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Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the “foot in the door” tactic

“Foot in the door” is a psychological technique that shows the pattern between a person first fulfilling a minor request, and then being forced to fulfill other, more burdensome requests. The use of this phenomenon for practical purposes is often called the “foot in the door” method, another name for it is the method of gradual amplification of requests.

The foot in the door technique shows a tendency where a person first agrees to give someone a small favor or help, but one step leads to the next, and they become involved in a case that is sometimes completely unnecessary to him. Sometimes such a “mini-service” requires much more time, energy, effort from a person and may even contradict their convictions (conscience, common sense, saving money). An interesting fact here is that a person would probably never agree to burdensome or contradictory requests if they had not fulfilled the first, seemingly completely insignificant. This phenomenon is used in marketing, trade, the service sector, management, internal political struggles, as well as in propaganda.

The psychological technique “foot in the door” requires compliance with the following rules:

• start with appeals, requests that, at first glance, do not oblige to anything, are not burdensome for the person involved in the interaction;

• create a favorable emotional background for people's interaction. Communication (even a single one) should evoke emotions in a person, form a tendency to repeat contact. The person involved must feel the participation on the part of the other person, the satisfaction from his or her insignificant act or the solemnity of the moment;

• it is important that the person involved in the interaction does not have the feeling that he or she is being pressured or forced to do something. In this case, the effect will be minimal, because a person is not inclined to consider actions performed under pressure as a manifestation of his or her own convictions.

The Russian state propaganda machine uses this tactic against large masses of people. As an example, we can mention the increase in the level of Russia's territorial claims to Ukraine since 2014. If at first the Russians allegedly demanded only the recognition of the illegally occupied Crimea, then further propaganda began a discourse on the recognition of the so-called DNR and LNR as independent republics (at first within the actual demarcation line of 2015, and then within the full borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions). In 2022, the demands of the Russians have become tougher: we are talking about the alleged full-fledged inclusion of Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions into Russia, even though Russia has never controlled parts of the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

The Russians are also trading in the case of a possible extension of the grain deal. Their primary requirement was the launch and stable operation of the Togliatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline passing through the territory of Ukraine. After it was damaged in the fighting, the requirement lost its meaning. So the Russian authorities and propaganda started talking about another demand, this time to Western countries: the connection to the SWIFT global payment system of Rossilhosbank, a financial institution through which international trade in Russian grain takes place.

In addition, the aggressor state uses this tactic in sports. Since at international tournaments in most sports the Russians are suspended due to the war unleashed by their government, they are trying to remove the suspension with the help of gradual concessions: first, they are speaking in a neutral status without a flag and an anthem with an obligation to sign a declaration condemning the war, and then the Russian propaganda machine begins to gradually oppose these restrictions, up to the complete restoration of the rights of athletes, noting that allegedly “sport is out of politics” and complaining about the worldwide “russophobia”.

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