The fundraising ad uses an image featuring Russian MiG-29s and at least one soldier with an AK-47, experts say
A fundraising ad for US president Donald Trump’s re-election campaign reportedly used a stock photo featuring Russian fighter jets and weapons as part of a call for viewers to “support our troops”.
The ad, which has since been removed, was made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which is run by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Trump campaign. The stock image shows five soldiers in silhouette against a sunset as the three planes fly overhead.
Pierre Sprey, who helped design US Air Force planes, told Politico the jet featured in the ad is “definitely a MiG-29”, as did the director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, Ruslan Pukhov.
“I’m glad to see it’s supporting our troops,” said Sprey. Pukhov pointed out that at least one of the soldiers in the image was also carrying Russian-made AK-74 assault rifle.
Politico said the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment, and the RNC declined to comment.
The MiG-29 was designed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s to combat US fighter jets.
Their appearance in the campaign ad comes as recent reports from intelligence officials have suggested that the Russian government is meddling in the US election by attempting to undermine Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, in order to boost Trump’s chances of winning.
This month, Microsoft warned that Russian hackers were targeting US political campaigns. On Sunday, a former member of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections said that Trump was “compromised by the Russians”.
Mueller, the special counsel appointed after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow, but did hand down multiple indictments and secure convictions of close Trump aides. He also laid out extensive contacts with Moscow.
On 9 September, former top intelligence official in the Department of Homeland Security, Brian Murphy, accused Trump loyalists in the department of having manipulated intelligence reports, starting in 2018, to downplay the threat of Russian election interference.
Democracy is in peril …
… ahead of this year’s US election. Donald Trump is busy running the largest misinformation campaign in history as he questions the legitimacy of voting by mail, a method that will be crucial to Americans casting their vote in a pandemic. Meanwhile, the president has also appointed a new head of the US Postal Service who has stripped it of resources, undermining its ability to fulfill a crucial role in processing votes.
This is one of a number of attempts to suppress the votes of Americans – something that has been a stain on US democracy for decades. The Voting Rights Act was passed 55 years ago to undo a web of restrictions designed to block Black Americans from the ballot box. Now, seven years after that law was gutted by the supreme court, the president is actively threatening a free and fair election.
Through our Fight to vote project, the Guardian has pledged to put voter suppression at the center of our 2020 coverage. This election will impact every facet of American life. But it will not be a genuine exercise in democracy if American voters are stopped from participating in it.
At a time like this, an independent news organisation that fights for truth and holds power to account is not just optional. It is essential. Like many other news organisations, the Guardian has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. We rely to an ever greater extent on our readers, both for the moral force to continue doing journalism at a time like this and for the financial strength to facilitate that reporting.
We believe every one of us deserves equal access to fact-based news and analysis. We’ve decided to keep Guardian journalism free for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This is made possible thanks to the support we receive from readers across America in all 50 states.
As our business model comes under even greater pressure, we’d love your help so that we can carry on our essential work. If you can, support the Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.