On 1 March 20202, FN Program Manager Rosana Aleksoska was guest on the TV show “Click Plus” on TV21. In her appearance, among the other things, Aleksoska made the following points:

  • NATO never represented any threat to Russia. The anti-NATO narrative is not new when it comes to Russian information operations and disinformation. On the contrary, it has been constantly present in different contexts and for different issues. It is not the first time for Russia to try to impose its influence on independent and sovereign countries that have the right to choose their own defense arrangements. Out of the 14 countries that border Russia, only five are NATO members. Its border is 20,000 km long, out of which only one sixteenth is with NATO members. This means that there is no threat. Additionally, neither NATO, nor any neighboring NATO member ever threatened Russia, nor expressed any pretensions for the latter to feel threatened. Simply, the problem is that Russia sees the expansion of NATO through its own worldview, which is imperialistic, and unfortunately in the 21st century cannot escape from the concept of spheres of influence, so today we see that it is actually Russia that conducts a brutal aggression over Ukraine.
  • In order to join the Alliance, the prospect country has to meet severe criteria. The values enshrined by NATO are democracy and freedom of speech. Since 2008 onward, despite the war that Russia started in 2014 in the Ukrainian regions of Crimea and Donbas, Ukraine has conducted reforms, it reformed the entire society and is on the way to join the EU and NATO. I think that the basic fear of Putin’s regime is actually prosperity, progress, reforms and democracy, since, like every other dictator, Putin is afraid that freedom will come to Russia’s borders.
  • The positive changes that were noted in the Ukrainian society are the choice of the people there and of their Government. The right of a sovereign country to choose its own way, i.e. Euro-Atlantic integration, is a guaranteed international right and no one has the right to impose their own views, let alone to begin and conduct such unseen aggression, in order to advance their own interest. When it comes to NATO and its expansion, it is especially important to debunk the myth that NATO promised that it will not expand in the East. This is not true, such a document does not exist, and in 2014 Gorbachev himself stated, and I quote: “The issue of the expansion of NATO was not discussed and was not mentioned at that period. I state this under full responsibility.
  • Russia has occupied Ukraine since 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea (which was not recognized and de facto it is a territory of Ukraine), and by installing its own people in Donetsk and Luhansk. It is very important to state that during the entire period, the structures that have operated there have been supported by Russia, financially, economically and politically. The conflict was frozen, and this is yet another mechanism of Russia, since in order for it to make itself an important factor on the international scene, it strives to maintain frozen conflicts. Before the situation escalated, reports were coming that in the past several months Russia has been building up enormous number of troops and armaments on the border with Ukraine. These operations also included supply of blood. All these things are not needed for military exercises and if someone does not plan to attack. Russian media and Russian officials attempted to create an atmosphere in which they will portray Ukraine as responsible for several things, and at the same time stated that they will never invade Ukraine. Even here, on 25 January, the Russian Embassy in North Macedonia stated the following, and I quote: “We pay attention to the absolutely clear statements of Russian leadership – Russia never threatened the Ukrainian people and does not plan to conduct aggressive measures. In other words, we will not attack, invade or strike Ukraine.
  • There is no single proof that the Russian minority in Donets and Luhansk has been subject to pressure and harassment, these were only attempts by Russian propaganda to blame Ukraine and provide an excuse for the aggressive activities that we witness every day.
  • The two republics are seceded from the central Government in Ukraine and Russia has installed its own men, i.e. these are the so-called self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which in principle do not have legal ground.
  • There is lack of information in our society about Ukraine. It has built a civic concept and civic state in which the rights of all are equally guaranteed. If there was real pressure on the Russian minority and if the Russian propaganda believes its own lies, let them go on the Internet and see the resistance by the citizens of Ukraine of all ethnicities to the Russian troops. The resistance is huge, the resistance is massive.
  • I have to mention the case of Kosovo, because we see attempts in the online space to equate both situations, but the only equal sign is that both wars were started by two dictators – Milošević and Putin. When it comes to denazification and the entire narrative about a fascist regime, this is simply a narrative that the Russian propaganda uses for domestic purposes. It is part of their long-term information operation, and that is the celebration of the Victory Day, 9 May. There is no logical explanation about this narrative, since Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, is a Jew whose family suffered in the Second World War. They probably think that this will resonate with their people which will provide support. When we speak about authoritarian and dictatorial regimes there is another important rule, and that is, when there are problems at home – and in reailty Putin’s regime will begin to face even bigger problems – an external enemy is being invented.
  • Despite the great repression of the civil society, the journalists, the opposition and all of those which have a critical stance towards Putin, in this period we also saw many prominent Russians that do not justify this aggression and which opposed the war. The problems in the Russian society are of a wide scope. There can be no prosperity and progress for everybody in society in a dictatorial and authoritarian regime, since only a small group of people close to the leader benefit from it.
  • What is important for North Macedonia and for the Balkans, is that we are relatively young democratic societies which are vulnerable to influence from authoritarian regimes and from so-called illiberal democracies. The manner in which they penetrate in countries with Orthodox population can be characterized as the use of sharp power. This means that they penetrate or perforate the information space through propaganda and disinformation, since Russia always, even from the times of the Cold War, has paid much attention to the social context. The articles in the online media about magical Russian cures, prophecies that Putin will rule the world in 2022 are not naïve at all. All of this is not naïve at all, since it creates a certain perception in the people. Disinformation functions where there is already a base, where there are misbeliefs, misconceptions and wrong perceptions. The larger the number of disinformation, the larger the contribution towards strengthening these wrong perceptions and misbeliefs. This is a spiral and a circle which must be broken, which requires a comprehensive action by the entire society.
  • The influence of Russia and the information operations should be seen in a time perspective, since at some moments it is intensive, while at other it is seemingly absent. In this moment we see a polarization of the public opinion. The influence is present not only directly, but also indirectly, through so-called proxy agents, which include: online portals, Facebook pages, certain influencers, parts of political parties etc.


The entire show can be seen on the following link.

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