According to a Global Influence Operations Report investigation, Russia has launched a disinformation campaign spreading “the Great Reset” conspiracy theory in the West. In recent months, Russian state media and propaganda outlets, some of them linked to Russian intelligence services, have increasingly disseminated the “Great Reset” conspiracy theory, a small but growing online conspiracy pushed by right-wing US media figures that claim a global elite is using the coronavirus pandemic to dismantle capitalism and enslave humanity. A report earlier this year by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a UK think tank, describes the “Great Reset” conspiracy theory as follows:
February 2021 The Great Reset is the name of an initiative launched by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in June 2020 that called for “fairer outcomes” and a rethinking of global investment and government expenditure in order to revive the world’s economy in light of the catastrophic economic effects of the pandemic. Conspiracy theorists believe this initiative is in fact a plot to destroy capitalism and enact a one world government under the cover of COVID-19. The key elements of the “Great Reset” conspiracy, as analysed in the Guardian, are that the “global elite is using COVID-19 as an opportunity to roll out radical policies such as forced vaccination, digital ID cards and the renunciation of private property.” What was first a marginal conspiracy theory confined to the fringes of the web has, since November 2020, become a disinformation ecosystem in itself. This is in part thanks to amplification from right-wing US media figures including Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson, who have appropriated elements of the “Great Reset” theory as proof of a supposed plot to erode freedoms and capitalism. The Anti-Defamation League has also tracked the conspiracy’s antisemitic tropes that claim the WEF is “controlled” by Jews who are using the “Great Reset” to set up a “One World Government.”
Russia’s promotion and amplification of right-wing extremism and conspiracy theories in the West as a means to undermine liberal democracy is well documented. Russia seems to have taken up yet another fringe conspiracy theory that it seeks to disseminate in the West through its disinformation ecosystem, again echoing right-wing talking points. Since the Great Reset initiative was launched by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in June 2020, Russian online propaganda channels and proxy sources have produced hundreds of articles denouncing the initiative as a dystopian conspiracy by sinister globalist forces. While official Russian state-backed media have adopted a less aggressive and seemingly more nuanced way to disseminate the Great Reset conspiracy theory, Russian English-language propaganda outlets linked to Russia’s intelligence services and Russia-aligned proxy sources have launched a more blatant disinformation campaign, using the conspiracy theory to further Russia’s political objectives of undermining liberal democracies, denouncing Western elites, and supporting political allies such as Donald Trump.
From Highlighting Fringe Accounts to Labeling it the “source of all suffering”: How Official Russian State Media Amplifies the Great Reset Conspiracy Theory
The headline of a Sputnik article from January thus reads “Fact or Fiction: The Great Reset Conspiracy” and the author pretends to weigh the arguments for and against the conspiracy theory in a nuanced way and even acknowledges that nothing that substantiates the conspiracy theory could be found in the book of the same name. At the same time, the author concludes that “to create a dystopian world like the one embodied in the Great Reset Conspiracy Theory, no conspiracy is needed” because the erosion of freedom in the West has already started. Another Sputnik article from November titled “Netizens Delve Into ‘The Great Reset’ Conspiracy Theories After Unearthing Trudeau’s Old Video” highlighted tweets from several fringe Twitter accounts spreading the Great Reset conspiracy theory, without presenting any additional comments or context and thus amplifying the conspiracy theory without directly supporting it.
On RT (formerly Russia Today), articles about the Great Reset are more opinionated: “Humans of the GREAT RESET: What the future MIGHT look like in 2021 – if the controlling elites have their way” features pictures of Bill Gates, Prince Charles, and WEF founder Klaus Schwab and suggests the architects of the Great Reset plan to get access to your vaccination record and your personal ID and want to make the average person “own nothing”. The article also claims the global climate protests are basically the WEF’s “own activist movement” funded by the WEF and that “it’s easy to imagine world leaders and corporations taking advantage of the chaos to impose more controls over the populace”, concluding that if you discuss any of this you’re wrongly labeled a conspiracy theorist. Another RT article is even more blatant, claiming “the Great Reset is not a conspiracy theory; it’s a conspiracy fact” and blaming it for “woke madness, cancel culture, Covid lockdowns, Antifa/BLM riots, Big Tech censorship, and the endless propaganda coming out of mainstream media.” The article concludes that the Great Reset is “the source of all your suffering.”
A Diabolical Masterplan Supported by the New US Administration that Could Have Been Prevented by Donald Trump: How Russian Intelligence-Linked Propaganda Outlets Use The Great Reset to Further Russia’s Political Objectives
News Front, identified by the US as a multi-language propaganda outlet directed by Russia’s federal security service, published several articles claiming “the Great Reset” is a global agenda that will lead to a centralized technocratic rule with lower living standards and fewer civil rights and that people will be implemented chips that can read their mind. According to one article, “it is not a ‘conspiracy theory’ if they openly tell you what they want to do.” Another News Front article from February claimed that the new US administration fully supports the plans for the “great reset” that could have been prevented by Donald Trump while it was clear that Vladimir Putin would say firm ‘no’ to these plans.
The same line of arguments is also brought up by the Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF), a foreign policy online journal purporting to “focus on hidden aspects of international politics” but in fact registered in Russia and closely affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to a US government report. An apocalyptical SCF article from November claims humanity is “on the precipice of a new dark age” because the Great Reset is “based upon misanthropy, slavery, and human eradication”. It suggests today’s oligarchs are planning to establish a new coercive model of control, “even to the extent of manufacturing pandemics, forced lockdowns, and a ‘cyber-pandemic’ of intentional, rolling black-outs.” Another SCF article by the same author titled “Whose Great Reset? The Fight for Our Future – Technocracy vs. the Republic” argues that “the coronavirus pandemic is being used, on the political end, as a massive coup against pluralist society.”
Finally, Oriental Review, a blog-like self-described e‑journal focusing on current political issues in Eurasia and said by the US. to be controlled by the Russian foreign intelligence service, launched its disinformation campaign against the WEF’s initiative shortly before the US elections, linking the Great Reset to Democrat politicians. “Globalist Slaves Or Free Patriots” argued that while Trump would certainly “lead the patriots toward nationalism and freedom”, Biden “would confine us all in the shady swamps of the Great Reset Big Brother dystopian future” which, it claims, is planned by central banks and a global elite in order to “turn humanity into an obedient enslaved work force”. A few months later, another Oriental Review article took a different approach, arguing that Putin’s speech at Davos was in fact intended to position Russia as one of the global leaders in the unfolding “Great Reset”. Russia’s support for this previously as diabolical masterplan described initiative, however, is suddenly a good thing, the article continues, because:
The primary difference between Putin and many of his peers who also believe in the inevitability of these processes is that he doesn’t blindly endorse them for principle’s sake but is very passionate about ensuring that they result in a better form of globalization that benefits everyone equally.
Recent Global Influence Operations Reports (GIOR) coverage of Russian disinformation efforts include:
- In April, we reported that the US designated 32 Russian entities and individuals for disinformation efforts, including News Front and the Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF).
- In April, we published an exclusive GIOR investigation uncovering that Russia’s Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF) managed to attract former Western diplomats and journalists despite its deep involvement in Russian disinformation efforts, the dissemination of far-right conspiracy theories, its ban from social media platforms, and the US Treasury designation.
- In April, we reported that Russia’s build-up of military forces along the Ukrainian border was accompanied by intensified disinformation efforts.