when China and QAnon team up with Russian disinformation campaign

On Friday, Russia convened the UN Security Council to discuss the use by the United States of “secret” laboratories in Ukraine to produce biological weapons. The accusations are based on a conspiracy theory also promoted by China and the American QAnon conspiracy movement.

A bizarre conspiracy theory backed by Russia, as well as China and Trump’s QAnon conspiracy theorists, is taking center stage in the diplomatic arena.

This was stated by Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyansky, as the fighting in Ukraine continues for more than two weeks. convened the Security Councilon Friday, March 11, to raise the issue … about “US biological military activities in Ukraine.”

Real laboratories for fake bioweapons

In the hollow, a Russian diplomat accuses Washington of developing biological weapons at research centers in Ukraine. This is not the first time since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis that Moscow has brought up this far-fetched thesis for discussion. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in early March that he had evidence that “The Pentagon has developed pathogens in two military laboratories in Ukraine“.

Back in January 2022, the US Department of Defense deemed it necessary to post a video on YouTube to respond to a wave of rumors about alleged US military experiments in “secret” laboratories on the Russia-Ukraine border.

The United States acknowledges that it helped set up dozens of research labs in the countries of the former Soviet Union and continues to fund them. But ironically, all of these facilities were intended to help destroy the remnants of the USSR’s nuclear and chemical arsenals after the fall of the communist regime. These research centers are now being used to monitor the emergence of new epidemics.

First of all, there is nothing “secret” about installations and there are even very open lists of places where they are located, for example, in Ukraine. They are also 100% run by the governments of the countries in which these laboratories are located. The United States is only partly funding the equipment.

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Explanations, which, as is often the case with conspiracy theories, are not enough to turn off the disinformation faucet. In this case, it will even tend to fall more and more and gain followers far beyond the borders of Russia. As early as Feb. 4, China stressed the importance of being able to visit, in “full transparency,” scientific facilities in Ukraine, “where the United States conducts its research for military purposes.” Since then, major Chinese media such as the Global Times have seized the opportunity to offer a platform to Russian officials promoting this conspiracy theory.

China finds its score

Yevgeny Golovchenko, a specialist in Russian disinformation campaigns at the University of Copenhagen, is not surprised by China’s support for these rumors about laboratories in Ukraine. “We must not forget that there were already lively exchanges between Beijing and Washington about secret laboratories during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he reminds France 24.

Link to the controversy surrounding the origin of the Sars-Cov-2 virus: While some Western conspirators believe it was created in a lab in Wuhan, China has in turn blamed the US military for developing it.

For Beijing, this “new” conspiracy theory is relevant. This allows China to show support for its “friend” Vladimir Putin without resorting too openly to invading Ukraine, Evgeny Golovchenko said. At the same time, these rants go in the direction of Chinese propaganda about Sars-Cov-2. Beijing hopes to demonstrate that if Washington is capable of developing biological weapons while hiding under Russia’s nose, then why didn’t the Americans develop a dangerous virus in their other “secret laboratory”?

But this Russian disinformation has also found relays in the heart of the United States. QAnonists, those conspiracy theorists who believe that Donald Trump is going to save them from a Satanist plot to take over the United States, were among the first to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as Moscow’s attempt to destroy dangerous military labs.

People close to former US President Donald Trump, such as his former strategist Steve Bannon and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, have demanded an explanation from the White House about the activities of these Ukrainian laboratories.

Colorado beetles poisoned with chemical weapons

This new “axis of disinformation” is beginning to seriously disturb Joe Biden’s entourage. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, very formally warned Russia and China against “spreading these totally wrong ideas.”

Why is the Biden administration so concerned about yet another conspiracy theory when Moscow has dreamed up dozens since the invasion of Ukraine began? First, because Washington has a sense of history.

Moscow has never stopped accusing Washington of secretly developing biological weapons. It has been a red thread of Russian propaganda since the beginning of the Cold War in 1949, explains Milton Leutenberg, an American specialist in weapons of mass destruction, in a 2021 study on the history of this form of disinformation. This obsession began in 1950 when Moscow suggested that the United States was sending beetles carrying a new virus to poison potatoes in East Germany.

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And, above all, Russia has been very effective in its efforts to promote this vision of the United States, which will chain viruses into a chain … Their most important campaign in this direction, carried out from 1985 until the late 2000s, “was to to make believe that Washington was the source of the AIDS virus in order to target African Americans and black Americans, ”recalls Evgeny Golovchenko. This thesis has appeared in “articles in more than 2,000 newspapers in 25 countries since 1985,” notes Milton Leitenberg. In his study, he recalls that important figures in the African American community have publicly embraced this conspiracy theory, “such as Will Smith, Bill Cosby and [le réalisateur] Spike Lee.

This conspiracy theory also allows Moscow to make the United States the real enemy of this war. “In this thesis, Ukraine is presented as a mere territory in which Russia is fighting to put an end to dangerous American activities,” argues Evgeniy Golovchenko. For the Russian authorities, this would be a way to justify their war to the Russian population, which considers the Ukrainians a friendly people.

Finally, the Biden administration fears that the increasing recourse to this conspiracy theory is Vladimir Putin’s way of setting the stage for the use of chemical weapons by the Russian military. Moscow’s next step could be “using this thesis to conduct an operation under a false flag.” [causer des dégâts en se faisant passer pour l’ennemi] to justify the use of biological or chemical weapons in Ukraine,” the White House said.

Thus, the Russian army is preparing to fabricate an “incident” from scratch with the so-called American biological weapons. It is impossible to know if the Kremlin has such an idea, Yevgeny Golovchenko emphasizes. But from a propaganda point of view, it would make sense. “At the moment, the Russian authorities continue to assert that we are talking only about a limited military operation in Ukraine and it is forbidden to talk about a war in Russia. Hold this line, they will have to find an excuse to move on to the rhetoric of total war,” the expert sums up. And what could be more effective than accusing the enemy of using dirty weapons?

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