This is the Kremlin speaking: NATO and the USA are an ‘aggressor’ and ‘evil-doer’

„NATO/USA attack sovereign countries on a whim“.

„NATO/USA make up their own rules and impose them on other countries“.

„NATO/USA are fighting against Russia in Ukraine“.

These claims are widespread in Bulgaria and have been getting an extra boost since the beginning of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine on 24 February 2022. They are spreading both on social networks and on traditional news media. You can come across them in television interviews, in ‘analyses’ on various websites and blogs. They appear as political cartoons and collages on Facebook and TikTok. They are repeated both by ordinary users and by opinion leaders – politicians, journalists, experts (at least according to the way they are presented to the public).

One thing all those claims have in common is their source: they all originate from the Kremlin. They are a fixed presence in political documents and the public statements of the Russian political elite, including president Vladimir Putin – starting with the famous 2007 Munich speech, onto the 2014 Crimea speech and all his addresses at the start of the ‘special military operation’ in 2022. 

In his Munich speech Putin criticised the “unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions”, the “uncontained hyper use of force“ and the imposing of the US legal system on other states “in all spheres”.

In his Crimea speech on 18 March 2014 Putin was much more explicit in his accusations against the USA and the world order dominated by them:

„After the dissolution of bipolarity on the planet, we no longer have stability. Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly degrading. Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.“

Източник: http://kremlin.ru/

This point of view always comes illustrated by a list of countries: Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Syria. And accompanied by a reminder of NATO’s broken promise not to expand to the East.

Those words have been tirelessly repeated for years by the head of state, the entire apparatus of power and the vast information infrastructure created and financed by the government, until they were manufactured into a simple, logical and hence convincing picture of the world. They became a given, ‘general knowledge’, something that is clear by default and does not require proof. In other words, they became facts.

Once those facts have been forged, nothing is simpler than to present aggression as defence, as a fair response to the ‘unjust’, ‘hegemonic’ world order (as per the above source). That is how the war against Kyiv finds not only an explanation and justification but is presented as a global conflict, in which Ukraine is just a territory and the true (righteous) battle Russia is fighting is against the USA and NATO. 

For this narrative to work most efficiently, it is crucial to persuade the audience that the United States and NATO are the same thing and all other NATO countries are simply marionettes controlled by the mighty puppeteer USA.

Political statements, videos and social media posts in Bulgaria often list the countries routinely mentioned by Putin, as well as others where there was conflict regardless of the time, context or circumstances. Concrete facts are not important – anything can be used to illustrate the ‘wars’ fought by the United States and NATO.

„The U.S. and NATO have been attacking sovereign countries without any sense of responsibility or shame,” says Rumen Gechev of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) in the television programme “Face to Face”. “Where was NATO in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya”, he goes on to say.

In this Facebook post the list of “peace-keeping” operations by the United States and NATO starts as far back as 1912, even though it is well-known that NATO was founded in 1949.

A TikTok video with the title ‘Terrorists #1’ shows a collage of portraits of American presidents, labelled terrorists #1, accompanied by the music theme from the movie “Damned Souls”. Under each portrait the names of countries are written without any further clarification. According to the collage captions, they started “11 wars all over the world”.

We will not go into the details around each conflict, as it is impossible and unnecessary in view of the complete disregard for the actual facts in this piece of propaganda. In many cases those events took place during the Cold War, when the USA, as well as the USSR, intervened overtly and covertly in a number of civil and regional conflicts. 

What are the facts about those notable international crises repeatedly touted by Putin himself: Serbia, Iraq, Libya and Syria? Even just mentioning that group of countries in the context of a “US and NATO attack” is highly manipulative because the circumstances surrounding those four cases were completely different.

In 1999 in Serbia, or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as it was called at the time (FRY) NATO’s Allied Force operation took place without a mandate from the UN.

In Libya NATO’s engagement came as a result of a resolution by the UN Security Council. The document called on countries, acting nationally or through regions;l organisations, to take all necessary measures to protect the civilian population which was put in danger by its own state.

In Iraq and Syria individual NATO member countries took part in operations but NATO itself as an organisation was not involved.

