Russian propaganda efforts against weapons supply to Ukraine leverage reports in the West

The diplomatic and media battle has heated up after Russia’s war with Ukraine and the E.U.’s debate about delivering heavy weaponry to the Ukrainian Army. Following failed attempts to seize Bakhmut, which led to massive personnel losses, Russia desperately attempts to persuade the West that providing Ukraine with more weapons is inappropriate. They claim that it will only lead to further escalation.

With the tenth package of E.U. sanctions hitting Moscow’s economy and the decision of the United States, France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Poland, and several other NATO countries to provide tanks to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the balance of power on the front may shift significantly in Ukraine’s favor. There is also a discussion of arming Ukraine’s artillery with long-range missiles.

Ukraine’s Armed Forces can be strengthened to launch a counteroffensive in Donbas after the Russian invaders’ offensive became stuck around Bakhmut and their resources were greatly diminished. A Ukrainian counterattack could result in a setback for Putin’s forces in Donbas, as it did in Kharkiv and Kherson, which the Ukrainian Army recaptured at the end of last year.

Under these conditions, Moscow has resorted to its old weapons of propaganda and disinformation. But, it is struggling these days because, after witnessing the documented war crimes of the Russian Army, few people believe Moscow’s rhetoric any longer. It is mainly the electorate of the far right and far left, as well as conspiracy theorists and those fearful of the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail.

So, Russia has resorted to its last resort in the new wave of propaganda: intimidation and nuclear blackmail. Pro-Russian politicians and media, as well as outlets that promote Moscow’s narratives, scare readers and viewers with the threat of nuclear war. They claim that supplying Ukraine with heavy weaponry could spark a global war. But, it is more likely that this will result in Russia’s loss on the Ukrainian front.

In an attempt to delay the Ukrainian counteroffensive and influence the mood of the population in Europe, the Russian media began to broadcast information about the threat of a third-world war due to the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine by Western countries massively. Small media outlets with RT-like material and individual politicians have become the mouthpieces of these messages since Russian official propaganda channels R.T. and Sputnik were banned in Europe a year ago.

But, to sign off on this story, the Russian media began to take well-known observers’ and experts’ statements out of context, twist them, and add them to a context that was favorable to them. These tendencies were evident in Germany and France.

In France, Le Pen supported the narratives of a world war threat

The leader of the far-right opposition in France, Marine Le Pen, supported far-right politician Florian Philippot, her former ally in the party, that NATO’s strategy toward direct military assistance to Ukraine could result in World War III.

During a debate on the situation in Ukraine in the National Assembly, the leader of the National Rally party said, “The gradual supplies of offensive weapons can turn this conflict into a hundred-year war,” emphasizing that “NATO’s total involvement in the conflict for the sake of a hypothetical victory for Ukraine will lead to a third world war.”

The right-wing National Rally party leader in the French parliament said, “Paris should not supply Kyiv with heavy weapons, as such supplies could aggravate the Ukrainian conflict.” She has also repeatedly stated that Ukraine should not join NATO, emphasizing that this could provoke the outbreak of World War III. 

Le Pen consolidated this argument by stating that the war in Ukraine has already resulted in broken European ties with Russia, without mentioning that the guilt is on Moscow as it launched unprovoked war aggression against Ukraine.

State media spread Le Pen’s declarations in Russia to represent “the opinion of the opposition in France” and support the narrative that the West shouldn’t supply more weapons to Ukraine.

Marine Le Pen has openly demonstrated her pro-Russian position and has repeatedly spread Russian narratives in France. Before the full-scale war, she openly condoned the annexation of Crimea by Russia, showing her admiration for Putin. No wonder she got a million loan from a Russian bank for her campaign in 2016, which caused a scandal in France. So, Le Pen’s position regarding Russia was always biased. However, now she’s very cautious in her declarations on the Russia-Ukraine war, condemning Russia’s aggression, international law violations, and Ukraine’s sovereignty.

German observer’s words taken out of the context

A German news outlet Die Welt published an article by Christoph B. Schiltz titled “Why it is almost impossible for Ukraine to win”. The paper’s central thesis plays into the Kremlin’s hands, as it boils down to the fact that “the international community is doing a lot to support Ukraine, but it is still too little to win.”

Social networks and Russian websites twisted the information. They spread reports that Die Welt concluded that “Ukraine can’t win this war”, quoting the columnist Christoph Schiltz. 

