By Grigorij Mesežnikov. Photo: Slovenskí branci.
18. Jan 2017  |  Strategic Communication

Russian Pravda (Truth) considers the projects of the Polish militia hostile. What would it write about recruits in Slovakia?

The course of the current Russian leadership to the confrontation with the West, which was presented in its outlines by Vladimir Putin in his Munich speech in 2007 and was later confirmed by the war with Georgia, and especially by the annexation of the Crimea and initiation of the military conflict in Donbas, forced leaders of the Western countries to make retaliatory steps.

Reaction of the West had several levels.

The first was to redefine the priorities of the Western defense alliance and conduct the prompt adjustment to the new reality, when Russia by its own decision transformed itself from partner of the West to its enemy.

NATO Summit in Wales in July 2015 assessed the post-Crimea situation in Europe through the optics of effective response to the confrontational line of Russia, which by illegal annexation of Crimea denied the principles of international law and dealt a heavy blow to the foundations of the post-war order in Europe.

How the West responded

The Wales Summit’s decisions touched the commitments in defense spending, including the command takeover of the US missile shield in Europe and dislocation of four NATO battalions on rotational basis in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, which feel themselves threatened by possible Russia’s expansion.

The second level was a common reaction of the US and EU on Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine (introduction of economic, political and personal sanctions) and the information war, which Russia leads against the West as a part of its hybrid warfare, which is aimed at the decay of Western liberal democracy. European Parliament’s resolution on the Russian disinformation campaign and hostile propaganda (November 2016) and creation of special units in Brussels and some EU member states, aimed at neutralization of disinformation and propaganda attacks of Moscow, are a concrete response of the West in the area of media and communications.

The third level was strengthening the defense and security capabilities of the EU and NATO member states faced with of danger of invasion similar to Crimean or Donbas in 2014. Some countries located in the zone of potential threats (the so-called border states - Baltic countries, Finland and Poland) consider using not only military but also civilian potentials. Russian state monitors these considerations, tracks their practical implementation, and some Russian media provide the information (or rather disinformation) back up for this monitoring.

Polish militia

In late November 2016 Russian daily Pravda published an extensive article on how Poland, in response to the “Russian threat”, reorganized its armed forces by introducing territorial defense forces (militia).

In mid-November Polish parliament (Sejm) approved a special law on the basis of which these troops will start to be built, and in 2019 they should include 50-thousand members. The article in Pravda titled “Warsaw is recruiting anti-Russian guerrillas” is an example of a kind of “hybrid creation", when in the same article side by side not quite corresponding statements appear. The purpose of this was to create entirely negative impression about the “enemy” and to attribute to its own government only the most positive intentions and qualities.

Thus the claim that the formation of Polish troops of territorial defense is financially quite cheap enterprise combines in the article with the statement that the project of “militia” will be unprofitable both financially and politically. The claim that these forces will not exist in reality, but will be only “on paper”, is added a few paragraphs later with warning that they will pose a threat especially to Poland’s internal stability.

The consideration that, in case of military clashes between Russia and NATO, the chances of not only Poland but of all Europe, to resist, can be assessed as very low, is accompanied by a reflection that Russia is not going to conquer neither Europe as a whole, nor Poland as its part, since it does not need the international conflicts, only it can – in case of necessity – to respond to US multinational corporations (ergo USA) who apparently want to conquer the “riches of Siberia”.

Is it really so bad?

Polish project of territorial defense is bad according to Pravda – in terms of Poland itself, it is useless and, in terms of Russia, it is meaningless. The question, however, arises – if this is the case, then why so many worries about its implementation?

Firstly, it is not so insignificant project, since it will constitute one third of the total members of the Polish armed forces, and with a larger contingent of well-trained armed people the chances of external aggressor to rapidly conquer the country are reducing. Secondly, Pravda again reminds readers that Poland is a hostile country which is writhing in convulsions of anti-Russian hysteria, in full thralldom to the US, and wants “once again to bend in front of its main patron, Uncle Sam, attempting to ape the Americans with their National Guard system and to report NATO substantial increase in defense capabilities”.

Russian Pravda puts the establishment of Polish troops of territorial defense into the contexts of activities of the armed groups (in past and in present) in Poland (Armia Krajowa) or in other countries (for example, volunteer corps in nowadays Ukraine).

The intention is to create the impression that anything other than the transformation into such “guerrillas” and “recruits” cannot be expected from the Polish troops of territorial defense.

Slovakia is also in the game

At this point, let us extend the scope of analysis to Slovakia.

In the Russian Federation with support of the state, army, Spetsnaz and other power structures, including intelligence services, the hundreds of different “volunteer” organizations and groups (“military-patriotic clubs”) operate that carry out regular military training of their members.

Their ideology is nationalism and Russia’s great power ambitions. These organizations constitute a natural backup for the armed forces of the country, their activities are under full control of the state. This is an obvious sign of the militarization of Russian society, although in Russia today it is seen as something quite normal.

And now let us go to Slovakia. Since 2012, a paramilitary group here operates that was founded – as the website of the Russian Orthodox Church (Temple of Christmas in Moscow’s metropolitan part Mitino, who stood at the birth, so to speak) – under the template (“po obrazu i podobiyu”) of Russian military patriotic clubs.

This group – as the same source testifies as well as other sources – was established by person who studied in Russia and passed through the special training. This group is “Slovak conscripts” (“Slovak Recruits”) who subscribe to idea of Slavic brotherhood. They verbally attack NATO, whose member is the Slovak Republic.

Russian Pravda with all logical discrepancies, contained in the article on Poland’s partisans, does not have doubts on which side these “partisans” would fight in possible conflict between Russia and NATO. This is not possible to say with certainty about the Russian-inspired Slovak paramilitary group of “recruits” – on which side they would defend the “motherland”.  Only if Russian Pravda would write about it.

This article was written by Grigorij Mesežnikov and was also published in Slovak media SME

The views expressed in the article are private opinions of the author and do not reflect the policy of the GLOBSEC Policy Institute.