Before the Russia - Ukraine war, the only apparatus more vaunted and feared than the Russian war machine was the Russian propaganda machine. It has been credited with altering a US election, fomenting division within the US, and the emergence of the far-right as a political force.
But the Russian propaganda powerhouse is faring as well against Ukraine as their military is. Let’s look at two videos, one produced by Russia and the other produced and distributed via Ukraine’s official Twitter account
One similarity between the videos is that they are both aimed at Western audiences — note how the slogans on the clothing in the Russian video and the subtitles in the Ukrainian video are in English.
However, the differences between the two videos are stark; the Russian video is literally staged whereas the Ukrainian video draws on footage taken on the ground and shared on social media. The Russian video feels extremely dated as well, feeling as if it would be more at home in 1996 than 2022. In contrast, the Ukrainian video feels crisp, modern, and perfectly edited to be consumed and shared on social media. Even in comparing the run time of both videos — Russia’s video clocks in at 2:13 versus the Ukrainian video at .45 seconds — shows a lack of awareness on Russia’s part on how to package a message for social media.
The sharpest difference between the videos is their tone — the Russian video is meant to inspire fear whereas the Ukrainian video is meant to inspire solidarity. In its cringe-worthy attempt to impress Western audiences with the size of Putin’s support base the Russian video comes off as laughable, the Ukrainian video is laughable because farmers seizing Russian military hardware is funny.
For all of the praise and fear that has been given to the Russian propaganda machine to shape narratives across the world, it is failing to shape a positive narrative for Russia when it is needed most. The Russia - Ukraine war is exposing the biggest piece of Russia propaganda of them all — that Russia is all-powerful, omnipotent, and unstoppable.
That Russian video is like "Triumph of the Will" if Michael Bay had directed it.