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  • Poland considers the cooperation between NATO and the EU its priority, actively engaging in activities of both organizations and seeking their assistance, including in the area of subversive influence of foreign actors.
  • The country has two STRATCOM units within relevant departments, but its policy to counter influence operations lacks conceptualization.
  • Polish intelligence services are well aware of Russian attempts to spread its influence.

Relations with the Russian Federation

Principled defender. Held concerned views of Russian foreign policy and now is at the forefront of the European response to its aggression.[1]

Even though Poland was a part of the Eastern bloc for a long time, it does not hold a lot of sympathies towards Russia. The Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 and the Katyn Massacre in 1940 left deep scars in the modern history of the two countries. The chilly relations with the Kremlin have been later underlined by the death of former Polish president Lech Kaczynski and other Polish high officials in a plane crash in Smolensk in 2010 and even more after the annexation of Crimea.[2] The government showed full support for sanctions against Russia. The wariness of the Eastern power is intensive also because of the Polish borders with the Kaliningrad Oblast. Because of the security concerns caused by being at the frontier, Poland requested for increased presence of NATO in the country and increased its military spending from 1.6 % GDP in 2013 to 2 % today with even more increases in defence spending in the years to come.[3] Hence, the US forces are deployed in the country as a deterrence, which is perceived by the Kremlin as an aggression and a threat.

Political acknowledgement of the threat

Unlike some EU countries, condemnation of Russian influence is seen on a bipartisan scale, drawing criticism from the right, left, and center. According to the Annual address on foreign policy goals from 2016[4], Poland acknowledges that Russia seeks to expand its sphere of influence and inhibit the democratic transition of Eastern Europe with the means of hybrid activities, including propaganda. Through the Address, Poland also calls for enhancement of NATO-EU cooperation on the field of countering disinformation and influence operations and increasing cybersecurity.

While the Polish political establishment is highly concerned about Russian influence, certain fringe groups on the far-right have advocated for closer relations with Russia. Most infamously MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke one of the most pro-Russian politicians in Poland has declared Ukraine to be Poland’s enemy, not Russia.[5]

Government activities against Russian influence & disinformation

The threats have not yet been described in any specific conceptual document or translated into a sophisticated counter-policy. However, there are two STRATCOM departments – at the Ministry of National Defence and at the Ministry of Interior.

Poland is a sponsoring nation of the NATO Stratcom COE and also participates on the Finnish COE on Countering Hybrid Threats. It is also one of the funding nations of the European Endowment for Democracy, a donor organization supporting democratization and resilience of societies in European neighbourhood, including the area of counter-disinformation efforts.[6]

Anna Fotyga from the Law and Justice Party, a Polish MEP and a former minister of foreign affairs, was a rapporteur for the Report on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties in October 2016, but otherwise Poland is not very active in the projects aimed at countering disinformation on the EU level. Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has also called for a cyber army against Russian cyber-attacks following a successful deflection of a major cyber-attack earlier in October.[7] In addition, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło has announced the creation of a department of cybersecurity within the Chancellary of the Prime Minister, but she did not say if the department was created in response to the recent Russian cyber-attacks.[8]

Poland also recognizes that Russia would seek to influence the country using energy dependency on Russian gas. Polish leadership across the political spectrum opposes the Nord Stream pipeline, with the Secretary of State for European Affairs calling Nord Stream 2 “a Trojan horse”.[9] In 2014, Poland opened the Świnoujście LNG terminal on the Baltic to wean itself off Russian gas.[10]

The approach of intelligence agencies to Russian interference

The Internal Security Agency issued an Activity report for the year 2014[11] where it re-confirmed a high level of activity of Russian intelligence services in Poland. The Russian spy network in Poland is quite extensive, including spies under diplomatic cover, which is why several Russian diplomats were expelled on suspicion of spying in recent years. For example, former Russian military attaché in Poland Eduard Shishmakov was expelled for espionage and he is also currently accused of participating in the plot in Montenegro.[12] Earlier this year, a Russian scientist was arrested and deported from Poland on suspicion of espionage. The expelled Russian used his network of contacts in Poland to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda.[13]

According to the ISA Report, the aim of Russian influence operations was to discredit the position of Poland and other NATO member states in the Ukraine crisis, to bring the attention to the complex history of relations between Poland and Ukraine to cause antagonism between their societies, and to create and highlight divisions among the EU and NATO members. For the implementation of such strategies, the Kremlin used media, but also citizens representing  pro-Russian stance, who were in some cases paid by the institutions of the Russian Federation.[14] Sputnik maintains a Polish edition.

The ISA Report summarizes the activities of the Russian intelligence service in Poland as actively gathering information about political, economic, as well as scientific and technical character. The activities included lobbying for Russian entities operating on the Polish market as well.[15]

The information war conducted by the Russian Federation is described in the ISA Report as an attempt to spread pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian views among the Polish public through internet blogs, portals and news services. The documents describe the activities of paid internet trolls, but also the so called “useful idiots”.

Activities of the non-governmental sector

There are two main non-governmental organizations which are focusing on the relations with Russia and its policies. The Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) is one of the most prominent think-tanks in Central and Eastern Europe. It conducts research and publishes studies and reports on the topic of socio-political process in Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, but also on Russian influence in the region.

The Foundation for Joint Europe established in 2010 is a project of young experts from Eastern Europe. It is behind the portal, a website informing daily about the situation in Eastern European countries in cooperation with local politicians, journalists and activists. The authors support the freedom of speech and highlight the necessity of accurate information about the events happening in the Eastern neighbourhood.[16]

Another notable activity is the Infoops project. Established in 2015 (from 2017 as part of the Cyber Security Foundation) by Kamil Basaj, this research project analyses the manipulation of the Polish information sphere: disinformation, propaganda, social engineering and cyber activity and serves as an information hub regarding disinformation activities in Poland. It is known and active on Twitter as @Disinfo_Digest.[17]

Last but not least - a Facebook page called “Russian fifth column in Poland” ran by a journalist Marcin Rey. He uses this platform for publishing materials on the activities of Polish nationalists, activists and politicians with Russian connections.[18] Also, the New Eastern Europe magazine focusing on the affairs of the countries formerly under the influence of the Soviet Union resides in Kraków.

Media literacy is mostly promoted by the academic sphere. There is also a Media Education programme in place, supporting media education classes at schools from kindergarten to secondary levels, community centres and libraries, including providing lesson plans, exercises and teaching materials.

[1] “How do European democracies react to Russian aggression”. European Values. 22 April 2017. Available at: 
[2]“Russian soft power in Poland”. Political Capital. April 2017. Available at: 
[4] “Information of the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Polish foreign policy tasks in 2017.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Poland. Available at: 
[6]“About EED”. European Endowment for Democracy. Available at: 
[11]“Activity Report for 2014”. Internal Security Agency. 2015. Available at: 
[12]“Montenegro Coup Suspect ‘Was Russian Spy in Poland’. Balkan Insight. 21 February 2017. Available at: 
[15] Activity Report for 2014”. Internal Security Agency. 2015. Available at: 
[18] Yuriy Lapayev: “The invisible weapons”. The Ukrainian Week. January 2017. Available at: 

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