Russian state-funded and state-directed media outlets RT and Sputnik are critical elements in Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem. In an August 2020 report, the Global Engagement Center outlined the five pillars of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem. RT and Sputnik are key state-funded and directed global messengers within this ecosystem, using the guise of conventional international media outlets to provide disinformation and propaganda support for the Kremlin’s foreign policy objectives. RT and Sputnik also interact with other pillars of the ecosystem by amplifying content from Kremlin and Kremlin-aligned proxy sites (some of which are connected to Russian intelligence), weaponizing social media, and promoting cyber-enabled disinformation.
RT and Sputnik’s role as disinformation and propaganda outlets is most obvious when they report on issues of political importance to the Kremlin. A prevalent example is Russia’s use of RT and Sputnik to attempt to change public opinions about Ukraine in Europe, the United States, and as far away as Latin America. When factual reporting on major foreign policy priorities is not favorable, Russia uses state-funded international media outlets to inject pro-Kremlin disinformation and propaganda into the information environment.