When A Missile Is A Message: Poland’s All-Encompassing “Information Ops” Doctrine

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When A Missile Is A Message: Poland's All-Encompassing "Information Ops" Doctrine

Polish PsyOps insignia used by troops in Afghanistan. Click to see full-size image

Poland, for a while now, has been a very US-aligned country, and has served as the premier proxy of Washington in European affairs.

In terms of military activity, it has participated in most US-led interventions throughout the world, and has played a role with its psychological operations in most of them.

Generally, not as significant in their capabilities as the US or the UK, Poland is still a key player.

In brief, Polish PSYOPS history and tradition can be classified into 3 separate areas of historical reference.

  1. The period up until WWII, when the Polish Armed Forces lost to the invading German Armies, and Poland was absorbed in to the Greater German Third Reich.
  2. The 2nd period is the Post War Communist Eastern Bloc era,
  3. And thirdly the modern democratic NATO / EU Membership era.

The most significant and active ‘era’ as is quite obvious is the NATO/EU one.

Poland’s Central Psychological Operations Group “King Stefan Báthory” is situated in Bydgoszcz. It is a city in northern Poland, on the Brda and Vistula rivers.

Currently, to make it seem less “offensive” and “harmless”, PsyOps are called “Information operations”. Similarly, to how the UK transitioned from a more “hands-on” approach, a similar thing transpired with Poland – it simply attempts to influence an audience from afar, thanks to various types of social media, and not only.

In order to clean any confusion regarding information operations and that they are simply a fancier way to name PsyOps. Even more so – PsyOps are just a part of what is now Information Operations, simply a fraction of the whole monolith:

In NATO publication Info Ops are defined as “a staff function to analyse, plan, assess and integrate information activities to create desired effects on the will, understanding and capability of adversaries, potential adversaries and NAC approved audiences in support of Alliance mission objectives”.

Polish definition of Info Ops is more complex:

“Information operations (Info Ops) are projects coordinated by the staff cell consisting in analysing the information environment, planning, integrating and assessing information activities in order to obtain the expected effects on the will to act, understand the situation and possessed by the opponent (potential opponent) and other approved objects of influence to support the achievement of the assumed objectives of the operation, as well as the strategic communication objectives”.

It was assumed in October 2017, with a document called “Operacje Informacyjne DD-3.10(A)”.

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance and direction for integrating Info Ops planning, conduct and assessment of operations. DD-3.10(A) mainly focuses on the operational level, but can be used as a reference at all levels. This document presents the basic principles of conducting information operations in the national and allied systems. It also applies in the coalition dimension (NATO).

In the Polish doctrine, the information activities are defined as:

“Actions designed to affect an object of influence, information and information systems using appropriate abilities and tools. They can be performed by any actor and include precautionary measures limiting the impact on their own information and information systems.”

Poland strictly follows NATO’s military policy in regard to the information environment and how it should be operated with.

The Polish document, describes the information environment the following way:

“the information environment is a space in which information is produced, acquired, processed and transmitted from senders to designated recipients.”

According to it, it has two facets – the domains that constitute it, and the relationships between them.

The following is an extract from a publication by Zbigniew MODRZEJEWSKI, published early 2018. [pdf]

When A Missile Is A Message: Poland's All-Encompassing "Information Ops" Doctrine

Click to see full-size image

The domains are three:

  1. Physical domain is the space where physical activities occur and individuals, nations, states, cultures and societies interact. Within the physical dimension of the information environment there is the connective infrastructure that supports the transmission, reception, and storage of information. Physical domain involves physical platforms and communications networks that connect them as well as a number of elements which include people, infrastructure, publications, computers, tablets, smartphones and other communication items. Also, within this dimension there are tangible actions or events that transmit a message in and of themselves, such as patrols, aerial reconnaissance, and civil affairs projects.
  2. Communication is facilitated in the virtual domain by intangible activities and technical tools. Within the virtual domain there is the content or data itself. The virtual domain refers to the content and flow of information, such as text or images, data that staffs can collect, process, store, disseminate, and display. This domain provides the necessary link between the physical and cognitive dimensions.
  3. The cognitive/psychological domain is the most important as it consists of cognition and emotions, which affect an individual’s decision-making. Within the cognitive domain there are the minds of those who are affected by and act upon information. These minds range from friendly commanders and leaders, to foreign audiences affecting or being affected by operations, to enemy, threat or adversarial decision makers. This domain focuses on the societal, cultural, religious, and historical contexts that influence the perceptions of those producing the information and of the targets and audiences receiving the information. In this domain, decision makers and target audiences are the most prone to influence and perception management. Decisions are made in this domain.
When A Missile Is A Message: Poland's All-Encompassing "Information Ops" Doctrine

