Disinformation war: Russia spent $1.9 billion in Poland to shake the confidence and unity of Ukraine’s partners, according to a report.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland (Photo: Reuters)

Ukraine is the remaining land bridge preventing Russia from force projection at NATO member Poland. The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad would be challenging for Putin to launch an attack on Baltic states, considering Kaliningrad has no direct supply route from the Russian Federation.

If Poles can contain Russia next to the Ukrainian border, Poles can feel safe at home that, unlike Ukraine, there is no direct land invasion threat to Poland by the Russian army.

According to a statement from Ukraine’s Defence Ministry, Russia continues to rely on disinformation campaigns to undermine trust between Ukraine and its international partners. According to The Kyiv Independent report, the Russian secret service is striving to destabilize the internal cohesion of Ukrainian society.

Why Russia targeted Poland for a disinformation campaign?

In one notorious atrocity ordered by Stalin, the Soviet secret police systematically shot and killed 22,000 Poles in a remote area during the Katyn massacre. Among some 14,471 victims were top Polish Army officers, including political leaders, government officials, and intellectuals.

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea is sandwiched between Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north and east. It saw bitter fighting and suffered extensive destruction during World War Two. The German population was expelled or fled after the war ended, and the USSR annexed it from Germany.

According to the disinformation analysis centre, Debunk.org, Russia’s mass media expenditure in 2022 was estimated to be $1.9 billion.

Poland is also a leading contributor of military aid to Ukraine. In per capita terms, Poland has sent more military aid to Ukraine than virtually any country other than the Baltic states. This aid has included hundreds of tanks and other crucial weaponry.

Today’s Poland stands shoulder to shoulder in support of Ukraine, shielding Europe from the renewed threat of Russian imperialism. If Putin’s invasion is defeated, this Polish-Ukrainian partnership will likely grow stronger still and could become a significant force in European politics.

Stoking an atmosphere of panic and fear

After the invasion began, Russian propagandists began spreading information in Poland aimed at creating panic and fear in Polish society, mostly through social media. They informed, for instance, that Poland would run out of fuel, which contributed to huge traffic jams at gas stations. These were not caused solely by Russian disinformation, as people tend to react this way in crisis situations, but Russian propaganda may have reinforced their beliefs.

Similarly, there were warnings that ATMs would run out of money. Disinformation on this subject is especially dangerous because it can push people to run to the banks and take out money en masse. If a lot of people want to take money out of the bank at one time, the reserves held by the bank will not be enough, which could shake the stability of the financial system.

These disinformation efforts are not new. Russia regularly spreads misrepresentations about Ukraine, including claims that the country is a “neo-Nazi” state or attempts to blame NATO for the outbreak of war.

In response to these propaganda efforts, Skibitskyi, a representative of Ukrainian military intelligence, stresses the importance of transparency and truth. “Ukraine’s military intelligence has opened up in its information policy,” he says. According to The Kyiv Independent, he points out that Ukrainian authorities publish data revealing Russia’s intentions and also publish evidence of Russian war crimes.

The Kyiv Independent also cites a July 31th U.S. State Department memo warning of Kremlin tactics. Russian intelligence services would launch or influence websites posing as news outlets only to spread misinformation and incite unrest.

Finally, it is emphasized that this information war between Russia and Ukraine is not only taking place on the digital battlefield. In addition to Ukrainian civil society, Ukrainian allies and partners are also targeted by Moscow.

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