When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

How Russia And U.S. Are Reviving Cold War Propaganda, With A Twist

Demonizing the adversary, often in much the same way, was central to the script of the Cold War in the second half of the last century. Now with Moscow and Washington facing off again, old habits are back.

How Russia And U.S. Are Reviving Cold War Propaganda, With A Twist

At a U.S.-Russia Summit in Geneva in June 2021

Anna Akage

When face to face

We cannot see the face

Those words come from a 1925 love sonnet by Sergei Yesenin. Though the Russian poet died before the Cold War began, it can serve as a metaphor for how the U.S. and Soviet would “see” each other in their respective propaganda operations for nearly half a century.

And now, with the threat of war at the Russia-Ukraine border, the Cold War rhetoric is being revived, with some notable caveats and novelties. One recent example came straight from the Russian Ministry of Culture, which approved an official list of national values, and the main threats to these values. On the values list: traditional family (husband, wife, children), church, patriotism, high spiritual morality. On the threats list: Islamic terrorists, foreign agents and NGOs… and one country singled out: the United States of America.

Yes, we're up to our necks in the Cold War again, only now the Kremlin is not fighting capitalism, but LGBTQ activists; not defending Communism, but the Tridentine Christian family. On the other side, too, the adversary is depicted in very broad strokes, like in 1980s Hollywood movie scripts where the crazed, patriotic Soviet lieutenant racing toward nuclear apocalypse can only be stopped by a brave CIA special agent with a golden smile.

But the reality now, as then, is how similar Russian and American propaganda is at its core. In the news broadcast from both countries, the aim is to denounce and demonize — and always stay on message. Here are some examples of Moscow’s and Washington’s mirror tropes circulating from and about each other:

The enemy wants to escalate

Channel One Russia, February 2, 2022: "The West is inciting a 'Croatian scenario' in Donbas. Then hundreds of thousands of Serbs had to flee their homes, tens of thousands were killed. All of these events could be repeated in southeastern Ukraine — only on a much larger scale."

The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2022: "Vladimir Putin has largely transformed the country's forces left depleted and demoralized after the breakup of the U.S.S.R. as part of his goal to reassert Russia on the world stage.”

The fake image of Nikita Khrushchev's would-be "shoe-banging" speech at the United Nations.


The enemy seeks territorial expansion

Russian national news agency TASS, January 14, 2022: “Washington and its allies do not hide the fact that they are trying to restrain Moscow and Beijing — the course is “openly proclaimed” — and do not stop trying to "artificially expand the North Atlantic Alliance", including at the expense of Ukraine. The pressure is exerted in a variety of spheres — for example, the United States is also directly involved in the current crisis in global orthodoxy.”

The core messages remain largely unchanged

The New York Times, January 7, 2022: "The immediate aim, to be sure, is to return Ukraine to Russia's orbit. But that's only a brush stroke on a much bigger canvas. Mr. Putin's design is grand: to refashion the post-Cold War settlement, in the process guaranteeing the survival of Russia's personalized power system.”

The enemy is stomping on weaker countries

RIA Novosti, January 20, 2022: "In fact, Ukraine really has nothing to do with it. Americans are hungry for war with Russia. ‘Containment’ is just a polite euphemism. And Ukraine as well as the Baltics will be used by the United States as they need it. The territory was a theater of war. The population is cannon fodder."

NBC News, January 25, 2022: "Russia's capabilities have grown as a result of a decades-long program to reconstitute its military power … and the Kremlin's confidence has grown because of the consistent failure of the West and Western institutions to deter its geopolitical ambitions. While some Western officials have questioned the Kremlin's assertion that it's threatened by NATO, there is no doubt Russia aspires to roll back security in Eastern Europe, and remove the U.S. and NATO as guarantors of security in the region.”

These are just a few examples, and lurking behind are far more complex manipulations that come into our information space in old and new ways, most notably through misinformation on social platforms.

But even if technology is changing the way the propaganda is delivered, the core messages remain largely unchanged: not only between the past and present, but between the two enemies themselves.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest