NARRATIVES: NATO proposes a special status for Ukraine and Georgia, which will not guarantee their security. NATO’s eastward enlargement is aimed at launching a war against Russia.
BACKGROUND: After the toppling of the pro-Russian Yanukovych regime, the Russian Federation moved against Ukraine, invading and annexing Crimea and supporting a separatist movement in the pro-Russian east. Breakaway armed forces received military equipment and fighters from Moscow. In this context, talks on Ukraine’s EU and NATO accession have intensified. The topic had been debated for some time, including at the 2008 summit in Bucharest, when Ukraine and Georgia hoped their path to accession would open. In 2017, former president Petro Poroshenko suggested Ukraine could join NATO under an emergency action plan. In 2019, Parliament in Kiev amended the country’s Constitution, thus nullifying Ukraine’s neutrality status and introducing a number of paragraphs stipulating Euro-Atlantic accession as one of the country’s top priorities.
In the wake of the escalation of the conflict in Donbass this spring, president Volodymyr Zelensky called on NATO to urgently grant Ukraine NATO membership, stating that only the Alliance’s collective defense will provide Kiev with the necessary security and real protection from Moscow’s acts of aggression.
During his recent visit to Kiev, US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, said that no third country may veto Ukraine’s plans of joining the Alliance, referring to Russia’s objections against Ukraine’s integration in the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization.
All this while, Russia used its affiliated media outlets to spread disinformation, claiming that NATO is a threat to the Kremlin, whereas the true purpose of the Alliance is to destroy Ukraine, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and other ex-Soviet states that are distancing themselves from the Russian world.
PURPOSE: The purpose of these narratives is to fuel fear amongst Russian citizens against NATO and to rally support for the Kremlin’s anti-NATO actions. Furthermore, they also help discourage, either directly or indirectly, the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Kiev, Tbilisi and Chișinău, by promoting the idea that NATO is “an aggressive international organization”.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: The report of the Russian public television station “Pervyi Kanal” (text and video) is part of the typical metanarrative describing NATO as an aggressive organization, whose goal is to turn ex-Soviet states into “training grounds”, “colonies”, “territories for launching the war against Russia”, etc. The false narratives promoted by this report draw on the commentary of an expert, a self-intitled political theorist and Russian national, Vladimir Kornilov, the former director of the Segodnya Russian-language newspaper published in Kiev.
Lloyd Austin’s idea of providing Ukraine and Georgia with a special status within NATO, but without the Alliance being compelled to defend these states according to Article 5 in the NATO Treaty, does not stem from any official statement, and is a complete fabrication of the aforementioned expert / authors of the article. Moreover, the statement of Kurt Volker, former US special representative to Ukraine, is also quoted out of context and misinterpreted. In May, 2020 Volker said that should Ukraine join NATO, Article 5 cannot be enforced in the conflict in Donbass. “There will be no first to use of force to retake them, we support only their peaceful reintegration into the territorial integrity of the aspiring nations of these territories”, Kurt Volker said. The statement of the US diplomat was misrepresented in order to further legitimize the narrative about the impending transformation of Ukraine and Georgia into training grounds for NATO, yet nevertheless exempted from collective defense.
Moreover, the Russian public TV station rehashes Soviet narratives about NATO being a threat to Moscow, quoting president Vladimir Putin who analyses a possible NATO enlargement whose only aim is to allegedly launch missiles from Ukrainian territory targeting large cities in Russia. In fact, NATO enlargement was never an offensive strategy, on the contrary. According to the NATO Treaty, the purpose of this international organization is to ensure security and protection against various military and non-military threats as part of a mechanism of collective defense. Article 5, which states “the Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”, applies to all NATO member states.