Cracks visible in China-Russia ties as Moscow accuses Beijing of espionage
USA: together with partners – against misinformation of Beijing and Moscow
American diplomats and experts talk about serious subversive efforts of Russia and China in the information field related to the COVID-19 pandemic
The US government works with European countries and other allies to combat Chinese and Russian disinformation. At the same time, the information operations of Moscow and Beijing are viewed by Washington as extremely irresponsible and harmful to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which is being waged by the countries of the world..
That was the rationale behind two senior US State Department officials speaking during their phone briefing on Wednesday: State Department Special Envoy to Combat Disinformation Leah Gabriel and Ambassador Philip Ricoeur of the US Foreign Office’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs..
Previously, evidence that China is adopting the Russian model of offensive propaganda and disinformation was mainly cited by experts, but now this was announced at the level of the US administration. Lea Gabriel stated that the blurring of facts and the flow of accusations towards the West have become integral parts of Beijing’s actions:
“Before, there were really few documents, as well as a public discussion of how the CCP is using bots, trolls and other Russian-style means in relation to audiences outside of China. But the COVID-19 crisis has clearly shown how far the CCP is willing to go in trying to control the world’s narrative on this score … Now we see Beijing’s coordinated efforts to promote conflicting theories about COVID-19, which are designed to sow doubt, blame others and inspire thought that it is impossible to find out the truth “.
The special envoy of the US State Department emphasized that the population in Western countries may not realize that social media and other information platforms created in the West are used by Beijing to promote its information agenda – despite the fact that in China itself, information resources are tightly controlled. and pluralism in the field of information is not allowed: “It is very important that like-minded countries and free societies bring Beijing to clean water with its use of disinformation and propaganda.”.
From Russia, according to Leah Gabriel, Washington expects serious disruptive actions related to the pandemic: “Based on past experience, we highly anticipate that the Russian disinformation system will act to undermine the credibility of the COVID-19 vaccine, when available. … We’ve seen this before, and it looks like they’ll do it again – both by spreading false information of their own making, and by amplifying voices from the ground that promote “conspiracy theories.” We see it over and over again “.
Philip Riker, for his part, said that the United States is working with allies to counter Chinese and Russian disinformation: “Under Secretary of State Steve Bigan leads a group of transatlantic partners, peers on the phone every week … And one of the main themes in this a conversation involving colleagues not only from the USA and Canada, but also from France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, as well as representatives of the EU and NATO – the problem of disinformation. Together, we intend to continue to counter misinformation and share accurate and timely information on the COVID-19 situation. “.
Answering the question of journalists from Serbia about how much Russian and Chinese propaganda harm the Balkan countries and strengthen the influence of Beijing and Moscow there, Philip Riker agreed that this region is under serious information pressure:
“We increasingly see the Western Balkans and Southeastern Europe as an integral strategic space in which people in general have decided to turn their eyes to the West – despite the fact that many countries have linked themselves to the European Union, or, like North Macedonia, to NATO. … Now they have turned out to be a field for competition with some negative forces, Russia and China, and we want to compete for this influence, but in a positive way. We believe that the countries and peoples of the Western Balkans themselves can make a choice in which direction to look and with whom to interact ”.
In turn, Lea Gabriel noted that the issues of Chinese and Russian propaganda and disinformation “are not a specific problem of any particular region.”.
Experts from think tanks in Washington note the variety of techniques used by Russian and Chinese propaganda in order to gain an advantage in the information field.
Natalya Bugaeva, the head of the Russian project at the Washington Institute for the Study of Military Operations, in her speech the day before at a seminar organized by the American Enterprise Institute, recalled that Russia’s activity in the field of propaganda is not only negative and offensive:
“Recently, we have seen that the Kremlin is trying to portray the United States and the West as a whole as players who are acting inhumane, maintaining sanctions against various countries during a pandemic. And this is part of a broader effort by Putin since early March of this year to get the sanctions lifted, using the pandemic as an excuse – not only from Russia, but also from its partners such as Syria, Iran and other countries”.
According to Natalya Bugaeva, Putin also intends to somehow achieve greater understanding from the West: this is due, according to the expert, to the fact that oil prices are going down, and the welfare of Russians is declining, and the weakness of the Russian leader in the face of a pandemic becomes obvious:
“We see that since the beginning of April, Russia’s disinformation efforts have declined … In addition, the Russian Ministry of Defense has delivered some aid to Italy, the United States and some Balkan countries, despite lacking the necessary funds to fight COVID-19 at home. Putin is trying to play the role of a good Samaritan, he certainly does not need any additional sanctions now, and he is trying to get rid of those that are already in effect. However, I would not say that Russia’s actions are less of a problem for the West than before – just the information campaign was aimed at achieving higher-level goals. “.
Reporter for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in Moscow. Collaborates with «Voice of America» since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and presenter of programs in the Russian service of the BBC and «Radio Liberty». Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.
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