There has been much discussion in the Russian media this week of a resolution by the European Parliament calling on the European Union to develop a ‘strategic communications’ plan to counter propaganda from the Russian Federation and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This follows a report issued last month by the policy department of the EU’s Directorate General for External Policy, entitled EU Strategic Communications with a View to Countering Propaganda.

The report, and the ensuing parliamentary resolution, repeat much of what has been said in other documents denouncing ‘Russian propaganda’ which I have covered in this blog: Russia is waging information war against the West, and trying to divide the European Union; RT is bad, bad, bad; something must be done. Where the EU breaks new ground is in directly comparing the Russian Federation with ISIS, and treating the two as if they are one and the same in terms of the threat which they pose to Europe. Perhaps more than anything else, it is this aspect of the EU’s action which has caused outrage in Moscow.

At the heart of the complaint about ‘Russian propaganda’ is a fear that the Russian media is countering the prevailing narrative in the West about international affairs. As the report notes, ‘Russia fosters an anti-interventionist narrative’ and seeks to ‘ convince European audiences that the EU is focused on imagined threats from Russia and neglecting the real ones from the south.’

Putting aside whether this is a good or bad thing, what intrigues me is the Eurocrats’ belief that they can deal with the existence of a Russian counter-narrative by pumping money into counter-propaganda. After all, the narrative which the Russians are trying to undermine is the one which prevails throughout the bulk of the Western media. It is hardly lacking in support already.

In another document issued last month, British neoconservative think tank The Henry Jackson Society denounced ‘Putin’s useful idiots’ in the West and called on academics and journalists to do more to spread the bad news about Russia.  ‘Academics, commentators, and others should raise awareness in the West of the nature of the Russian regime’, says the Henry Jackson Society, ‘Outside of the expert community, there is a general lack of awareness of the Russian regime’s use of selective terror and its criminality – the regime’s dubious origins in the 1999 apartment bombings; its involvement in the murder of people like Anna Politkovskaya, Sergei Magnitsky, and Boris Nemtsov; its military tactics in Syria.’

This is a very odd claim given that ‘outside the expert community’, in the mass media which ‘ordinary people’ consume, denunciations of the Russian government’s criminality are two a penny. ‘Russian propaganda’ hardly registers against the torrent of Russophobia coming in the opposite direction. If people do turn to the Russian media, it is quite probably because they want to hear something different. Churning out even more anti-Russian material is unlikely to make a difference.

This is especially true if the operation is government-run. The EU resolution reflects a strange belief that officially-sponsored efforts to fight the Russians will be more successful than those of the massed ranks of the Western press. Page 9 of the report contains this remarkable, and quite amusing, nugget of information:

The multi-language broadcaster Euronews was launched on 1 January 1993 to promote European unity by presenting information from a distinctly European perspective. …  Since its launch, Euronews has received EUR 240 million worth of funding from the European Commission, EUR 25.5 million of which came in 2014. … On several occasions, Euronews has been accused of biased reporting, particularly through its Russian language service. Coverage of the 2008 war in Georgia, the 20th anniversary of Ukrainian independence in 2011, the 2014 referendum in the Donbas and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as events in Transnistria has been accused of being unbalanced and pro-Russian.

Even the EU’s own propaganda outlets are ‘pro-Russian’, it seems. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

15 thoughts on “Euronews”

  1. Paul,

    It does seem to me that these people have gone quite seriously bonkers.

    I am not a Russianist – don’t know the language, have never lived there. But I am by background an old-school British television current affairs producer. We did have this pathetic delusion, in years now long gone, that we were a cut above Radio Moscow. (Oh, those happy days!)

    That Stalin’s brutish attempts to realise the agendas of the pre-1914 radical Pan-Slavs were a disaster not simply for the peoples he was attempting to subjugate, but for the Russians, has long seemed to me clear.

    Among other things, it obscured the extent to which Stalin was not a messianic revolutionary, in Lenin’s style (see Timasheff’s study, ‘The Great Retreat’, among much other writing, including assessments by figures as diverse as the diplomats of the German Moscow Embassy of the ‘Thirties, Berdyaev, and the great Élie Halévy.)

    Actually, an understanding that the Soviets had made one of the most classic of strategic mistakes – overextending one’s power, so one ends up unable to hold what one has taken, but unable to retreat without risking the process spreading onwards and creating a catastrophic implosion, is central to George Kennan’s conception of ‘containment’.

    This is a strategy which his fellow-countrymen did not understand when he first put it forward, and still have no real grasp of today.

    (I have only dipped into the biography of Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis, but simply looking at the index makes it clear that its author is incapable of understanding his subject. How can anyone with half a brain think that one can dismiss the influence on Kennan of Helmuth von Moltke, or indeed the diplomats of the German Moscow Embassy of the ‘Thirties, in a few short lines?)

    Some Russian foreign policy experts, such as Vladimir Pechatnov, who read Kennan against a background of an understanding of Russian history, make much better sense of him.

    (See .)

    Actually, in my view, Pechatnov is enough of a Russian ‘liberal’ to be too kind to Kennan, and is to polite to say clearly that he was an agent of chaos, who squandered Roosevelt’s achievements. (His colleague and friend Charles ‘Chip’ Bohlen tried to clear up the mess Kennan had left, but it proved too difficult.)

