Biden Officials Face Biological Weapons Propaganda from Russia and China

WASHINGTON — One of Russia’s most incendiary disinformation campaigns escalated days ago, when its Departments of Defense and Foreign Af...


WASHINGTON — One of Russia’s most incendiary disinformation campaigns escalated days ago, when its Departments of Defense and Foreign Affairs issued statements falsely claiming that the Pentagon was funding biological weapons labs in Ukraine.

Then Chinese diplomats and state media repeated conspiracy theory at press conferences in Beijing, in articles and on official social media accounts.

Now the Biden White House has taken the extraordinary step of calling out both countries in their coordinated propaganda campaign and saying they could provide cover for a possible biological or chemical weapons attack on Ukrainians by the Russian military. .

“Now that Russia has made these false claims and China has apparently endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia possibly using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or creating a fake operation. banner using them,” said Jen Psaki. , the White House press secretary, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening. “It’s a clear pattern.”

She called the accusations “absurd” and said the United States “does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere.” The State Department called the claims “complete nonsense” and said Ukraine has no biological weapons labs. Senior US intelligence officials reiterated those points during a Senate hearing on Thursday.

The Biden administration and its European and Asian allies find themselves waging an information war against Russia and China as Russian President Vladimir V. Putin continues his military assault on Ukraine.

The Chinese government’s promotion of Russian disinformation in the midst of the war has raised concern among Western officials due to China’s powerful diplomatic position and vast IT capabilities. Analysts who study disinformation from both nations said it was the first time they had seen this magnitude of amplification between Beijing and Moscow around a conspiracy theory.

“I can’t think of another active propaganda campaign from Russia that has received such a big boost from China,” said Bret Schafer, who tracks disinformation from China, Russia and Russia. Iran as Principal Investigator for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a Washington-based nonprofit group. “I haven’t seen that volume around anything like that.”

It is the latest display of the close alignment between Beijing and Moscow, which the two nations said had “no limits” in a 5,000-word statement released when Mr Putin met President Xi Jinping from Beijing on February 4. At that time. , senior Chinese officials asked senior Russian officials not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to a Western intelligence report.

Since last November, US officials discussions held quietly with Chinese officials, including the ambassador in Washington and the foreign secretary, to discuss intelligence showing Mr Putin’s troop build-up to persuade the Chinese to tell the Russians not to start a war, but were rebuffed , U.S. officials said.

William J. Burns, the director of the CIA, told the Senate hearing on Thursday that he thought Mr. Xi was “disturbed” by the war in Ukraine and did not appear to have been briefed by his own intelligence services. information about what was going to happen.

Chinese officials publicly sided with Russia throughout the war, denouncing the United States as the cause of the conflict and highlighting Mr. Putin’s grievances over NATO expansion, while expressing their concern about the humanitarian crisis. Tuesday, Mr. Xi say again China’s standard talking points about the war during a video call with the leaders of France and Germany, although he added that China was “deeply distressed by the outbreak of war again on the European continent”, according to a Chinese reading. He did not say that Russia had started the fighting.

Using press conferences, state media and the social media accounts of diplomats around the world, China has tried to escalate the situation with fiery rhetoric and conspiracy theories rooted in Russian disinformation, sources claim. current and former US officials and independent researchers. As Mr. Xi spoke to European leaders on Tuesday, Zhao Lijian, a Foreign Ministry spokesman whom many Chinese citizens hail as a fiercely patriotic diplomat “wolf warrior”raised the issue of biochemical weapons in Ukraine at a press conference in Beijing, claiming that “Russia has discovered during its military operations that the United States is using these facilities to carry out bio-military plans”.

“It has 26 biological laboratories and other related facilities in Ukraine, over which the US Department of Defense has absolute control,” he said. “All dangerous pathogens in Ukraine must be stored in these laboratories and all research activities are directed by the American side.”

