Polish armed forces attacked by Russian propaganda: analysis
Poland’s military policy and its armed forces remain a key target for the Russian propaganda machine, a security official in Warsaw has warned.
Stanisław Żaryn.Photo: PAP/Tomasz Gzell
In recent weeks, Russian propaganda „has repeatedly exploited the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic” in an effort to „hit Poland” and further an “anti-Polish agenda,” while also attempting to undermine its military cooperation with the United States, according to Stanisław Żaryn, spokesman for Poland’s security services chief.
In an analysis posted on the gov.pl website, he said that Polish-US military cooperation, the activities of the Polish army and military exercises have all come under constant attack by websites „notorious for spreading Russian disinformation.”
Much of the content posted in recent weeks on websites “actively engaged in information warfare efforts against Poland” has exploited the fears of the pandemic to suggest the Polish army “was decimated by the coronavirus,” according to Żaryn, who is Spokesman for Poland’s Minister-Special Services Coordinator.
“According to the narratives pushed by Russia, the Polish Armed Forces were paralysed, incapable of fulfilling their duties, and the soldiers were overwhelmed by panic,” said Żaryn, who also serves as director of the National Security Department at the Polish Prime Minister’s Office.
He argued that such narratives aimed to “undermine the image of the Polish Armed Forces; question the army’s capability to defend Poland; sow information chaos regarding the issue of the armed forces; sow panic among the military; undermine the morale of the Polish soldiers; and breed mistrust of U.S. troops deployed to Poland and the Polish troops.”
Meanwhile, news websites that seek to amplify “Russian propaganda claims” have “weaponized the COVID-19 narratives to portray the Polish army and the Allied forces as a threat to the Poles,” Żaryn also said.
“They suggested that the Allied military presence in Poland posed a major threat to the citizens,” he added.
“More specifically, the army was depicted as a source of the outbreak and an environment where the coronavirus could spread easily.”
According to Żaryn, Russian propaganda attempted to “breed mistrust of both the Polish Armed Forces and the Allied soldiers. Suggestions were made that the Poles would be threatened by the military presence of the Allies.”
Similar hostile narratives were pushed against those units of the Polish Army that had been actively engaged in tackling the pandemic for weeks, Żaryn said in his analysis.
He added that one of the targets was the country’s Territorial Defence Force (WOT), which has been „under sustained disinformation attacks by Russia” since it was established in 2016.
“Pushing such manipulated information aimed to breed mistrust of the Polish Armed Forces; create a negative image of the Allied soldiers in the eyes of the Poles; strengthen tensions between Poland and the U.S.; sow information chaos regarding the Polish Armed Forces and the Allies; exploit the fears of COVID-19 among the society; and undermine the morale of the Polish and American soldiers,” according to Żaryn.
He warned that news websites “that regularly push Russian propaganda” have “amplified narratives suggesting that the continuation by NATO of its military activity amid the pandemic was dangerous” and that military exercises held amid the struggle to contain the virus showed that “the Alliance valued its provocative military activity against Russia more that the safety of the Polish citizens.”
At the same time, “a narrative was pushed that given that Russia posed no threat whatsoever to the West, NATO’s activity on the Eastern Flank was irrational and groundless,” the analysis said.
“Multiple articles would go on to say that holding by NATO of military drills despite the pandemic clearly showed that it was the Alliance that threatened the world peace.”
Żaryn said “amplifying such propagandized narratives” aimed to question the reliability of NATO and its member states; undermine the morale of the soldiers taking part in the Defender Europe-20 drills; depict the West as being aggressive toward Russia; accuse the Alliance of taking a provocative stance on Russia; and undermine the credibility of Poland on the international arena.
A characteristic feature of „Russian information warfare efforts” against Poland, Żaryn concluded, is that “they are designed to exploit the current epidemic situation to denigrate Poland and NATO.”
Żaryn warned in a recent media interview that Russia was pumping out propaganda and spreading fake news in an effort to sow chaos and destabilize decision making in Poland.
The American military newspaper Stars and Stripes last month cited Żaryn as saying that Poland was hit by a wave of fake news, including a phony interview with a US commander, ahead of a major NATO exercise in the country.