The North-Atlantic Treaty Alliance needs “the Russian threat” to keep going, as this is its only reason of existence. This fake narrative has been promoted by Sputnik, Russia’s public mouthpiece, quoting the statements of a Russian senator.
NEWS: “NATO will start to collapse if it gives up its “Russian threat” discourse, Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov said on his Telegram account.
The Russian MP said the Alliance isn’t responding to any of the threats facing the Western world, such as terrorism or the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, NATO is fighting imaginary and hypothetical threats.
“In reality, with the collapse of the USSR and the eastern bloc, NATO lost its ‘raison d'être, its very purpose as a defensive alliance. […] This is why Biden and Stoltenberg need “the Russian threat: it’s the very foundation of NATO’s existence and a tool for NATO to maintain control over Europe. Without an imaginary threat, the Alliance will begin to crumple”, Pushkov wrote”.
NARRATIVES: The Russian threat is a fiction created to justify NATO’s existence, since Russia is a peaceful power and there’s no risk it might attack a Western state. 2. There’s no real reason for the North-Atlantic Treaty Alliance to exist. 3. There are no real threats to Western countries.
BACKGROUND: The Russian Federation never managed to overcome its suspicions regarding NATO, which date back to the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, when the North-Atlantic Treaty Alliance was seen as the main enemy, although its purpose was a purely defensive one. Moscow has been constantly opposing NATO’s eastward enlargement, seeing it as a threat to its national security. Russia’s fears have never been appeased, neither by the creation of the Partnership for Peace and its cooperation mechanisms, nor by the fact that, despite eastward enlargement, NATO and EU’s presence in this region has been significantly limited after the Cold War. On the one hand, the United States has withdrawn most of its military equipment and troops, while on the other hand, defense budgets have gone down dramatically in member states.
Moscow’s mistrust and actual hostility towards NATO, while toned down under Yeltsin’s communist rule, have now started to become increasingly visible in the Putin era. Russia has been launching information campaigns, on the one hand seeking to present itself as a victim of potential NATO aggression (any measure taken by the Alliance is viewed / presented as a disguised action to stage an attack on Russia), while on the other hand trying to intimidate smaller countries within the Alliance, claiming they could be potential victims of Russian retaliation if a war eventually breaks out. Such is the case of Romania, a country that’s being targeted for hosting the anti-missile shield installation in Deveselu. Finally, Russia’s media wars are aimed at reinforcing the idea that European countries are serving America’s interests and are, as such, exposed to risks.
PURPOSE: Undermining trust in NATO. A potential dissolution of the Alliance, no matter how unlikely it might seem right now, would be the perfect solution for the Russian Federation, helping it restore its status as a great superpower in Europe, at least when dealing with smaller states like the Baltic republics or the former East-European satellites. At present, the latter are under NATO’s protection, but they would find it very difficult to fend for themselves against the Russian war machine. As regards NATO’s superpowers (and the same goes for the EU), Russia prefers to deal with them separately, because again, their individual strength is clearly inferior to their force as a bloc.
WHY THE NARRATIES ARE FALSE: With respect to the narrative according to which Russia is peaceful and there is no risk of Russian aggression, Moscow’s actions have clearly demonstrated the opposite. Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, triggering the first war in Europe in the 21st century. Six years later, the Russian Federation captured and annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, causing the first territorial rift in Europe since the Second World War. When it comes to relations with NATO and its member states, Russia has been all but aggressive, although conventional warfare never truly broke out. NATO’s air and maritime policing missions are regularly being challenged, both in the Black Sea and in the Baltic Sea. Estonia was the target of a cyber-war in 2007. The United States and European countries were also targeted by disinformation campaigns aimed at meddling with elections and stirring unrest (the refugee crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic are but two situations where Russia resorts to such tactics). Moscow ordered hits (more often than not successful) on its opponents, usually carried out in NATO states. The variety of NATO’s missions since the end of the Cold War shows why the Alliance’s role remains key. Besides, none of these missions was ever aimed at Russia or its interests. NATO helped restore stability in the Balkans after the wars in former Yugoslavia, activated Article 5 in its Treaty and intervened in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, focusing on operations against insurgent groups, on reconstruction or anti-piracy naval operations, etc. Worth mentioning is that the first NATO operations were carried out at the end of the Cold War, when the USSR threat was already gone. More to this point, NATO started considering conventional warfare in Europe as a real possibility only after Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: The North-Atlantic Treaty Alliance was, indeed, founded in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union, whose successor is the Russian Federation. Ensuring a collective mechanism for defense against Soviet expansionism was not, however, the only underlying reason for the creation of NATO (restoring post-war stability in Europe was another).