CIA Director Bill Burns testified Thursday that he believes Vladimir Putin is “losing the information war” in Ukraine, undermining the Russian president’s ability to garner support at home and abroad for his war of aggression.
why does it matter: Burns said Putin has spent two decades building a “propaganda bubble” and laundering disinformation through state media. That’s why the United States has adopted a new approach to proactively trying to debunk Russian accounts of Ukraine, limiting the impact of successful “pseudo-science” operations in the past.
News leadership: The Biden administration has warned in recent days that Russia may try to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, after Kremlin-controlled media began publishing stories about dangerous biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine allegedly funded by the United States.
- The US government has reject these allegations It was a complete fabrication and suggested that Russia might use it “as false pretenses in an attempt to justify its appalling actions in Ukraine”.
- Exploiting disinformation about chemical weapons has long been part of Putin’s “playbook,” Burns said, referring to Russia’s poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in 2017 and opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020.
- Russia has also sought to cover up the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria.
what are they saying: “I am convinced that our efforts in selective declassification, to pre-empt this kind of false narrative and create false narratives, has been very important,” Burns, a former veteran diplomat and US ambassador to Russia, told Senate Intelligence. A committee.
- He continued, “In all my years as a professional diplomat, I saw many cases in which we lost information wars with the Russians.”
- “In this case, I think we had a great deal of influence disrupting their tactics and calculus and proving to the whole world that this is deliberate and unjustified aggression based on a bunch of lies and false narratives. So this is a media war that I think Putin is losing.”
The Big Picture: Even as Putin “intensifies his dominance of the state-run media” and “stifles independent media,” Burns noted, Russia is struggling to gain complete control of the narrative at home.
- “There are a lot of Russians who have VPN accounts, who have access to YouTube to this day, who have access to information, and I don’t think he can isolate the Russians indefinitely from the truth,” Burns testified.
- The bombing of the maternity ward and children’s hospital in Mariupol on Wednesday is one particularly powerful example, as Russia sought to justify the brutality of the attack that has sparked outrage around the world.
Zoom: Some Russian officials They claimed that the hospital was occupied by neo-Nazi militia, and that no civilians were targeted.
- Others said the air strike was “carried out” by Ukraine.
- The Russian Embassy in London suggested on Twitter that the injured pregnant woman filmed at the bombing site was a crisis actor – prompting the platform to remove post for violating its rules on ‘denial of violent events’.
Bottom line: “The facts of the dead and wounded returning home in increasing numbers, the facts of the economic consequences for ordinary Russian citizens… the facts of the horrific scenes of bombing of hospitals and schools nearby in Ukraine — I don’t think he can “elevate the truth indefinitely,” said Burns.
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