsev
Journalist and Author

Hannah Thoburn
Eurasia Analyst, Foreign Policy Initiative

Introductory Remarks

Christopher Walker
Executive Director, International Forum for Democratic Studies,
National Endowment for Democracy

Moderated by

David Kramer
President, Freedom House

When and Where

Thursday, November 13, 2014
4:00 pm—5:30 pm

National Endowment for Democracy
1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004

Watch the Event Video:

About the Event

Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Russia is posing a new challenge to the Western world. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea early this year and consequent invasion of eastern Ukraine, the West has been forced to face the reality of what Russia has become under president Vladimir Putin’s rule—a revanchist and militarily revitalized country with imperial ambitions.

In less than a decade, the Kremlin has learned to use the principles of liberal democracy against the West, developing innovative propaganda techniques and eventually accomplishing what has been called the “weaponization of information.” The Kremlin has played a crucial role in Russian coverage of the Ukraine conflict: state media, fueled by millions of dollars, has spread blatant misinformation, creating a frenzied atmosphere of suspicion and hostility.

In the twenty-first century, information warfare has become the world’s primary form of warfare, and effective countermeasures have yet to be developed. The report “The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money,” authored by two prominent journalists—Michael Weiss and Peter Pomerantsev—aims to help members of governments, civil society, and the media understand how the Kremlin’s propaganda machine works and the challenges it presents to the West. It also provides a set of recommendations for how best to confront these challenges.

About the Speakers

Michael Weiss is editor-in-chief of The Interpreter, founded as a news and translation service focusing on Russia in May 2013. In just a year, the website has become a high-traffic resource for journalists, diplomats, and policymakers from around the world, with its articles cited by presidents, parliamentarians, ambassadors, and supranational governing bodies. Weiss is also a columnist for Foreign Policy, the Daily Beast, and NOW Lebanon.

Peter Pomerantsev is a British author and documentary producer. His writing on Russia appears regularly in the London Review of Books, Newsweek / the Daily Beast, Financial Times, and The New Yorker. He has also worked as a consultant on European Union and World Bank development projects in the former USSR. His book about working at the heart of Putin’s post-modern dictatorship, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, is coming out this November.

Hannah Thoburn is a Eurasia analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative and the senior research assistant at the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, where she researches policy and leadership questions facing Russia, Ukraine, and the countries of the former Soviet Union. A frequent commentator on developments in Ukraine and Russia, she has had her work featured in Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, the American Interest, and the Atlantic Monthly.

Christopher Walker is executive director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, a leading center for analysis of the theory and practice of democratic development. Prior to joining the NED, Walker was vice president of strategy and analysis at Freedom House. He has been published in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Journal of Democracy, and a range of other publications.

David J. Kramer has served for the past four years as president of Freedom House. Prior to that, he was a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and before that, he served eight years in the U.S. Department of State, including as assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs (responsible for Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus affairs, as well as regional non-proliferation issues); and professional staff member in the Secretary’s Office of Policy Planning. Kramer has also been an adjunct professor at the Elliott School for International Affairs at the George Washington University.