That is why it is so important  to normalise the notion that the United States and NATO are the same entity. Without that premise neither the ‘short list’ of affected countries nor its extended version would be possible.

There is a number of details that illustrate how manipulative those claims are. The operation in FRY was carried out in order to stop the violence inflicted by Yugoslav and Serbian armed forces on the Albanian population in Kosovo. The concrete historical context needs to be taken into account – the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and the prolonged war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which the international community intervened too late and unconvincingly. The operation was undertaken without a mandate by the UN Security Council not because there weren’t any grounds for intervention by the international community but because of Russia’s refusal to support a resolution to that effect. It is precisely the lack of such resolution that was pointed out by NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the main reason why NATO did not intervene in Syria.

It is worth mentioning that Russia did not impose a veto in the case of Libya but simply abstained from voting on the resolution, which does not stop it from using Libya as an example of American aggression.

Even in the case of Iraq, where the main facts are most widely known, there are important details conveniently overlooked by the Kremlin. It is true that the invasion was not backed by a UN Security Council resolution and in that case it was not just a matter of resistance by Russia. In March 2003 only 4 out of 15 Security Council members expressed support for the resolution calling for the use of force in Iraq (the United States, UK and Spain as sponsors, as well as Bulgaria). The resolution was retracted and soon after that “the coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq. 

What is less known is that in November 2002 the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Iraq, giving it “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations”. Resolution 1441 accuses Iraq of “a material breach” of obligations related to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, the production of banned missiles and the import of banned weapons. Violations of a number of Security Council resolutions from 1990 onwards are listed. 

The text of the resolutions and the unanimous support by all 15 Security Council members show that no one had any doubts concerning Iraq’s violations. What the countries were not willing to allow, despite insistence on behalf of the United States and UK, was the use of military force before all other means had been exhausted. The UK conducted its own investigation into the actions of its prime minister Tony Blair and London’s involvement in the Iraq war. Великобритания проведе собствено разследване на действията на своя министър предстедател Тони Блеър и участието на Лондон във войната в Ирак. The findings of the Chilcot Committee, named after its chair John Chilcot, were published in 2016.

In our article Why Crimea and the Donbass are not Kosovo Factcheck.bg already examined in detail how Russian propaganda has been trying to use Kosovo as a precedent to justify its aggression against Ukraine since 2014.

As regards the claim that international law has been replaced by “makeshift rules”, let us once again start with the original source:

“And all we hear is, the West is insisting on a rules-based order. Where did that come from anyway? Who has ever seen these rules? Who agreed or approved them? Listen, this is just a lot of nonsense, utter deceit, double standards, or even triple standards! They must think we’re stupid.

Russia is a great thousand-year-old power, a whole civilisation, and it is not going to live by such makeshift, false rules. (Applause.)“

Източник: http://kremlin.ru/

Putin’s words resonate almost word-for-word with some frequently repeated statements by Bulgarian politicians and analysts: 

Boyan Chukov, 22 March 2022: „It is true that until recently the world was regulated by rules set up by the United States and not by international law.”

Rumen Petkov, 13 July 2023: „It has been the US’ consistent position for the last 20 years, as well as that of their most loyal NATO stooges, that there is no international law, only international rules adopted by them unilaterally, which they aim to impose on everyone else. This is a scary policy.”

The Kremlin’s anti-NATO narrative has its ‘bulgarianised’ versions, according to which Bulgaria has been occupied by the United States and NATO is mobilising Bulgarian troops to fight in Ukraine.

For the conspiracy enthusiasts there are also versions, in which NATO stands in the way of anti-hail measures and refuses to help Bulgaria fight forest fires, while the United States personified by Sarah Palin want to destroy Bulgaria using a nuclear bomb. A number of Facebook groups and pages publishing low-quality or completely fabricated content maintain a steady flow of disinformation targeted against NATO and to Russia’s benefit – an infographic showing the links between profiles, pages and groups can be found in the following Factcheck.bg article:


Bulgaria has been the target of disinformation about NATO for a decade now. The report “Anti-democratic propaganda in Bulgaria” demonstrated that the narrative about “the United States and the US-controlled military alliance NATO” being a “global hegemon” and “puppeteer” was already firmly entrenched in our country by 2013. According to that narrative, the US and NATO hide behind “the ideological screen of human rights and through their marionettes take away the sovereignty of nations around the world, infecting them with liberalism, instigating wars”, etc.

