As NATO turned 70 last week, pro-Kremlin media obviously felt obliged to draw their audience’s attention to NATO’s atrocities and expansive nature, not to mention some broken promises.
What first draws the reader’s attention is the coordination. In Russian the guidelines about which themes to cover, who is to be treated positively, who should have negative coverage and who should be altogether ignored is called the temnik. This system has replaced the old style reactive approach of censorship with a proactive approach. As a result the same narrative about NATO promising to Russia that it would stay out of Eastern Europe was published in German, Italian, French and Spanish Sputnik. The headlines were also telling: “Moscow – old, familiar enemy: NATO in crisis of faith”, “70 years of propaganda, crimes and hypocrisies – Happy Birthday, ‘dear’ NATO!”, “The National Interest: How the NATO countries deceived Gorbachev” and “NATO – 70 years of the senseless struggle to exterminate Russia”.
But don’t be deceived. The underlying point of these articles isn’t solely criticism on NATO. It’s also about the sphere of influence. It’s about challenging the right of millions of people in Eastern Europe to choose their path as a nation and also about those countries’ right to join the international organizations that they want to join. And cultivation of the old narrative that “Western leaders promised the USSR that NATO won’t expand” is actually about denying those rights to entire countries. What’s even more interesting is the fact that no such promise was ever given. Gorbachev himself rejected such claims in October 2014, by saying “the topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years”.
The true crème de la crème has to be the pro-Kremlin narrative about NATO unleashing all wars on the planet in the last 25 years. The author of this claim obviously has not heard about certain conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine and the undeniable role Russia has played in those and continues to do so even today. But the good gets even better, as the end of the pro-Kremlin message claims that NATO is a tool for the US to establish dictatorship on the planet.
The undermining of Georgia continues in the following cases: “Georgia’s Anaklia seaport project is a NATO and US effort to regain a foothold in the Black Sea region” and “Georgia will become a military protectorate of the United States“. Here too the common denominator seems to be to downplay the right and the ability of countries to stand as sovereign entities when they are next to Russia.
Not enough gays
The good old narrative of Gayropa got a new plot twist last week, as pro-Kremlin media suggested that Schengen visa fees for Belarusians are high because the number of homosexuals per capita in Belarus is very low. But that’s not all, according to the article, a woman is not welcome in the EU if she has no balls. Makes sense, right? If not, well, here’s an explanation: this narrative links the EU’s moral decay to the Belarusian democratic opposition and at the same time portrays the EU as harassing Belarus.
In reality Belarus has not concluded a visa facilitation agreement with the EU and thus the higher fees. The actual visa agreement does not contain conditions about homosexuals and in 2017, Belarusians were granted 710,000 Schengen visas – the biggest amount in the world.
Cyanide in tear gas
Although tear gas can be rather uncomfortable, it’s not so far known to be on a par with Nina Ricci perfume rebottled in Russia in terms of its fatal consequences. Perhaps in an attempt to resuscitate the “they do it too” line of disinformation, the pro-Kremlin media suggested that cyanide might have been found in tear gas used against Yellow Vests protesters. What we do know for sure is the fact that no trace of cyanide poisoning was found and pro-Kremlin outlets have been using the narrative of violent repression of protests before.