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NDC - News-The interstate conflict potential of the information domain

The interstate conflict potential of the information domain

  • 03 Nov. 2020
  • |
  • Last updated: 21 Jan. 2024 12:55

NDC Policy Brief 19-20

The coronavirus pandemic has not only triggered a crisis in public health and safety that engendered a significant economic fallout. The pandemic has also triggered an infodemic,1 one that sets the context for a significant spike in anti-NATO2 and anti-Western3 propaganda. Unless countermeasures are taken, the already deteriorating public opinion vis-à-vis the Alliance can be expected to worsen.4 Viewed individually, these two pandemic’s outcomes have not critically threatened the Alliance; however, their combined effect could become a formidable challenge for NATO.5 Despite the measures taken, the pandemic is likely to continue exacerbating the frustrations among member states, further fraying the Alliance’s unity. This, arguably, is the most immediate and concerning challenge facing NATO today.

* (back) D. Minzarari was a Partnership for Peace Fellow at the NDC between March and July 2020, and a Visiting Scholar in September 2020. Starting October 2020 he is a Research Associate at the SWP, Berlin.

1 (back) “The COVID-19 Infodemic”, Editorial, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Vol.20, Iss. 8, July 2020.

2 (back) “Russia pushing Coronavirus lies as part of anti-NATO influence ops in Europe”, Defense One, 26 March 2020.

3 (back) Data shows a decreasing trend in support for NATO. See “Moscow’s Coronavirus Offensive”, Politico, 21 April 2020.

4 (back) “Confidence in NATO in sharp decline”, Financial Times, 10 February 2020.

5 (back) Their impact is augmented by the exploitation of the coronavirus-related physiological and safety needs. They included efforts at increasing the number of infected by convincing the population that coronavirus was no more dangerous than the flu, leading to higher pressure on national health systems; at fueling tensions among citizens but also between the citizens and government (domestic politics mechanism); as well as efforts to blame coronavirus spread on NATO exercises (i.e. in the Baltic states), on Allies’ stationed forces, or on the alleged artificial nature of the virus (the autonomy-security mechanism). See “EU Monitors Say Pro-Kremlin Media Spread Coronavirus Disinformation”, RFE/RL, 18 March 2020; “EEAS special report update: short assessment of narratives and disinformation around the COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic (Updated 2-22 April)”, EUvsDiSiNFO, 24 April 2020; “Russian intelligence agencies push disinformation on pandemic”, The New York Times, 28 July 2020.

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