Estonia: 5-11 December 2016

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A pro-Kremlin propaganda website falsely claimed that Western economists and analysts criticize the economic development model of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania because of “the destruction of relations with Russia.”

Event: A 5 December article in on a study of Estonia’s export sector published by the Estonian Employers’ Confederation and the Baltic branch of international accounting firm KPMG stated that Western analysts are no longer optimistic about the economic prospects for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. “Even the major Western consulting companies…say that the anti-Russian policy of the Baltic states threatens their economies and sustainable economic development,” said the article, adding that Baltic authorities take the report as “an element of the hybrid war” and consider the critics of Western analysts as “Russian propaganda.”

The false fact or narrative: The article contains several false facts and narratives: first, that the study reflects the views of Western economists and analysts; second, that the study is about Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; and third, that the reason for slower economic growth in Estonia is “the destruction of relations with Russia.”

Reality on the ground: The study, as its title suggests, focuses only on Estonian exports, not on those of Latvia or Lithuania. It is based on interviews with and recommendations by Estonian executives and analysts, not by “Western economics and analysts” as the article falsely claimed. Also, the article omits comments by some respondents who said that while restoring economic relations with Russia makes sense, this does not mean “we have to tolerate Russia’s behavior.”

Techniques: Exaggeration and over-generalization; itotum pro parte; card stacking; manipulation of false facts; wolf cries wolf.

Audience: Russians as well as Russian speakers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Analysis: The article is an example of Russia’s attempt to influence Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian decision-makers to lift economic sanctions. It is based on the false narrative that the reason for Estonia’s slower economic growth is “the destruction of the relations with Russia.” The facts show something else: according to Swedbank analysis, the volume of Estonian exports is increasing.