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What the Kremlin fears most

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Pro-Kremlin media discloses Moscow’s concern about a strong NATO identity

In recent weeks, pro-Kremlin media websites (in Russian) and (in Lithuanian)—while continuing longstanding anti-NATO narratives—have focused on distorting and questioning NATO’s identity, trying to sow doubts about the alliance’s credibility and its ability to connect with citizens in NATO’s 29 member states. 

On 17 October, Kaliningrad-based mocked the behavior of NATO troops deployed in Lithuania, describing alleged “drunken brawls” involving German soldiers. It said “defenders of the Baltic states behave like Baltic invaders.” The next day, posted an article summarizing the allegedly poor behavior of NATO troops in the three Baltic states. It concluded that the alliance suffers from their inaction, an allusion to the problems caused by idle troops. The article also suggested that NATO has no purpose. discussed that theme in a 20 October article that asked “why NATO does not have heroes” and “why NATO is needed at all.”

These articles are the most recent in a constant volley of attacks advancing anti-NATO narratives that accuse the alliance of aggression and poor troop conduct. What is new about these latest attacks is that the pro-Kremlin media has tried to sow suspicions about NATO’s identity by claiming the organization “cannot boast of the courage of its soldiers.” 

Moreover, as insists, “heroism is absent among NATO troops” because “only national armies [of member states] can tell stories about the courage of their soldiers.” In other words, only national armies pay tribute to their troops by erecting monuments or galleries of honor. With such narratives the Kremlin tries to contrast the positive image of a national army with a negative image of NATO’s multinational forces—injecting confusion among readers about the credibility and feasibility of the Western alliance. 

The Kremlin media ignores the fact that NATO has successfully functioned as an alliance of collective defense since 1949, and that NATO allies have done and are doing a considerable amount to reassure and support the Baltic states. According to a recent public opinion survey by the Pew Research Center, American, Canadian, German, Dutch and Polish support for NATO has strengthened in the past year, while most French citizens express a favorable view of the alliance. 

In addition, Central and Eastern Europe states value NATO membership “as a security guarantee,” finds a recent GLOBESEC survey. Opinion polls in Lithuania also show strong local support for Lithuania’s membership in NATO as well as deployment of NATO troops in the region. Public support for NATO is very high in Estonia, and a majority of Latvians support NATO as well, polls show.

This focus of Kremlin disinformation raises ideas about how NATO should respond. By identifying core elements of NATO integrity and seeking to incapacitate them, the Kremlin media reveals what it fears most: a strong NATO alliance.

Photo: US. Army/Capt. John W. Strickland