Putin seeking to create new world order with ‘rogue states’ amid coronavirus crisis, report claims

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government in Moscow, Russia, on February 5, 2020.

Aleksey Nikolskyi | Sputnik | Kremlin | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration are using the coronavirus crisis to spread conspiracy theories in a bid to “subvert the West” and create a new world order, a new report has alleged.

In an article published Wednesday by The University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, it’s claimed Russia has been “churning out propaganda that blames the West for creating the virus.” The report’s author, Sergey Sukhankin, said the state was propagating disinformation and conspiracy theories via social media accounts, fake news outlets, state-controlled media, pseudo-scientists and Russians living in the West. The Kremlin has previously denied such claims.

“Putin’s larger goal in spreading propaganda and conspiracy theories is to subvert the West,” Sukhankin said.

“Russia seeks to seriously damage the solidarity among EU members and capitalize on any internal European weaknesses to promote broader conflicts. COVID-19 is seen as an ideal way for Russia to deal a powerful blow not only to the EU, but to inflict damage on the ties between Europe and its North American allies.”

Moscow also wanted revenge on the West for economic sanctions that were imposed on Russia for various reasons, including its annexation of Crimea, Sukhankin added, warning that the Kremlin saw an opportunity amid the crisis to unravel the current world order.

“Moscow views the virus as a fortuitous harbinger of the end of the post-Cold War liberal world order,” the report said. “The new leaders to emerge from this liberal collapse, according to this view, will be Russia and China. Indeed, Russia is seeking to strengthen its ties with China, as well as with Iran, and the danger is that other rogue states could join this new configuration.”

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday, Keyu Jin, associate professor of economics at the London School of Economics, also claimed that China saw the coronavirus crisis as the “opportunity of the century” to establish a new role for itself on the international stage.

On Wednesday, an updated report from the EU’s foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service (EEAS), claimed countries including Russia and China were spreading disinformation about the coronavirus crisis. The EU recorded more than 150 cases of pro-Kremlin disinformation on COVID-19 between the end of January and the end of March, the report said. 

An earlier version of the report from the EEAS alleged Russia had launched a disinformation campaign to “aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries … in line with the Kremlin’s broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies,” according to Reuters.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later dismissed the EU’s claims as “groundless accusations.”

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said in February that thousands of social media accounts with links to Russia had launched a coordinated campaign to spread fake news about the coronavirus, the Guardian reported.

A Kremlin spokesperson was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

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