The possibility of the war expanding beyond Ukraine’s borders has received modest attention from Kremlin propagandists. This type of disinformation was primarily observed in Lithuania, due to the Kaliningrad dispute, and Georgia, where the conspiracy theory about the West opening a second front against Russia has been quite popular.
The following summery analysis is based on extracts from the Interim Report (June-September, 2022) of the Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group, which represents a team of researchers from Debunk.org and our partners. The Interim Report collates insight drawn from the monitoring of narratives trending across pro-Kremlin sites and social media across eleven countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as they relate to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The topic of the war’s potential expansion beyond Ukraine constitutes a modest but, nevertheless, meaningful share of Russian disinformation (5%).
This narrative was promoted most frequently in Lithuania, in the context of the Kaliningrad transit dispute, constituting 12% of the analysed messages in Lithuanian-language media.
The topic has also been prevalent in Georgia, where local proxies and some politicians have sounded the alarm that the West is planning on opening a second front against Russia in Georgia.
Russia will attack countries supporting Ukraine
This narrative has primarily been used to threaten the countries that have been providing Ukraine with military aid.
Often quoting top Russian officials, local pro-Kremlin voices have issued warnings that Western weapons and delivery routes constitute legitimate targets. Threats of nuclear weapon use have also been frequently issued.
The US endangers European countries by forcing them to adopt anti-Russian policies
In countries like Bulgaria, pro-Russian voices have criticized their governments for “taking the wrong side” in the confrontation between the West and Russia.
Propagandists try to create the perception that Western governments are being pressured into adopting anti-Russian positions by the US in disregard of what their own citizens want and thus place themselves in danger of military conflict with Russia.
Kaliningrad: The Lithuanian government drags the country into the war
The two narratives detailed above were all applied to the Kaliningrad transit dispute. Pro-Russian voices manipulatively placed the blame for the Kaliningrad affair solely on Vilnius.
The government’s position was portrayed as a major anti-Russian provocation. Claiming that NATO would not protect Lithuania in the event of a Russian military attack, local disinformation actors called the government’s policy short-sighted and suicidal.
“Russophobia” escalates the potential for conflict with Russia
In all the observed countries (except Ukraine) local Kremlin proxies appeal to so-called “pragmatism” and demand that Western countries curtail their alleged “Russophobia.”
Any display of support to Ukraine (particularly economic sanctions and military aid packages) is condemned as short-sighted stupidity that can drag a given country into the war. The demolition of Soviet monuments in the Baltics was also portrayed in this way.
The Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group unites 10 think tanks and research groups, which are working non-stop to monitor Kremlin propaganda in 14 countries.
Our partners: Civic Resilience Innitiative (Lithuania), Analyses and Alternatives (Bulgaria), Prague Security Studies Initiative (Czechia), GRASS (Georgia), Atlatszo (Hungary), MOST (North Macedonia), Fakenews.pl (Poland), Slovak Security Policy Institute (Slovakia), Detector Media (Ukraine), Press Club Belarus (Belarus), GlobalFocus Center (Romania), European Western Balkans (Serbia).