A Hypothetical War in the Baltic States and Poland – Analysis of Potentials and a Scenario of its Course in the Context of the Ongoing Disinformation Campaign Against Poland
If you want peace – prepare for war.
A report by the Reduta Dobrego Imienia [RDI – Polish League Against Defamation] – PART II
Prepared by: The Documentation and Analysis Team of the Reduta Dobrego Imienia – Polish League Against Defamation – under the direction of Maciej Świrski
The Context of the Ongoing Disinformation Campaign Against Poland
For many years we have been witnessing formatting of the image of Poland as an undemocratic country, inhabited by genetically selected anti-Semites, in which there is no equality before the law, minorities are persecuted, women have no rights, there are no civilized legal norms, and above all – Poland is at least complicit in the crime of the Holocaust (for example, there appear theories that “without the participation of the Poles, the Holocaust would not have been possible”). Finally, that the country enriched itself by murdering Jews and now refuses to return the seized property. All these lies – for the patriotically inclined part of Polish society – are the object of concern and sometimes ridiculous comments. They result in an image of Poland as being unambiguously negative in the eyes of Europeans, Americans, and other nations associated with NATO.
The above considerations about the possible scenario of an armed conflict make it clear that the defense of Poland against a Russian attack will be effective only if, from the first day of the conflict, NATO forces are involved in defense of Poland within the framework of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Its content reads as follows: Note the sentence:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them (…) shall be considered, as an attack against them all, and consequently, they agree that (…) each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense (…) will assist the Party or Parties shall render assistance to the attacked Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith (…) such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. (RDI provided ellipses)
The four ellipses indicate no automaticity in assisting an attacked NATO member – it is a purely political provision. In a democratic state, the military is overseen by civilian politicians. They will make the political decisions about assisting Poland and the Baltic States in the event of Russian aggression. Politicians can therefore agree that armed aggression has indeed taken place and trigger the treaty procedures. But Article 5 speaks of actions deemed necessary. From the wording of the entire sentence, it follows – this is indicated by the use of the words “including the use of armed force” – that the involvement of armed forces may be treated as a last resort, after exhausting various means of mediation, brokerage, negotiation, resolution, etc. In the scenario presented above, it was pointed out that the time factor is extremely important in such a conflict because the aggressor, apart from applying military force, has at its disposal a virtually unlimited palette of tools fitting under the category of “active measures,” which may result in Poland being refused allied assistance. Civilian politicians, listening to public opinion in their countries, may not want to risk their political careers to defend Poland, a country which is known as the “black sheep” in the international community, with unambiguously negative associations – as it has been mentioned – inhabited by anti-Semites, homophobes, perpetrators of the Holocaust, persecutors of women, with dictatorship as its form of government. Adequately prepared, orchestrated, and resonated anti-Polish propaganda may allow Russia to achieve its goal: non-action under Article 5 from the very first day of Russian aggression against Poland and the Baltic States. And the solitude of Poland at this point will indeed produce the effect that Posen and the IISS write about in their analyses, which constituted the starting point for considering hypothetical Russian aggression against Poland and the Baltics, and that Mr. Marek Budzisz writes about in his article.
Characteristics of Disinformation Aggression Against Poland – Three Currents of Deconstruction of the Polish Reality.
Part I presents a conflict scenario that includes NATO’s immediate response to a threat to its eastern flank allies. It was also pointed out that the goal of the Russian Armed Forces operation is to bring about the destruction of NATO by breaking the unity of the Alliance and changing the strategic balance in Europe. Russia will not achieve this goal, and aggression will be stopped if the attacked parties receive full-scale assistance from the Alliance, primarily from the United States. It is, therefore, necessary to consider what disinformation factors may lead to the fulfillment of Russian goals.
Defamatory actions are conducted against Poland and destroy its image in at least three directions. They directly impact the state of Polish national security – on the willingness to come to Poland’s aid in the case of Russian aggression and on the materialization of the risk of the scenario of events described in Part I of this paper.
Deconstruction of the Image of Polish History.
The most noticeable direction of disinformation aggression must be the attack on Polish history. Defamation of Poland is carried out mainly by holding Poles responsible for the Holocaust. Such theses function in the flow of information. However, naturally, they are not supported by evidence but only by publications, which largely fulfill the definition of the “cargo cult” in science. 53
Germans are rarely mentioned nowadays as guilty of the past’s WW2 war crimes, but there is a narrative of Nazi-nationalists with parallel labeling of Poles as “nationalists.” In this way, in the eyes of the West, Poland is supposed to be an accessory to the Holocaust, which entails the simultaneous “cancellation” of Polish efforts to receive reparations for the destruction and plunder she encountered due to World War II. This is also intended to propagandistically weaken Polish resistance to recognizing property claims left behind by the Jews. The recent crisis in relations with Israel and the outright unheard-of statements about Poland made by influential Israeli politicians are an additional element weakening the image of our homeland, which has a direct bearing on the conditions for the implementation of Article 5.
