Conspiracy theories against Russia are back. US TV station MSNBC is doing its best yet to spread the theory that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. “Do you think that the president is afraid to make Putin mad because maybe Putin did help him win the election and he doesn’t want to make him mad for 2020?”, anchorman Chuck Todd asked former National Security Advisor John Bolton in an interview in the show Meet the Press. This caused commotion in social media, since the Democrats’ affirmation that Trump colluded with Russia to somehow ‘steal’ the presidency seemed to have been put to rest after an attempt to impeach the president that came to nowhere. Bolton avoided Todd’s bait and said that there was “no evidence” that the president colluded with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Todd tried to put some distance and clarified several times that he wasn’t talking about “collusion”, without explaining what he was talking about if it wasn’t of “collusion”.
In circumstances where every opportunity for recovery and economic impulse should be seized, the European Council adopted a decision that makes clear that the door for any full relation with Russia is closed. Sanctions imposed on Russia were extended for another year, due to what the statement of this body calls “the illegal annexation” of the peninsula of Crimea. There are no sign suggesting that returning to normalcy with Russia is present in the agenda of the EU authorities. It is possible to clearly see the US footprint in this situation, as Washington tried to maximise the benefits of the coronavirus pandemic to advance its geopolitical stance. In this context, this measure contributing to put the EU and Russia in different sides is no coincidence.
This is a mix of several recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives, accusing the EU of being a US puppet and serving Washington’s interests instead of its own and portraying Russia as an innocent victim of these geopolitical calculations. Actually, the European Union is a sovereign entity which follows its own foreign policy. In this case, EU sanctions on Russia were imposed in response to the annexation of Crimea and the deliberate destabilisation of Ukraine. Despite Russian claims on the contrary, Crimea’s annexation is illegal under international law and a violation of several Russian-signed agreements safeguarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the 1991 Belavezha Accords that established the Commonwealth of Independent States, the 1975 Helsinki Accords, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances and the 1997 Treaty on friendship, cooperation and partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The decision to extend the EU sanctions was due to the lack of progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, not to US influence. See other examples of this disinformation narrative about Russia as a victim of the West, such as claims about NATO military exercises as acts of war against Russia; alleged plans to encircle Russia or to wage war against it; the supposed anti-Russian bias of international institutions - be it the OPCW, the World Anti-Doping Agency or the United Nations - which always falsely accuse Russia; the alleged Russophobia of the EU; the affirmation that it is NATO and not the Kremlin who is involved in the Donbas conflict and that Russia was expelled from G8 for no real reason; or denials that Russia had any role in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal or the downing of MH17, that it interfered in other countries’ elections or that it is waging a disinformation campaign on COVID-19.