RIA Novosti and other Russian propaganda media quoted him as saying that “insufficient support from the West” makes it impossible for Kyiv to achieve “success in the form of the announced return of all occupied territories, including Crimea”.

In his article, Christoph Schiltz wrote that Western countries had sent Ukraine modern weapons. Still, the Ukrainian Armed Forces needed more of them to resist Russian troops and achieve victory. The analyst backs the idea of a greeted support to Ukraine.

And this is at a time when Christoph B. Schilz is calling on the international community to increase military aid to Ukraine. In other words, his position is opposite to the wishes of the Putin regime. But Russian media reported, once again, their wishful thinking.

Russian propaganda media twist and take out of context Western politicians’ and observers’ declarations

Using fragments of the original article, Russian propaganda outlets spread several disinformation materials. In a distorted presentation of the material, Russian propaganda convinces its readers that “Ukraine will not be able to win the Russian-Ukrainian war.”

Thus, the Die Welt article became an effective tool for Kremlin propaganda at a very opportune time. 

In the same way, Russian media take out-of-context materials and twist statements from other media. For example, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a famous German newspaper for its coverage of the war in Ukraine, periodically publishes speeches by pro-Russian figures. 

In turn, Russian propaganda uses such publications to pursue its goal of presenting support for its position in the West by taking certain parts of articles or quotes out of context. The Kremlin media do not use statements and materials which condemn Putin’s war and Russia’s war aggression against Ukraine.

Another example of Russian media’s selective approach to the statements on the Russia-Ukraine war is the instrumentalization of Javier Nart’s declaration for war propaganda purposes. 

Javier Nart, a member of the European Parliament from Spain, said during a regular meeting of the European Parliament when discussing the issue of arms supplies to Ukraine, “it is ridiculous to assume that Ukraine can win a war against Russia.” So, to avoid playing in Russian war propaganda hands, European politicians now must be prudent in their public statements. 

Robert Gates’ statements on Ukraine taken out of context

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in a recent interview with The Washington Post that “the loss of Crimea, which contains an important naval base in Sevastopol, to Ukraine would cross a ‘real red line’ for Russia and likely threaten to escalate the war.” 

Reclaiming Crimea would be “a tough fight” because Russian president Putin attaches much importance to it, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during an online forum hosted by The Washington Post. Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, and tried to justify the violation of the international law by “protecting Russian speakers”.

This statement was picked by Russian propaganda and amplified. However, Mr Gates also said that the waves of drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure have not broken the Ukrainians’ will to continue to fight, despite attacks that aim to terrorize civilians. 

Gates was wary about providing Ukrainian armed forces with longer-range weapons that could strike targets across the Russian border. He stressed the need for an agreement between Kyiv and Washington on targets, such as logistical depots, rail hubs, and locations. It’s an option “worth considering, but with very real limits imposed” before receiving approval, he said.

Gates said the latest Russian commander in Ukraine, Valery Gerasimov, faces an uphill struggle. He noted that the Russian Army’s “lack of battle experience” still relies on a Soviet model of slow decision-making further handicapped by a top-heavy leadership.

The war has left Russia “significantly weakened for a long time,” he said. Gates cited the departure of hundreds of thousands of Russian men, many with technology skills when Russia announced the first draft in the summer. 

Disinformation resources of Russian propaganda took only some of Robert Gates’ statements out of context to support their narratives and disseminate them in the information space of the E.U. and the United States. Obviously, the Kremlin media did not use statements unfavorable to Moscow.

Ukraine’s position and U.N. General Assembly resolution

The Ukrainian government, for its part, has consistently stated that after the crimes in Bucha and other cities, it does not see how it can talk with the Russian leadership. Kyiv demands that Russian forces must withdraw from the territory of Ukraine. 

Ukraine has received overwhelming international support, as the U.N. General Assembly voted for the resolution, which demands an unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops.

Furthermore, there is widespread distrust in Russia. Even if agreements are achieved, there is no guarantee that Putin will respect them. Consequently, the situation is close to a deadlock, but soon Ukraine will get Western tanks, and the Russians will have a hard time at the front.

The Western allies approved sending tanks to Ukraine and providing more weapons support. For now, the U.S. and Germany have ruled out giving fighter jets to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Army becomes more robust with more weapons, while Russian forces are exhausted after months of attacks. Some observers and politicians say that an escalation of the war is expected; others say that more weapons to Ukraine will mean Russian defeat in Donbas.

In the current context, implementing the U.N. General Assembly resolution would be the best way out of the conflict. Still, likely, Moscow will only abide by it.

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