After the start of the full-scale invasion, pseudo-experts have become more active in the West, consistently and persistently spreading narratives aligned with Russian viewpoints. They appear on political talk shows, write articles, and organize conferences through their own institutes.
Regardless of the platforms these individuals use, their messages have one goal — to discredit Ukraine on the world stage, reduce its support, and allow Russia to complete the territorial annexation initiated in 2014. However, why are they listened to, how do they manage to promote their narratives, and most importantly, how not to become a victim of their misinformation? These questions will be addressed in the new material by VoxCheck in collaboration with the Center for Countering Disinformation of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.
Helga Zepp-LaRouche is a German politician, activist, founder of the Schiller Institute, and leader of the party “Civil Rights Movement Solidarity Party” (BüSo). The YouTube channels associated with her serve as the primary platform for promoting narratives aligned with Russian perspectives. She is multilingual, enabling her to address both German-speaking and English-speaking audiences. Her leadership role in the political and economic analysis center, the Schiller Institute, with claimed members in 50 countries, allows her to reach a global audience.
Photo of Helga Zepp-LaRouche. Source: CGTN
The first thing that can mislead a careless viewer/reader is Zepp-LaRouche’s position. Can such a respected German politician spread disinformation? Indeed, let’s provide a few examples.
On February 27, 2022, on the third day after the start of the full-scale invasion, Zepp-LaRouche gave an interview to the Chinese media CGTN, accusing NATO and the United States of provoking the Russian Federation, resulting in President Putin being forced to order an attack on Ukraine: “I think President Putin made it clear that red lines had been crossed. He said at one point ‘there is no place for me to retreat to’ and the West did not listen to that. Then he on the December 17th asked from NATO and the United States legally binding security guarantees that, you know, NATO would not expand further to the east, that no offensive weapons would be put at the border, and that Ukraine would never become a member. And he [Putin] did not get an answer, he did not get an answer to the core question, only to secondary aspects. So I think you know that the West made a big mistake by not listening to legitimate expressed security concerns of Russia, and now we are on the verge of something which could go completely out of control.”
In this case, the politician manipulated and concealed an obvious fact: Putin’s demands for security guarantees were voiced in December 2021, while Russia invaded Ukrainian territory back in 2014. Therefore, the claim that NATO’s actions provoked Russia to initiate military actions against Ukraine is untrue. The so-called “requests” only demonstrate that Russia was already preparing for full-scale aggression at that time, attempting to do everything to leave Ukraine unarmed and essentially helpless at the time of invasion, with no hope for a democratic, European future.
In the same interview, when asked by the host if Russia seeks to create a kind of mini-Soviet Union, Zepp-LaRouche replied, “No, I don’t think so. I think, you know, the only people who are pushing geopolitical blocs is, you know, President Biden, who tried to create this alliance of democracies against the so-called autocratic governments.”
The German activist denied the true reason for the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, namely the annexation of new territories. At the same time, she blamed U.S. President Biden for the escalation. This method is called “concept substitution,” where Zepp-LaRouche attempted to shift responsibility for the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine to the United States, justifying the actions of the Russian leadership.
A few days later, she repeated this thesis in a video on the Schiller Institute’s YouTube channel: “Victoria Nuland, of fame from the 2014 Maidan coup. We should not forget her role in that she is egging the Ukrainians on and say, ‘You know, if you want to take Crimea, that’s fine, we are totally behind that.’ Now that is a red line for Russia… So the recent proposal by the Chinese, who made a 12-point program, a peace proposal including such demands as respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and many other proposals which all make a lot of sense. This proposal was appreciated by a lot of people in the Global South… it was immediately rejected by Biden, who said it’s irrational, it’s rejected by the European Commission. And the question is, why would that not be an effort on the side of the West to start to end the war, which can only be at the absolute sacrifice of the Ukrainian people.”
As we can see, Zepp-LaRouche often resorts to distorting facts from history. The narrative about the alleged coup in Ukraine in 2014, organized by the USA, frequently repeated on Russian television, has become so ingrained that it has turned into an axiom. The frequent repetition of the same, no matter how absurd it may be, is referred to as the Goebbels method, and it is an effective way of spreading disinformation.
In this case, pseudo-experts are substituting concepts because, in reality, the term “state coup” refers to a violent change in the political regime in a country or an armed uprising by the military against the government due to a conspiracy. It is typically carried out by a small, organized, and armed group. A state coup does not have widespread support among the country’s population, and its main goal is a change of power.
At the same time, the events on Maidan have nothing to do with a state coup; rather, they can be characterized as a mass civil protest. The people, dissatisfied with the government’s unconstitutional actions, took to Maidan, demanding adherence to the European course of the country.
In the quoted statement, Zepp-LaRouche also manipulated China’s peace proposal, suggesting that Crimea actually belongs to Russia. And the attempts by Ukraine to regain the peninsula could be perceived as a disregard for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Thus, she concluded that this was the reason why U.S. President Joe Biden and the EU “rejected” China’s proposal. Here, the activist concealed the fact that Russia annexed Crimea, conducted an illegal referendum that was not recognized by the majority of countries worldwide, and distorted the position of Western politicians, who believe that Ukraine should decide when the time is right for negotiations.
However, the denial of Ukraine’s agency in making decisions regarding peace talks did not appear in Zepp-LaRouche’s rhetoric by chance. She also uses the concept of a “proxy war” when discussing Russia’s war against Ukraine. Although the term “proxy war” implies that one or both sides of the conflict represent the interests of more powerful players, she intentionally distorts the concept, as in the case of using the term “state coup,” to promote narratives similar to those spread by Russian media.
To further suggest that this thesis is widely supported worldwide, on April 15-16, 2023, the Schiller Institute organized a conference aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the so-called proxy war in Ukraine. “It is a proxy war between the US, Great Britain and NATO, on the one side, and Russia on the other — with a conflict with China also looming,” as indicated in the event’s program.
Screenshot of the conference organized by the Schiller Institute
In this way, Zepp-LaRouche continued to spread this message not on her own. She gathered like-minded individuals and held a conference, although it is evident that any results from this discussion will not impact the course of the war in Ukraine, and the proposed suggestions for peace and cessation of arms supplies to Ukraine in the West will not be taken into account.
However, this conference may still influence EU citizens who support the project or stumbled upon the video by chance. Without a critical approach to what the conference speakers say, viewers might agree with narratives echoing those of Russian media and start opposing support for Ukraine.
Therefore, before reading an article or watching a video from an unfamiliar source, it’s worth investigating who the author of this product is, what narratives they propagate, and only then consuming the content. As we can see, the existence of a personal party or institute is not a marker of the author’s integrity and objectivity. It is also essential to carefully fact-check and familiarize oneself with the meanings of terms in the materials.
Learn more about Helga Zepp-LaRouche in this video.
The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations