His comment came in the context of the "Inside the British Army's secret information warfare machine" report that the Wired magazine published on November 14. The Wired reported, citing an information warfare officer, that a UK Army's information warfare unit — the 77th Brigade — was allegedly conducting "grey" and "black" messaging campaigns in conflict situations, while it was formally tasked with challenging "the difficulties of modern warfare" through "non-lethal engagement." According to the magazine, the "grey" and "black" messaging could look like if it came from another, non-military, source, and it did not necessarily tell the truth.
"Especially in the rapidly developing 'information age' the use of psychological operations and social media became very import to help fighting wars by winning hearts and minds of the population in war zones like Afghanistan. But it also serves as a propaganda tool to legitimize military build up, increase defense spending and convince people that tax payers money must be diverted to their armies by creating fear and exaggerating threats supposedly coming from Russia for example," he said.
De Brabander qualified the conventional military power of Russia as a "far much minor" to that of NATO states. However, even though "no direct threat has been expressed," global leaders continue to escalate public concerns, De Brabander added.
"We are told that Russia is dangerous to convince us that NATO expansion, new fighter jets, new military deployments and manoeuvres at Russia's borders are necessary," he said.
As each country understands the important role information wars and propaganda can play this issue should be appropriately addressed, De Branbander suggested.
He recalled a more recent example — the use of military force by certain European states in Syria over claims that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against civilians. The military force was used "even without waiting reports about responsibilities and effective use of it," according to De Brabander.
"There is a need of an international code of conduct about the use of information as a war and propaganda tool. They are as important as other military agreements. Laws and international agreements need also to address better the hacking of data as we have seen in the [whistleblower Edward] Snowden case. The problem is that all those operations are shielded from any democratic control and that we are often unaware of their mere existence," De Brabander concluded.
The 77th Brigade is a combined regular and army reserve unit responsible for using "legitimate non-military levers" as a means "to adapt behaviors of the opposing forces."