A recent Trump campaign ad, released around September 11, may have urged viewers to "support our troops," but it was Russian troops and planes that appeared in the ad's imagery.
The ad, made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, the campaign's fundraising arm, uses a stock photo image of troops and military planes against a sunset-lit sky. Not one element of the ad is American in any way.
The ad first appeared online on September 8 and ran until September 12, presumably to capitalize on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
A digital ad released by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee on Sept. 11 calling on people to “support our troops" uses a stock photo of Russian-made fighter jets and weaponshttps://t.co/DfwfTWNKQo
— POLITICO (@politico) September 15, 2020
It turns out, the planes featured in the ad are MiG-29s designed and built by the Russia. was recently discovered to have paid the Taliban bounties on the lives of American troops in Afghanistan.
Pierre Sprey, part of the design team of the F-16 and A-10 planes used by the United States Air Force, confirmed to Politico that the planes are MiG-29s, quipping:
"That's definitely a MiG-29. I'm glad to see it's supporting our troops."
Politico also spoke with Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, who confirmed that the troops are carrying AK-47s, also known as the Kalashnikov, the namesake Soviet who designed it.
The creator of the image, photographer Arthur Zakirov, made the image by compositing several photos together: one of a 3D model of a MiG-29; one of Russian models dressed as soldiers walking on French soil; and a backdrop of Greek mountains. So, there's not a single American element to the photo.
Like Sprey, Zakirov couldn't help but crack wise at the absurdity of the Trump campaign using this image.
"Today you hear about the Kremlin's hand in U.S. politics. Tomorrow you are this hand."
That absurdity comes into sharp relief when the MiG-29's history is taken into account: The plane was created by Russia specifically to fight American F-15s and F-16s.
It has also been sold to militaries all over the world, including to North Korea and Iran. The U.S. has also purchased the MiG-29 for our military's training exercises, and to keep later nuclear-capable versions of the jet out of the hands of adversarial countries like Iran.
All in all, it's a very interesting choice of image for the campaign's ad--especially given the recent revelation that Russia paid the Taliban bounties for the lives of American troops in Afghanistan.
On Twitter, the ad's provenance drew no shortage of disbelief.
I am not making this up. https://t.co/qTupS1axVN
— John Aravosis 🇺🇸🇬🇷🏳️🌈 (@aravosis) September 15, 2020
Many found it hard to believe that the Russian imagery was a mistake.
It's never like “whoops we used a French plane by accident" with this campaign. It's always Russia. https://t.co/hn2Gx41PYd
— Molly McKew (@MollyMcKew) September 15, 2020
This is the most on-brand Trump ad ever. It claims to “support our troops," but the photo is a composited fake, the jets are MiG-29s, and the rifles are Kalashnikovs. Yes, seriously. https://t.co/fEC3WndvHq pic.twitter.com/ZaJzo8fnus
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) September 15, 2020
Trump ad asks people to support the troops. But it uses a picture of Russian jets
The Trump Make America Great Again Committee is run by both the Republican National Committee and the campaign... AND apparently, Putin and the Kremlinhttps://t.co/0TklFXf4br
— HawaiiDelilah™ (@HawaiiDelilah) September 15, 2020
The Trump Campaign put out an ad asking people to support the troops, only they used stock photos of Russian troops and fighter planes.https://t.co/BKC4KtFuTl
Might as well say the quiet part out loud.
— Mieke Eoyang (@MiekeEoyang) September 15, 2020
And some American military service members were particularly perturbed by the ad, for obvious reasons.
As an 11yr veteran I am sick and tired of our armed forces being politicized by a man who has repeatedly shown ambivalence toward those same men and women. https://t.co/gQdcERnFba#supportourtroops #TrumpDoesntCare #NOMORE
— Ryan Rose, City Realtor (@RyanRoseCR) September 15, 2020
Some of us served and were trained to identify the silhouettes of friendly and enemy aircraft like our lives depended on it. I doubt we'd make that mistake.
Also, the AK-47 muzzle brake practically jumps off the page.
Just throwing that out there...https://t.co/fFPpoI59sw pic.twitter.com/2skTbE6vwA
— Jake Williams (@MalwareJake) September 15, 2020
When the @GOP says “support our troops," they're obviously talking about Russian troops. They're traitors to our nation who support a POTUS who calls our military “suckers & losers," & allows Putin to assassinate them. What a disgrace. #VetsAgainstTrump https://t.co/gWHer49fVZ
— Bleeding Heart Liberal Marine (@BleedingMarine) September 15, 2020
Neither the Trump campaign nor the Republican National Committee have commented on the ad as of this writing.