Analysis of the News “Colonel Macgregor: Poland risks going the Ukraine’s way and turn into a graveyard”

August 2023

As part of the program Regional Initiative to Combat Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

Colonel Macgregor: Poland risks going the Ukraine’s way and turn into a graveyard

In the previous period, we look back at one of the central topics of the tabloids that we analyze, which is a topic with a focus on Polish anti-Russian ambitions that include the division of Ukraine, and a major war with Russia.

Warsaw is leading the so-called anti-Russian crusade, as commented by the guest of “The American Conservative”, retired American colonel Douglas Macgregor, as reported by the Webtribune media portal. All this is happening under the patronage of Washington, which continuously supports the Polish authorities in their efforts to deal with Russia. This analysis by Douglas Macgregor presents the typical tone, with the desire to present Poland as an aggressor, diverting attention from the real aggressor that is attacking territories within the borders of sovereign Ukraine. The narrative used by these analysts can be looked at from several angles.

One of them seeks to present the current war in Ukraine as exclusively a war between the USA and Russia over the back of Ukraine, while the role of the Ukrainian people opposing the Russian aggressor is marginalized and shifted in the background in order to divert readers from the primary topic, which is that Ukraine society does not want to live under Russian rule. The second thing, stated by numerous research institutes, is that this rhetoric is part of Russia’s disinformation and psychological war against Poland. According to the Center for Eastern Studies, the claim that Poland wants to secede parts of Ukraine is primarily aimed at causing a problem within Polish-Ukrainian relations, causing skepticism among the Ukrainian people, but also raising tensions due to the upcoming elections in Poland.

This rhetoric is not only usual for the work of Douglas Macgregor but a narrative that regularly appears in the media that carries the statements of the main decision-makers in the Kremlin. In the context of the aforementioned, Maria Zakharova’s statements provide an insight into the template used by officials in their disinformation activities. Thus, Sputnik reports a statement in which Zakharova claims that “Poland claims the territories of western Ukraine” and that there was enough pretending that this was not clear to everyone. In the following, she states that books, conferences, and speeches are appearing in Poland that gradually incorporate appropriate symbols with a certain nostalgic memory of the territories of Western Ukraine that are part of Poland. This kind of message is a practical example of spreading misinformation with the aim of raising tensions and discomfort within Ukrainian society and their relationship with Poles. Although official statements like this are denied and refuted very quickly by Polish officials, they are never equally represented or visible in the media, especially in the Balkans and in Serbia. After all, this is an essential part of Russia’s strategy of spreading disinformation, by creating confusion and a huge amount of media headlines.

In order to create additional tensions, and in the context of Polish war ambitions, the additional strengthening of military forces near Poland’s borders with Belarus was mentioned. This information was also reported by Sputnik. Namely, during the military exercise, Belarusian forces violated the territorial integrity of the Republic of Poland and thus worried citizens from nearby villages. Although the Polish authorities were allegedly informed about this exercise, they decided to increase the number of military personnel on the borders with Belarus. This is another example of the strengthening of anti-Polish rhetoric coming from the Kremlin. By suggesting that Poland desires a military confrontation with Belarus, the authorities from Moscow are trying to present the Polish government as aggressive, thus undermining relations between Eastern European countries and Western allies. If Poland were to pursue a sovereignly aggressive policy as a member of NATO, it would lead to a reconsideration of the relations between certain allies. The policymakers of Russia know this, and accordingly, they are leading a campaign that seeks to cause conflicts among the members of the NATO alliance.

In addition, what is also mentioned as one of the possibilities is that the Russian authorities are trying to hide a very unstable situation within their country. The peak of instability occurred on June 23, when Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary formation Wagner, accused the Russian army of “destroying” his fighters and vowed to take revenge on the Russian military leadership, after which the Russian FSB intelligence service began criminal proceedings against him – for calling for armed rebellion. Further escalation was prevented at the last moment with the intervention of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Authors: Đorđe Terek, Tanja Plavšić