Briefs

Estonia: 12-December 2016 - 2 January 2017

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In an interview with Estonia’s independent Russian-language news site rus.postimees.ee on prospects for East-West relations during the Trump administration, a Russian-speaking member of the pro-Kremlin Estonian Centre Party compared the EU with the Soviet Union and predicts that the West’s relations with Russia will improve.
 
Event: In a wide-ranging 5 December interview with the independent Russian-language news site rus.postimees.ee, Mihhail Stalnuhhin, a member of the Estonian Centre Party—which has formal ties with Russia’s ruling United Russia party—said the European Union is not that different from Soviet Union. Both are centrally directed and restrict personal and political freedom. He predicted that EU-Russia relations would improve during the Trump presidency.
 
The false fact or narrative: Three false narratives are at work here: first, that the EU is comparable to Soviet Union; second, that the EU restricts personal and political freedom, and third, that preventing war depends on U.S. and EU attitudes. The United States and the EU are aggressive, and Russia is just reacting to ongoing tension. 
 
Reality on the ground: Comparing the EU to the Soviet Union is a false and unfounded comparison. There is no resemblance between them. EU inhabitants enjoy democracy, human rights and free-market trade. In contrast, the USSR was a one-party state lacking human rights and a free market. Moreover, all EU member states were free to join, and all are free to leave. The Soviet were forced to join the USSR under threat of force. Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea exacerbated tensions between Russia and the West. Its violation of the UN Charter and international laws—including the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris, which seek to protect the territorial integrity of states from outside interference—sparked the imposition of anti-Russia sanctions and the deployment of additional NATO troops in Eastern Europe.
 
Techniques: 
  • False comparison, 
  • pleading for relativity.
 
Audience: Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority.
 
Analysis: After the U.S. elections, Russian state media has increasingly spread the narrative that Donald Trump will change the West’s attitude towards Russia and reduce tensions. This narrative falsely portrays the West as an active cause of the tension and Russia as an aggrieved party that must react.  It ignores the fact that Russia’s aggressive behavior in eastern Ukraine caused both the sanctions and the deployment of additional NATO troops in Eastern Europe.