WHAT KREMLIN PROPAGANDISTS SAY:
One disinformation narrative which has been promoted by pro-Kremlin outlets is that the conflict in Ukraine is a ‘proxy war against the West’. The narrative asserts that the West is using Ukraine to destroy Russia and that Ukraine is complicit in its own destruction as a result of its alliance with the West. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the situation in Ukraine "When the special military operation began, the United States and other NATO and EU countries stepped up their proxy war against Russia. In fact, they had launched that war in 2014.” Additional disinformation narratives are used to construct this idea, including the notion that ‘military aid prolongs the war.’
Russia has claimed that the US has planned the escalation of the Ukraine conflict since 2014, as part of a long-term plan to weaken Russia. They argue that the US and NATO are afraid of direct confrontation, so are using Ukraine to stage a military conflict. It is claimed that the West provides military aid to prolong the war and uses its global policy influence to deter a peaceful end to the conflict. Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev stated “They are doing nothing to terminate the conflict. On the contrary, they are seeking to fuel it by supplying various offensive arms, from firearms to multiple rocket launch systems, such as the notorious HIMARS."
The fact that the US and NATO have provided military aid to Ukraine is taken as evidence that they are using Ukrainian soldiers to conduct a proxy war. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, claims that according to the West “Ukraine is an ‘expendable material’ in the proxy war against Russia.” Pro-Kremlin outlets assert that “according to Former US Ambassador Chas Freeman, ‘The US is fighting Russia “to the last Ukrainian.’”
WHAT ARE THE FACTS:
The ‘Biolabs’ conspiracy is a part of the Kremlin’s broader, long-lasting disinformation campaign to discredit the US in the eyes of Putin’s pro-Western neighbours such as Georgia and Ukraine.
The only country who is responsible for the conflict is Russia. Despite the best efforts of Kremlin propagandists, the proxy war between Russia and the West remains a myth. Russia’s 2014 annexation of regions in eastern Ukraine and the full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022 triggered the war in Ukraine as a result of Putin’s ‘special military operation’. This disinformation narrative seeks to shift the responsibility for the conflict onto the West and deflect from their responsibility for the conflict as the aggressor.
The military aid which Ukraine has received from Western nations has been in direct recognition of the fact that Ukraine is a sovereign country, with a right to defend its territory. NATO and the US have strongly condemned Russia’s illegal war of aggression and provided Ukraine with military and financial aid to enable the liberation of Ukrainian territory. This support cannot be equated to a proxy war. NATO has outlined its position in response to the escalation of the war “NATO condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia's brutal and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, which gravely undermines international security and stability, and is a blatant violation of international law.”
NATO has not sent any troops to Ukraine, and no other countries have directly entered into the conflict alongside Ukraine. Ukraine and NATO have called for a peaceful end to the conflict since its beginning. However, Russia’s notion of ‘peace’ holds a number of conditions including that Ukraine should recognise the “new territorial realities” of Russia’s sovereignty over the annexed and partially occupied regions of eastern Ukraine. NATO acknowledged that peace must be on Ukraine’s terms, stating that Ukraine must “be the ultimate decider as it defends itself”. This sentiment was repeated by the President of France, Emmanual Macron, who stated: "Ukraine will decide political conditions for peace."
Despite the lack of credible evidence, Russia continues to promote this narrative which offers a call back to the days of the cold war. One apparent ‘proof’ that the war is a proxy, comes from a quote from Former US Ambassador Chas Freeman, who stated: “The US is fighting Russia “to the last Ukrainian.” The amplification of this quote represents a key strategy used by Russian propagandists to give credibility to their myths. In this case, the quote belongs to a former US ambassador, who served between 1990 and 1994. Presenting Mr Freeman as a ‘former US ambassador’ is a deliberate choice to gain authority from his association with the US government. However, the speaker has no influence or insight into current US defence policy. Yet, by presenting this quote as representative of the US administration, the propagandists hope to mislead their audience on the credibility of their claims.
Debunker is a series of disinformation-busting articles from Debunk.org which focus on dispelling the harmful lies and propaganda being pushed by pro-Kremlin sources. Check out the rest of the series at debunk.org/debunker.