The British government financed Integrity Initiative is tasked with spreading anti-Russian propaganda and thereby with influencing the public, military and governments of a number of countries. What follows is an contextual analysis of the third batch of the Initiative’s internal papers which were dumped by an anonymous yesterday.
Christopher Nigel Donnelly (CND) is the co-director of The Institute for Statecraft and founder of its offshoot Integrity Initiative. The Initiative claims to “Defend Democracy Against Disinformation”.
The Integrity Initiative does this by planting disinformation about alleged Russian influence through journalists ‘clusters’ throughout Europe and the United States.
Both, the Institute as well as the Initiative, claim to be independent Non-Government Organizations. Both are financed by the British government, NATO and other state donors.
Among the documents lifted by some anonymous person from the servers of the Institute we find several papers about Donnelly as well as some memos written by him. They show a russophobe mind with a lack of realistic strategic thought.
There is also a file (pdf) with a copy of his passport:
During his time as military intelligence analyst in the 1980s Donnelly wrote several books and papers about the Soviet Union and its military.
Donnelly seems to be obsessed with the ‘Russian threat’ and is determined to fight it by all means. His paranoia is obvious in a “private – confidential” report by the Statecraft Institute on The Challenge of Brexit to the UK: Case study – The Foreign and Commonwealth Offices (pdf):
Our problem is that, for the last 70 years or so,we in the UK and Europe have been living in a safe, secure rules-based system which has allowed us to enjoy a holiday from history.
Unfortunately, this state of affairs is now being challenged. A new paradigm of conflict is replacing the 19th & 20th Century paradigm.
In this new paradigm, the clear distinction which most people have been able to draw between war and peace, their expectation of stability and a degree of predictability in life, are being replaced by a volatile unpredictability, a permanent state of instability in which war and peace become ever more difficult to disentangle. The “classic” understanding of conflict being between two distinct players or groups of players is giving way to a world of Darwinian competition where all the players – nation states, sub-state actors, big corporations, ethnic or religious groups, and so on – are constantly striving with each other in a “war of all against all”. The Western rules-based system, which most westerners take for granted and have come to believe is “normal”, is under attack from countries and organisations which wish to replace our system with theirs. This is not a crisis which faces us; it is a strategic challenge, and from several directions simultaneously.
In reality the “Western rules-based system”, fully implemented after the demise of the Soviet Union, is a concept under which ‘the west’ arbitrarily makes up rules and threatens to kill anyone who does not follow them. Witness the wars against Serbia, the war on Iraq, the destruction of Libya, the western led coup in Ukraine and the war by Jihadi proxies against the people of Syria and Iraq. None of these actions were legal under international law. Demanding a return to strict adherence to the rule of international law, as Russia, China and others now do, it is not an attempt to replace “our system with theirs”. It is a return to the normal state of global diplomacy. It is certainly not a “Darwinian competition”.
In October 2016 Donnelly had a Private Discussion with Gen Sir Richard Barrons (pdf), marked as personal and confidential. Barrons is a former commander of the British Joint Forces Command. The nonsensical top line is: “The UK defence model is failing. UK is at real risk.”
Some interesting nuggets again reveal a paranoid mindset. The talk also includes some realistic truthiness about the British military posture Barrons and others created:
There has been a progressive, systemic demobilisation of NATO militarily capability and a run down of all its members’ defences
We are seeing new / reinvented ways of warfare – hybrid, plus the reassertion of hard power in warfare
Aircraft Carriers can be useful for lots of things, but not for war v China or Russia, so we should equip them accordingly. …
The West no longer has a military edge on Russia. …
Our Nuclear programme drains resources from conventional forces and hollows them out. …
The UK Brigade in Germany is no good as a deterrent against Russia. …
Our battalion in Estonia are hostages, not a deterrent. …
The general laments the lack of influence the military has on the British government and its people. He argues for more government financed think tank research that can be fed back into the government:
So, if no catastrophe happens to wake people up and demand a response, then we need to find a way to get the core of government to realise the problem and take it out of the political space. We will need to impose changes over the heads of vested interests. NB We did this in the 1930s
My conclusion is that it is we who must either generate the debate or wait for something dreadful to happen to shock us into action. We must generate an independent debate outside government.
