Disinfo: By claiming that there are Russian warplanes in Libya, AFRICOM is waging a psy-op on US public

Summary

US African Command (AFRICOM), in charge of hunting terrorists in Africa, seems more interested instead in waging psychological operations aimed at the US public, the Pentagon and the White House. AFRICOM recently focused its efforts in using friendly journalists, media leaks and statements in social media to lobby Washington for more power, influence and money, publishing a series of tweets accusing Russia of sending warplanes to Libya. Its commander general Charles Townsend said that “they had seen how Russia flew fourth-generation warplanes to Libya”, but no evidence was offered. Russian officials have dismissed this claim as ridiculous. Among explosive tweets, anonymous insinuations to friendly conservative reporters and leaks to liberals, the image that is emerging is one of AFRICOM carrying out a psychological (psychopathic) operation, a propaganda war against US public.

Disproof

The deployment of Russian warplanes in Libya has been confirmed by multiple sources. According to Bloomberg news agency, their presence was first reported by Fathi Bashagha, the security chief in Tripoli, who said at least six MiG 29s and two Sukhoi 24s had flown into the east from the Russian-controlled Hmeimim Air Base in Syria, escorted by two Su-35 Russian air force jets. This was later confirmed by satellite images (see here and here), by images of the aircraft taken by the US Air Force, and indirectly by Saqr al-Jaroushi, the head of the air force of Russia’s backed Libyan National Army (LNA), who on May 20 boasted that his forces were about to launch “the largest aerial campaign in Libyan history”.

Further information on the deployment of the aircraft emerged afterwards. This is happening after the Russia-backed LNA was forced to retreat from the airbase of al-Watiyah and Wagner fighters were allegedly expelled from a location in southern Tripoli in the previous days, which points to a Russian escalation in support of LNA through an increase of air power to compensate those losses.

As POLYGRAPH.info notes, the presence of Russian fighter jets in Libya has been confirmed by multiple "[i]ndependent sources, including those critical of the the US." Most of these reports predate the AFRICOM press release (26 May).

See POLYGRAPH.info's full debunk here, and our own reporting on the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group here and here.

By denying this deployment and calling it instead “an AFRICOM psy-op”, Russia is resorting to a recurrent disinformation narrative aiming to portray itself as a blameless victim of Western machinations, innocent of any misdeed. You can see other examples in our database, such as claims about NATO military exercises as acts of war against Russia; alleged plans to encircle Russia or to wage war against it; the supposed anti-Russian bias of international institutions - be it the OPCW, the World Anti-Doping Agency or the United Nations - which always falsely accuse Russia; the alleged Russophobia of the EU; the affirmation that it is NATO and not the Kremlin who is involved in the Donbas conflict; or denials that Russia had any role in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal or the downing of MH17, that it interfered in other countries’ elections or that it is waging a disinformation campaign on COVID-19.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 199
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 28/05/2020
  • Language/target audience: Spanish, Castilian
  • Country: Libya, Russia, US
  • Keywords: Anti-Russian, Intelligence services, Africa
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US military planners recommend an amplified psychological war against China

US war planners are suggesting that the US should widely expand its own psychological operations against Beijing. A new report by the Financial Times details how high officials in Washington are developing strategies for a new Cold War with China. Military analyst David Maxwell called for a generalised cultural warfare that would include the Pentagon commissioning novels aiming to demonise China and demoralise its citizens, arguing that Washington should bomb the Chinese with stories of wartime deaths of their only children and, therefore, their bloodlines.

Disproof

This is a deliberate distortion of an article published in the British newspaper Financial Times, which actually reported on a recent Special Operations Industry Conference and not on US officials “developing strategies for a new Cold War with China”. According to the article, most speakers warned that the US is ill-equipped to deal with cyber and hybrid warfare with China and Russia. While some of them talked about psy-ops, they mentioned them strictly in defensive terms, mostly as Western vulnerabilities, but none proposed psychological warfare against China.

This is part of a recurrent Kremlin-led narrative to portray the US as an aggressive and destabilising power. You can see other examples of disinformation about US plans and actions worldwide, such as its attempts to cause a massive African migration wave to Europe, its experiments on people in Georgia, its promotion of jihadist terrorism and colour revolutions, its preparations for war with Russia and China or its alleged responsibility in the China coronavirus outbreak.

By praising the Forest Brothers, NATO equated itself to the Nazi regime

In the attempt to equate the role played by the Soviet Union and the Third Reich in World War II, some end up equalling themselves to the Nazi regime. For example, when in 2017 NATO made a video praising the Forest Brothers, an anti-Soviet armed group in the Baltics, obfuscating the fact that they collaborated with the Nazi regime and its extermination machinery.

Disproof

Prominent pro-Kremlin narrative about the Forest Brothers and armed anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to discredit the independence struggle of the Baltic States and whitewash the history of Soviet occupation and Stalin's crimes - a growing trend of historical revisionism. For background on earlier disinformation attempts see our article here.

The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian partisans who fought against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation during and after World War II. It is for this reason that NATO released a tribute video to this group in 2017. Read our reporting here.

The economic part of the Ukrainian association with the EU is absolutely unequal

The economic part of the association with the EU is absolutely unequal. In essence, this is a one-way free trade agreement. And it is obvious to everyone in which way.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin  disinformation narrative discrediting Ukraine's relations with the European Union.

In June 2014, the EU and Ukraine signed an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which promotes deeper political ties, stronger economic links and the respect for common values. Since 2014, the EU and the Financial Institutions have mobilised more than €15 billion in grants and loans to support the reform process, with strong conditionality on continued progress. See here for more details about EU-Ukraine relations.