Information Warfare – March 14, 2022
The US information war slowed down a couple of weeks ago, and Russia hastened to fill the space with claims about Ukrainian laboratories developing chemical and biological weapons. This dovetailed with some of the many claims made by the Q cult and also those pushing the idea that SARS-CoV-2 virus escaped from a laboratory. All that was needed was to transferthe claim from China to Ukraine.
It was a good choice for Russia and almost took off. Glenn Greenwald and Tulsi Gabbard are still pushing it. But it’s been refuted a number of times, including in the United Nations Security Council, and seems to be dying down.
US government sources are speculating that Russia was pumping the biolabs story in preparation for a chemical weapons attack of their own that they would attribute to the Ukrainians, which may well be true. But chemical weapons are marginally useful in war; biological weapons have never been developed to that point. Speaking of them, however, can damage civilian morale.
Although Russia seems to have an illegal program on chemical weapons, I doubt that they have military-style weapons to use in this conflict. Rather, a tweet a week or so mentioned 80 tons of ammonia – a railroad tank car full. Ammonia is used for agriculture. The more likely sort of chemical attack would be to explode a tank car of ammonia near a residential area. There might also be an attempt to use novichoks on Zelensky and his inner circle.
The US has come back strong this week with the claim that Russia, three weeks into the war, is asking China for military help. Russia has pushed back saying that they have not asked China. This back and forth is now in progress.
Today’s Defense Department briefing piled on more claims. Dan Lamothe daily provides a thread summarizing the daily briefing. Today: Attack on Ukrainian airbase was by cruise missiles from Russian ships, Russian ground advances are stalled, no indication of Russians sending in reinforcements from elsewhere in Russia, 100 percent of assembled forces in Ukraine, no Belarusian forces.
The information war is aided on both sides by activists – Q, Greenwald, Gabbard on Russia’s side, and others on the US side.
The claim that Russia is seeking aid from China is also intended to shape China’s behavior. China has been cautious in its reactions to Putin’s war on Ukraine. Jake Sullivan is to meet with Chinese representatives this week.
Emptywheel today looks at the information war and speculates that recent FSB arrests resulted from Putin’s trying to find leaks that have led to US advance knowledge of possible Russian moves. Part of the objective of the information war is to undermine Putin’s confidence in his organization. Earlier I speculated that whether the US information was accurate didn’t matter. That would have been the case for a short, pre-war campaign, but for this lasting campaign, the information must be real. We may not see predicted actions pan out if they are dumped. But Russian actions so far suggest that the information the US is sharing is accurate. The US has very good sources.
Update: The State Department is also coming on strong about the Russia-China connection. Spokesperson Ned Price’s briefing is in progress as I write. Laura Rozen has a thread going.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner