The following are excerpts from our sister website’s interview with James P. Rubin, Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, a US State Department body dealing with disinformation and propaganda by hostile actors.
On China, Russia and Ukraine. “What’s important today is not allowing the meetings in Moscow to mislead the world. China wants to be a proposer of a peace plan that will contribute to the end of the war. They are in a position to do that by persuading President Putin to stop the war that President Putin started. And it’s not that complicated.”
- China’s peace plan “makes clear that they believe in sovereignty and territorial integrity. If so, they should persuade President Putin to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. That is what was broken by this further invasion of Ukraine last year.”
- “What’s troubling about the way the world (and some news organisations) look at the Chinese peace plan is that they don’t appreciate the extent to which China has an opportunity to play a constructive role by persuading President Putin to stop the war he started.”
On Chinese and Russian propaganda. On the subject of the war in Ukraine, “there is a near-total alignment” between the two countries “as to the propaganda and disinformation that is propagated about the war,” with Russia lying about issues like biolabs and Ukraine and China, “unfortunately, [choosing] to repeat these lies.”
- “They have repeated lies about the cause of the war and suggesting that somehow has to do with NATO. NATO is a defensive alliance. It’s always been a defensive alliance. And NATO is supporting Ukraine because Ukraine is the victim of aggression, clear naked aggression by Russia.”
On its effects. “There is a pernicious echo chamber between Russia and China about this war. And unfortunately, that has poisoned the well around the world and confused said citizens and readers of newspapers around the world about why this war happened, what it’s about.”
- For Ukraine and the States supporting it, that has made gathering international support harder, he noted. “This Russian-Chinese echo chamber, where lies are told, repeated and repeated back as if there is some factual basis for them […] has poisoned the wells in the global South. Countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific.
On Chinese propaganda in the global South. The Chinese government “will often offer an African newspaper their wire service for free” but prohibit it from using another one. “That has a very pernicious effect because African readers are reading African journalists writing for an African newspaper, but the view of the world they’re getting is all good news from China and all bad news about America. And the African reader may not know that. We don’t understand that the editors and the owners have been manipulated.”
- Russia and China spend “billions and billions of dollars to manipulate information” in African, Asian and Latin American countries, where the viewers or the readers “are misled by the system that has been put in place by an authoritarian government. And all I can say about that is that we have just begun to fight; we are going to figure out solutions to these problems.”
On the state of democracies and autocracies. “It’s clear that the authoritarian systems – Russia, China, Iran to an extent – are weaker; they have suffered from their being on the wrong side of this historic blunder by Vladimir Putin. The democracies have shown their strength, Europe has become stronger, and NATO has become stronger. Finland and Sweden want to join NATO.”
- “The world has condemned this invasion – 140 countries – and the reputation of the Russian people has been stained by Putin’s decision to go to war. And now, by joining Russia in Moscow, the Chinese leadership has chosen to associate itself with an individual recently indicted by the International Criminal Court.”
- “What that means for Taiwan, I will leave to others to say. But certainly, the idea that the use of military power to evade [the rules-based order] has been shown to be a tragic mistake.”
On Italy. “We obviously heard and read many things about what would happen when your government changed. And frankly, that hasn’t happened. On the contrary, the Italian government has worked extremely well with the United States and its fellow governments in Europe and has stood up to Vladimir Putin’s aggression.”
- Mr Rubin labelled Rome as “a strong ally, who’s done the right thing by weaning itself off Russian gas” and developing its energy security. This “is another example of how Putin has misjudged the democracies, thinking that we are weak. Instead, we have shown how strong we are.”