Estonia: 2-9 January 2017

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Event:  In a 5 January column in the Russian-language newspaper Stolitsa, Alexander Nosovich, who writes for the pro-Kremlin website, implied that NATO—not Russia—initiated the current chill in Russia-NATO ties. His remarks followed a statement by Andrei Kelin, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of European Cooperation, about the need to renew relations between the two sides and a separate observation by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Russia poses no immediate threat against any NATO ally. Nosovich said Russia has never refused to cooperate with NATO, did not refuse to have a dialogue under the Russia-NATO Council, and never sought to boycott the council or ignore NATO. He blamed the West for the council’s breakdown and warned that President-elect Donald Trump’s call for a dialogue with the Kremlin and his promise to voters that he’d try to get along with Russia would undercut the effort by some countries to profit politically and financially from hyping the Russian threat.   Stolitsa is owned by the city government of Tallinn, which is ruled by the Estonian Center Party. The ECP has formal ties with United Russia, the ruling political party of the Russian Federation.

The false fact or narrative: Three false narratives are at work here: first, that NATO is to blame for increased tensions between NATO and Russia; second, that NATO ended its dialogue with Russia in the NATO-Russia Council; and third, that “certain countries” (likely NATO member states in Eastern Europe) invented the “Russian threat” only to benefit politically and financially.  

Reality on the ground: NATO has not contributed actively to the tensions between the alliance and Russia. Those tensions increased only in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The suspension of practical cooperation under the NATO-Russia Council came about after Russia’s aggressive behavior in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the channels of political dialogue remained open and the NATO-Russia Council, as such, was never suspended. Since then, two NATO-Russia Council meetings took place in 2014 and three in 2016, as well as two meetings of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council including Russia (in 2014 and 2015). 

  • Self-victimizing, 
  • false facts, card stacking, 
  • pleading for relativity
  • exploiting balance.

Audience: Russian speakers in Estonia.

Analysis: Even though the Kremlin has used these false narratives since early 2014, it stepped up propaganda efforts dramatically after the U.S. elections in November 2016—thereby hoping to advance Russia’s foreign policy agenda, which is to improve bilateral relations on its terms.