Thesis Title

Subversive Threat: the Danger of Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation to Western Security

Date of Graduation

Spring 1997


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

William Van Cleave

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


Propaganda has long been used as a supplement to military and diplomatic influence as an instrument to support policy. Propaganda, disinformation, and deception were particularly important tools of the Soviet Union in international relations. This thesis examines how propaganda is often used and how democratic Western nations are vulnerable to its effects. The manipulation of perceptions is most effectively attempted through an incremental approach, depending on multiple sources and messages to mold over time the opinions of individuals within the target audience. Two case studies document large scale attempts to turn Western audiences away from the policies of their elected leaders. In both studies, the Kremlin's goals were to keep NATO from modernizing its nuclear arsenal and to encourage dissension among NATO nations and between each country's leaders and citizens. In an attempt to achieve these goals, the Soviet Union utilized a number of actual agents of influence and unknowing Westerners. Moscow played to existing fears and exploited natural dissent within the West in its attempt to dominate the continent. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the vulnerabilities of free societies and what can and should be done to further protect the West against future attack.


© Adam L Nimrod