By Vitaly Sovin, independent analyst and expert in sanctions policy
Vitaly Sovin: The US propaganda machine is playing dirtier than ever in its information war against Russia
After the publication of a recent story in the New York Times based on allegedly ‘declassified materials’ from US intelligence agencies about Russia’s ‘purchase’ of millions of artillery shells and missiles from North Korea for use in Ukraine, something went awry.
Against the backdrop of statements from representatives of the State Department and the Department of Defense, who did not provide any factual information, John Kirby, the US National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, walked it back. He conceded that there were no indications that the arms purchase had actually occurred yet, or that any North Korean munitions had made it onto the battlefield in Ukraine.
The narrative, however, serves a number of purposes:
- Highlighting the “serious logistical problems” for Russia and its local allies in the context of the military operation in Ukraine;
- Demonstrating the effectiveness of US and EU export control measures, which China also apparently complies with;
- Insinuations about Russia’s ‘forced’ recourse to ‘rogue states’ such as North Korea and Iran for military assistance. Pyongyang is under a strict arms embargo by the UN Security Council, and any supply of arms and materiel from the country would be considered a violation of international sanction;
- Settling scores with Pyongyang for its recognition of the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, and the potential deployment of North Korean workers to the liberated territories to rebuild civilian infrastructure.
The current situation is reminiscent of events that occurred two years ago, when the New York Times, in June 2020, was the source of a fake story alleging that Russian military intelligence had offered Taliban-linked fighters ‘bounties’ for killing US troops in Afghanistan.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez then proposed a sanctions package called the Russian Bounty Response Act of 2020, which included asset freezes and visa restrictions on Moscow’s top leadership. Menendez’s proposal was supported by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat), who said that sanctions on Russia for ‘collusion’ with the Taliban should be imposed immediately.
Then-President Donald Trump called the New York Times’ story “fake.” Trump later confirmed that US intelligence agencies had found it to be untrue. Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said there was no evidence of ‘Russian collusion’ with Taliban officials. The Taliban also denied the claims.
In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, the ‘Russia’ factor was used in Democratic Party circles to point the finger at Trump for his failures on Afghanistan. The very next year, under President Joe Biden, the US infamously withdrew its military, leaving over $7 billion worth of weapons behind, according to the Pentagon.
With the midterm election scheduled for November and the Ukrainian army suffering significant losses, the US continues to play dirty in its use of information warfare.
It is clear that if Biden’s Democrats win, the anti-Russia campaign in its various manifestations will only intensify.