Former Minister Echoes Russian Talking Points On Kremlin Media | #socialmedia


Foreign Affairs

While countries around the world clamp down on Kremlin-run media, a former Cabinet minister has given interviews supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to outlets accused of spreading propaganda

A former government minister has labelled Nato a “terrorist organisation” and accused Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky of “promoting fascists”, in a series of interviews on state-controlled Russian media outlets facing sanctions for spreading propaganda.

But Matt Robson, a former Alliance MP and associate foreign affairs minister in Helen Clark’s Labour government, says he is unrepentant and has accused Kiwi politicians of running a “McCarthyist regime” when it comes to Russia.

In an interview with state-controlled television network RT earlier this month, Robson claimed the Government had aligned New Zealand with the Nato alliance “without debate [or] discussion”.

“Many of us call it the nuclear-armed terrorist organisation – Nato – and the people of New Zealand have not discussed this and they’re not even aware, but it’s led us into a war which many of us now understand is a war in the Ukraine created by the United States for its own purposes.”

He alleged there was a civil war in Ukraine “launched with the funding and the direction of the United States” and referred to the role of “Nazi groups” in the country.

When Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine in late February, he framed it as a special operation to “demilitarise and denazify Ukraine” – an allegation described as “factually wrong, morally repugnant and deeply offensive” in an open letter signed by over 300 historians specialising in genocide, Nazism and World War II.

Robson suggested Russia’s invasion had been “in defence of people in the Ukraine” rather than an act of unprovoked aggression, referring to “the assault on the people in the East and the Donbas republics as they now are”.

Pro-Russian separatist groups in the Donbas region of Ukraine have been aided by the Russian government since 2014, with Harvard University’s Ukrainian Research Institute associate Markian Dobczansky describing it to CNN as “a sacrificial lamb in Russian narratives”.

“It’s the place where the Russians have cultivated a cult of victimhood. They’ve managed to turn their own fomenting of a war into a narrative of victimhood at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists,” Dobczansky told CNN.

Robson told RT that Nato’s ultimate goal was “to dismember Russia”, referring to the work of American thinktank the RAND Corporation as proof of “the game plan”.

“We should be thanking the Russian government for saying to Nato, ‘No, you’re not going to do that to us, you’re not going to do it to our friends and we’re not going to put up with it and we’re going to protect the people in the Ukraine’.”
– Matt Robson

The European Union’s disinformation awareness website has described claims about the RAND Corporation’s development of US expansionist plans as a “conspiracy theory consistent with recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the secret elites”.

In a separate interview with Russian outlet Izvestia, Robson alleged Zelensky had promoted “fascists” within his administration and said the world should be thanking Russia for its invasion.

“We should be thanking the Russian government for saying to Nato, ‘No, you’re not going to do that to us, you’re not going to do it to our friends and we’re not going to put up with it and we’re going to protect the people in the Ukraine’.”

RT has been banned from operating in a number of countries since the invasion of Ukraine over concerns about its dissemination of propaganda, with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen saying the network and fellow state-run outlet Sputnik would “no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union”.

In February, Sky TV announced it would stop broadcasting RT in New Zealand following a number of complaints about the channel.

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms have also banned RT or prevented the dissemination of its content.

Izvestia has previously been criticised for publishing discredited claims about the US establishing biowarfare laboratories in Ukraine.

Robson’s remarks to RT about Nato were also broadcast in a news item on China Central Television, a CCP-owned broadcaster which has repeated false claims about a “staged” massacre in the Ukrainian suburb of Bucha.

‘It would pay us to listen to Russia’

Speaking to Newsroom, Robson said he had been approached by the Russian outlets for an interview after writing a number of pieces in New Zealand media about the Ukraine invasion.

His views would remain the same whether he was speaking to Russian television or any other outlet, he said.

“I’m a lawyer, and the Bill of Rights specifically says that we have freedom of expression, freedom of opinion.”

Robson had no regrets about his remarks regarding Nato and the invasion, saying “the Russians are on the ball” when it came to concerns about Ukraine.

“If there is a counter-opinion on the influence of the Nazis, that’s one thing, but I actually think that it would pay us to listen to Russia on the score irrespective of who the president is.”

He claimed Nazis were “undoubtedly embedded in many of the institutions of the Kiev regime” – an allegation which has been widely debunked – and suggested Nato was an offensive, rather than defensive, alliance.

“It’s tempting to shrug this sort of commentary off as fringe, delusional nonsense that’s best ignored, but unfortunately because of his background as a Cabinet minister it actually becomes a useful piece in the Kremlin’s wider disinformation campaign.”
– David Capie, Centre for Strategic Studies

Robson accepted there had been allegations of war crimes committed by Russian forces, but said he had also heard of “abysmal and appalling treatment of Russian soldiers, prisoners of war”.

“I’m not there, I’m not able to judge it, it’s not before a tribunal.”

He had written to a number of MPs in New Zealand to share his views, and said he was concerned about the lack of debate.

“The majority, I’ve never seen such a – well, I think I have – a cowing of members of Parliament or type of McCarthyism regime, where if you have a different opinion and you want to argue it, it’s seen as being a Russian troll, and they’re frightened of that.”

David Capie, director of the Centre of Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, told Newsroom Robson’s remarks would be pushed out on social media “to reinforce Russian government talking points and generally sow confusion”.

“It’s tempting to shrug this sort of commentary off as fringe, delusional nonsense that’s best ignored, but unfortunately because of his background as a Cabinet minister it actually becomes a useful piece in the Kremlin’s wider disinformation campaign,” Capie said.



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