Poland: 3-9 October 2016

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A right-wing Polish website warns that U.S. policy toward Russia will spark World War III.

Event: On 6 October, Poland’s right-wing Wolna Polska (Free Poland) website posted an article by Ignacy Nowopolski titled “A third world war any day now?” The writer—describing Russia’s decision to withdraw from a landmark 2000 nuclear treaty with the United States on the disposal of plutonium—says irresponsible U.S. policies could unleash a third world war.

The false fact or narrative: Washington broke its agreement regarding Syria by conducting air raids on Syrian territory, as usual accusing Russia of the raids. White House spokesman Mark Toner threatened Russia with terrorist attacks on its own territory. Even though Russia has publicly shared evidence of American terrorism, such evidence has no resonance in the West, because the “mainstream trash media” totally dominate the West’s information environment Today, when Washington talks about a military crackdown on the “Assad regime,” Russia must choose between using its S-300 antiaircraft systems in Syria against the U.S. Air Force—thus starting a third world war—or submitting to the new world order. As a consequence, says Wolna Polska, all of us face the prospect of total destruction within days or weeks.

Reality on the ground: Toner did not threaten Russia with terrorist attacks on its territory, and Russia offered no evidence of U.S. links to terrorist groups. The article mentions Russian TV airing an allegedly intercepted phone conversation between Secretary of State John Kerry and the leader of Islamic State, yet no such material like that ever appeared on Russian TV at all.

  • Lack of evidence to support the facts; 
  • presenting false facts; 
  • spreading conspiracy theories.

Audiences: Polish public opinion.

Analysis: Russia’s withdrawal from its bilateral accord for the disposal of plutonium provoked a wave of articles in Poland’s online media, which frequently reposts Russian disinformation. The message is always similar: World War III will start any moment now, or is already underway. In addition, the blame lies with the United States and generally with the West, as it Western policy that forces Russia to take defensive actions. That media campaign—which got Super Express,  a popular tabloid, to spread the same threat about a third world war—aims to frighten Poles and convince them that Washington is causing global insecurity and that Russia is only defending itself against violent and aggressive U.S. action.