The Fight Against Russia’s Undermining Narratives

Old disinformation coming back to life

2 March 2022

A trending hashtag in the English speaking Twittersphere right now is #abolishNATO.

It is only the latest expression of a ‘permanent information war’ pushing anti-Western, anti-NATO and anti-EU disinformation and polarising narratives. In the context of the war in Ukraine, it is an instance of older narratives and rhetorical frames that have been dormant in the public space only to be recycled and amplified when the next crisis arrives.

The accusations that the Russian Federation made against NATO have intensified after what analysts describe as ‘Moscow’s policy change in 2014.’ The core of these claims is that NATO poses an existential, security threat to the Russian Federation. Based on this meta-narrative, other specific claims target the decisions and the activity of NATO: ‘NATO breaches international law,’ ‘NATO is adding fuel to the fire,’ ‘NATO is illegally stationing troops in Eastern Europe,’ ‘NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe are heightening tensions,’ ‘NATO promised not to expand,’ ‘NATO actions are destroying the strategic architecture in Europe.’

Social media posts under the #abolishNATO hashtag are built upon these narratives, by claiming that the dismantling of NATO is the necessary step for ‘ending US imperialism,’ for stopping ‘the aggression’ in Ukraine, and for securing ‘world peace.’ In a very apt characterisation, anti-Western disinformation ‘seeks to popularise false images of the West in the West,’ especially by portraying NATO as the villain in an epic battle between ‘good and evil.’

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Alina Bârgăoanu

Marcin Król Fellow at Visegrad Insight. Romanian communication scholar, Dean of the College of Communication and Public Relations, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest. She is currently a member of the advisory board of the European Digital Media Observatory and of the European Commission expert group on tackling disinformation and promoting digital literacy through education and training. Her research centres on the effects of populist politics in Europe as well as assessing the European Union’s attempts to maintain liberal order.

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