NATO Defense Ministers to Discuss Combating COVID-19 Disinformation
How is NATO responding to disinformation on COVID-19?
US Ambassador to NATO says Alliance is ready to help its members with support groups to combat hybrid information threats
Tackling misinformation related to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic will be one of the central topics of a teleconference by NATO Defense Ministers, scheduled for April 15. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced this at a briefing on Tuesday.
According to the NATO Secretary General, the Alliance is watching how «state and non-state actors are trying to use this pandemic to spread false and harmful speech in an attempt to divide us».
«All defense ministers will discuss tomorrow one of the problems that we will tackle together – how to respond to disinformation, propaganda and attempts to divide us. The best way to do it – provide facts, truth. And the best weapon we have against disinformation, – it is a free, open and independent press. Therefore, the work of journalists is extremely important, always, but especially in difficult times, in the conditions of crises that we face today.», – says Jens Stoltenberg.
US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison also reported on the struggle of the Alliance forces against disinformation on Tuesday. Answering the question of the Russian service «Voices of America» on how NATO is responding to hybrid information threats related to COVID-19, she stated that the Alliance «concerned about the misinformation that Russia and China are promoting about how it all started».
«Nobody thought that our opponents would try to sow discord at such a time, but they do … They spread false reports that this virus originated either in Europe or in the United States, depending on which publication is the conduit misinformation. All of this is absolutely untrue, and we are trying to answer the disinformation with facts. These actions are part of the hybrid cyber war that we constantly see against NATO, attempts to sow not only discontent, but also try to discredit our leaders at a time when our societies must turn to leadership for the protection and assistance they need.», – believes Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The US Ambassador to NATO also said that NATO has «hybrid threat support groups», which can be sent to countries experiencing information attacks, in particular, from Russia: «The disinformation campaign against North Macedonia and other countries in the Western Balkans has been going on for a long time because Russia, in particular, was really trying to keep North Macedonia from seeking NATO membership. And when the accession had already taken place, she continued to push disinformation into North Macedonia… We have hybrid threat support teams. The first such group was sent to Montenegro, and I think that such an opportunity is also available for North Macedonia. – to help the media of this country reflect this disinformation campaign».
An emergency teleconference of NATO defense ministers on April 15, in addition to the topic of disinformation, will discuss the logistics and mutual assistance of the Alliance countries in the fight against the spread of the new coronavirus. According to Jens Stoltenberg, «two weeks ago, NATO foreign ministers asked the organization’s military command to create a task force to accelerate and scale up military support to allies in response to the pandemic».
The NATO Secretary General gave examples of cooperation between the Alliance countries: Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Turkey, the United States and the Czech Republic sent medical and financial assistance to North Macedonia, NATO assistance was provided to Denmark for the delivery of ventilators and a field hospital to Italy, as well as Germany’s delivery of ventilators to Spain , and many other cases of allied interaction.
Stoltenberg also stressed the importance of using NATO for logistical purposes in the fight against the pandemic of heavy transport aircraft provided by Ukraine: «The use of Ukrainian aircraft shows how NATO is working with its partner Ukraine to provide air travel for Alliance members. These aircraft have long been an important link in the transport of medical equipment from China across the world to NATO countries in Europe.».
At the same time, as the NATO Secretary General added, «Russia is building up its military force on NATO borders, including in the Black Sea, as well as continuing its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine». Answering a question about possible NATO assistance to Russia in the fight against coronavirus in response to the arrival of Russian doctors in Italy, Stoltenberg said that Moscow did not turn to the Alliance for any help.