One article, many ways to disinform: Breaking down a Kremlin propaganda piece

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The recent purchase of an anti-tank missile system by Estonia resulted in illogical, threatening and ridiculing narratives by pro-Kremlin media.

The Estonian Defense Forces are caught in the crosshairs of the pro-Kremlin disinformation machine, covered by outlets that are primarily local – for example, Sputnik, Baltnews and Rubaltic. In addition to news pieces that typically consist of the defense forces’ press releases equipped with provocative headlines, there are also opinion pieces consisting of heavy criticism on the defense policy of the Baltic states.

One such article in the Estonian language Sputnik claims that Russia is not a threat, even though it continues to aim at its neighbors with disinformation and ballistic missiles, and encircles them with army bases. The aim of using such illogical logic seems to be that Russia’s neighbors are paranoid about the Russian threat – and, since Russians have a superior military and weapons, it’s pointless to defend your diminutive self.


The text begins with something that could be called hahaganda, claiming that the recently purchased anti-tank missile has “become a favorite toy” and a “symbol of self-calming” for Estonia.


In addition to ridiculing, the article also seeks to dismay readers by describing that the stockpile of missiles can be damaged due to “errors in storing,” “international terror organizations,” “forest fires,” and “real combat.”

Distorting figures

The torpedoing of procurement continues with numbers, but sadly they’re just plain wrong. The article claims that the state budget is in deficit by 1.3 billion euros, while in reality, the government exceeded the 2018 revenues by 120 million euros. The 586 million budget of the Department of Defense was off by 4 million euros.

Well, an article in the Estonian Defence Forces magazine called Sõdur claims that the most common pro-Kremlin defense-related narratives are:

– NATO is an aggressor – that’s usually used during military exercises deemed provocative by Kremlin;

– NATO won’t defend Estonia – when this narrative is published in the Western countries, it is heavily exploited by pro-Kremlin media;

– locals are against NATO – citizens are either against NATO troops on the ground or excessive military spending that’s crippling social expenditures;

– Estonia lacks credibility – used when the Global Firepower list is published or there is news about armament procurement that’s covered in ironic terms;

– Rusophobia and hysteria – the pro-Kremlin media claims that the Baltic states sow panic about the Russian threat to receive more allied forces that would keep the Baltic economies hit by Russian sanctions afloat.

The aim of these pro-Kremlin narratives is to sow discord in society and depict Estonia as a failed state that had its “Golden Age” in the Soviet Union. The reason for publishing on minor web-based disinformation sites is likely to provide articles that can be “laundered” on larger pro-Kremlin sites and guarantee an auditorium for pro-Kremlin activists who can be used as interviewees for Russian TV stations.


Opinii ENG