Disinformation related to military aid has been more prevalent in Ukraine than the countries that provide it. Pro-Russian Telegram channels have attempted to undermine public morale in Ukraine by claiming that Western military aid is ineffective, limited in number, outdated, or even being stolen by the authorities. Outside of Ukraine, propagandists allege that military aid makes the West complicit in Ukrainian “war crimes” and only prolongs the war.
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.
Narratives that discredit Western military aid have been far more prevalent in Ukraine itself (18% of all the messaging analysed) than in the countries that provide this support (4%).
Propagandists claim that Western military aid is ineffective, of poor quality, limited in number, or will soon end entirely. This type of messaging is clearly intended to deprive Ukrainians of hope and undermine their morale.
In the other monitored countries, the topic is primarily being manipulated with the intention of discrediting the Ukrainian leadership or undermining public support for further arms deliveries.
Allegations that military aid is misused, stolen, or being sold on the black market have been particularly common.
Western weapons are being sold on the black market
One of the most notorious Kremlin narratives is that the Kyiv regime either profits from selling Western weapons or has failed to control its generals, who funnel them into the black market.
These allegations contribute to other prevalent narratives such as “Ukraine is corrupt”, “Ukrainian elites profit from the war”, and “Ukraine is a failed state”. In one way or another, military aid to Ukraine is claimed to be a threat to international security.
The scandalous CBS documentary “Arming Ukraine”, controversial statements made by US congresswoman Victoria Spartz, as well as some publications issued by Western media this summer substantially fuelled this narrative and were repeatedly used by pro-Kremlin messengers across Europe.
Military aid is ineffective
Pro-Russian voices claim that Western military supplies will not be able to influence the outcome of the war. Moreover, they claim that Ukrainians have consistently failed to properly manage and secure the Western equipment they have received, with the Russians destroying it almost immediately after its delivery.
They regularly rebroadcast fake Russian reports about precise air strikes that allegedly destroy depots with Western weapons; claims about the destruction of HIMARS rocket systems have appeared particularly frequently.
Stories about Russian wunderwaffen are also used to create the impression that Western assistance will, ultimately, remain ineffective.
The West is complicit in the “crimes of the Kyiv regime”
This narrative feeds into the message that the Ukrainian Army kills civilians and commits other war crimes. According to Kremlin propagandists, Western military supplies enable Kyiv to kill more innocent people; by supporting Ukraine with arms, the West participates in these crimes.
Military aid to Ukraine undermines the national security of those who provide it
Local Kremlin-backed voices, especially in the Baltic states and Slovakia, have claimed that sending weapons to Ukraine endangers their national security by leaving them exposed to Russian military assault.
They also claim that USA’s promises to supply replacement weapons are not to be trusted: Washington will not keep its word, leaving European states in the lurch.
Military aid to Ukraine only prolongs the war
This manipulative statement is used in conjunction with the claim that Ukrainian defeat is inevitable.
Western supplies only prolong the agony of the Ukrainian state; the West needs to “acknowledge the facts”, admit that Ukraine will lose the war, and stop the senseless bloodshed by halting further arms supplies. “The faster Ukraine surrenders, the less innocent people will die”, they say.
Western military support to Ukraine is decreasing / of poor quality / promised but not delivered
This narrative primarily targets Ukrainian audiences, intended to undermine morale and trust in the Western partners.
Pro-Russian voices speculate that Ukraine’s allies are becoming tired of the war and frustrated by its lack of progress; accordingly, their interest in supplying further military aid is weakening.
Moreover, they claim that many of the public announcements of future arms deliveries will never manifest. Kyiv allegedly lies to its people about Western military support in order to maintain morale and remain in power.
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).