Skip to main content
Assessing the Russian Disinformation Campaign During COVID-19
A Russian Army officer controls a manhole over a truck at Istituto Palazzolo nursing home on April 09, 2020 in Torre Boldone, Italy
Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

Assessing the Russian Disinformation Campaign During COVID-19

Richard Weitz

Both the US State Department’s Global Engagement Center and the EU’s External Action Service have identified a myriad of stories in pro-Kremlin media and social accounts that have sought to discredit the policies and performance of the Western democracies while painting Russian actions in a most positive light.1 According to the State Department, during the pandemic, “the full Russian ecosystem of official state media, proxy news sites, and social media personas have been pushing multiple disinformation narratives”.2 These narratives have aimed to validate the Kremlin’s standard talking points about the alleged fragility of the US-led liberal rules-based international order, the benefits of national autonomy, and the ineffectiveness of democratic regimes and institutions.3

However, Russia’s disinformation campaign during the pandemic has diverged in important respects from that of earlier Kremlin-backed influence operations. Major novelties have included sizeable foreign medical assistance operations; more targeted manipulation of existing social media debates; greater coordination with China’s foreign-influence operation; and an overtly focused effort to secure relief of sanctions on Moscow and its partners. The current information warfare domain is “offence-dominant”—it is easier to create malign content and apps than it is for governments and social media platforms to identify and counter these threats. Nonetheless, the campaign has failed to obscure Russia’s own COVID-related setbacks, induce even Russian aid recipients to relax their economic restrictions, or gain visible high-level official support in Moscow.

Read the full report in International Centre for Defence and Security

Related Articles

Counterbalance Ep. 11: Biden's Realignment in the Middle East

Michael Doran & Marshall Kosloff

This week Marshall interviewed Mike and his co-author Tony Badran about their new "article in Tablet titled The Realignment()":https://www.hudson.org/...

Continue Reading

The Inescapable Nation

James Barnett

In the early 1970s, the Provisional Irish Republican Army was on the backfoot in its campaign against the British authorities and Northern Ireland’s...

Continue Reading

Global Security with Rebecca Heinrichs

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs

In a podcast interview with Jon Gabriel on King of Stuff, Rebeccah Heinrichs discusses global security threats. ...

Listen Now