Why The UK Is Leading West's 'Propaganda War' Against Russia
London is taking a hardline against Moscow since Trump's departure left Putin increasingly isolated.
MOSCOW — Seven years after Russia was expelled from the club of Western democracies, the U.K. is calling for another war with Moscow — an information war — creating collective mechanisms to contain the Kremlin's "propaganda and disinformation."
A three-day meeting of the G7 foreign ministers will resume the work of the "club of leading Western democracies," which was suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year's summit, which was to be held in the United States during the final stage of Donald Trump's presidency, suffered an unenviable fate: The face-to-face meeting of world leaders scheduled for June did not take place. The summit at Camp David was disrupted after German Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to attend it under the pretext of a pandemic, a move she made amid acute disagreements between Washington and Berlin over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
Trump, who hoped to make the 2020 summit a symbol of a return to normal life, moved the forum to September. However, even after the forced timeout, the G7 was still not on track.
The disagreements became even more acute after Trump — in the midst of the U.S. presidential race — announced his intention to invite Vladimir Putin to the meeting. This was despite the fact that Russia had been expelled from the club in 2014 in connection with the Ukrainian conflict — and Trump's proposal was greeted with hostility by G7 allies.
Now, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is determined not to make the same mistake. The U.K. will host the upcoming summit, to be held June 11-13 in the resort town of Carbis Bay on the Atlantic coast of the Cornwall Peninsula.
As part of London's post-EU foreign policy strategy, Johnson is trying to assert the U.K."s new ambitions as an independent global power center in relation to the G7. He has two objectives in mind: Firstly, to show that the G7 is not a closed Western "gentlemen's club" disconnected from reality and the rest of the world's centers of power.
Secondly, to demonstrate that the unity of the U.S. and its Western allies, shaken under the Trump era, has been restored and that inviting Russia is out of the question. Moreover, together with the new administration of President Joe Biden, the G7 states must unite to create new mechanisms for containing Moscow.
The main event will not be the fight against COVID-19 or the education of girls, but a new strategy for containing Russia.
For the first task, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell; the foreign ministers of Australia, India, South Korea, and South Africa; and the Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been invited to London in addition to the G7 foreign ministries.
The G7 meeting will demonstrate how "global Britain" unites the world's largest economies to face common challenges, promises UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who set out ambitious plans to tackle vaccine distribution, education, hunger and climate change.
Still Raab made it clear that the the main event will not be the fight against COVID-19 or the education of girls, but rather a new strategy for containing Russia, which is being developed by London. This control is not only political and diplomatic, but also about economics and communication. Apparently, this initiative is designed to become a new means of consolidation of the G7 and help its members quickly forget about the return of Putin.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and other G7 leaders at Lancaster House in Central London — Photo: Andrew Parsons/Avalon/ZUMA Press
The foreign secretary has urged allies to take the Russian information threat seriously. "Pro-Russian trolls are posting comments on Ukraine and other areas, both to influence opinion here but to be played back in the Russian media," Raab told The Sunday Times. At London's initiative, the G7 foreign ministers will consider creating collective rapid response mechanisms to contain Russian "propaganda and disinformation."
The Foreign Office said last Saturday that the BBC World Service, which broadcasts in 42 languages, will receive an additional £8 million ($11 million) in 2021-2022 to combat disinformation and fake news and expand its overseas audience. Britain's plan to counter "Russian propaganda" also calls for support for independent media, particularly in Russia's neighboring countries.
Still, it's not clear if the G7 will rally behind London's information war with Russia. Unlike Raab, new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made it clear that Washington is more concerned with a different aspect of containing Russia: the future of the NordStream 2 gas pipeline project, which the U.S. administration believes may still be curtailed.
The BBC World Service will receive an additional £8 million to combat fake news
Despite the fact that this very issue became a bone of contention within the G7 a year ago, leading to Merkel"s no-show for Trump's invitation to the Camp David summit, Biden's Secretary of state Antony Blinken intends to raise the issue again during his meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova chose not to cite Raab, Blinken, Vladimir Putin or Sergei Lavrov, but turned instead to the authority of the early Christian monk and hermit Anthony the Great.
"On the bright holiday of Easter, I allow myself to respond by quoting the Venerable Anthony the Great, who said: "There will come a time when nine sick people will come to a healthy one and say: you are sick because you are not like us," Zakharova posted on Facebook, "It makes you wonder why the countries sick as hell with propaganda, which have used it more than once to justify armed invasion and overthrow of governments (this is how Britain and the US acted in Iraq, inventing the story about chemical weapons), blame our country for their own sins."
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