We need to ask when and how do we start to put all this right? Do we have the national capabilities / capacities to fix it? If so, how do we improve our harnessing of resources to do it? We need this debate NOW. There is not a moment to be lost.
This was an order from the core of the British thinking to Donnelly to get even deeper into the inner-British influence business. Hype Russia as a threat so more money can be taken from the ‘vested interests’ of the people and dumped into the military machine.
That particular advise of General Barrons was accepted. In 2017 the Integrity Initiative bid for funding from the Ministry of Defence (pdf) for various projects to influence the public, the parliament, the military and the government as well as foreign forces. The bid lists “performance indicators” that are supposed to measure the success of its activities. The top indicator for the success of the Initiative’s proposed work for the Ministry of Defense is a “Tougher stance in government policy towards Russia”.
Here is how it is done. The ‘experts’ of the ‘charity’ Institute for Statecraft and Integrity Initiative testified in the British parliament. While they were effectively paid by the government they lobbied parliament under the cover of their NGO. This circularity also allows for the use international intermediates. Members of the Spanish cluster (pdf) of the Initiative testified in the British Parliament about the Catalan referendum and related allegations against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. (It is likely that this testimony led to the change in the position of the Ecuadorian government towards Assange.)
Unfortunately, or luckily, such lobbying operations are mostly run by people who are incompetent in the specific field they are lobbying for. Chris Donnelly, despite a life long experience in military intelligence, has obviously zero competence as a military strategist or planner.
In March 2014, shortly after Crimea split from the Ukraine, Donnelly suggested Military measures (pdf) to be taken by the Ukraine with regards to Crimea:
If I were in charge I would get the following implemented asp
- Set up a cordon sanitaire across the Crimean Isthmus and on the coast N. of Crimea with troops and mines
- Mine Sevastopol harbour/bay. Can be done easily using a car ferry if they have no minelayers. Doesn’t need a lot of mines to be effective. They could easily buy some mines.
- Get their air force into the air and activate all their air defences. If they can’t fly the Migs on the airfield in Crimea those should be destroyed as a gesture that they are serious. Going “live” electronically will worry the Russians as the Ukrainians have the same electronic kit. If the Russians jam it they jam their own kit as well.
- Ukraine used to have some seriously important weapons, such as a big microwave anti-satellite weapon. If they still have this, they should use it.
- The government needs a Strategic communication campaign-so far everything is coming from Moscow. They need to articulate a long-term vision that will inspire the people, however hard that is to do. Without it, what have people to fight for?
- They should ask the west now to start supplying Oil and gas. There is plenty available due to the mild winter.
I am trying to get this message across
Think for a moment how Russia would have responded to a mining of Sevastopol harbor, the frying of its satellites, or the destruction of its fighter jets in Crimea. Those “gestures” would have been illegal acts of war against the forces of a nuclear power which were legally stationed in Crimea. And how was the west to immediately supply gas to Ukraine when Ukraine’s pipeline network is designed to uni directionally receive gas from Russia?
Such half-assed thinking is typical for the Institute and its creation of propaganda.
One of its employees/contractors is Hugh Benedict Nimmo who the Initiative paid to produce anti-Russian propaganda that was then disseminated through various western publications. (Nimmo now works at the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, another hawkish lobbying shop. Not one of other ‘Digital Research’ researchers has a background in information technology. They are all political hacks.)
According to the (still very incomplete) Initiative files Ben Nimmo received a monthly consultancy fee of £2.500 between December 2015 and March 2016. In August 2016 he sent an invoice (pdf) of £5,000 for his “August work on Integrity Initiative”. A Production Timetable (pdf) for March to June 2016 lists the following Nimmo outputs and activities:
- 17 March Atlantic Council: Yes, Putin really believes his own propaganda, Ben Nimmo
- 21 March Newsweek: Putin’s paranoia is driving his foreign adventures, Ben Nimmo
- 22 March, UK House of Commons: Russian information warfare – airbrushing reality, Jonathan Eyal and Ben Nimmo
- Mid May: Atlantic Council: Distract, deceive, destroy: Putin at war in Syria. Ben Nimmo et al (Major study)
- Early May timeframe: Russian penetration in Germany, Harold Elletson, Ben Nimmo et al – 10,000 words
- June timeframe: Atlantic Council, major report on Russian conspiracy theory and foreign policy, Ben Nimmo (potential launch events in London and / or Washington)
- End-June: Mapping Russia’s whole influence machine, Ben Nimmo – 10,000 words
One wonders how often Ben Nimmo double billed his various sponsors for these copy-paste fantasy pamphlets.
