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Report Examines Russia’s Non-Proliferation Disinformation Campaigns

March 25th, 2022 11:38

The Bul­letin of the Atom­ic Sci­en­tists (BAS), a US-based non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion, has pub­lished an exten­sive report exam­in­ing Russia’s non-pro­lif­er­a­tion dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns. Accord­ing to the report:

March 22, 2022 As approx­i­mate­ly 100 diplo­mats walked out of the Unit­ed Nations Human Rights Coun­cil in protest on March 1, Russ­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov attempt­ed to jus­ti­fy Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine by claim­ing that Ukraine’s so-called “fas­cist” gov­ern­ment sought nuclear weapons that could threat­en the very Russ­ian state itself. Russ­ian offi­cials, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and For­eign Intel­li­gence Ser­vice Direc­tor Sergei Naryshkin, have repeat­ed­ly accused Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment of seek­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion (WMD) with chem­i­cal, bio­log­i­cal, radi­o­log­i­cal, or nuclear capa­bil­i­ties. These nar­ra­tives have been spread on Krem­lin-friend­ly media chan­nels and online to ratio­nal­ize the country’s inva­sion.  Even though spe­cif­ic claims about Ukraine seek­ing WMD are bla­tant false­hoods laced with incon­sis­ten­cies, they should not be dis­missed as incon­se­quen­tial; they mud­dy the waters, mak­ing the truth more dif­fi­cult to dis­cern. Con­se­quent­ly, such false claims are whol­ly con­sis­tent with the aims of Russia’s broad­er dis­in­for­ma­tion strat­e­gy: to under­mine glob­al non­pro­lif­er­a­tion norms and insti­tu­tions. Fur­ther­more, US and allied intel­li­gence sug­gests that Rus­sia could take dras­tic action to fol­low up on its decep­tive claims about Ukraine’s inten­tions, per­haps even prepar­ing to use chem­i­cal weapons in a “false flag” attack after which Rus­sia would try to pin the blame on Kyiv.

Read the rest here.

The BAS report explains that Russia’s non­pro­lif­er­a­tion-relat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion has included:

  • Pub­licly ques­tion­ing the Unit­ed Nations’ deter­mi­na­tions that the Syr­i­an regime used chem­i­cal weapons against its own people
  • Imply­ing that COVID-19 is a US-devel­oped bioweapon
  • Evad­ing account­abil­i­ty for Russia’s use of Novi­chok-class nerve agents against Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter in Sal­is­bury, UK

The BAS  report also points out that Russia’s goal is not to per­suade audi­ences to believe a spe­cif­ic Krem­lin-approved ver­sion of events but to chal­lenge observers’ abil­i­ty to trust any nar­ra­tive regard­less of the sup­port­ing evidence—or lack thereof.

Rus­sia, and the Sovi­et Union before it, have a long his­to­ry of non-pro­lif­er­a­tion dis­in­for­ma­tion. Accord­ing to a recent study by a US aca­d­e­m­ic, the out­break of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic in Chi­na in Jan­u­ary 2020 prompt­ed a great­ly expand­ed Russ­ian-gov­ern­ment bioweapons-relat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion effort. Accord­ing to the paper’s extract:

Octo­ber 21, 2021 From 1949 until 1988, the Sovi­et Union con­duct­ed a near­ly con­tin­u­ous cam­paign of false alle­ga­tions of bio­log­i­cal-weapon (BW) use by the Unit­ed States. In 1995, senior Russ­ian mil­i­tary offi­cials revived this pat­tern of false alle­ga­tions, which con­tin­ues to the present day. Russ­ian offi­cials ampli­fied the cam­paign after the US gov­ern­ment fund­ed the trans­for­ma­tion of for­mer Sovi­et BW facil­i­ties in the Com­mon­wealth of Inde­pen­dent States under the Nunn–Lugar pro­gram. The out­break of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic in Chi­na in Jan­u­ary 2020 prompt­ed a very great­ly expand­ed Russ­ian-gov­ern­ment BW-relat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion effort. This paper aims to present a rea­son­ably com­pre­hen­sive account of these activ­i­ties and to assess their sig­nif­i­cance. The Russ­ian gov­ern­ment under Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has demon­strat­ed open dis­dain for both the Bio­log­i­cal and Tox­in Weapons Con­ven­tion and the Chem­i­cal Weapons Convention.

Read the full paper here.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report has exten­sive­ly cov­ered Russia’s bioweapons-relat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion and con­tin­ues to mon­i­tor devel­op­ments as the Ukraine war unfolds.