The current political elites in the United States and the European Union are attempting to distract the public from their helplessness and failed attempts to stem the spread of the Coronavirus (as, unfortunately, the number of deaths due to COVID-19 is at present higher in the USA and the EU than in Asia!) by blaming Vladimir Putin’s trolls for their own incompetence and by spreading anti-Russia propaganda via media outlets under their control.
In the middle of March, the European Commission published a report prepared by the East StratCom Task Force, a part of the administration of the European External Action Service (EEAS), saying that Russian media had deployed a “significant disinformation campaign against the West to worsen the impact of the Coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust”.
So what does Russia’s “disinformation campaign” really entail? The fact is that the EU failed to act and help Italy in its battle against the Coronavirus. Russia, on the other hand, did come to the aid of this member state of the EU, which had been created under the banner of “collaboration and close cooperation” but chose not to join efforts to fight the pandemic. It is noteworthy that the Italian government also asked the US armed forces for help, after all, there are American military bases in Italy. But neither Brussels nor Washington came to its aid, and instead Moscow chose to lend a helping hand.
However, disseminators of anti-Russia propaganda within the EU continued with their Russophobic campaign and began publishing reports about Russia’s “ulterior motives” in media outlets subservient to them.
Out of all the news sources in Italy, newspaper La Stampa was the most zealous in its efforts. It compared the Russian convoy with aid to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and said, on behalf of all Russophobes, that “80% of the equipment” provided was of little or no use. In fact, the Russian Federation, at the request of the Italian government, had sent 15 transport aircraft with medicine, medical equipment and doctors to Italy. This aid helped Lombardy stem the uncontrollable spread of the Coronavirus in the region.
It is thus not surprising that, on 26 March, President of the Lombardy Regional government Attilio Fontana said there was “always someone, jackals” who speculated on these topics. Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte said that the mere insinuation that Moscow had tried to capitalize on the initiative for its public relations was offensive. Maurizio Marrone, the head of the Brothers of Italy parliamentary faction and member of the council, told TASS that the Regional Council of Piedmont (a region in Northern Italy) had sent an official request for help in their battle against the Coronavirus to Russia.
No one is denying the importance of freedom of speech or the press, but the right of media outlets to publish reports of their own choosing cannot be used as an excuse to criticize humanitarian aid provided to those suffering or countries responsible for such efforts. Such behavior is predatory, especially so when such libel is published at the behest of Russophobes from “across the pond” who pay for such reports. In addition, individuals with anti-Russia views who have already “proven their worth” are being used in the current information war. That admissions made to Ukrainian internet publication Obozrevatel lend further evidence to the fact that Ukrainian Russophobes in Italy, among others, are behind La Stampa’s disinformation campaign.
The Russian Federation is not the only nation to fall victim to this information war. “While patients, politicians and health experts all over the world appreciate” the commitment shown by 52 Cuban doctors and nurses in Italy during the fight against the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic, some German media outlets have begun their hate campaign against the volunteers from the socialist island republic. German newspaper Junge Welt has written about this and has pointed out that the Stuttgarter Zeitung and the Mannheimer Morgen had been particularly helpful in the ongoing information war. The article also reproachfully reminded us that only a few weeks ago, “passengers on the Norwegian-British cruise ship MS Braemar,” which had been allowed to dock in Cuba, expressed their gratitude on social networking websites to the Cuban government that came to their aid after a number of nations had denied entry to the vessel. Having endured quite an ordeal on the ship for a number of days, the passengers disembarked in the Cuban port of Mariel where they then received necessary medical help.
Of course, American experts on the “Russian threat” also did not miss out on their chance to become involved in the information war being waged. They responded to the medical cargo sent by the Russian Federation to the United States in a predictable manner. Although US President Donald Trump called the aid to be provided by Russia to the USA in its fight against the Coronavirus “very nice”, a number of American media outlets saw something sinister in Moscow’s actions. The Washington Post reported some experts on Russia were surprised by the fact that a country, which the United States had imposed sanctions against for interfering in 2016 US Presidential elections and for annexing Crimea in 2014, decided to send its Antonov An-124 (a large civil cargo aircraft) with medical aid to a nation that had referred to the Russian Federation under its current leadership as a “strategic opponent” from a national security perspective. Andrew S. Weiss, an expert who oversees research on Russia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, commented on the help from Moscow in his Twitter feed by saying: “This is nuts!”. Nina Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Kennan Institute who studies Russian disinformation, tweeted that Russia’s actions were “mind boggling”.
Once the news that Moscow would be sending medical equipment to the United States broke, an active discussion among readers on Fox News’s website began. And a few individuals expressed their gratitude for the help to be provided by the Russian Federation.
Ilta-Sanomat, Finland’s evening newspaper, reported that the world had turned upside down since Russia was to help the suffering United States as the Coronavirus pandemic raged on. The article also added that it was only after foreign powers had begun to provide aid that the European Union realized that its member states also needed to help each other.
In light of the disinformation campaign that was sparked in response to humanitarian and selfless steps taken by Russia to help in the battle against the Coronavirus pandemic, the author would like to say that freedom of speech and the press, one of the greatest achievements of modern civilization, really ought to encourage individuals to report truthfully and responsibly.
Vladimir Odintsov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.