Sat. May 18th, 2024

How Republican lawmakers echo Russian propaganda

By 37ci3 Apr14,2024

The two top Republican lawmakers who chair the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees say their colleagues are repeating Russian state propaganda against Ukraine.

Disinformation researchers say Reps. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, are simply acknowledging what has been clear for some time: Russian propaganda aimed at undermining U.S. and European support for Ukraine has steadily infiltrated the American political circle. In the last decade, the conversation has taken on a life of its own.

McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Puck News reports he believes that “Russian propaganda has unfortunately made its way into the United States and infected a good portion of the core of my party.”

Turner, chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN that anti-Ukraine messages from Russia are “resonating in the House.”

Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Mike Turner, R-Ohio, are leaving the House Republican Conference Nominating Forum.
Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Mike Turner, R-Ohio.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

According to US and Western officials, over the past decade since Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014, Moscow has spread propaganda and disinformation to reduce US and European military support for Ukraine.

Researchers say that some of the arguments, distortions and falsehoods spread by Russia have taken root, mainly among right-wing Trump supporters and Republican politicians, including claims by the Biden family that the Ukrainian government is too corrupt to benefit from Western aid. Corrupt relations with Ukraine.

Researchers say that Russia is trying to make its case and smear Ukraine by sticking to traditional propaganda techniques, using outright lies, half-truths, inferences, or simply amplifying and promoting arguments already made by American or European commentators and politicians.

Propaganda is sometimes spread secretly, through fake online accounts, or openly by Russian officials and state media. As a result, the origins of some claims or criticisms are often opaque, especially when a particular charge or perception gains widespread acceptance, leaving no clear fingerprints.

At the beginning of the war, false story Fueled by Russian propaganda — that the U.S. was helping Ukraine build biological weapons labs — it gained traction on right-wing social media and was echoed by then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Russia is conducting a parallel propaganda campaign in Europe. Belgium’s prime minister said Thursday that his government is investigating allegations of Russian bribery of members of the European Parliament as part of Moscow’s campaign to undermine support for Ukraine. Czech law enforcement last month alleged that Viktor Medvedchuk, a former pro-Russian member of the Ukrainian parliament, was behind a Prague-based Russian propaganda network to encourage opposition to aid to Ukraine.

Here are some examples of how Republican lawmakers often use arguments made by Russian propaganda:

Buying yachts

When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with members of Congress behind closed doors in December to ask for more U.S. aid to his country’s troops, some lawmakers raised questions about Ukraine’s purchase of yachts with American aid money.

According to Republican Senator Tom Tillis of North Carolina, who is a strong supporter of arming Ukraine, Zelensky made it clear that this was not the case. “I think the concept of corruption came about because some people said we can’t do it because people will buy yachts with the money,” Tillis told CNN. “[Zelenskyy] people devoid of these concepts.”

Where did the yacht rumor come from?

Pro-Russian actors and websites promoted the news that Zelensky bought two superyachts with US help. A propaganda site based in Russia, DC Weeklypublished a story last November that included photos of two luxury yachts named Lucky Me and My Legacy, It is claimed that it was bought for 75 million dollars.

R-Ga., who is a strong opponent of military aid to Ukraine. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene retweeted a post in November about the alleged purchase of a yacht from the Russia-based Strategic Culture Foundation, which is run by Russian intelligence. Treasury Department. The US applied sanctions accused the organization of spreading disinformation and interfering in the US elections.

Another outspoken critic of aid to Ukraine, Republican Senator JD Vance of Ohio, made a similar claim.

Former President Donald Trump’s White House adviser Steve Bannon in an interview with Vance in December he claimed He said members of Congress wanted to cut Social Security benefits to provide more aid to Ukraine, and that the money would be used to help Zelensky’s ministers “buy a bigger yacht.”

“There are people who cut off social security and make our grandparents poor. Why? So that one of Zelensky’s ministers can buy a bigger yacht?” Vance said. “Kiss my ass, Steve. This is not happening.”

Donald Trump looks like JD Vance talking.
Donald Trump with JD Vance.Washington Post via Sarah L. Voisin/Getty Images file

And the tale of Zelensky’s luxury yacht came out in full lie. Yachts referenced in the DC Weekly article remains on salethe owners told the Associated Press.

