European Values Think-Tank presents a new Kremlin Watch Report, “The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West: An Overview of RT’s Editorial Strategy and Evidence of Impact”, authored by Monika Richter, Kremlin Watch Analyst. The Report is accompanied with an appendix document, the RT Guest List.
This Report provides a detailed overview of the history, agenda, and evidence of impact of the Kremlin-funded international broadcasting network RT (Russia Today). In recent months, RT has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign against the West. Unlike other agents of this campaign, which operate primarily behind the scenes and whose ties to the Kremlin are less overt, RT operates out in the open, pushing its pro-Kremlin agenda under the guise of ‘free speech’ and ‘alternative’ journalism aimed at counteracting the alleged bias of the mainstream media.
Thanks to this public visibility and its close ties to the Russian government, RT is seen as the official ‘face’ of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign in Europe and the United States; consequently, it often receives disproportionate attention and blame within Western policy circles for its contribution to the Kremlin’s destabilisation efforts. At the same time, many people in Europe and the US, including politicians and other persons of influence, continue to exhibit troubling naïveté about RT’s political agenda, buying into the network’s marketing ploy that it is simply an outlet for independent voices marginalised by the mainstream Western press. These ‘useful idiots’ remain oblivious to RT’s intentions and boost its legitimacy by granting interviews on its shows and newscasts.
This Report aims to resolve these conflicting realities, first, by identifying and describing the malignancies of RT’s editorial strategy, which unambiguously qualify the network as a Kremlin disinformation outfit, and second, by setting the record straight about the extent and nature of RT’s impact, which is frequently overstated to the detriment of sober analysis and apt strategic response.
Download it in PDF.
RT Guest List:
This document presents a list of 2326 persons of public significance (primarily from Western nations) who have appeared as guests on Russia Today (RT). The purpose of this list is to illustrate the scope of the problem: to identify individuals who, either due to unawareness of RT’s political agenda, or indeed explicit support of it, lend their names and credibility to a pseudo-news network and proxy agent of the Kremlin that peddles conspiracy theories, disinformation and various toxic forms of denialism in service of undermining democracy.
Regardless of their intent, these appearances amount to complicity with and legitimisation of the Russian propaganda machine. RT is not a neutral media platform; its raison d’être is to disparage and demoralise the West at all costs, and all content it airs is calibrated to serve this purpose. Thus, even guest appearances made in good faith – e.g., motivated by the desire to offset some of RT’s more toxic and hyperbolic narratives – are ultimately counterproductive.
The list is derived from the online episode archives of 17 RT shows. The guests are divided into seven categories:
- US Politicians and Political Figures, Government Representatives (incl. Diplomats), and Military Leaders
- British Politicians and Political Figures, Government Representatives (incl. Diplomats), and Military Leaders
- European and Other International Politicians and Leaders
- Writers, Journalists, Commentators and Political Activists
- Academics, Researchers, Think-Tank Experts and Legal Professionals
- Entertainment Personalities, Professional Athletes, Cultural Influencers and Other Celebrities
- Miscellaneous Persons of Public Interest
Guests in each category are listed in alphabetical order (last name, first name), along with the shows on which they have appeared, their total number of appearances, and hyperlinks to all the relevant episodes. Names highlighted in yellow are particularly noteworthy for their public status. Please see the summary worksheet for more information on compilation.
Download the RT Guest List HERE.
Kremlin Watch Program Analyst
PROFILE: Monika joined the Kremlin Watch Program in March 2017. She became interested in the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign with the onset of the Ukraine crisis in 2013, and subsequently devoted her graduate research to the effectiveness of this campaign with target audiences in the West. Her Masters thesis involved an online survey experiment with 1,200 U.S. participants that tested the attitudinal effects of exposure to Russian coverage of the Ukraine war. The study received national media coverage in the U.K. as the first controlled experiment on the impact of Kremlin-sponsored broadcasting aimed at Western citizens.
At Kremlin Watch, Monika focuses on the disinformation scene in the U.S. and the broader challenges of fighting information pollution in the age of unchecked digital media. She holds degrees in Politics and International Relations from the University of Oxford, St Antony’s College (MPhil) and the University of St Andrews (MA). Born to Czech emigrant parents and raised in the U.S., she speaks native Czech and English, as well as German (B2). Her full profile is available on LinkedIn.