Briefs

Sowing anti-NATO sentiment in Poland

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Pro-Kremlin media, far-right nationalist movements seek to undermine popular support for NATO troop presence in Poland

NATO’s Eastern Flank Initiative, approved by the alliance at its Warsaw summit in July 2016, would move four international battalion-sized battlegroups—including U.S. troops—to Poland and the Baltic states. The initiative’s goal is to reassure NATO members that the alliance is committed to their security in the face of Russian aggression. According to a recent poll, 56.4 percent of Poles think stationing U.S. troops in their country will accomplish the initiative’s objectives. 

Nevertheless, pro-Kremlin media and far-right nationalist movements have waged an active campaign to weaken that support. The right-wing National Movement defines Poland as a U.S. “vassal” and criticizes the American troop presence. Its Facebook fan page, though not widely visited, regularly publishes anti-American propaganda containing vulgar language about U.S. policy in Europe. It also actively promotes Mikołaj Rajzer, a young nationalist who is trying to provoke anger against the American presence in Poland.

Rajzer belongs to National Free Poland (NFP), a small nationalist organization that attacks Polish cooperation with the United States, the European Union and Ukraine while promoting reconciliation with Russia. NFP has criticized Ukrainian immigration to Poland in the hope of disrupting the two countries’ current good relationship Rajzer is also promoted in Polish by Novorossia Today, a pro-Kremlin internet blog that engages in discussions about the future of Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia. NFP is allied with the nationalist environment movement in Poland.

Rajzer is an ally of Wojciech Olszański, also known as Aleksander Jabłonowski, an actor and famous nationalist “YouTuber” who seeks to influence younger Poles with his pro-Kremlin, anti-NATO propaganda. Borrowing the geopolitical theories of Russian ideologist Alexander Dugin and his imitators in Poland, Jabłonowski states that his country is in a “crumple zone” between the West and Russia. This increasingly popular term means that Poland is destined to be a victim of any future deal between Russia and the West. He argues that given this threat, the only solution for Poland is to get along with Moscow. Jabłonowski also wants to fight the “gene of Russophobia” in Poland.

Rajzer also cooperates with the anti-semite Eugeniusz Sendecki, who says he is searching for “undercover Jews” in media and politics. Sendecki describes Rajzer and Jablonowski as the “true, sincerely anti-American opposition in Poland.” But in his opinion, the “precursor and martyr” of the cause is Mateusz Piskorski, who was jailed on 17 May 2016 following his conviction for espionage and for creating the Zmiana (Change) political using money from Russia.  Pro-Kremlin propaganda presents Piskorski as a victim of Poland’s official Russophobic policy.
   
These movements and pro-Kremlin propaganda seek to antagonize Poles and Americans at a time when they are working together to counter the Russian threat in Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the fact that this anti-NATO campaign has met with little success so far, the alliance must promote accurate information about its Eastern Flank Initiative in order to inoculate itself against the possibility of future opposition—especially among younger voters who rely on the internet and social media for their news.  

Photo: Michal Kazmierczak/FORUM