Shabby lies: Ukraine and NATO against Russia and China

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This article was first published by (North Macedonia), within the framework of Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Project.

A shabby narrative that even Putin doesn’t use anymore is persistently repeated about NATO wanting to control Ukraine so that it can install hypersonic missiles that could hit Moscow within 4-5 minutes leaving it incapacitated to respond promptly. That justifies the Russian aggression in Ukraine, but it makes no sense – several of Russia’s neighbors are already NATO members, therefore a quick attack on Moscow can be performed if that were the case. Ukraine is not required at all, and whether the missile flies a minute longer is not that important. At the same time, the post seems to overemphasize Russian-Chinese cooperation, even though the relations are not ideal 


post on the social network Facebook dated 21.5.2024 says the following: 

The Russian offensive in Kharkiv started on 10 May, only six days before Putin visited China. 

The Russians know that is a decisive moment of the war – Moscow is just 3-4 minutes away from a missile attack if NATO gains access to the city of Kharkiv. 

This shabby narrative about NATO wanting to control Ukraine so that it can install hypersonic missiles that could hit Moscow within 4-5 minutes leaving it incapacitated to respond promptly – that even Putin doesn’t use anymore – is a manipulation used to justify the Russian aggression in Ukraine. 

The post leaves the impression that Kharkiv is a convenient place for targeting Moscow (650 km from the city), but the distance from Latvia is even a little less. Therefore, NATO doesn’t need Kharkiv for that. The closest place to Moscow from Ukraine is not Kharkiv, but Sumska Oblast (450 km), but the author of the post either does not know geography or is spreading incorrect information to justify the latest Russian offensive in the Kharkiv Oblast. NATO has been on the Russian border since its establishment in 1949, through Norway, and the package includes Poland (in 1999), the Baltic countries (2004), and Finland (2023), hence if the purpose was to hit Moscow quickly, Ukraine is not needed for that. Depending on the launching place, the missile might have to fly a minute longer than from Ukraine, but that would not help Moscow much, especially due to its poor counter-air defense. As a response, Ukraine for quite some time has been targeting Belgorod and Moscow, including targets of 1,200 km deep within Russia. 

The Kremlin claims that NATO pushed Ukraine into war against Russia. Did the Alliance create such a global problem just to position missiles in Ukraine as to have a minute advantage should it strike Moscow eventually? And if Ukraine was NATO’s pawn – as the Kremlin claims – the Pact could have installed missiles therein, but that was not done. 

In 1997, Ukraine agreed on close cooperation with NATO; in 2003 the country even wanted to join the Alliance. In 2014, Euromaidan occurred and the invasion of Crimea, and the relations between Russia and Ukraine deteriorated drastically. But, despite everything, NATO’s missiles were not installed in Ukraine. The war did not start because Russia was attacked by Ukraine, but quite the opposite. Kharkiv was not taken, so why didn’t NATO bring in the city those famous missiles if that was the plan, as the post we are fact-checking claims?

In reality, Ukraine and NATO did not attack Russia, but the West exerted pressure on Ukraine so that the country would hand over its Soviet nuclear weapons to Russia (according to the Budapest Memorandum from 1994), in exchange for Russia’s commitment to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, but at the end, it violated that commitment.  

The post seems to pay too much attention to Putin’s last visit to China, as though that was a decisive moment. The cooperation between Russia and China, however, is not ideal. 

They fought each other in imperial times, the last time being in 1969 (even though both the Russians and the Chinese were building Socialism, they had their differences). They are cooperating now, but the Chinese textbooks still contain maps from Imperial times when parts of today’s Russia were under Chinese rule. To some, that is propagating irredentism. 

Chinese companies have occupied those territories under decades-long leases and exploited them mercilessly, which is detrimental to the environment. Many Russians experience that as colonialization, and according to them Russia and China are not equal partners, China being the dominating side. In the course of border demarcation in 2004, Russia gave a gift of 337 km² to China, and in 2015 another 4.7 km², which also brought bitterness to the Russian citizens. China is using the Russian port Vladivostok for its internal trade, as though the city was Chinese which can be seen from the way it calls it, Haishenwei – as it was named until 1860 when it even belonged to China. 

China does not have a clear opinion about the war in Ukraine – sometimes it expresses respect for its sovereignty, sometimes it expresses understanding for Russia, and sometimes it expresses neutrality, thereby communicating with both Putin and the West. The cooperation with China helps Russia survive the sanctions, but China does not extend resolute support, in the sense of military (at least not openly) and usually, it does not vote in favor of Russia in the UN but abstains from voting. China’s progress is due to its compromise with the West since the time of its leader Deng Xiaoping, so now China manufactures some of the most popular Western brands and it is difficult to cast all that for the sake of Putin. 

Bearing in mind all of the above-noted, the fact-checked post is assessed as untrue.