The Russian invasion of Ukraine has strengthened ties between anti-Western autocrats, especially from Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and even Turkey, which, despite being part of NATO, has Recep Tayyip in command. Erdogan, who has given the members of the military alliance a headache.
The main movement towards this approximation takes place through what happens in parallel with military attacks: the information war. In this dispute, Russia and China take the lead in controlling content and disseminating fake news that circulate easily in other countries that, in one way or another, oppose to the West.
It is enough to access the content of the Russian or Chinese internet to realize that, through what is disclosed there, the war in Ukraine is very different from what we perceive through the Western gaze.
This difference in perspectives about the Eastern European conflict is not new. Since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, the country created the perspective that the region was taken over by “Nazis”. According to Russian propaganda, Crimea was asking for military aid. The ground was already being prepared for the invasion of Ukraine in February of this year.
With the space even more open to social networks and the ease of multiplying content, Russia started not only using the official media as the main channel for communicating this information, but focusing on replicating content through messaging apps.
According to a report made by Microsoft, some of this false information is reused months later. An example of this were the rumors that accused Ukraine of developing chemical and biological weapons programs, first launched in November 2021 and massively replicated in February of this year, in the early days of the Russian invasion.
“A Microsoft data analysis team identified ten influential Russian websites that simultaneously published on 24 Feb. articles referencing content from the previous year, trying to give it credibility,” the company specified.
Another example that Russia uses fake news to justify its military attacks was information published by official media. the country on March 7, indicating that a hospital in Mariupol had been turned into a Ukrainian military camp. Two days later, the hospital was bombed, killing civilians.
“Russia and China spread fake news on a planetary scale”, Maria Ressa, Nobel Peace Prize winner, told the French newspaper Le Figaro. “Authoritarian powers exploit platforms like Facebook to weaken democracies and advance their interests,” she added. For her, technology is a “mass weapon” that is part of a “multinational of autocrats” who are “true dictators”.
“Not only Russia and China, but also the Iran and Saudi Arabia take disinformation operations abroad and hunt journalists,” he pointed out.
Alignment of interests, in practice
In addition to the information war, mobilizing populations in favor of the anti-Western offensive, part of the autocratic leaders met recently to strengthen ties and reinforce the power of their speeches in the countries they command.
On Tuesday of last week (20), Erdogan and Vladimir Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raissi in Tehran, shortly after US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East.
Since the beginning of the year, Putin has met Raïssi three times. Among the interests shared by the two nations is the long-standing sale of Russian fighter jets and anti-aircraft missile batteries to Iran. Like Putin, Taïssi supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria and takes advantage of the war in Ukraine to exert greater influence in the region, through the Shiite militia.
In addition, another matter of interest between the two countries is the sending of Iranian drones to Russia, which is in full attack on the neighboring country.
Turkey’s main interest in this visit was to ask for support from the allies in what Erdogan calls a “special operation” against pro-Kurds in northern Syria. For that, he needs airspace, largely controlled by Russia. In turn, Turkey offered to broker the agreement with Ukraine for the outflow of 20 million tonnes of cereals through the Black Sea.
Despite being a member of NATO, the country commanded by Erdogan has created differences within the alliance, especially in its moves to make it difficult for Sweden and Finland to enter.
The meeting between these autocrats in Tehran showed that, despite NATO and the difference in positioning in Syria, the three countries cooperate with each other. The meeting between them was more successful than Biden’s visit to the Middle East.
The American president failed to convince Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to organize militarily against Iran, which would be continue its idea of an “Arab NATO”, through an American-Israeli umbrella in the region.
Russia and China
In the first weeks of the conflict in Eastern Europe, China has already signaled which side it was on. In March, a draft resolution proposed by Russia on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine was rejected by the United Nations Security Council. Among other points, the document did not mention Russian responsibility in the humanitarian conflict provoked in the neighboring country. Only Russia and China voted in favour.
While Western countries are decreasing their economic ties and gradually avoiding dependence on Russia’s oil, China is buying Russian barrels.
China’s overall trade with Russia increased 12% in March, despite Putin having ordered the invasion of Ukraine the previous month. The purchase of Russian energy by the Chinese increased 75% in April, reaching more than US$ 6 billion.
In March, the New The York Times reported on an American Intelligence report that presented evidence that Chinese dictator Xi Jinping had asked Putin to postpone the invasion of Ukraine until after the Beijing Winter Olympics, which took place until 20 of February.
At the time, Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said that “the allegations mentioned in the reports are speculation without any basis. , and intend to shift the blame and defame China.”
What the West learns from Ukraine
According to Maria Ressa, quoted at the beginning of the report, by resisting the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, set an example of positioning to the entire West, which “Reacted like never before”. “If he had run away, Russia could have carried out its plan,” he pointed out.
“I know it sounds innocent to say, but it illustrates the power of sharing emotions, which spread quickly, just like sadness and anger. We see that positive emotions can be an answer”, highlighted the Nobel Peace Prize.
According to her, Ukraine also stands out in the fight against disinformation, denouncing fake news and occupying the virtual terrain, avoiding leaving the last word to the Russians.