Meet the spooks, mercs and chickenhawk politicos enlisting as NAFO trolls
While fundraising for a notoriously brutal militia in Ukraine and trolling critics of the proxy war, the membership roll of “North Atlantic Fellas Organization” has filled up with NATO suits, congressional chickenhawks, neocon operatives, mercenaries and intel agents.
Read part one of Alex Rubinstein’s ongoing investigative series on NAFO, “How the pro-Ukraine NAFO troll operation crowd-funds war criminals.”
When he is not shedding performative tears over the fate of US democracy or publicly guffawing over the apparent assassination of Iranian military officials, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) has sought to define himself as a leading opponent of perceived antisemitism in Washington DC. When his colleague, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, mildly criticized of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 2019, Kinzinger called on congressional leaders to strip her of top committee assignments.
“Anti-Semitism has no place in this Congress or this country,” Kinzinger thundered in March 2019, falsely conflating criticism of AIPAC, an Israel lobbying group, with anti-Jewish sentiment. “We must hold ourselves to a higher standard in office.”
Yet Kinzinger, who has emerged as a zealous backer of NATO’s proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, has apparently failed to apply the same standards to his own political allies.
Since Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine this February, Kinzinger has agitated for increased US support for the Kiev-aligned military despite widespread documentation of open neo-Nazis permeating its ranks. More revealing was Kinzinger’s public endorsement of an online harassment campaign led by “NAFO,” a pro-NATO digital troll farm co-founded by a secretive Twitter account with noted antisemitic views.
Founded in early 2022, “NAFO,” or the “North Atlantic Fellas Organization,” is an online alliance of social media accounts aimed at fortifying the digital frontline of NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine. The group has made its mark on Twitter, where NAFO members, known as “fellas,” bombard critics of the Ukrainian military with insults and memes of cartoon dogs.
NAFO’s harassment campaigns have become so omnipresent that virtually every prominent Western media outlet, including Deutsche Welle, The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Politico, The Economist, VICE News, has granted the operation wildly favorable coverage. The troll farm has also drawn admiration from anti-Russia hardliners in Washington DC, including from its most enthusiastic inside-the-Beltway member: Rep. Kinzinger, who publicly identifies as a “fella” in his Twitter handle while participating in coordinated dog-piles.
In part one of this investigative series, The Grayzone revealed that “NAFO” is not only a digital troll farm, but in fact a thinly-veiled fundraising campaign for the Georgian Legion, a division of foreign fighters within the Ukrainian army that stands accused of numerous war crimes. The Grayzone also established that a retired US marine named Matthew Moores created NAFO alongside Kamil Dyszewski, a Polish video game reviewer who operates under the Twitter pseudonym “Kama Kamilia.”
“I just stumbled my way through life, now into this,” Dyszewski commented in a July 2022 interview while discussing his foray into the realm of online harassment campaigns.
“What fuels it for me is the absolute hatred and vitriol I have towards the Russians,” he explained.
While touting his anti-Russian hostility, Dyszewski has also tweeted multiple antisemitic memes, including images which appeared to glorify Adolph Hilter and mock Jewish victims of the Holocaust. While mainstream media has neglected to mention Dyszewski’s controversial opinions in its coverage of NAFO, independent researcher and Grayzone contributor Moss Robeson has clinically documented and publicized his most inflammatory posts.
NAFO founder Kamil Dyszewski (@Kama_Kamilia) is an antisemitic gamer from Poland pic.twitter.com/q5YPmDOFYZ
— Moss Robeson (@mossrobeson__) October 14, 2022
As evidence of Dyszewski’s hateful views circulated online, however, NAFO members doubled down on support for their leader.
“Spare a kind word or a kind thought for my little brother from another mother, @Kama_Kamilia,” a NAFO fella identified as “Pete” tweeted on October 15, tagging Dyszewski’s pseudonym and Twitter handle (an apparent reference to Culture Club’s 1982 chart topper, “Karma Chameleon”). “He’s taken a hard path here, and is handling it with grace and integrity.”
Taken on its own, the message of solidarity for Dyszewski from a Twitter account boasting fewer than 6,000 followers was unremarkable. But despite “Pete’s” underwhelming reach on Twitter, his tweet caught the eye of one of NAFO’s most notable fellas.
“Nobody is making a big deal about this, but the repeated nafo comments is (sic) spreading this,” read the top reply to “Pete’s” tweet. The blatant call to ignore screenshots of Dyszewski’s antisemitic posts was issued by none other than Rep. Kinzinger from his personal, verified account.
“So, all good,” the congressman advised his fellow fella. “Move on.”
