Debunking all disinfo is counterproductive − NATO representative in Ukraine

International

Article by: Polina Boichuk and Victoria Dubiv, Kyiv Not Kiev
Edited by: A. N.

The Kyiv Not Kiev project has interviewed the Director of the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine, Ms. Vineta Kleine.

In Part 1 of the interview they discussed: Western allies sounding the alarm over Russia’s possible full-scale invasion, the problem of misinformation becoming a matter of national security, how to recognize fakes, different experience of living in Kyiv compared to other cities, and more.

On the Russian military build-up near Ukraine

Western partners sound the alarm on the significant concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine.

Currently, over 100,000 troops have been drawn to the border with Ukraine. And their number, according to the latest reports, will continue to increase.

On January 17, Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced the joint Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Determination-2022” to be held in February in Belarus. According to Radio Liberty, Russian military equipment is indeed gradually arriving in Belarus – you can see it in the videos of Russians on social media.

However, analysts say only part of the Russian military is heading to training grounds in Belarus. Most of them remain halfway to the area, 40 kilometers from the Chernihiv Oblast of Ukraine and 90 kilometers from the Kyiv Oblast.

Ms. Kleine reiterated that NATO stands by Ukraine and that any future Russian aggression towards Ukraine would come at a high cost. “It will cause significant economic and political consequences,” stated Ms. Kleine. NATO doesn’t know the real intentions behind the Kremlin’s build-up. However, NATO is strongly supporting Ukraine both politically and practically.

According to the latest reports, NATO increases its military presence in Eastern Europe due to Russia’s efforts to build up troops near the Ukrainian border. Ukraine received more than 80 tons of the second batch of weapons from the United States. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will supply additional weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine will receive Javelin anti-tank missiles from Estonia and Stinger surface-to-air missiles from Lithuania and Latvia. The United Kingdom provides Ukraine with one of the best anti-tank grenade launchers, NLAW.

Ms. Kleine reminded that at the November 2021 NATO meeting in Riga,

NATO countries’ foreign ministers reiterated that we stand by Ukraine, and Russia should deescalate and be transparent.”

At the same time, in Riga, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that Georgia and Ukraine are long-standing and close NATO partners contributing to the Alliance’s mission and operations and seeking full membership.

How can we tackle disinformation?

Ms. Vineta Kleine compared misinformation to the ancient Greeks’ deceptive military tactic when they sent a hollow wooden horse filled with their best warriors to their enemies in the city of Troy.

But nowadays, this kind of deception is represented by fake social media accounts, propaganda, disinformation and malicious informational attacks.

We need to be proactive,” said Ms. Vineta Kleine. “It’s society’s task to address this information [warfare] because everyone has a role to play: media, academy, government and civil society.”

NATO has a dual approach to the problem: to track, monitor, and assess information environment and embed all this into its communications efforts. NATO uses fact bases, and a proactive and transparent approach to informing its audiences. However, it’s not important to debunk every piece of misinformation because it’s counterproductive.

Instead, “we need to increase our society’s digital and media literacy. There should be legal procedures in place. It’s also about involving civil society and fact-checkers, increasing society’s resilience. It’s about teaching, educating, explaining, and being proactive.”

Ukraine has two similar centers for combating misinformation. Don’t they duplicate each other’s work?

Ms. Vineta Kleine stated that Ukraine is at the forefront of the fight against misinformation. Ukraine has accumulated significant experience and knowledge when it comes to disinformation. In 2021, this experience led to the creation of two centers:

  1. The Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security at the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. It is considered one of the institutions for countering disinformation by joint efforts of the state and civil society. The Center is focused on communication aiming to counter external threats, particularly those of the Russian Federation.
  2. The Center for Countering Disinformation at the National Security and Defense Council. It is a closed institution that doesn’t seek comprehensive media coverage of its activities. It is involved in countering Russian disinformation as well.

The Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security and NATO Information and Documentation Center held a Kyiv Strategic Communications Forum. It was a platform for national and foreign experts to share and exchange information on dealing with fake news, responding to propaganda, etc.

Ms. Kleine believes that accumulated knowledge of these two centers will benefit both NATO and Ukraine.

She hopes that “they’ll use and maximize their input and share their knowledge with NATO and European partners.”

How can we ramp up our ability to recognize fakes?

All of us can check and use a reliable source of information,” said Ms. Kleine.

The NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine uses its tools and puts its efforts to increase awareness of Ukrainians about NATO, its values, agenda, and NATO-Ukraine cooperation. The Center is also helping to finance media literacy training for journalists and civil servants.

Ukraine also has a NATO-Ukraine strategic communication partnership roadmap, signed in 2015. Ukrainian experts can participate in various StratCom-related events and forums in NATO member states. They can exchange accumulated experience and expertise with professionals from countries with more extensive experience and knowledge.

Ms. Vineta Kleine also participates in active work with Ukrainian youth. She has already had about 40 lectures with students across Ukraine telling them about NATO, its 2030 initiative, its role in the modern world, etc. And this work is essential due to countless malicious information attacks about NATO’s aggressive role in escalating conflicts, including in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict.

Polina Boichuk is an Associate Partner at TRUMAN, Co-founder and Co-host at Kyiv Not Kiev

Victoria Dubiv is a Project Manager at TRUMAN, Editor at Kyiv Not Kiev

PART 2 OF THE INTERVIEW IS TO FOLLOW

Read More:

Edited by: A. N.
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