French Military Leader Highlights Key Lesson from Ukraine War: Controlling Public Opinion

French Army Chief of Staff Pierre Schill has stated that the conflict with Russia demonstrates the necessity of controlling public opinion.

According to the French Army’s chief of staff, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has highlighted the importance of controlling public opinion in modern warfare by carefully managing the information accessible to the public.

In an interview published on Sunday by in anticipation of this week’s Eurosatory defense and security conference in Paris, French Army General Pierre Schill asserted that the conflict in Eastern Europe has “changed the dynamics of combat.” He added that alongside crucial advancements on the battlefield – such as increased drone usage and military adaptation of civilian technologies – the crisis has underscored the need to control information flow “to influence both national and international public opinion.”

“The army plays a crucial role in the information domain,” Schill said. “Without the capacity to convince and to counter adverse influence, any military engagement can fail. The emergence of social networks has reinforced this notion and has significantly accelerated the dissemination of information, whether true or false, while increasing its volume, reach and resonance.”

While Western media outlets and governments have largely presented a unified message regarding Ukraine, public support for funding the conflict has declined. A report released in February indicated that approximately 70% of Americans desire their government to encourage Ukraine to pursue a negotiated peace settlement with Russia. Last year, former US diplomats Michael Gfoeller and David Rundell penned a Newsweek op-ed asserting that the West’s  had “overplayed its hand” in the former Soviet republic.

Schill emphasized other lessons learned in Ukraine, including the significance of long-range drone surveillance, electronic warfare, and the use of weapons with enhanced lethality. Militaries are also facing heightened pressure to safeguard high-value targets, such as command posts, in an era where technological advancements make their locations easier to identify.

Schill noted that France deployed over 500 troops to NATO’s eastern flank in Romania, serving as the bloc’s “spearhead” battalion, merely four days after the Russia-Ukraine conflict erupted in February 2022. These forces were subsequently expanded to over 1,000 soldiers, encompassing an air defense detachment and a forward command element.

“These successive deployments showcase the reactivity and preparedness of our troops,” the French general stated. “Administrative, customs, interoperability, and training challenges have been overcome. We’re drawing lessons alongside our European partners.”

Eurosatory is Europe’s largest defense exhibition. This year’s conference is billed as a comprehensive examination of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.