Briefs

Lithuania: 8-14 August 2016

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A Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website states that the 9 August meeting between the Russian and Turkish presidents marks the expansion of Russian global economic influence.

Event:
On 10 August, the Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website eskpertai.eu published an article claiming that a meeting the day before in St. Petersburg between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan marked the beginning of the expansion of Russia’s global economic influence. According to the article, Turkey, Iran, China and India will join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), creating an enhanced Greater Eurasia bloc. This organization would be an economic, financial and energy union to counter the proposed Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) blocs proposed by the Obama administration.


The false facts or narrative:
The article claimed that after restoring its relationship with Turkey, Russia will launch a major initiative to enlarge the EEU, making oil and electricity cheaper for member countries that cooperate with Russia. The article—based on information taken from Russian website tsargrad.tv—also claimed that the European Union may soon partner with this Greater Eurasia bloc. Although the EU is still under US influence, its increasing interest in easing sanctions against Russia shows that it seeks better relations with Moscow.

The reality on the ground:
The Erdoğan-Putin meeting was Erdoğan’s first overseas trip since the 15 July attempted coup in Turkey. It repaired Turkish-Russian relations, which had been frozen since the Turkish shootdown of a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border in November 2015. At a joint press conference, the two leaders promised to revive energy, tourism and trade cooperation. Erdoğan’s visit came amid a surge in anti-Western sentiment in Turkey following the abortive coup, and amid growing tensions between Turkey and its traditional NATO allies. US support for Syria’s Kurds and the EU’s unwillingness to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel have strained Ankara’s ties with the West.

The Pro-Kremlin media in Russia and elsewhere have often advocated a new association combining Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union with other Asian countries. The latest instance of this came during the 16-18 June appearance of EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Supporters of the proposal claimed that the EU’s joining of forces with the EEU—an “integration of integrations”—would oust the US from Europe.

The article exaggerates claims about the EEU’s success. Although it has made some progress toward economically integrating its members, the EEU has no authority to reduce corruption, protect property rights or strengthen the rule of law—key barriers to its achieving its goals. Some members like Belarus and Kazakhstan resist further cooperation because they see the EEU as an Kremlin effort to re-establish Russian hegemony. This resistance has grown since Russia’s annexation of Crimea. According to the Financial Times, Belarus even went so far as to reinstate previously dismantled border controls.

The Russian propaganda website tsargrad.tv is managed by Aleksandr Dugin, a nationalist ideologist who seeks to revive the Russian Empire by restoring Kremlin control over Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. Dugin also advocates Russia’s unification with Russian-speaking territories, especially eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

Technique: Half-truths; no proof; spreading rumors and doubts; conspiracy theories.

Audience: Russian-speaking Lithuanians and other segments of Lithuanian society.