Briefs

Estonia: 7-13 November 2016

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Following U.S. presidential elections on 8 November, the Russian-language website of Estonian independent daily newspaper Postimees posted a comment by Sergei Glazyev—an advisor to Vladimir Putin—that Americans have two options: global war or the acceptance of a multipolar world, and that President-elect Trump should choose the second option.

Event: On 9 November—the day after Americans elected Donald Trump president—the Russian-language website of Estonian independent daily newspaper Postimees published an article on Russia’s reaction to the election. It quoted Sergei Glazyev, an advisor to President Vladimir Putin, as saying bilateral relations must be reset: “The Americans objectively have two choices: either world war or the acceptance of the multipolar world. Clinton was the symbol of world war. Trump has the chance to change the situation.”

The false fact or narrative:  Glazyev’s comment contains two false narratives, both of them promoted by the Kremlin for years. The first is that the international system is unipolar and exists mainly to advance U.S. interests, and must be changed. The second is that the West has only two options: to work with Russia or actively oppose it. In this case, the two options are to accept Russia’s views, interests and intentions—or risk World War III. 

Reality on the ground: The United States has been promoting the idea of a multipolar world for more than 70 years, beginning with a proposal for the United Nations in 1939 under the aegis of the State Department. Washington also pushed for the establishment of the Security Council—one of the UN’s six principal organs—which gave veto power to five countries including Russia. Since the North Atlantic Treaty’s creation in 1949, it operates by consensus among all signatories, including large and small Western nations. Any country can block any other in the alliance. In contrast, all decisions of the Warsaw Pact—established in 1955 as a counterweight to NATO—were dominated by the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has supported Russia’s admission to several multilateral forums including the NATO-Russia Council, the G8 and the World Trade Organization. 

Techniques: 
  • False dilemma, 
  • pleading for Russia’s special position.

Audience: Russian-speaking Estonians, including decision-makers.

Analysis: Russia simultaneously wants to use international law to advance its interests and act in contravention of it when expedient. After its 2014 annexation in Crimea, for example, Putin gave a speech to Moscow’s diplomatic community in which he justified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a blow against the unipolar order. RT published selected quotations of the speech under the title “Right to be different.” TASS, which ran the entire speech, used a similar headline: “Putin: Unipolar model of the world has failed.” TASS summarized Russia’s struggle against the cultural, political and ideological “oppression” of the West and insisted that Western social-political models cannot apply to Russia or “non-Russian regions such as eastern Ukraine.” According to this interpretation, Russia did not actually annex Crimea but delivered it from Western influence. Moscow insists that all of Ukraine and Georgia have the right to differ from Western models too—but not from the model that Russia represents.

Description of sources: Postimees is an independent, pro-Western Estonian daily newspaper that provides news both in Estonian and Russian.