Disinfo: British analyst explains in Foreign Policy why Washington needs a “Russian intervention”

Summary

While US Democrats talk of a Russian interference in the elections, Republicans talk about Chinese interference. Those statements have a very specific purpose and it has nothing to do with foreign policy, said Elisabeth Braw, analyst of the Royal Joint Institute for Defense Research. Accusations against Russia started after the 2016 election, when Democrats, having lost it, tried to accuse Donald Trump of collusion with Russia and Russia itself of meddling in the election. The investigation led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller found nothing. Now, these accusations were renewed. According to an article written by Braw in Foreign Policy magazine, this bipartisan logic is clear: if Biden loses, Democrats can talk again about Moscow intervening and support of Donald Trump. If Biden wins, Trump may say that Beijing was behind its defeat. “But it doesn’t matter at all if US rivals are actually hacking the electoral infrastructure of the country this year. What matters is that people believes that interference campaigns work”, Braw says.

Disproof

This is a deliberate manipulation of the original article of Elisabeth Braw in Foreign Policy to promote the long-discredited pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative that Russia never interfered in the US election in 2016 and that the Mueller investigation found no evidence of it. Braw’s article doesn’t say that accusations of foreign interference are a narrative promoted by both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, the affirmation that Russia and China are interfering respectively against the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties is an estimation of the US intelligence community, and Braw quotes a statement in this regard by US National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina. The claim that Braw concluded that both parties are falsely talking about these alleged interference for political reasons is a lie. Braw’s main argument is that Russia and China are indeed trying to interfere in the US election and that their main success may be not as much to sway the ballots as to convince voters that they did. The direct quote has also been altered: “It doesn’t matter whether China, Russia, or any other country in fact manages to sway the ballot. What matters is whether voters believe they did”, says the original. She also argues that if any country interferes in the electoral process, there should be a retaliatory reaction to serve as future deterrent, something vastly different from the claims in the manipulated article. Pro-Kremlin media frequently resort to this manipulative technique of quoting sentences from serious publications and then introducing a distorted message as if it was part of the original article, in this case to promote a recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Russia being falsely accused of interfering in elections abroad. See other examples in our database, such as false claims that British outlet The Guardian pointed to ruling elite as the real instigators of the racial crisis in the US and reported that the EU remained silent as the Europeans couldn’t buy food for the first time in 75 years; that Newsweek magazine explained how the US coup in Iran will end; that Soros’ structures in the media and think tanks saw an opportunity in the coronavirus pandemic to attack the “bad guys”; that the US National Counterintelligence and Security Centre put Wikileaks at the same threat level as jihadist organisations in its last report; or that the US special envoy for Syria admitted that Washington’s goal was to defend terrorists from Russian attacks.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 213
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 26/09/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Spanish, Castilian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: China, US, Russia
  • Keywords: US Presidential Election 2020, election meddling, Democratic Party (US)
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What is happening in Minsk is primarily a Polish project

What is happening in Minsk is primarily a Polish project. Warsaw is behind the ongoing protests of its neighbours, it provides political and media support to the leaders of the Belarusian opposition. The result, however, is impressive in an exclusively negative sense: only the phenomenon of “President Sveta” (this is how Svyatlana Tsikhanoeskaya’s instagram is called) can serve as an example of how not to do it as political technology.

Disproof

This is a pro-Kremlin narrative about Western attempts to organise a colour revolution in Belarus. It accuses Poland of planning to intervene in the domestic affairs of Belarus, which is a severe violation of the principles of diplomacy and international relations. The protests in Belarus erupted to contest the results of the presidential election in Belarus on the 9th of August, which are considered fraudulent by a large part of Belarusian society. The European Union has also stated that the elections were neither free nor fair. Poland respects the principles of international law and does not intervene in the domestic affairs of any country. Poland has repeatedly denied such accusations. On 11 September, at a meeting of the Visegrad Group, Poland again called on the Belarusian government to stop grossly violating the rights of its own people. “We all agree that free elections should be held in Belarus. We call for the release of all political prisoners,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Reports that Poland is allegedly "preparing a coup d'etat" in Belarus appeared after the Presidents of Lithuania and Poland, called for Belarusian authorities to respect democratic standards and stop violence and repression against participants in mass protests. Belarusian politicians who had to flee the country have to meet with foreign representatives abroad because of the current wave of political repressions in Belarus. See other examples of similar messages: Poland presented a plan of active interference in the domestic affairs of Belarus, Polish special services destabilise the situation in Belarus, or Protests in Belarus are driven by Americans from the center near Warsaw, Poland openly interferes in domestic affairs of Belarus.

Euromaidan and pro-European politics led to the collapse of Ukraine

When in 2013, Ukrainian pro-Western politicians who lost two elections in a row drove their fellow citizens to Euromaidan, they promised them European prosperity and the highest standard of living. Instead, Ukraine received a deep economic crisis, war, and the de facto collapse of the country.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign against Ukraine, containing multiple disinformation narratives regarding the Euromaidan and Ukrainian statehood. The Euromaidan did not lead to the loss of Crimea and the war in Donbas; this occurred through Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its armed aggression in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The occupation of Crimea, which has not been recognised by the democratic world, including the United Nations, and the war in Donbas caused a deep economic crisis in 2014-2015. However, the Ukrainian economy already began to recover in 2015. The war in eastern Ukraine is a well-documented case of Russian armed aggression. The international community, including the European Union, recognises and condemns clear violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces since February 2014.

Novichok can be produced anywhere

The neurotoxic agent Novichok is a substance which can be produced in any laboratory in the world, as Vil Mirzayanov, who has left Russia for the United States, has published a book about it. In particular, Leonid Rink, the so-called inventor of Novichok, has told RIA Novosti: “Vil Sultanovich (Mirzayanov), although not the creator of Novichok, published a book in the West about the Novichok system and its authors. Therefore, instead of apologizing to (Alexei) Navalny, he should apologize to the Attorney General’s Office, the state security services and the country for revealing secret data in the open literature, and then apologize to the entire world community for giving a complete description, for any kind of aggression, of the Novichok system in his book.” He went on to say that Novichok could be produced in any chemical laboratory in the world, referring to the alleged “poisoning” of Alexei Navalny.

Disproof

This story belongs to a sustained efforts by the pro-Kremlin media to distract and distort the facts about the poisoning of Alexey Navalny, as they have done in the past in the Skripal case. The use of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny was established beyond any doubt by a Bundeswehr laboratory. In September 2017, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed the full destruction of the 39,967 metric tons of chemical weapons possessed by Russia, but Novichok was never declared to the OPCW and weren’t included in the Chemical Weapons Convention until 2019. As far as Vil Mitzayanov is concerned, after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with Novichok in Salisbury in 2018, he said that “many countries could have had test samples, but production was only refined in the U.S.S.R. and Russia” and that Russia had to be behind the attempt because it “is the country that invented it, has the experience, turned it into a weapon... has fully mastered the cycle”. As for Leonid Rink, the expert often quoted as saying that Navalny would have died if it had been Novichok, he indeed has a history of working with the nerve poison. In 2000 Rink was indicted for illegally selling Novichok from his garage, an action that resulted in the first deaths from nerve agent, in 1995. His criminal case was later dismissed on secret grounds and he received a one-year suspended sentence. There are also other cases following the same trend of disputing Navalny's poisoning and the use of Novichok by Russian state operatives, which can be found here and here.