It should be noted here that the “scientific consensus” about the “Polish perpetration of the Holocaust” that has emerged in recent years (also in studies financed by Polish state institutions) is a significant factor in diminishing Polish possibilities of influencing NATO member states, especially politicians and decision-makers in military affairs. The shame of the Holocaust glued to the name of Poland is an indelible stigma that discourages otherwise honest people from thinking positively about Poland. This is the source of politicians’ reluctance to make Poland-friendly decisions. Historical arguments decide about the type of emotions exhibited towards Poland.
Deconstruction of the Image of Present-Day Poland.
The second direction of this anti-Polish informational campaign is showing Poles as traditionally xenophobic, intolerant, and discriminating against all minorities, especially the LGBT community. This is very dangerous for Poland, possibly even more dangerous than the manipulation of our history. Unfortunately, the issue of “human rights,” as they are specifically understood in the West, dominates public debate and the media’s agenda. For example, the so-called “human rights” are beginning to determine specific membership rights in the European Union. This agenda is also present in the U.S. Department of State, maintained and strengthened after the administration change – and the speeches and rebuttals of the current U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Warsaw are sufficient proof. What seems possible is the return of a threat that emerged around mid-2018, linking LGBT privilege (so-called “human rights”) with the issue of the U.S. military presence in Poland. With Polish resistance to this issue and the mainstream media publicizing provocations – such as “LGBT-free zones” causing erosion of American sympathies – it may be that the U.S. security umbrella is becoming less secure. Although there is an opinion that the geopolitical interests of the U.S. (and the American ruling establishment) are unchangeable, as we can see, a change is taking place, as evidenced by the recent actions of the Joe Biden administration and, above all, by its practical approval of the launch of Nordstream 2. The past years of the Zjednoczona Prawica [United Right’s] rule have proven to the Americans that Poland is a good ally. If, however, the distortion of Poland’s image through various manipulations and provocations continues, and President Joe Biden maintains the electoral narrative of “unacceptable LGBT-free zones in Europe” (even though these alleged zones are the invention of a single but well-publicized activist), it is clear that this current disinformation stream will become increasingly dangerous to our national security.
Deconstruction of the image of the law in Poland.
The third direction of disinformation aggression is showing Poland as a country ruled by a dictatorship, in which there is no independent judiciary from the executive arm and everything is under the supervision of an omnipotent mono-party. From here, it is only a step away from recognizing Poland as a quasi-fascist and totalitarian country. To create such a false image, manipulations and misinformation are used, presenting – against all reality – the reform of the courts at all levels in Poland as an attack on the independent judiciary, while similar solutions exist and work well in many countries of the European Union. Such disinformation is meant to compromise Poland and deprive its government of legitimacy. In effect, it is supposed to lead to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities. Unfortunately, Polish politicians, including MP’s and MEP’s, participate in many disinformation activities in this area. In the context of the facts mentioned above connected with the possibility of the invalidation of Article 5, such attitudes are particularly harmful. One should ask these politicians whether they are aware of the consequences of their actions. It seems unlikely that they would knowingly weaken the defense capabilities of the Polish Republic. The words “disinformation” and “aggression” are understood here literally because the discussed courses of action of the enemy directly impact Polish national security. They have simply weaponized narratives against Poland. And this is the same kind of weaponization that can cripple Poland as effectively as rockets and tanks.
The Mechanism of Actions Destroying Poland’s Image.
The aggressive propaganda offensive against the democratically elected Polish government has been ongoing since the 2015 parliamentary elections. It should be noted that even before the result was announced, U.S. and European media were directly flooded with hundreds of texts preparing public opinion for a possible PiS victory. These articles were as if from a singular source and voiced hysterically about the alleged threat to democracy and Poland’s departure from its post-1989 achievements. On the other hand, after the 2015 elections, a narrative stigmatized Poland as a country ruled undemocratically. This string of slanders, procedural moves, votes, and all sorts of propaganda aimed at humiliating and presenting Poland from the worst possible angle continues with varying intensity until this very day.
The continuance of the conservative government must have been and must be a significant challenge to the leftist majority of Europe, let alone Poland’s quest for fully sovereign decision-making and breaking free from the yoke of post-communism. The weakening of a sovereign Poland, defending its culture and traditions, with a strong and independent economy – which ceases to be just a market of mediocre goods for higher prices than in the “metropolis” – with a cheap back-of-house labor force, and continuing as an obedient executor of orders from Berlin or Brussels, is the number one goal for the armed propaganda narrative.