With no end to the Ukraine conflict in sight, Kinzinger is not the only DC policymaker who has opted to look the other way and continue coordinating with or boosting NAFO’s digital troll operation. In fact, as NATO’s online information war intensified alongside the physical battlefield, NAFO’s ties to Washington’s elite have only strengthened.
US government-funded think tank celebrates NAFO’s “information warfare” success
Despite the fact NAFO is a literal troll farm, the organization has managed to legitimize itself in the eyes of Washington’s pro-NATO intelligensia. The Economist, for example, conceded that while “NAFO’s flippancy obscures its role as a remarkably successful form of information warfare,” the group has successfully countered pro-Russia accounts on social media while elevating “Ukraine’s role in popular culture.”
“It’s been effective at not allowing Russia to run wild across the info-war landscape the way they used to,” Peter W. Singer, a career consultant for the military-industrial complex and author of the book, LikeWar, told the publication. His comments were published in an August 31 profile of NAFO titled, “A virtual army of impish cartoon pooches is waging war on Russia.”
Days after the publication of The Economist’s report, on October 5, the DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank published an hour-long podcast discussion entitled, “#NAFO and Winning the Information War: Lessons Learned from Ukraine.” CSIS’s top government donor is the United States; the think tank receives support from five other NATO states, the European Union, as well as a number of US defense contractors.
Moderated by CSIS senior fellow Kathleen McInnis, the CSIS panel on NAFO included two of her colleagues: Iuliia Mendel, a Washington Post contributor and former spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and NAFO co-founder Matt Moores, a retired Marine Corps tank commander.
Throughout the event, Mendel praised NAFO and called for limits on free speech to “fight the disinformation.” “I think this war showed that the boundaries of freedom of speech have got a new framework,” the ex-Zelensky flack remarked, “and in this new era of emergent information and technologies we need to answer if we are ready to face the challenges. If we can make tough political decisions and doubt our own rules about freedom of speech to fight the disinformation, the weaponized words that come from Russia and I think this Russian war against democracy in Ukraine showed that we can actually take really difficult decisions.”
Yet the de facto US brand ambassador for Ukraine’s president had previously spread disinformation herself. In March 2022, she echoed bogus reports that the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah had agreed to send 800 fighters to aid Russia’s fight in Ukraine by the end of the month. While the troop transfer has yet to come to fruition, the cooked-up claim that one of Washington’s most notorious designated enemies planned to enter the Ukraine conflict was designed to excite support for Kiev-aligned military among US hawks.
I’m still waiting for Hezbollah in Ukraine. You were so sure Lul pic.twitter.com/YL7MmbNHWh
— Hadi Nasrallah (@HadiNasrallah) October 5, 2022
Despite her apparently hazy conception of reality, Mendel later proclaimed, “NAFO stands for truth, together with USA!”
#NAFO stands for truth, together with the USA! 🙂 https://t.co/L6vZcHxuvB
— Iuliia Mendel (@IuliiaMendel) August 4, 2022
During the October 5 CSIS panel, NAFO co-founder Matt Moores elaborated on the group’s information warfare tactics. He shed light on the nihilist mentality of NAFO trolls, explaining: “The power of what we’re doing is — instead of trying to come in and point for point refute and argue about what’s true and what isn’t — it’s coming and and saying look, ‘hey that’s dumb.’”
The moment somebody’s replying to a cartoon dog online, they’ve lost,” Moores added, referring to the digital Shiba Inu dog avatars NAFO fellas display on their Twitter accounts.
Weeks after its panel with Mandel, CSIS featured Moores once again, this time in a podcast published on October 13. During the discussion, Moores attempted to characterize NAFO as an “organic” movement while simultaneously explaining that the online “national security community” helped astroturf NAFO to prominence.
“If you look specifically at the national security Twitter community, I think you can see the origins of this for a long time,” Moores said. “I think that structure already existing really did help [NAFO] to grow.”
For a second time in interviews with CSIS, Moores expressed pride in NAFO’s fundraising for the Georgian National Legion. Between direct donations to the legion through NAFO and its partnership with the Saint Javelin merchandise shop, Moores estimated they had raised more than a million dollars for the atrocity-inclined militia.
As the previous installment of this investigation revealed, NAFO was launched to raise money for the Georgian Legion, a mercenary-filled militia outfit whose members have been caught on camera committing war crimes, which has been accused of torture, kidnapping and executions by former members, and is led by Mamuka Mamulashvili, a Georgian warlord who has boasted of the legion’s policy of executing captive Russian soldiers.
