Russia and China have “clearly” aligned themselves on propaganda and disinformation regarding the war in Ukraine, and the United States and the West have not invested enough over the years in countering such disinformation, a senior State Department official said Monday.
“The United States as a country, the West as a society, has been slow to accept and realize the extent to which China and Russia have made operations in the information space part and parcel of their national objectives,” the official told reporters.
The official said that China and Russia “have spent tens of billions of dollars” on disinformation over the years, and “we, I believe, are just coming to grips as a country and as a society.”
“I think it's been talked about, but I don't think that we have yet put the resources and energy behind it that we should. And that doesn't mean that people haven't tried,” the official said, adding that it's only in "recent years that we've all come to see the dark side of the communications revolutions in digital technology.”
“Meanwhile, the Russians and the Chinese in particular have been working that dark side,” the official said.
The US official noted that the war in Ukraine has helped awaken the West to the issue, saying, “when democracies are aroused, as they have been from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the democracies have shown their power this last year.”
“The autocracies are weaker as a result of the last year. So I believe that when aroused that we will succeed, but we have not been sufficiently aroused,” the official said.
They described Moscow and Beijing as having “an echo chamber” and “a feedback loop” of spreading the false narratives about the war, and said, “they try to get more and more attention by sharing narratives.”
The official suggested these disinformation efforts were de facto state-sponsored, because “in Russia and China, we generally believe that the major media operations are well aligned by their governments.”
The official added that the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which is tasked with countering foreign disinformation, put out a report several years ago that found the Russian government “operates disinformation at the highest levels of government” and the “Chinese propaganda system is operated at the highest levels of government.”
The official said that the head of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) at the State Department would be traveling to Eastern Europe “where there are operations that repeat and promulgate Russian disinformation,” and will engage with governments there on how to “shut it down or mitigate it or limit it,” instead of “waiting for these people to repeat it and promulgate it.”