During the past week (15/08/2023-18/08/2023), the Russian side focused on one of the leading narratives targeting the image of Poland and Poles. This narrative revolves around portraying Poland as a threat to its neighbours and a party responsible for escalating regional tensions. As Moscow focuses on a specific direction, there is an activation of Belarusian sources, which are also concentrated on persuading their citizens that Poland is a threat to the peace and security of the Belarusian people.
The Russian and Belarusian sides are consistently strengthening their disinformation efforts, which has persisted for several months. However, it appears that there was an unusually high level of activity from Belarusian sources (particularly Telegram channels) in portraying Poland as an “aggressive state” and one “preparing for war” during the given week. It is worth mentioning, however, that the Russians alternately suggest that Poland intends to attack Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Germany. During the discussed period, Belarus was still supposed to be the leading direction of the imagined Polish attack. Compared to the previous period monitored (analysis of 14/08/2023), the Russian side, however, mentions the “approaching attack” on Ukraine more frequently. More often and in a more direct way is, then, a manifestation of the thread concerning Poland’s alleged scheme to instigate war with Russia.
Russian and Belarusian disinformation centres are reinforcing their audience’s belief that Poland, the USA and NATO are the “responsible” forces behind the outbreak of war in Ukraine, with the next stage being a “Polish attack” on Belarus or Russia. The Polish assault on Ukraine is likely to escalate into a conflict with Russia; hence, Poland is virtually destined to “provoke a war with Russia” (“an attack on Germany” is also depicted as a factor that will lead to a war with Russia, since it is then Russia’s “obligation” to finish with the “hyena of Europe” – as Poland is portrayed).
In this manipulated and distorted representation of reality (promoted with the use of influential media and political figures, major media centres, Telegram channels and networks of so-called “troll accounts”), Poland is portrayed as the “aggressor” who will inevitably have to face Russia.
The given operations are of great importance to Moscow in terms of their impact on the Belarusians. The present activity seems to be the ultimate phase of (long-term) convincing the Belarusian population that Russia is the “principal guarantor of peace” and “Belarusian independence”. It is worth noting that both Minsk and Moscow see benefits in this narrative – Minsk consolidates society in the face of an “external threat”, and Moscow convinces Belarusians that only integration with Russia will protect them from the “Ukrainian scenario”. An important element of these actions is distorting the image of events that have been taking place in Ukraine since 2014. By depicting the West as the party responsible for the “destabilisation of Ukraine”, a narrative is being firmly established in Belarus that the country’s direction towards the EU will lead to a “revolution” or “chaos”, “handing over control of the country to the West” and, thus, “destroying the state”. The final stage of the aforementioned “destabilisation” is a war with Russia, which will be the result of transforming (by the West) Belarus into a “NATO base”. In this vision of reality, no attention is given to the elementary sources of destabilisation in Ukraine and the ongoing war – which is the aggressive policy of the Russian Federation; in their eyes, the West (especially Poland) is to blame for the war in Ukraine (2014-2023). Creating Poland as a threat to Belarus and neighbouring countries is one of the elements of strengthening the discussed process – convincing Belarusians that the West = “war”, and Russia = “security and stability”.
Author: dr Michał Marek
Public task financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland within thegrant comp etition “Public Diplomacy 2023”
Fot. Twitter, MON