Celebrated in mainstream US media for its anti-Russian trolling, the Twitter operation known as NAFO was founded by a Polish antisemite to raise money for a militia that has hosted war criminals, white nationalists and wanted murderers
By @RealAlexRubi https://t.co/4qs01gbJkX
— The Grayzone (@TheGrayzoneNews) October 20, 2022
Next, Moores boasted of NAFO’s brazen retorts to allegations that it coordinates with US intelligence elements or trades in online hatred. “One of the ways we stick our finger back in the eye is that, you know, if you look at any fellas’ profile you’ll see the dog avatar but then their location will often be Langley, Virginia. They say we’re CIA. Yeah, sure, we’re CIA. They say, you know, Russiaphobes? Like yes, good morning Russiaphobes.”
While Moores publicly mocks allegations of intelligence ties and Russophobia, members of the intelligence community have flocked to NAFO and Moores himself has made nakedly Russophobic comments in private.
Rep. Kinzinger gushes over avowed war criminal, urges pals to “move on” from NAFO founder’s antisemitism
During recent trips to Washington’s Capitol Hill, Georgian Legion commander and avowed war criminal Mamuka Mamulashvili has held meet-and-greets with five to seven members of the House of Representatives and two senators.
On August 2, Rep. Adam Kinzinger posted a photograph of himself during a Zoom call with Mamulashvili, whom he hailed as a “heroic Commander” that is “fight[ing] hard for freedom.”
Kinzinger has also sought to tie himself to the Georgian Legion’s viral social media influence campaign, putting “fella” in his Twitter display name and participating in online harassment missions alongside fellow fellas.
This October, a member of the Georgian Legion personally visited Kinzinger at his congressional office in Washington DC.
Let me correct prior tweet. Get back to the office and have this nice little package from @LegionOfFellas! Thank you, #nafo #NAFOfellas pic.twitter.com/mlcJ5qpTRU
— Adam Kinzinger #fella (@AdamKinzinger) September 13, 2022
When NAFO co-founder “Kama Kamilia” was subsequently exposed as the author of several antisemitic tweets, Kinzinger urged other “fellas” to look the other way.
“Nobody is making a big deal about this but the repeated nafo comments is spreading this. So, all good. Move on,” the congressman tweeted.
And one last thing, before I dip off for a bit, Fellas. Spare a kind word or a kind thought for my little brother from another mother, @Kama_Kamilia. He's taken a hard path here, and is handling it with grace and integrity. Doesn't make the past right, but he's doing right now.
— Pete (@BravoKilo6464) October 15, 2022
The congressman’s dismissive comments contrast his past posturing on the issue of antisemitism. Back in 2019, when Representative Ilhan Omar criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful Israeli lobby group in Washington, Kinzinger called for congressional leadership to strip her of important committee assignments.
“Anti-Semitism has no place in this Congress or this country. Rep. Omar should be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard in office,” Kinzinger proclaimed.
Since becoming a fella, Kinzinger has spent endless hours tweeting out silly memes and taunting NAFO targets, including this journalist. Much of the congressman’s trolling takes place during work hours, though it often continues until late in the night.
My replies are being absolutely flooded by NAFO trolls. If you regularly reply to me maybe hold off for a bit if you don't want the heat. Retweets etc shouldn't be a problem
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) September 17, 2022
NAFO: a merry band of spooks, mercs, and cyber-spies
Paul Massaro, a senior policy advisor at the US government’s Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe who met with Ukrainian President Zelensky this September, has also been a vocal NAFO supporter. In August, Massaro held talks with Mamulashvili and was even made an honorary member of the Georgian Legion. On Twitter, Massaro’s profile picture features an image of himself bearing both a Georgian Legion and a NAFO patch.
Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, has similarly posed with NAFO memorabilia and presented President Zelensky with a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of Saint Javelin — the online merchandise shop named for Raytheon’s Javelin anti-tank missile which recently incorporated NAFO.
Dear #fellas, I’m changing my profile pic,but not switching allegiance.
Thanks for inviting me to NAFO!
Our joint work continues: #UAarmy fights for the future of Europe;#NAFO donates&destroys russo-propaganda.
Let’s win together!
Thx you to @saintjavelin for T-shirt&cap patch pic.twitter.com/FZSSWXIdqO
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) September 4, 2022
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis met with his Ukrainian and Irish counterparts in Odessa sporting a NAFO t-shirt. And Kaja Kallas, the ferociously anti-Russian Prime Minister of Estonia, created her own “Fella” avatar and congratulated NAFO: “you’re doing a great job fighting bad takes and Russian propaganda, and raising funds for Ukraine’s defense. I salute you.” Kallas changed her profile picture to her “Fella” for a day to invite “promises of donations.”
