Last week, Russian diplomats and state-funded media disparaged NATO to justify the Kremlin’s move to suspend its permanent mission to the alliance. Moscow’s decision followed NATO’s expulsion of eight members of the Russian mission for alleged espionage. Alongside updates on the mission’s closing, Russian state-backed outlets amplified Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s argument that it was NATO’s “purposeful steps” that made it impossible for even “elementary diplomatic activities.” Russian accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 placed much of the blame on NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, claiming that NATO-Russian relations under Stoltenberg “are worse than during the harshest times of the Cold War.” Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s statements last week in support of Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO provoked harsh reactions from Russian state-controlled outlets. RT called Ukraine’s accession to NATO a “red line,” while Sputnik News warned it would be a “very dangerous step that would make Russia react.”
Russian officials and state media last week also covered high-profile international talks with the Taliban that were held in Moscow. Kremlin-linked outlets noted that Russian officials did not formally recognize the Taliban regime. Moscow warned the Taliban against provoking regional instability and urged the group to form a more inclusive government. When the Taliban expressed a willingness to cooperate, RT questioned whether the group’s commitment to embrace inclusivity was “a realistic promise.” Regardless, state media reported on Moscow’s pledge to send aid to Afghanistan and to support the Taliban’s removal from a UN list of terrorist organizations.
Russia’s trouble containing the coronavirus pandemic made headlines throughout last week. State-controlled media noted new records for the number of daily infections and deaths, and outlets circulated President Putin’s call for Russians to “actively vaccinate.” Moscow-linked outlets also covered new pandemic restrictions, including Putin’s announcement that Russian employers would have to close for a week starting on October 30. Meanwhile, RT argued that Canada had descended into “covid totalitarianism” for mandating that only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to travel by the end of the month. Ruptly also covered protests against coronavirus restrictions in Austria, Italy, and Estonia. And, as usual, Russian state-funded outlets highlighted the efficacy and widespread use of the Sputnik V vaccine, while critiquing Western made vaccines.
With several parts of Europe moving to improve their relations with Taiwan, Chinese diplomats and state media predictably reacted with displeasure last week. Chinese embassies in Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, and China’s Mission to the EU all joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several state media outlets in condemning the European Parliament for passing a resolution calling for closer cooperation between Taiwan and the EU. The Taiwanese foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Slovakia and the Czech Republic triggered another salvo of criticism ranging from reminders about the one China principle to more ominous warnings about “consequences” and conspiracy theories about the trip being a front for a “secret arms deal.”
Chinese diplomats and state media also addressed several of the big China-related stories that garnered global news coverage last week. For instance, while MFA spokespeople, Chinese embassies, and state media all closely followed the Olympic flame’s trip from Athens to Beijing, there was no mention of the pro-democracy protests that marred the flame’s departure in Athens. Another sports-related event that got significantly less coverage from Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 than by global media outlets was basketball player Enes Kanter’s denunciation of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. A timid cartoon by Xinhua and a somewhat blunt political barb from the Europe head of China Daily were the only signs that the event had even registered with China’s international messengers, despite the fact that Chinese tech giant Tencent wiped the Boston Celtics games from its programming. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV had previously stopped broadcasting NBA games in October 2019 after the Houston Rockets’ general manager tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protests.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also put a distinct spin on the missile test reported by the Financial Times two weeks ago. Pressed repeatedly on the matter in their daily press conferences, spokespeople Zhao Lijian and Wang Wenbin repeatedly stated that no missile had been involved in what they called “routine test of spacecraft.”
With COP 26 nearing, spokeswoman Hua Chunying got a decent amount of engagement last week with a tweet pushing back against the claim that China is the world’s largest polluter. CGTN affiliate T-House repeated her argument that China performs better than much of the West on a per-capita basis. Nationalist tabloid Global Times also called out “western media” for questioning China’s carbon neutrality plan.
Finally, statements by NATO’s Secretary General that his organization was devoting increasing attention to China were also largely omitted from Chinese propaganda last week. However, Chinese state media closely covered Russia’s suspension of its NATO mission and relayed Russian officials’ accusations about the organization’s “aggressiveness” and “Cold War” mentality.
Last week, Edward Snowden issued several cryptic messages on Twitter in Persian that seemed to reference bugging and surveillance conducted by the NSA. This led to substantial speculation on Persian-language Twitter, as well as coverage by Fars News. Press TV also began aggressively promoting their Telegram channel on Twitter last week. The current pinned Tweet for the channel is a recent Press TV story on Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s praise for Iran. This follows the seizure of Press TV’s English-language website by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as the removal of its accounts on Facebook and YouTube.
Iran-backed press amplified assertions by Venezuelan President Maduro that businessman Alex Saab’s extradition from Cape Verde to the United States amounts to kidnapping. Iranian ambassador to Venezuela Hojat Soltani on Twitter accused the United States of creating al-Qaeda and ISIS and called for U.S. leaders to face trial at the International Criminal Court, singling out Hillary Clinton for particular opprobrium.
Criticism of President Joe Biden in Tehran-linked outlets was down last week compared with the preceding few weeks; although, a few stories attacked Biden on immigration and his failure to follow through on campaign promises. Other stories favorably covered reports that Biden intends to decrease the role of sanctions as a tool of foreign policy.
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