In an increasingly uncertain world, a country presented as morally compromised (as demonstrated by Euro MP’s from the so-called “total opposition”) loses the trust of allied nations and is threatened with political isolation. Thus, it becomes a threatened state. The disinformation campaign slandering Poland’s image profoundly influences public opinion. It can undermine the allies’ commitments and weaken their loyalty – as it happened to a large extent in Yalta and Potsdam. During World War II, the anti-Polish campaign conducted by the USSR, accusing Poles of anti-Semitism and adventurism, finally absolved the conscience of the allies and made it easier for them. However, they entered the war in defense of the Republic of Poland.
Media campaigns, attacks of the world media, periodical appeals of the “total opposition” to the influential bodies calling for counteracting the alleged violation of the rule of law in Poland – all this is carefully and precisely adjusted to the political sensitivity of foreign recipients. These messages are based on the assumption that they will cause an almost mechanical and violent reaction to the words: “fascism,” “anti-Semitism,” “intolerance,” “racism,” “discrimination,” “undermining the independence of the courts,” “a threat to democracy,” etc., etc. These are keywords and phrases that are self-evident, understandable by themselves, and need no explanation. Everyone knows what to think about them. And how to treat those who are identified with them and their opinions, which are repeatedly repeated to the point of boredom in ongoing articles, reports, social situations, and parties.
The three currents mentioned above of disinformation attacks on Poland are not addressed exclusively to foreign audiences. They also have an impact on the country. Recipients of those media venues are especially susceptible to them. Since the beginning of Poland’s transformation after 1989, they have been teaching their readers and viewers the so-called pedagogy of shame. In our opinion, this was a massive operation of psychological manipulation to make large social groups feel inferior concerning other nations. How? By making them believe in such imaginary guilt and shame of their own country and its history and creating an aversion to that part of society with a different opinion. The action was effective. Today’s situation of drastic political division is, among other things, the result of those actions. They overcame the Poles’ natural, almost reflexive social conservatism and their strong sense of identity connected with Christianity. These are not national characteristics prevalent in the “progressive circles” of the West, for which the bureaucratic interference of Brussels is the optimal tool to overcome cultural attachments and the will of Polish voters.
The mentioned political division has a direct impact on Poland’s defense capabilities: some citizens are so negatively inclined towards their country and its legally elected authorities that – it is to be feared – in the case of Russian aggression, they will sabotage the orders as “fascist” or “PiS-style,” which will obviously benefit the aggressor. Similar attitudes could be observed in the last two years in the era of the pandemic. There is a degree of disorder and disregard for social discipline in Poland, which the potential opponent will eagerly exploit.
For the sake of order, for the picture of the outlined threats to be complete, one should also take into account the possible scenario of developments in the context of a change in the attitude of the new U.S. administration towards Poland and a clear shift in the vector of relations towards Germany. Of course, Germany’s reluctant attitude towards the current government and the political and social changes carried out in Poland since 2015 is well-known. Therefore, isn’t it possible to withhold aid to Poland at the moment of the appearance of “green men” in the “Suwałki Gap” region (rather than full-scale aggression) in order to bring about a political shift in the country under the influence of the fear of a part of the society susceptible to “fear propaganda?” A possible consequence would be the fall of the PiS government and return to the status quo ante. However, such a development seems unlikely and would require a breach of international norms and simply betrayal of part of the elite. As said above – this scenario is noted here for the sake of order.
At this point it is also worth considering the activities of many foreign institutions (such as foundations) legally present in Poland and financed directly by foreign governments, whose interests, especially in the field of historical policy, are contrary to Polish national interest. One of the next issues of “Reports and Analyses of the Polish League Against Defamation-RDI,” will be devoted to this topic.
This paper has dealt with perhaps the most crucial issue of national life – the issue of war. Not to frighten the recipient or to bring up some sensational threads in the media. Drawing attention – through the presented scenario of possible Russian actions against Poland and the context of constantly present disinformation, allows one to realize the risk that seems to be remote or almost impossible to materialize. However, having a neighbor like Russia simply forces Poles to think about possible threats. In 2020 and 2021, since Vladimir Putin’s speech in late 2019 with accusations against Poland, the international situation has escalated. The experience of Ukraine shows that the unimaginable becomes real, despite the “Budapest guarantees” of a superpower like the United States. Making people aware of this was one of the goals of this publication.
The second goal was to show the audience that what is considered by some as antics or private initiatives of various people accusing Poland of “participation in the Holocaust” or “genetically inherited anti-Semitism” or “systemic homophobia” from the point of view of these people may be their private matter. Still, from the point of view of national existence, the security of Poles and the Polish state is not a private affair. They have a direct impact on Poland’s ability to defend itself and maintain its independence. Every Polish patriot must strengthen the Polish State. In this era, without a strong and efficient state, without the Polish armed forces, there will be neither a Poland nor Poles.
May we never have to look at the present times like the Poles did at the end of the 18th century, when, after the Third Partition, it turned out that “private actions” by some led to the most significant defeat – the loss of the state.
By: Maciej Świrski
President of the Reduta Dobrego Imienia – Polish League Against Defamation
The entire report can be found HERE