Two Clemson University academics, disinformation researchers Darren Linville and Patrick Warren, found DC Weekly published numerous stories copied from other sites that were rewritten by AI engines. The articles had headlines copied from other online sites as well as bylines with fake names. DC Weekly It turned out to be a Russian effort washing false information Through a legitimate news site that appears to be part of an attempt to undermine US support for Ukraine, according to researchers.

Asked by reporters about Vance’s comments, Tillis said: “I think it’s stupid. … If you are talking about giving money to the ministers of Ukraine, it is a general and not understood nonsense.”

Greene’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for Vance said the senator was making a rhetorical point about how the U.S. opposes sending aid to a country he sees as corrupt, but did not claim the yacht stories on the Internet were true.

Vance’s office cited an earlier BBC response to NBC News on the same topic:

“For years, everyone in the West understood that Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. When we started sending them billions of dollars in foreign aid, somehow everyone forgot about it.”

Activation of “corruption”.

For years, Russian state media has painted Ukraine as a highly corrupt country and argued that the United States and its allies are wasting money and military equipment aiding such a corrupt government.

“It’s absolutely one line that they’re pushing, and then another after it appears in the Western ecosystem [Russian] the media picks it up and recycles it,” said Bret Schafer, senior fellow at the Alliance for Democracy.

This line of argument has gained traction in part because Ukraine faces a real corruption problem.

According to Schafer and other researchers, Russia’s effort to draw attention to corruption in Ukraine reflects a long-established propaganda method of using facts or partial truths, sometimes making leaps of logic, to support a broader claim or accusation. Russia’s message is this: Ukraine is corrupt, so US and Western aid will be stolen and wasted.

Schafer said it is ironic for Russia, which is mired in corruption and kleptocracy, to make allegations of corruption.

Republican Rep. Mary Miller said she strongly opposes additional aid to Ukraine because it means sending cash to “corrupt oligarchs.”

“If Zelensky comes to DC this week to ask for more money, I will continue to vote against sending your tax dollars to corrupt oligarchs in Ukraine for a proxy war that could end in ’22,” Miller said. he wrote In a post on X in December.

The Illinois lawmaker also addressed another allegation that often appears in the Russian media: that the Biden administration allegedly undermined Russia’s efforts to avoid war with Ukraine.

“The peace agreement was on the table [Ukraine] and [Russia] both were willing to sign, but Biden said NO,” he wrote.

Before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there was no proposed peace agreement that Russia and Ukraine were willing to sign, U.S. and European officials said. As Russian troops gather on the Ukrainian border, Western governments he called Not to invade Russia and warned will be economic and diplomatic consequences.

Reuters reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected a possible agreement to prevent a war discussed by the representative of Russia in Ukraine with Kiev. The Kremlin said the report was inaccurate and false he said Russia tried to reach a place for years understanding with Ukraine.

As for corruption in Ukraine, Zelensky promised to solve this problem. dismissal in some recent cases high officials. But some civil society groups criticized him approach and Ukrainians say corruption is the country’s second most serious problem after the Russian occupation. request held last year.

Transparency International said in its annual survey that Ukraine has made progress in solving the problem and currently ranks 104th among 180 countries. Corruption Perception Indexrose 12 places from its previous rating.

Ukraine is not alone in the fight against corruption among the US and other countries that receive foreign aid. Supporters of aid to Ukraine argue that if Washington were to cut off foreign aid from every country where there are reports of corruption, it would undermine America’s influence around the world and its humanitarian efforts.

Miller’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Biden family and Ukraine

Republicans have repeatedly alleged that President Joe Biden and his son Hunter have corrupt ties to Ukraine and demanded $5 million in bribes from Ukrainian energy company Burisma to shield the firm from an investigation by Ukraine’s attorney general.

there is there is no reliable evidence according to the allegations. The main source of the accusations against the Bidens is former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov. was arrested in February on federal charges of fabricating bribery allegations. Smirnov says he was informed by Russian intelligence.

Republicans have heavily promoted Smirnov’s claims against the Bidens and considered them essential to a planned impeachment attempt against the president. since scratched.

“I think this is probably the clearest example of Russian propaganda getting into the American political system,” said Emerson Brooking, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab.

GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona cited false bribery allegations in his opposition to aid to Ukraine.

“In exchange for bribes from Ukraine, Joe Biden spent more than $100 billion in taxpayer money to fund the war in Ukraine. I will not help this corruption by sending more money to the authoritarian Ukrainian regime,” Gosar said he said in a statement in October.

The Goser office did not respond to a request for comment.

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