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Top three ways Russia spreads disinformation about NATO military exercises

Top three ways Russia spreads disinformation about NATO military exercises
Top three ways Russia spreads disinformation about NATO military exercises
Edited by: Yuri Zoria
Western military exercises are an obvious target for the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign that aims to undermine the public’s trust in EU countries, NATO and the West in general.

Recently the Ukrainian-hosted “Clear Sky 2018” – a 12-day joint multinational military exercise – concluded. And NATO’s Trident Juncture 18, one of the largest military exercises ever held in Norway, was launched on 25 October. The disinformation about these events had been well prepared and tailored for different audiences well in advance.

Disinformation narratives about NATO drills

Let us go through some of the most frequent narratives and techniques pro-Kremlin disinformation uses when spreading disinformation about military exercises in the West.

1. They’ll claim that these military exercises mean preparation for war against Russia. This week, Russian TV started with claims that the Clear Sky 2018 exercise serves as evidence that the US “dreams about organizing a regional war in Europe“. And it continued with the usual disinformation about Ukraine being a vassal country and a US colony, as well as disinformation about Ukraine launching a revanchist offensive ahead of the March presidential elections, deploying NATO-equipped Polish mercenaries in the Donbas, and killing Russians without consequences in line with US permission. Completing the defamation were claims that Satanist Ukraine is a dictatorship. To set the record straight, please see the links to EU vs Disinfo database to read the facts.

2. They’ll claim that participating in a military exercise equates to having territorial claims. One of the outlets claimed that while Finland cooperates closely with NATO and takes part in the Trident Juncture 18, the secret motive for cooperation is aggression: the thirst to gain new territories in the Arctic. Actually, the objective of Finland’s Arctic policy is to strengthen multilateral Arctic cooperation. It does not include any desire for imperialistic expansion. Earlier, we have seen how the attempts to create an image of NATO as an aggressive military power have led pro-Kremlin disinformation to claim that NATO was deploying thousands of tanks in Europe instead of dozens as it in fact did.

3. They’ll aim to provoke distrust and tensions among the local people who live in the area where the exercise is conducted. Here we have earlier heard the whole spectrum of lies: claims that a child was killed during a NATO exercise in Lithuania, that only prostitutes profit from NATO exercises and that NATO’s commanders are likely to test new techniques by subjecting Russian-speaking individuals to new physical, biological, and other methods aimed at altering human psyche and behavior. For the history of these conspiracies see the EU vs Disinfo reporting and the database of disinformation messages.

And talking about what was trending on the conspiracy production line of the pro-Kremlin disinformation machinery last week, one disinformation-oriented outlet in Georgia puts a lot of effort into trying to convince its audience that the West is about to introduce necrophilia and zoophilia in Georgia. This time, it spread unsubstantiated claims from the St. Petersburg troll factory outlet Riafan about a goat raped by a migrant in Bulgaria. Earlier, it has spread similar stories about the rapes of an alligator, a mummy – and even a wax figure. Often these stories originate in satirical and humorous websites but are then portrayed as real events by the outlet in question. For further background see Myth Detector’s report.

As always, last week’s Russian disinformation narratives included Ukraine-related topics.

Unencumbered by providing any facts or evidence, Russian media presented Ukraine as a vassal country of the US in which the US had introduced a de-facto dictatorship and which purportedly plans acts of sabotage any time soon in the Russian-occupied Crimea and is considering an offensive in the Donbas before the Ukrainian March-2019 presidential election. Another batch of “foreign mercenaries” ostensibly arrived to fight at the Donbas front line; this time, Russian media invented “30 NATO-equipped Polish mercenaries” no one ever saw. Moreover, the Ukrainian Church’s demand for autocephaly is, of course, a special operation by CIA, according to propaganda outlets.

Since the very beginning, Russia mispresents its hybrid war against Ukraine for its domestic audience as Russia’s standoff with the entire West and with the US in particular. It’s more convenient to present Russian aggression against a smaller and weaker neighboring country as a geopolitical response to imaginary hostile actions by the West against Russia. Labeling Ukraine as a “failed state” and a US colony in the Russian propaganda narratives is an apparent continuation of the Russian colonial policy towards Ukraine.

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Edited by: Yuri Zoria
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