Anyone who comes upon misinformation and conspiracy theories in connection with COVID-19, 5G or climate change will quickly discover that they are constantly being combined, adapted and developed. The University of Leeds looked into this phenomenon in their study, Conspiracy Theories as a Russian Public Diplomacy Tool: The Case of Russia Today.

The article examines the use of conspiracy theories by the international Russian television channel Russia Today (RT). It looks at the process of how various conspiratorial ideas in RT’s programs legitimize Russian domestic and foreign policy and, as a result, delegitimize American policies. In the context of the post-Cold War world, RT broadcasts fake news as a political tool to get people throughout the political spectrum to read and believe their content.

Russia is not only interfering with the U.S. because these conspiracy theories have spread throughout Europe with the help of the Internet. Like COVID-19, the internet has no boundaries. The question becomes, does Russia benefit from growing internal division and the paralysis of western democracies? Also, would Russia benefit from delays in the urgently needed update of our mobile phone infrastructure? It has already been proven that Russia benefits from climate change and is profiting from melting in the Arctic sea.

Kiril Avramov’s article By Another Way of Deception: The Use of Conspiracy Theories as a Foreign Policy Tool in the Arsenal of the Hybrid Warfare expands on these ideas.

The Kremlin uses a variety of tools to reach its foreign policy goals and overcome its relative international isolation, ranging from targeted planting of disinformation in foreign media to creating a steady supply of “alternative histories.” They effectively insert conspiracy theories in the Russian mainstream media and social networks using an army of internet trolls. These theories are later picked up, endlessly duplicated and hybridized across various media outlets throughout Europe. All these methods are varieties of weaponization of information.

It should be noted that this approach is reminiscent of Soviet-style policies, and specifically, the “dezinformatziya” measures that proved successful during the Cold War era. In the past few years, the intensity of the distribution of targeted disinformation in the form of conspiracy theories has increased and become an important aspect of Russia’s hybrid warfare. It is an effective disinformation dissemination strategy for pressuring governments, political decision-makers, civic organizations and even individuals to follow Russia’s will. We are at a critical juncture because innovative, intensive and coordinated strategies must be created to counter its negative influence on national security.

Russia’s weaponization of conspiracy theories needs to be paid attention to because it could negatively impact the way we handle the pandemic, 5G and climate protection. Ultimately, it could endanger our legitimacy of western democracy.

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