More recent research by the same team shows that the same propaganda narrative is not just still in circulation but has been considerably amplified in 2021 and especially in 2022 with the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The US and NATO are among the leading “global villains” featured in popular conspiracy theories, according to which they inflict not just wars but also earthquakes, pandemics, mind control and other evils on the global population.

These propaganda narratives, stitched together out of outlandish historical interpretations, selectively arranged facts and blatant falsehoods, are circulated in other countries too. A similar information attack is especially evident in Eastern European countries, although support for NATO in the region remains high and stable (79%), according to Globsec Trends 2023 data:

The survey shows that Bulgaria and Slovakia diver sharply from the other countries included in the research. Support for NATO in Bulgaria grew from 50% in 2022 to 58% in 2023 but remains the lowest in the region. Only 53% of Bulgarian interviewees think that NATO membership protects us from foreign aggression, while only 44% would be in favour of a collective response by the pact in case a neighbouring member country was attacked. 

According to the researchers, the reasons behind these findings include low levels of trust in public institutions and the media, as well as the susceptibility to disinformation in society. Trust in the media among Bulgarians was found to be just 31% – the lowest among all countries included in the survey except Hungary.


Выступление и дискуссия на Мюнхенской конференции по вопросам политики безопасности, 2007 http://kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/24034

Обращение Президента Российской Федерации, 2014 http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20603

Подписание договоров о принятии ДНР, ЛНР, Запорожской и Херсонской областей в состав России, 2022 http://www.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/69465

Мина Киркова. Има ли НАТО неизпълнено обещание към Русия? https://factcheck.bg/ima-li-nato-neizpalneno-obeshtanie-kam-rusiya/

Катерина Василева. Има ли НАТО неизпълнено обещание към Русия? https://factcheck.bg/rusiya-ne-e-obgradena-ot-amerikanski-bazi-s-yadreno-orazhie-kakto-tvardi-falshiva-karta/

Ралица Ковачева. Защо Крим и Донбас не са Косово https://factcheck.bg/zashto-krim-i-donbas-ne-sa-kosovo/

Kosovo Air Campaign (March-June 1999). Operation Allied Force. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_49602.htm

NATO and Libya (Archived) https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_71652.htm

NATO – delivering security in the 21st century. Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Chatham House, London https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/opinions_88886.htm

Resolution 1973 (2011). Adopted by the Security Council at its 6498th meeting, on 17 March 2011 https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N11/268/39/PDF/N1126839.pdf?OpenElement

Resolution 1441 (2002). Adopted by the Security Council at its 4644th meeting, on 8 November 2002 https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N02/682/26/PDF/N0268226.pdf?OpenElement

Chilcot report: Findings at-a-glance https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36721645

Ралица Ковачева. Бойно поле Украйна: “Новият световен ред” на Русия. В: Журналистика, ценности, свят. Юбилеен сборник в чест на проф. д-р Мария Нейкова. Редактор/и:Ралица Ковачева, Жана Попова, Вяра Ангелова, Снежана Попова. Университетско издателство “Св. Климент Охридски”, 2022, стр. 185-196.

This publication was created with the financial support of the European Media and Information Fund, managed by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The sole responsibility for the content lies entirely with Factcheck.bg and it may not necessarily reflect the positions of EMIF and the Fund Partners, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European University Institute.

Ralitsa Kovacheva
Ralitsa Kovacheva
Ralitsa Kovacheva is a doctor of journalism and a lecturer in international journalism at the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski ”. She has published three books and numerous scientific articles. Her research interests are in the European Union, international politics and disinformation. Ralitsa Kovacheva has many years of journalistic experience. She has worked as a journalist at BNT, FM Plus radio, published in various online media and is one of the founders of RE:TV and BiT.

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