The Kremlin is using “information as a weapon of war” to divide US allies in the Balkans and the media in the region must step up efforts to expose Russian disinformation and separate it from the truth, US diplomat James Rubin said in interview with Radio Free Europe.
Rubin, the US coordinator at the State Department’s Center for Global Engagement, urged the media in the region to step up efforts to identify Russian disinformation and distinguish it from truthful information.
The Kremlin sees it as part of a broader strategy, he said, because Russia is aware that it cannot ideologically dominate the war in Ukraine by conventional or traditional means.
“They are trying to use every possible technique to divide the West in its support for Ukraine,” he said.
Rubin was speaking to the Bulgarian service of Radio Free Europe in Sofia, one of the stations during his current European tour.
During this tour, his aim is to work with governments to encourage them to foster the resolve to identify disinformation and the capacity to act effectively against it.
He said that while every country has the right to freedom of expression and the media has the right to report on the statements of foreign governments, they must refrain from spreading disinformation from foreign governments without revealing the source.
“In a democratic society, all available tools must be used to distinguish between disinformation and actions orchestrated by the Kremlin to cause divisions. These actions are aimed at disrupting the democratic process and undermining support for NATO,” he said.
He said his role was to ensure transparency and disclose all links to the russian media, which would allow any government to decide how to respond. He noted that Bulgaria, along with Slovakia and Montenegro, was one of the countries where Russia exerted financial influence and bribed politicians and the media.
The United States is also aware of China’s significant spending, which is in the billions of dollars, on developing what it has called global “disinformation manipulation systems.” However, Chinese tactics are different from Russian tactics.
The Chinese authorities offer their Xinhua news service free of charge to media outlets in some countries, but restrict the newspaper from using other independent Western news agencies.
“This means that an African journalist writing an article about the world is writing from a chinese point of view and saying that terrible things are happening in America and wonderful things are happening in China,” he said.
He stressed that the US is committed to ensure transparency in such situations. This will make readers aware that news obtained from the newspaper originates in China.