Last week, “Biden” was the third most used phrase by Russian diplomats and state media on Twitter, as Kremlin-linked accounts attacked the U.S. president for saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “butcher” who “cannot remain in power.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the butcher comment was “strange” coming from Biden since he “called for the bombing of Yugoslavia” in the 1990s. Peskov also said the leadership of Russia is “not for Biden to decide.” Dmitry Polyanskiy, a Russian diplomat at the United Nations, retweeted a post asserting that Biden’s statement was an admission that the “US has used Ukraine to foment regime change in Russia.” One Russian lawmaker said Biden’s comment reflected “old or sick man’s behavior,” and Sputnik claimed “dementia is taking over Joe Biden.” The Russian Embassy in Canada joked that Russia wanted Alaska back since Biden was seeking to go back to 19th century-style wars of conquest. State media also picked up criticism of Biden’s statement from some European leaders and U.S. analysts.
Russia’s Defense Ministry last Thursday said President Biden’s son Hunter had funded U.S. efforts to develop bioweapons in Ukraine. Russian officials alleged that Rosemont Seneca, a company founded by Hunter Biden and Christopher Heinz, the stepson of U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, had invested in the Pentagon’s bioweapons work. Russian officials also linked billionaire George Soros, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention to the alleged bioweapon labs. On Sunday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted at 23-point timeline, dating back to 1991, which explains their conspiracy. The timeline also suggested a Pentagon contractor was responsible for covid-19 escaping from a lab in Wuhan. Sputnik claimed that the “US DOD, Big Tech & Big Media” will try to silence the bioweapon story. State media also attacked Hunter Biden as “a heavy drug addict” and “sick pervert,” while claiming his supposed scandals “threaten to axe Joe’s possible 2024 bid.”
Last week’s NATO summit about Russia’s war in Ukraine prompted pushback from Kremlin-affiliated accounts. NATO was the fourth most used phrase and sixth most used hashtag by Russian diplomats and state media. Much of the content framed NATO as a serial aggressor—with Moscow-connected accounts pointing to NATO’s operations in Yugoslavia, Libya, and Iraq. Russian diplomats highlighted the 23rd anniversary of NATO’s campaign in Yugoslavia and amplified Chinese state-backed efforts to do the same. RT claimed that “the road to Ukraine started with 1999’s Kosovo war.” NATO’s expansion was also listed as a reason for today’s war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russian officials suggested that NATO’s support for Kyiv creates “a terrorist threat for Europe and the entire world” and could lead to “an unprecedented food crisis.” The NATO summit itself was chalked up to simply producing “ritual accusations against Russia,” while state media showed anti-NATO protests in Vienna, Belgrade, and Rome. State media also amplified disagreements between member states.
Russian and state media continued to complain about sanctions and Russophobia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed the West had launched a “full-scale financial and economic war” against Russia. While some posts warned of the dollar’s collapse, propagandists also framed the United States as benefiting from sanctions at Europe’s expense. Relatedly, Putin complained about the West “cancelling” Russian culture and compared it to Nazi Germany. Diplomatic accounts also shared a video of a Siberian husky being excluded from socializing with other dogs under the #StopHatingRussians hashtag.
Kremlin-linked accounts promoted a range of other, familiar narratives. Russian officials said the war in Ukraine was “going according to plan,” while state media showed Russia destroying Ukrainian military assets and delivering humanitarian aid to civilians. Ukrainian Nazis were blamed for war crimes. Ukrainian refugees were framed as the “new slaves of Europe,” while state media said the West was politicizing the humanitarian crisis and didn’t care about Ukrainian people. Russian diplomats lifted up claims that foreign political strategists, lobbyists, and “a network of intelligence-linked media outlets” had launched an information war against Russia. Kremlin-linked media, meanwhile, amplified contrarian Western voices, including U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and podcaster Joe Rogan.
Chinese diplomats and state media last week continued to devote a significant proportion of their messaging to the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia were the third and fourth most mentioned countries by Chinese Twitter accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0. Within Ukraine-related tweets, the most prominent narrative last week was criticism of NATO, much of it pegged to the anniversary of the start of NATO’s bombing campaign in Serbia during the Kosovo war. NATO was the third most used key phrase and the fourth most used hashtag in tweets from Chinese diplomats and state media last week. In Chinese tweets about NATO, “#Yugoslavia” was the most frequently used hashtag, while Serbia was the third most mentioned country (behind China and the United States). The majority of these tweets condemned “NATO’s aggression” in the former Yugoslavia and beyond, with Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying, the official Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) account, and CGTN Russian joining the chorus of critics. This narrative was also repeated during the MFA’s Friday press conference.
The focus on NATO’s campaign in the former Yugoslavia fit within a broader messaging campaign to portray NATO—and the United States—as warmongers unfit to criticize Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The Chinese Consul General in Belfast, the former ambassador to the United Kingdom, and the Global Times all promoted the Kremlin-friendly narrative that NATO’s eastward expansion was the root cause of the Russian invasion. Several officials and state media also accused the United States of profiting from the war amidst criticism of the United States for providing weapons instead of humanitarian aid to Ukraine (the United States has provided both). Western coverage of the war was also met with derision and defiance. Even a supposedly light-hearted video shared by a CGTN anchor portrayed war reporting out of Ukraine as made-up stories filmed in front of green screens. And Hua Chunying brought up the United States’ use of Agent Orange in Vietnam to counter reports about possible Russian biological attacks in Ukraine.
Relatedly, Chinese diplomats and state media continued to spread false narratives about U.S. biolabs in Ukraine. On the diplomatic side, the Chinese MFA (on Twitter and in press conferences) and the Chinese Consul in Beirut continued to hype up the threat presented by the supposed bioweapons program, with the Global Times relaying the conspiracy theory linking Hunter Biden to the labs.
Chinese diplomats last week were mostly silent on Biden’s visit to Europe. State media employees were far more vitriolic, however, using Biden’s visit to highlight the West’s supposed isolation compared to China’s outreach to the rest of the world. In addition to comments about Biden’s visit, the Chinese Embassy in France shared a video of an Indian talk show host telling a U.S. commentator that “America is in no position to pretend to be the guardian of democracy.” To this point, Hua Chunying shared a short clip of Madeleine Albright saying that half a million Iraqi children dying was a “price worth it” (this comment was made in 1996). And the Chinese Consul in Beirut quoted a former French ambassador saying that many in the world were on Russia’s side out of spite against the West.
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