Unsurprisingly, NAFO has also become wildly popular with American military-cyber communities. Maggie Smith, an Army Cyber Institute research and assistant professor at West Point’s Department of Social Sciences has endorsed the group, as has the official Twitter page of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, which bills itself as “The Army’s only offensive cyberspace operations brigade.”
Military pundit Jack McCain, the son of the late Senator and war enthusiast John McCain, CNN rent-a-general and former Army officer Mark Hertling, and US Army Major General Patrick Donahue have each publicly supported NAFO. This November, the Modern War Institute at West Point will host a panel on NAFO entitled, “Cyber Operations in Modern Warfare: Ukraine and Beyond.”
Interested in how cyber warfare is shaping modern warfare? @ArmyCyberInst's Dr. Lonergan and CPT Smith, Ph.D. will be participating in @WarInstitute's panel on #cyber operations in #Ukraine. The panel takes place on November 7th at 1245. You can participate in person or virtually pic.twitter.com/3soiOHoFFw
— Army Cyber Institute (@ArmyCyberInst) October 20, 2022
John Sipher, a former CIA field operative-turned-Twitter commentator and corporate media opinionator also sports a Shiba Inu avatar on his Twitter page. Sipher “was a member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, the leadership team that guides CIA activities globally,” according to the Atlantic Council, the NATO, arms industry and Gulf-funded think tank that currently hosts the former spy as a nonresident senior fellow.
Private military groups have also jumped on the NAFO bandwagon. When this reporter created a NAFO-stylized Twitter account and began following other NAFO accounts, it soon received a follow from career mercenary Mathew VanDyke. VanDyke is a notorious US regime change hitman who currently leads the Sons of Liberty International mercenary group that has provided support to jihadist groups seeking to overthrow the governments of Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad.
Back in 2013, a hacker group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army infiltrated VanDyke’s Facebook chats and released a shocking trove of exchanges covering everything from the mercenary’s dealings with jihadist elements in Aleppo, Syria to his perverse sexual proclivities.
In an exchange with Eliot Higgins of the US and UK government-funded “open source” outlet, Bellingcat, VanDyke remarked that “rebels do have a small quantity of chemical weapons.” Higgins swore to keep the disclosure “off the record,” even as he attacked journalists who insisted the so-called rebels were waging false flag chemical attacks and blaming them on the Syrian government.
“The rebels would likely fire on their own people knowing that their death would be worth it if it led to US intervention,” VanDyke disclosed in the leaked trove.
VanDyke is now in Ukraine where he says he is “training Ukrainian forces to fight Russia.”
We don't want peace.
We want justice.
100% of Ukraine liberated.
Russia's military decimated.
Putin overthrown.#StandWithUkraine #Ukraine #NAFO
— Matthew VanDyke (@Matt_VanDyke) October 4, 2022
In an interview with both co-founders of NAFO — Matt Moores and Kamil Dyszewski — neoconservative operative Michael Weiss explained “this [NAFO] thing has spread to people who, you know, are I mean essentially either active or former military officials, high-ranking, cable news pundits. I’m a fella, my wife is a fella, and my 7-year-old daughter is a fella.”
Michael Weiss, the neocon NAFO dad
As The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal has reported, Weiss first emerged as a center-right activist and failed Republican congressional candidate who hosted a “free speech” rally alongside Islamophobic activists including Pamela Geller. He later rebranded himself as an expert on Russia, despite having never visited the country and without speaking Russian.
At the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society, Weiss launched a Russia Studies Center that his then-boss called a “Potemkin village-like” operation “which describes itself grandiloquently as a ‘research and advocacy centre’, but is really just a website where Weiss blogs about Russia.”
With seed money from exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Weiss rebranded the site as The Interpreter and placed it under the patronage of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, a public relations arm of the US government that emerged out of what the CIA described as “one of the longest running and successful covert action campaigns ever mounted by the United States.” The move made Weiss a de facto US government employee.
Weiss simultaneously branded himself a Syria expert in order to lobby for a regime change war against the country. In 2012, the former anti-Muslim agitator visited Aleppo, Syria under the watch of hardcore Islamist gangs like Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. The fixer who shepherded Weiss to the rebel-occupied city was Mahmoud Sheik Elzour, a Syrian Muslim Brotherhood activist who made uniforms for insurgents, including members of ISIS.
Today, Weiss splits his time between his editorial role at the spook-infested Newlines Magazine and his duties as a NAFO fella.
