Briefs

Estonia: 9-15 January 2017

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Commenting on an open letter to Donald Trump from 17 current and former European leaders, rubaltic.ru compared Eastern Europe and the Baltic states with mental patients suffering from anxiety and phobia, and the letter itself with therapeutic writing that has no effect on the recipient. 

Event: In an open letter to President Donald Trump written shortly before his inauguration, 17 current and former officials from a range of European countries—including ex-heads of state and foreign ministers—asked Trump to not to choose the “wrong” side in dealing with Russia and stated that “Putin does not seek American greatness. As your allies, we do.” The letter continued: “As your treaty-bound allies, we appeal to Americans in the new U.S. administration and Congress to stand firm in the defense of our common goals and interests: peace, Atlantic strength and freedom.” Writing in the pro-Kremlin, Russian-language news site rubaltic.ru on 12 January, journalist Andrey Starikov wrote that the letter to Trump “is not an example of sound Baltic policy but of the psychotherapy Baltic states need; contains all signs of mental disorder including phobia and anxiety; is a form of therapeutic writing with no effect on the addressee.

The false fact or narrative: The article implicates that no real Russian threat exists—only Russophobia caused by the “mental disorder” of the Baltic states.

Reality on the ground: The letter was signed not only by Baltic politicians, but also by those from Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. The claim that the Russian threat is nothing more than a “mental disorder” of the Baltic states overlooks the fact that Russia is actively waging a hybrid war against the West—violating borders and international laws, assisting far-right nationalist organizations and populist movements across Europe, and waging cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.  

Techniques: 
  • Ridiculing, 
  • discrediting, 
  • diminution; marginalizing facts,
  • statements and/or people through mockery, 
  • name-calling and undermining their authority. 

Audience: Russian speakers throughout the three Baltic states.

Analysis: The argument that the Russian threat is not real and simply a Russophobic delusion is one of the Kremlin’s oldest media narratives. The report “Russophobia in the Kremlin’s strategy” shows how Russia created and uses this concept in response to Western criticism of its actions in Ukraine, and how the term “Russophobia” has returned to its political rhetoric.