Disinfo: The US creates and spreads a false image about an “aggressive” Russia constituting a security “threat”

Summary

Throughout the 2000s the US, with the assistance of the Baltic states, Poland, the UK and Sweden, has created and spread a false image about an “aggressive” Russia that constitutes a security “threat”. The US created this misleading view of Russia in order to prevent Europe from establishing close economic and industrial cooperation with Russia. The US fears that a strong Europe-Russia economic partnership could undermine America’s global economic superiority.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin narrative about the “Russian threat” as a false idea created by US and other Western actors in order to prevent close Europe-Russia cooperation and about the US imposing anti-Russian views and policies on European states. No evidence provided. Conspiracy theory. The claim that the US “created” the image of Russia as a threat in order to prevent European-Russia cooperation does not reflect reality. After the end of the Cold War until the 2014 Ukraine crisis, most US and Western policymakers no longer viewed Russia as an adversary, instead, taking the opinion that it could potentially become, or already was, a credible and responsible partner for Western states. The widespread assumption among US and European decision-makers was that economic, political and security cooperation with Russia, and its integration into the world economy, would encourage Russia’s democratic transition and modernisation, as well as its embrace of a foreign policy based on respect for international legal norms and support for the post-Cold War security architecture Even after the Russo-Georgian war in the summer of 2008, the US, the EU and most European states did not question the above-mentioned assumptions about Russia and continued to view Russia not as a security problem but as a key partner. Thus, the Obama administration announced its “reset” policy in 2009 that aimed to restore a wide-ranging US-Russian partnership. The EU-Russia summits of 2009 and 2010 launched a “partnership for modernisation”. Germany continued its strategic partnership policy towards Russia, and France and Italy pursued similar strategies based on increasing cooperation with Moscow. Until the Ukraine crisis, NATO also consistently worked to build a cooperative relationship with Russia. For more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, NATO's strategy was based on the perception that Russia no longer posed a security threat and should increasingly be viewed as a partner for the Alliance. For example, the Alliance promoted dialogue and cooperation by creating the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), open to the whole of Europe, including Russia. In 1997, NATO and Russia signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, creating the NATO Russia Permanent Joint Council. In 2002, this was upgraded, creating the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). See here, here and here. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine in early 2014 was widely viewed both in North America and in Europe as violating the basic rules of the post-Cold War European order, especially the rule that borders are inviolable and states should not use force to alter them or take over territory from other states. As a result of Russia’s aggressive actions in the Ukraine, many Western states - including key EU members such as Germany and France - critically reassessed their “strategic partnership” policies towards Russia and began to view Russia as a serious challenge to the European security order. The annexation of Crimea also led NATO to change its perception of Russia and to reassess its view of Russia as a partner. Moreover, NATO adopted a more alarming view of Russia also because it observed a significant increase in provocative behaviour by Russian military forces, such as a sharp increase in Russian bombers conducting flights near airspace of NATO member states used by civilian airliners, snap military force alerts and nuclear exercises. See here for a similar case.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 154
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 10/06/2019
  • Outlet language(s) Italian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: UK, Poland, Sweden, US, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Latvia
  • Keywords: Encircling Russia, EU/NATO enlargement, NATO
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The goal of the "Chernobyl" series is to discredit the Belarusian power plant, Soviet legacy, and Belarus-Russia relations

The true intention of the Chernobyl series is to put the issue of a nuclear power plant back on the agenda of Belarusian society. It aims to present Astravets NPP as a symbol of the insolvency of the Belarusian Government, just as the Chernobyl catastrophe became a symbol of the USSR’s imminent collapse. Before the Chernobyl series was released, the arguments against the Astravets NPP included a threat to salmon spawning, unwanted cooperation with Russia for its construction, and harm to Belarusian-Lithuanian relations. The second goal behind the Chernobyl series is to promote negative sentiments towards the USSR and relations among post-Soviet countries, especially Belarus-Russia relations. It aims to show that no good can come out of Belarusian-Russian cooperation.

Disproof

This is conspiracy consistent with recurring pro-Kremlin narratives about the West’s anti-Belarusian and anti-Russian activities, and its attempts to disrupt Belarusian-Russian relations. Chernobyl is a historical drama television series depicting the nuclear disaster of April 1986 and the unprecedented clean-up efforts that followed. The series premiered in the US and UK in early May 2019 and was acclaimed by critics. It is based in large part on the recollections of Pripyat locals, as relayed by Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich in her book, Voices from Chernobyl. There is no proof of a hidden propagandistic agenda behind the series as alleged by this article. A negative impact on wildlife and strained Belarusian-Lithuanian relations are among a number of other, often more serious arguments against the NPP construction, including the station's potential technological vulnerabilities. These arguments were provided by environmentalists years ago (see 2010 assessment) and many continue to be voiced at present (see April 2019 publication). The February 2019 draft decision of the Meeting of the Parties of the Espoo Convention acknowledged that Belarus had failed to comply with some Convention provisions and encouraged Belarus and Lithuania to continue bilateral expert consultations. It also expressed regret that Belarus failed to provide the Committee with the information regarding the justification of the selection of the Astravets site over the alternatives. Read more about pro-Kremlin disinformation based on the Chernobyl series here.

The Eastern Partnership ended in 2015

As much as one may continue to talk about the Eastern Partnership programme, it has been at an end since 2015.

Disproof

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) programme did not end in 2015. It is still very much active and continues to serve its policy mandate to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union (EU), its Member States, and its six Eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Read more about the Eastern Partnership and its priorities here. Background: The Eastern Partnership initiative is a mutually beneficial and constructive platform for countries in the region to build a closer relationship with the EU if they choose to do so. The EU does not demand any of its partners to make a choice between the EU or any other country. The Eastern Partnership stands for good neighbourly relations and respects the individual aspirations and ambitions of each partner country. The EaP has been a frequent target of pro-Kremlin disinformation. More cases are available here.