In late 2017 Ben Nimmo and Guardian ‘journalist’ Carole Cadwalladr disseminated allegations that Russia used Facebook ads to influence the Brexit decision. Cadwalladr even received a price for her work. Unfortunately the price was not revoked when Facebook revealed that “Russia linked” accounts had spend a total of 97 cents on Brexit ads. It is unexplained how that was enough to achieve their alleged aim.
Cadwalladr is listed as a speaker (pdf) at a “skill sharing” conference the Institute organized for November 1-2 under the headline: “Tackling Tools of Malign Influence – Supporting 21st Century Journalism”.
This year Ben Nimmo became notorious for claiming that several real persons with individual opinions were “Russian trolls”. As we noted:
Nimmo, and several other dimwits quoted in the piece, came to the conclusion that Ian56 is a Kremlin paid troll, not a real person. Next to Ian56 Nimmo ‘identified’ other ‘Russian troll’ accounts:
Ben Nimmo @benimmo – 10:50 UTC – 24 Mar 2018
One particularly influential retweeter (judging by the number of accounts which then retweeted it) was @ValLisitsa, which posts in English and Russian. Last year, this account joined the troll-factory #StopMorganLie campaign.
Had Nimmo, a former NATO spokesperson, had some decent education he would have know that @ValLisitsa, aka Valentina Lisitsa, is a famous American-Ukrainian pianist. Yes, she sometimes tweets in Russian language to her many fans in Russia and the Ukraine. Is that now a crime? The videos of her world wide performances on Youtube have more than 170 million views. It is absurd to claim that she is a ‘Russian troll’ and to insinuate that she is taking Kremlin money to push ‘Russian troll’ opinions.
Ben Nimmo’s latest nonsense is the claim that Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon. We documented long ago that, according to western media, Russia ‘weaponizes’ … everything, from robotic cockroaches to Jedi mind tricks. Weaponizing humor though, is new idiotic claim:
Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as “disinformation for the information age”.
Could someone please help the dude to grow up?
The Institute for Statecraft Expert Team (pdf) list several people with military intelligence backgrounds, as well as many ‘journalists’. One of them is:
Specialist in Russian strategic thinking; the application of Russian disinformation and hybrid warfare; the use of organised crime as a weapon of hybrid warfare. Educational and mentoring skills, including in a US and E European environment, and the corporate world.
Galeotti is the infamous inventor of the ‘Gerasimov doctrine’, and of propaganda about Russia’s alleged ‘hybrid’ warfare.
In February 2013 the Russian General Valery Gerasimov, then Russia’s chief of the General Staff, published a paper that analyzed the way the ‘west’ is waging a new type of war by mixing propaganda, proxy armies and military force into one unified operation.
Galeotti claimed that Gerasimov’s analysis of ‘western’ operations was a new Russian doctrine of ‘hybrid war’. He invented the term ‘Gerasimov doctrine’ which then took off in the propaganda realm. In February 2016 the U.S. Army Military Review published a longer analysis of Gerasimov’s paper that debunked the nonsense (pdf). It concluded without reservations that:
Gerasimov’s article is not proposing a new Russian way of warfare or a hybrid war, as has been stated in the West.
But anti-Russian propagandist repeated Galeotti’s nonsense over and over. Only in March 2018, five years after Galeotti invented the ‘Germasimov doctrine’ and two years after he was thoroughly debunked, he finally recanted:
Everywhere, you’ll find scholars, pundits, and policymakers talking about the threat the “Gerasimov doctrine” — named after Russia’s chief of the general staff — poses to the West. It’s a new way of war, “an expanded theory of modern warfare,” or even “a vision of total warfare.”
There’s one small problem. It doesn’t exist. And the longer we pretend it does, the longer we misunderstand the — real, but different — challenge Russia poses.
I feel I can say that because, to my immense chagrin, I created this term, which has since acquired a destructive life of its own, lumbering clumsily into the world to spread fear and loathing in its wake.