    What has also long been clear to me is that Putin has no appetite for repeating Stalin’s mistakes. In particular, he has no desire whatsoever to attempt to control territories where there is no pressing strategic interest in doing so, and he is likely to face a serious counter-insurgency, and make his name mud in the world beyond Russia (and with many Russians.)

    Likewise, however, it was clear a long time ago that an attempt to bring the whole of Ukraine – including the Crimea and Sevastopol – into NATO would both make the tensions bubbling under the surface in the Ukraine uncontrollable, and risk a total collapse of relations between Russia and the West.

    I tried explaining this to Nicholas Gvosdev back in 2008, and got nowhere.

    (See .)

    The really frustrating thing with Gvosdev – and I have found this time and again with members of Western ‘élites’, over the past twenty-five years – is that you simply can’t get the bastards to argue. Confronted by any serious challenge to their complacent assumption of invulnerable power, they simply retreat into silence.

    The end result of a generation of hubristic bungling has been – as might have been predicted – a complete shambles.

    So we now have incompetent and venal Western ‘élites’ trying to cope with the fact that they are no longer trusted by their own populations – hardly surprisingly – by suggesting that this is simply the result of Putin’s Machiavellian manipulations.

    This is beyond anything stupid. If you tell someone who thinks that there are good reasons for being more concerned with the threats from ISIS than that of the Russian Army invading the Baltics, that they are simply deluded victims of ‘information operations’ sponsored by Russian intelligence – they are liable to get very, very angry.


    1. In general, I have found Gvozdev one of the more sensible commentators – but it must be said that the competition is not great.


    2. “That Stalin’s brutish attempts to realise the agendas of the pre-1914 radical Pan-Slavs were a disaster not simply for the peoples he was attempting to subjugate, but for the Russians, has long seemed to me clear.”

      Can you elaborate here? Because, honestly, I have no Idea what are you talking about here.

      “What has also long been clear to me is that Putin has no appetite for repeating Stalin’s mistakes. In particular, he has no desire whatsoever to attempt to control territories where there is no pressing strategic interest in doing so”

      Mistakes like what? Stalin didn’t support Reds in the Greek civil war, neither there was too much fuss over crooked and CIA faked election results in post-war Italy, not to mention after the Mossadegh ousting.

      “Confronted by any serious challenge to their complacent assumption of invulnerable power, they simply retreat into silence.”

      Now it’s called “safe spaces”. And not only so-called elites adopted such enlightened debate technique.


      1. “Have you read the Pechatnov piece to which I linked?”

        I did. Yet again I’m grateful for the fact that I studied in MGU and not MGIMO, which, it appears, produces Russophobic liberasts spouting same old tropes (i.e. the likes of Pechatnov) on regular basis. “Brutality of Russian culture”, my ass!

        Now, after we established the fact that, yes, I read the article – will you answer my questions?


  2. ‘Outside of the expert community…’

    This simple phrase clearly shows an American hand. Educated writers and speakers of British English would never dream of uttering the solecism “outside of…” The proper expression is “Outside the expert community”.


  3. The EU has bigger problems than how it perceives Russia. There also appears to be an underlying narrative that if any country considers an exit, there must be Russian involvement. Which is nonsense and an insult to citizens of countries who are apparently zombies feeding off Kremlin backed outlets. When I speak with friends /friends of friends in Europe, this strange EU narrative simply doesn’t exist. It seems to be technology companies more than anyone else with financial interests who are trying to push for this fantasy world in which there is only one perspective shared by all and conveniently managed for profit by these companies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “EU strategic communications” to counter “Russian (and ISIS) propaganda.” World tension in a sentence, your post in a nutshell, almost as if strategic communications and propaganda were not the exact same thing in the eyes of the EU. (face palm here)


  5. I honestly don’t understand what’s your point here, Professor. Here, the report states in no uncertain terms:

    “So although Russia is certainly not winning the war for hearts and minds on the European front, nor is it dominating the European public debate on certain issues, it is not losing, either.”

    “While the internet and social media are today’s weapons of choice in the current war of words…”

    – “Research how to identify the early signals of a hybrid warfare scenario;


    – Study how social media is being used as a weapon in hybrid warfare”

    Don’t you get it? Your Racially Superior Leaders of the Free World ™ are at WAR with Russia. Same think tankers just recently named “Resurgent Russia” as the “existential threat” to the EU (read – the whole Bloody West). Just because this war is called “hybrid” (absolutely meaningless overused word by now) doesn’t make it less real.

    If there is a War, then the relations between the belligerents must by constructed based on that. Propaganda (d’uh!) is part’n’parcel of warfare. Why are you looking so incesed by that?

    I say, this decision is a great coming-out event for the EU with it’s European Universal Values and other crap like that.


  6. Even the EU’s own propaganda outlets are ‘pro-Russian’, it seems.

    Well, obviously the main purpose of all this (as well as of the ‘Russian fake new’ campaign in the US) is not to discredit the Russian media.

    The purpose is to discredit (and hopefully completely eliminate) the undesirable, heretical reports, views, narratives. To suppress dissent.



  7. Hi Paul,
    I just did a Norwegian translation of your piece ( I asked you long time ago, last year, if I could translate from your blog). The pingback should be in shortly.
    Btw, I don’t know if you are aware of it, but there is also a German translation around.
    All the best


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