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How Russia and Right-Wing Americans Converged on War in Ukraine

ultmd

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The American Right has echoed the Kremlin’s misleading claims about the war and vice versa, giving each other’s assertions a sheen of credibility.

How Russia and Right-Wing Americans Converged on War in Ukraine

After President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia claimed that action against Ukraine was taken in self-defense, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the conservative commentator Candace Owens repeated the assertion. When Mr. Putin insisted he was trying to “denazify” Ukraine, Joe Oltmann, a far-right podcaster, and Lara Logan, another right-wing commentator, mirrored the idea.

The echoing went the other way, too. Some far-right American news sites, like Infowars, stoked a longtime, unfounded Russian claim that the United States funded biological weapons labs in Ukraine. Russian officials seized on the chatter, with the Kremlin contending it had documentation of bioweapons programs that justified its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

As war has raged, the Kremlin’s talking points and some right-wing discourse in the United States — fueled by those on the far right — have coalesced. On social media, podcasts and television, falsehoods about the invasion of Ukraine have flowed both ways, with Americans amplifying lies from Russians and the Kremlin spreading fabrications that festered in American forums online.

By reinforcing and feeding each other’s messaging, some right-wing Americans have given credibility to Russia’s assertions and vice versa. Together, they have created an alternate reality, recasting the Western bloc of allies as provokers, blunderers and liars, which has bolstered Mr. Putin.

...several far-right commentators have again gravitated to narratives favorable to Mr. Putin’s cause. The main one has been the bioweapons conspiracy theory, which has provided a way to talk about the war while focusing criticism on President Biden and the U.S. government instead of Mr. Putin and the Kremlin....Russia breathed new life into the conspiracy theory on March 6 when its Defense Ministry claimed in a televised address that it had uncovered “traces of a military biological program being implemented in Ukraine, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.” Mr. Carlson later aired the Russian statement on his show.

-cont-
 

ultmd

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How Russia and Right-Wing Americans Converged on War in Ukraine


On Feb. 16, Russian state-owned media claimed that Ukraine had “fired mortar shells” at a separatist enclave within Ukraine backed by Russia. Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist, quoted the Russian media’s false assertion on his Telegram channel to 256,000 subscribers. Days later, Mr. Kirk also described the heightened situation as a “border dispute.”
A spokesman for Mr. Kirk said it was “patently false” that the podcaster was sympathetic to Russia’s invasion and that he was “rightly questioning” U.S. foreign policy.

On Feb. 24, Mr. Putin delivered a speech justifying an invasion of Ukraine. It was transcribed in full on Infowars. On Twitter, Ms. Owens, the conservative commentator, repeated Mr. Putin’s claim that NATO was expanding eastward toward Russia, blaming the United States for the war. She urged her three million followers to read Mr. Putin’s speech directly to learn what was “actually” going on.

Russians have publicly commented on what appears to be common ground with far-right Americans. Last week on the Russian state-backed news program “60 Minutes,” which is not connected to the CBS show of the same name, the host, Olga Skabeeva, addressed the country’s strengthening ties with Mr. Carlson.

“Our acquaintance, the host of Fox News Tucker Carlson, obviously has his own interests⁠,” she said, airing several clips of Mr. Carlson’s show where he suggested the United States had pushed for conflict in Ukraine. “But lately, more and more often, they’re in tune with our own.”
 
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