Mr. Zhao spread anti-American conspiracy theories to try to deflect criticism of China’s mishandling of the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and questions about research from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He said in March 2020 that the US military could have brought the virus to Wuhan and claimed that research at Fort Detrick, Maryland could have been the source of the pandemic. He noted Fort Detrick again on Thursday.

Chinese diplomats, government agencies and state media used official accounts on Twitter and other social media platforms to spread the Ukrainian lab conspiracy theory. A diplomat from the Chinese embassy in Beirut, Cao Yi, even posted the theory on Twitter in the two Arab and English.

The more than 235 Twitter posts were roughly evenly split between Chinese state media accounts and diplomatic or government non-media accounts, Schafer said. There are many other articles about the lab theory on Chinese social media platforms.

Telesur, Venezuela’s state television network, has also amplified Russia’s lab theory, but that activity is minor compared to what China is doing, Schafer said.

“Now that US tech platforms have taken action against Russian state media, Chinese state media is filling the void,” he said. “They reflect the Kremlin’s talking points.”

Variants of the laboratory conspiracy theory have been aired in recent weeks by far-right American political figures and groups, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson; and QAnon acolytes. Glenn Greenwald, a journalist critical of US military power and security agencies, said the theory could be true. Even Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident artist, has reposted theory on Twitter.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank that follows the conflict in Ukraine, has also issued a warning on Wednesday that the Russian statements could be part of an effort to lay the groundwork for a chemical or biological attack on Moscow. “Russia can carry out or fabricate such an attack and blame Ukraine and NATO for justifying further aggression against Ukraine,” he said.

Chinese state media repeated the gamut of official Russian statements about the war in Ukraine, from the false claim that Ukraine is teeming with neo-Nazis to arguments that the United States is an “empire of lies” drawing puppet strings of Kiev.

Global Times, a nationalist newspaper published by the Communist Party, published a item Tuesday, who said the US government was trying to stoke anger at China over the war in Ukraine by posting articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Voice of America. Other articles in Chinese state media have accused Ukraine of using civilians as human shields, a Kremlin talking point, while avoiding any mention of civilian deaths at the hands of the Russian military.

Censors at Weibo and other Chinese social media companies have removed pro-Ukrainian posts from their platforms.

Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin began to promote greater cooperation between the two countries’ media organizations in 2015, and since then the two governments have held an annual media conference in an attempt to “redefine the map of the international discourse. Chinese media executives express admiration for RT and Sputnik, Russia’s state media, for their ability to broadcast messages globally.

The two nations were bound by a communist ideology in the 1950s, but later split over politics and foreign policy. President Richard M. Nixon exploited this with a historic visit to Beijing in 1972 to normalize diplomatic relations with China. But in recent years, Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin have strengthened the bonds of their nationslargely driven by a shared perception of the United States as a threat and a desire to undermine American global dominance.

The Feb. 4 joint statement had a lengthy section in which the two nations said they would lead the world in establishing true “democracy.”

This drive to stand firm against the United States and Western Europe is evident in both countries’ propaganda and in state media stories, said Maria Repnikovaprofessor of global communication at Georgia State University who studies China and Russia.

“There is a strong undercurrent of anti-Western sentiment and disposition in many of these narratives,” she said. “They’re questioning the legitimacy of the United States, including using these conspiracy theories.”

On the war in Ukraine, she added, there is a “convergence of Russian and Chinese propaganda on who is to blame, on the roots of the conflict”.

But some Russian news reports and commentaries on Thursday questioned China’s commitment to Russia after news agencies reported that China refused to send aircraft parts in the country, said Ms. Repnikova. Boeing and Airbus cut ties with Russian airlines after Biden administration and European Union penalties imposed.

Big Chinese companies are likely to abide by the sanctions to avoid jeopardizing their global trade. For China, Europe and the United States are much more important trading partners than Russia.

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Seoul.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden Officials Face Biological Weapons Propaganda from Russia and China
Biden Officials Face Biological Weapons Propaganda from Russia and China
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