Is Information Confrontation a new Russian concept?

Denys Kolesnyk 5 min read October 21, 2021 963 words

With the publication of Russia’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) last June, some Western experts began talking about “informational confrontation”. In particular, Michel Duclos of the Institut Montaigne published an article entitled “Russia’s National Security Strategy 2021: time for informational confrontation”, while Sergey Sukhankin of the Jamestown Foundation discussed information confrontation in the context of the use of the Russian private military company Wagner.

Whatever the case, the word seems to have caught on. So the question arises: Is this a new concept or a new Russian approach?

The short answer would be - no. But let’s start with the definition of this “informational confrontation” mentioned in the Russian strategic document. There is some confusion about the very definition of this term. Some people in Russia see it as an adapted translation of the English term “Information Warfare”, whereas there is no official definition given by the Russian authorities. Only the Russian Ministry of Defence gives a [definition] ( for Information Confrontation taken from a military encyclopaedic dictionary, which differs from Information Warfare. So, to simplify, we can understand Informational Confrontation as:

An integral part of relations and a form of interminable struggle between powers, each seeking to inflict damage on the enemy by impacting its information space through predominantly non-kinetic means”.

We can also add that this term is very all-encompassing and must be understood above all in a strategic context and not a tactical context.

Information Confrontation in Russian strategic documents

References to informational confrontation can still be found at the beginning of the 21st century, with the Concept of National Security of the Russian Federation in its 2000 draft referring to “the threat of triggering confrontation in the information sphere*”. The exact term can be found in the 2009 NSS which notes “the increase in global **information confrontation*” and the 2015 NSS which does not go any further, referring only to “*the increasing confrontation in the global information space is increasingly influencing the nature of the international situation*”.

Two other types of strategic documents that should be examined are the Information Security Doctrine (2000, 2016) and the Military Doctrine (2000, 2010, 2014).

Concerning the Information Security Doctrine, it should be noted that the 2000 version only refers to the need to “counter the threat of confrontation in the information sphere”, which uses the same language as the Concept of National Security of the same year. While the current wording since 2016 emphasises “improving the information security systems of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, other troops, formations and military bodies, which includes the forces and means of information confrontation”, which echoes the 2021 National Security Strategy.

The 2000 Military Doctrine - the first fully-fledged military doctrine after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 - characterises modern warfare as, among other things, “active informational confrontation” and notes “the intensification of informational confrontation”.

The document adopted ten years later notes “the increasing role of informational confrontation”, “the development of the forces and means of informational confrontation”, and the “advance implementation of informational confrontation measures to achieve political objectives without recourse to military force”.

The [current Military Doctrine] ( seems to avoid the term and limits itself to mentioning it in the following way: “development of forces and means of information confrontation”, which was also mentioned in the 2010 version and the current National Security Strategy.

As we have seen, the term is not new and can easily be found in Russian strategic documents and traced back to at least 2000.

Information Warfare vs. Information Confrontation

As already noted, some people equate information warfare with information confrontation. And despite the fact that these terms describe very similar, if not identical, activities, there is nevertheless a slight difference. First and foremost, it is important to understand that information warfare is a term borrowed by Moscow and ‘imported’ from the United States after the Gulf War. Information confrontation, on the other hand, is a term more native to Russia.

Regarding terms, you must also consider who is speaking and the context. For instance, Russia uses the term Information Warfare to describe what it sees as foreign activities against it, whereas Information Confrontation is a term used by the Russian bureaucracy.

We can also see a progression because, at the beginning of the 1990s, information warfare was seen more in a kinetic context in Russia, with a progression towards something more global and strategic beyond the battlefield.

On the other hand, if we compare information warfare (a Western concept) and informational confrontation (Russian), we cannot equate them. The Russian conceptual framework is much broader than that of the West. For example, if we talk about information warfare and information operations in the Western approach, they are often framed in the cyber domain and take place in cyberspace, affecting the digital world. The recent publication of France’s Doctrine de lutte informatique d’influence (L2I) only serves to confirm this.

However, the vision of information in Russian strategic thinking is holistic. Not only does it incorporate these elements, it includes operations of influence, espionage, etc., information in the broad sense (which goes beyond social networks and the Internet), but, more importantly, it also extends beyond them and includes the cognitive domain.

Therefore, it’s important to remember that for the Russians, whether we’re talking about information warfare or information confrontation, the most important thing is information, whereas cyber is just a tool. At the level of the executing agency, in Russian logic, it’s not just a matter of the Minister of Defence or a separate unit or institution, but all public and private entities can be made to work together to achieve a goal. Moreover, unlike the West, Moscow’s activities are not limited solely to the information space of others but also apply to its own information space.