Briefs

Romania: 27 June - 3 July 2016

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RT in Romania claims that a NATO plan to invade Russia from the Black Sea may have failed, and outlines the economic benefits of greater cooperation with Russia.

Event: NATO has stepped up the frequency of its military exercises and drills, as well as naval patrols in the Black Sea, in response to Russia’s more aggressive military posture.

The false fact or narrative: On 22 June, RT in Romania—a pro-Kremlin, anti-Western portal in the Romanian language—published an article by Valentin Vasilescu titled “NATO plans to invade Russia from Black Sea failed?” The article claims that the conciliatory message of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to his Russian countepart, President Vladimir Putin, on 14 June seeking a resumption of bilateral ties is important in several ways. First, it suggests that Ankara favors further work on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline by Russia’s Gazprom. Second, it asks for a lifting of the ban on Turkish exports to Russia, and third, it seeks permission to bomb the Kurds in northern Syria despite U.S. objections. “If the Turkish Stream pipeline under the Black Sea would be finished,” RT wrote, “Turkey would hold a monopoly on Russian gas distribution in Central and Eastern Europe.” South Stream also would allow Bulgaria to become a regional gas supplier, generating nearly $1 billion in benefits annually for Bulgaria’s economy.

RT also claims that Bulgaria rejected a proposal by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis for a  NATO fleet in the Black Sea. If that proposal had been accepted, the article claims, the presence of such a fleet could lead to an invasion of Russia. The author also focuses on the Romanian president’s German ethnic origins.

Facts on the ground: Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its invasion of eastern Ukraine pose regional security challenges for the Black Sea region. As Bogdan Aurescu, foreign policy adviser to Iohannis, said at a recent CEPA discussion, “Romania has a de facto maritime border with Russia, since it now controls the waters off Crimea. We also face major challenges from the south, especially terrorism and migration. Against this backdrop, we need to have a coherent response from both the EU and NATO.” Western leaders have repeatedly stated that recent enhancements of NATO’s regional military capability come in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. They also have called for dialogue with Russia to reduce tensions.

Work on South Stream pipeline began in 2012 and stopped in 2014 against the backdrop of EU sanctions against Moscow. In late 2014, Putin said, “Russia cannot continue the Russian-Italian gas pipeline project South Stream because of the objections of the European Commission due to Russia’s noncompliance with European legislation on energy.” Russia was to build the pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. After that project was stopped, negotiations began in December 2014 for Turkish Stream, which would have crossed the Black Sea to the Turkish-Greek border, reaching consumers in southern Europe. But construction on that project stopped last December, after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet that later crashed in Syria.  

Techniques:  
  • Mirroring technique. The article presented NATO as an aggressor in the Black Sea and said nothing about Russia’s annexation of Crimea.  
  • No proof. Quoting from an article in a pro-Russian French language site, the author concludes that NATO's presence in the Black Sea increases the chances it will invade Russia.   
  • Providing false facts. It is untrue that the South Stream project was stopped, as claimed, because of Romanian objections. 
  • Drowning the facts with emotions. The author’s mention of the German origins of Romania’s president appeals to nationalist Romanians.  
Audience: At last count, 6,737 Internet users read the article. No information is available about the daily audience of RT’s Romanian edition.

Impact and Analysis: The story seeks to advance longstanding Kremlin objectives: exploitation of divisions within NATO to weaken the alliance, and a reduction of NATO influence in the Black Sea region. It also tries to encourage countries in that region to cooperate with Russia.