President Biden and Vladimir Putin are each trying to shape the narrative of what is happening in Ukraine and get inside the heads of a global audience — and each other — to gain the upper hand in an information war as a possible prelude to a real one.
Why it matters: U.S. officials say Putin is stoking disinformation in order to blame Ukraine if Russia invades. The White House is trying to announce Putin’s plays before he runs them — a novel and risky strategy they hope might stave off an invasion, or at least help unify the international community against it.
- Biden said Friday: “We’re calling out Russia’s plans loudly and repeatedly, not because we want a conflict, but … to remove any reason that Russia may give to justify invading Ukraine.”
The backstory: U.S. officials have been releasing intelligence for weeks about alleged Russian plans to build a pretext for war. U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken took that to a new level on Wednesday by providing a step-by-step description of how the U.S. expects an invasion to unfold.
- That set the stage for Biden’s remarkable address on Friday, in which he said he was “convinced” Putin had decided to launch a full-scale invasion to target the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
- Moscow has alternated between mocking the dire predictions from Washington — particularly after an invasion target date floated by U.S. officials came and went — and condemning them as “aggression” and “information warfare” against Russia. Putin claims the U.S. is trying to bait him into invading.
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