Click to see full-size image

The second facet concerns the interrelationships between six elements or layers of the information environment. These are:

  • real world and its events;
  • network connectivity that delivers information;
  • information itself;
  • persona that inhabit the environment and who develop the messages in it;
  • people (individuals, actors and social groups) that interpret and exploit the environment.

With all this explained, the picture of what is transpiring in Belarus, and opposition members using it as a base of operations to attempt and spearhead and orchestrate the protests are beginning to make quite a bit of sense, since the activities are quite well thought through.

In the Polish doctrine, Info Ops are composed of ten capabilities and techniques and one related activity.

The above list of capabilities and techniques forms the basis of most Info Ops activities. I would like to emphasize that it is not exhaustive and is limited only by the availability of the capabilities and techniques and the constraints of policy and law.

As mentioned above PsyOps are one of the 10, but there are 9 more that conclude a complete package of information operations.

When A Missile Is A Message: Poland's All-Encompassing "Information Ops" Doctrine

Click to see full-size image

Psychological operations are a key capability required for the conduct of military information activities against opponents or towards a local population.

Since January 2018, a new doctrine of psychological operations has been implemented in the Polish Army. According to the above-mentioned document, accepted in October 2017:

“Psychological operations are one of the elements of the strategic communication. They constitute a planned process of transferring prepared content using various methods and means of communication directed to selected and approved objects of influence (audiences) in order to influence the expected change in perception, attitudes and behaviours, being designed to achieve the intended political and military objectives.”

Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) are military activities which are aimed at influencing the perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of target populations. The essence of PSYOPS consists in the fact they are of a long-term nature.

PSYOPS activities are coordinated through Info Ops as part of the overall information strategy. PSYOPS represent one of the key capabilities that allows the force to communicate its themes and messages to approved audiences.

In support of Info Ops, PSYOPS seek to affect perceptions, attitudes and behaviour; they can affect a broad range of audiences from populations to decision-makers at all levels.

The others are not the focus now, as such they will not be looked into in-depth.

A noteworthy type of operations are the Cybersecurity ones, they are gaining more and more popularity, especially since Poland is one of the countries pushing the “Russian aggression” narrative the hardest and need to also start countering the legendary “Russian hackers.”

Cyberspace does not have a standard, objective definition. According to the Polish language dictionary cyberspace is: “a vital space in which communication between computers connected via the Internet is carried out.”

The term cyberspace operation means “the employment of cyberspace capabilities where the primary purpose is to achieve objectives in or through cyberspace.”

Currently, cyberspace operations play an increasingly important role.

The increased attention to information operations both in Poland and in other NATO nations is due to the awareness that we are living in an information-dominated environment.

The information environment has changed the nature of warfare. Conflicts seem to have no identifiable boundaries and this is why we should think of it as of a global battlespace.

A large element of Info Ops is non-lethal and recent operations (especially in Afghanistan and Iraq) have shown its significance by increasing the commander’s choice of means, whose effects can be created or generated at all stages of a crisis to support achievement of objectives.

But it should be considered that physical destruction through various conventional (and non-conventional weaponry) is also a potential information operation. Since it could be deemed that a missile that destroys a building is a very concrete and down-to-the-point message.

Information operations seek to create specific effects at a specific time and place. They are conducted at all levels of war, across all phases of an operation and across the conflict spectrum. Units conduct Info Ops across the full range of military operations, from operations in garrison, through deployment, to combat operations, and continuing through redeployment upon mission completion.

In Ukraine, Poland stood in the background, due to various historical tensions. In Belarus, it appears that Warsaw’s turn has come to utilize what it has learned and show its progress in the field.

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