The Institute for Statecraft’s “Specialist in Russian strategic thinking”, an expert on “disinformation and hybrid warfare”, created a non-existing Russian doctrine out of hot air and used it to press for anti-Russian measures. Like Ben Nimmo he is an aptly example of the quality of the Institute’s experts and work.
One of the newly released documents headlined CND Gen list 2 (pdf) (CND= Chris Nigel Donnelly) includes the names and email addresses of a number of military, government and think tank people. The anonymous releaser of the documents claims that the list is “of employees who attended a closed-door meeting with the white helmets”. (No document has been published yet that confirms this.) One name on the list is of special interest:
Pablo Miller, a British MI6 agent, had recruited Sergej Skripal. The former MI6 agent in Moscow, Christopher Steele, was also involved in the case. Skripal was caught by the Russian security services and went to jail. Pablo Miller, the MI6 recruiter, was also the handler of Sergej Skripal after he was released by Russia in a spy swap. He reportedly also lives in Salisbury. Both Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller work for Orbis Business Intelligence which created the “Dirty Dossier” about Donald Trump.
In 1979, before becoming a spy, Pablo Miller served at the 4th Royal Tank Regiment. (BBC Newsnight ‘journalist’ Mark Urban, who recently published a book based on interviews with Skripal, served together with Miller in the same regiment.) The 4th regiment’s motto was “Fear Naught”. Pablo Miller’s email address given in the Chris Donnelly list is “email@example.com”.
In March, at the very beginning of the Skripal affair and before there was any talk of ‘Novichok’, we asked if Skripal was involved in creating the now debunked “Dirty Dossier” and if that was a reason for certain British insiders to move him out of the way:
Here are some question:
- Did Skripal help Steele to make up the “dossier” about Trump?
- Were Skripal’s old connections used to contact other people in Russia to ask about Trump dirt?
- Did Skripal threaten to talk about this?
If there is a connection between the dossier and Skripal, which seems very likely to me, then there are a number of people and organizations with potential motives to kill him. Lots of shady folks and officials on both sides of the Atlantic were involved in creating and running the anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign. There are several investigations and some very dirty laundry might one day come to light. Removing Skripal while putting the blame on Russia looks like a convenient way to get rid of a potential witness.
The most recent release of Integrity Initiative documents includes lots of in-depth reports (pdf) about foreign media reactions to the Skripal affair. One wonders why the Initiative commissioned such research (pdf) and paid for it.
After two years the Muller investigation found zero evidence for the alleged ‘collusion’ between Russia and the Trump campaign that the fake Steele dossier suggested. The whole collusion claim is a creation by ‘former’ British intelligence operatives who likely acted on request of U.S. intelligence leaders Clapper and Brennan. How deep was the Russia specialist Chris Donnelly and his Institute for Statecraft involved in this endeavor?
After reading through all the released Initiative papers and lists one gets the impression of a secret military intelligence operation, disguised as a public NGO. Financed by millions of government money the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative work under a charity label to create and disseminate disinformation to the global public and back into the government and military itself.
The paranoia about Russia, which objectively does way less harm than the ‘western’ “rules based system” constantly creates, is illogical and not based on factual analysis. It creates Russia as an “enemy” when it is none. It hypes a “threat” out of hot air. The only people who profit from this are the propagandists themselves and the companies and people who back them.
The Initiatives motto “Defend Democracy Against Disinformation” is a truly Orwellian construct. By disseminating propaganda and using it to influence the public, parliament, the military and governments, the Institute actively undermines the democratic process that depends on the free availability of truthful information.
It should be shut down immediately.
- There have already been attempts to delete the released files from the Internet. A complete archive of all Integrity Initiative files published so far is here. Should the public links cease to work you can contact the author of this blog for access to private backups.
- Tim Hayward provides a list (scroll down) of all articles written so far about the Integrity Initiative here and elsewhere.
- The complete Moon of Alabama coverage of the Integrity Initiative:
- Nov 24 – British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns
- Dec 13 – British Spies Infiltrated Bernie Sanders’ Campaign?
- Dec 14 – Newly Released ‘Integrity Intitiative’ Papers Include Proposal For Large Disinformation Campaigns
- Dec 15 – The ‘Integrity Initiative’ – A Military Intelligence Operation, Disguised As Charity, To Create The “Russian Threat”