“I’ve made a point just to follow every one [NAFO account] that I’ve seen following me,” Weiss said. “For people like myself, you provide a kind of backup and support. So like, if I’m getting trolled suddenly there’s this counter-battery of fellas, so it helps us do our work.”
Like Weiss, NAFO fella Oz Katerji has embedded with CIA-supported jihadist groups in Syria.
Katerji is a serial online harasser and regime change activist who moonlights as a conflict journalist. Known to threaten journalists via Whatsapp for publishing inconvenient facts about US regime change operations, Katerji was fired by the Daily Mail tabloid, where he worked a low-level copy writing job, for publicly attacking colleagues opposed to regime change in Syria.
“Lol I get paid to do this,” Katerji has said of his practice of harassing ideological opponents.
In Ukraine, he materialized at the scene of an apparent atrocity just hours after members of the Georgian Legion executed a captive Russian on camera. Despite remarking that the killing was “a war crime under international law,” Katerji today uses a custom-made Shiba Inu image as his Twitter avatar — an explicit endorsement of the troll operation launched to raise money for the perpetrators of the field execution.
The NAFO-NATO axis
Citing his connections inside Western security states, Michael Weiss remarked, “The rumor is that NAFO is actually quite popular within NATO. Again, people are messaging me saying ‘this is amazing, where did it come from, thinking it’s some government-orchestrated conspiracy.”
But NATO has made no secret of its support for NAFO. On October 7, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Baiba Braže quote tweeted a custom Shiba Inu avatar created for her by a NAFO discord administrator, writing “Dear Fellas, thank you for all the hard work in support of Ukraine and to counter Russia’s disinformation! Love the avatar and happy to be included in the fellowship. NAFO enlargement is not negotiable.”
Dear #Fellas, thank you for all the hard work in support of #Ukraine and to counter Russia’s disinformation!
Love the avatar☺️ and happy to be included in the fellowship. #NAFO enlargement is not negotiable. @Official_NAFO https://t.co/pYDuYzepNy
— Baiba Braže (@NATOBrazeB) October 7, 2022
One week later, Braže was interviewed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s news outlet. Asked what she thinks of the “NAFO phenomenon,” Braže hailed the troll operation as “a great grassroots initiative.”
“I’ve been amazed about the work that they are doing,” Braže said. “I think it’s exactly the work that we need to bring awareness in our societies.”
Journalists privately advise NAFO
Kristaps Andrejsons, a Latvian journalist who is active on the Discord and promised there that NAFO would be mentioned in his next article for Foreign Policy magazine, noted that “most officials are very different people outside the official protocol and care about appearances. And being a fella is ‘cool’ now.”
Andrejsons continued: “If someone here decides that they have something that they actually want to say to/ask some political institution or politician, yeah, can be done. Just need to figure out an official-sounding reason, really. I mean, I’m about to go to our prime minister when the new one gets confirmed and blatantly ask him why Kallas has one and he doesn’t. When the Crimea party happens, I swear to god, I’ll get Zelensky to hang out with us.”
NAFO co-founder Matt Moores took the opportunity to ask Andrejsons to mention the group’s Twitter account in his article as it will “help get it verified.” The journalist assured Moores that he would do as requested and “mention the official Twitter account.”
Other prominent Beltway figures that have endorsed NAFO include former Bernie Sanders foreign policy advisor Joe Cirincione, who recently resigned from the Quincy Institute think tank, accusing the institution of “excus[ing] Russia’s military threats and actions because they believe that they have been provoked by U.S. policies.”
I love this shirt that my neighbor @mwhamiltonian gave me. It looks like a holy icon but it’s Ukraine’s patron saint, St. Olga, holding a Javelin. Wearing it today ion my walk about town pic.twitter.com/9HGBZCM7nh
— Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione) October 8, 2022
Leo Zhadanovsky, a Chief Technologist at Amazon Web Services and former employee of the Democratic National Committee has also supported NAFO.
While NAFO may attempt to brush-off its high-level connections as merely circumstantial, or even simply evidence of its success, co-founder Matt Moores is a veteran of political networks dedicated to stirring support for regime change wars. Asked in the NAFO Discord server how his interview with CSIS came to fruition, Moores responded that “one of the CSIS fellows and I have been mutual followers for several years.” For his part, Michael Weiss said he has also “known” Moores “for years.”
Behind the cartoon dog memes, frat boy banter and glowing press about NAFO’s organic contributions to the information wars lies the same Beltway blob that has guided America’s disastrous interventions for decades. Its members may call themselves fellas, but many also happen to be spooks, mercs, grim NATO suits and think tank fellows.
Meet the spooks, mercs and chickenhawk politicos enlisting as NAFO trolls
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