Indifferent West and Do-gooder Russia: a Myth That is Falling Apart

‘Thank you, dear Macron and dear Missis Merkel! Thank you for leaving us alone when we are in need of your help! Thank you that you did not give us a chance to purchase ordinary masks and other medical products from you for f…

‘Thank you, dear Macron and dear Missis Merkel! Thank you for leaving us alone when we are in need of your help! Thank you that you did not give us a chance to purchase ordinary masks and other medical products from you for fight with spreading of the virus’. A video recording starts with these reproaches to the top leaders of the states of the European Union, which Lino Polimeni, a journalist from the TV channel Calabria TV posted in his profile on the social network
In the emotional 8-minute recording there is an address to the President of the U.S.A. Donald Trump and Prime-minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson, who as if isolated Italy instead of helping it. Here some older crises are also mentioned: ‘you ruined poor Greece with your financial policy, you tried to do the same with Italy, however so far you have not succeeded. Now probably you decided to make use of the situation and decided to take the chance and make the last strike, however your blind selfishness has not anticipated that the virus will have no boundaries and will hit everybody, even you!, – the actress who made the sound track of this video recording said with grievance in her voice.      
We should note that video recording prepared professionally was actually very mesmerizing and arises emotions of people who watch it. Beautiful views of Italy: nature and cities, churches and parks, museums and their art masterpieces, antique heritage and culinary traditions are followed by words about a unique influence of this country on civilization of Europe and the whole world.     
“It was us, Italians, who gave you art and culture that is the basis of our and your civilization; we gave you the highest expression of the beauty, harmony, balance that a person has ever reached. It was us, Italians, that gave you the civilization from the very beginning that you destroyed later by dragging the world back to the Middle Ages and then when we managed to rise again and reborn, we gave you the global civilization, art, geography, economy and education again’, – the actress who made the soundtrack of the short film was telling.
It didn’t take long for the Russian media to pick a message of this video recording and presented it as a very popular one. The Internet portal of the newspaper Russkaja gazeta says that just in a few days a short film was watched over 2 million times. Believe it or not, because in the most popular YouTube the number of the interested people was significantly lower – the Italian version was watched just slightly over 26 thousand and the Russian – not even 4 thousand times. By the way, the comments of the posted recording supplemented with Russian subtitles and posted by Russian Internet users are diametrically opposite, however in both cases they are very symptomatic.  
“I am very sorry… I am crying together with you… now you know who is who… The European Union finally collapsed… these are its values’, – one commentator writes. Meanwhile this short film brought completely different ideas to another Russian-speaking spectator: How much pathos and chauvinism in this video record! Somebody is really eager to drive a wedge among states of the EU. The principle‘divide and conquer’. If I am not mistaken, ultra-right populists – Euro sceptics who are friendly to the Kremlin now are taking the majority in the Italian government. Actually, if this video recording is actually Made in Italy, then personally I have no doubts who its producer is.       
Where in the first comment we obviously see the main message of the short film makers (or customers) (the EU is a selfish, immoral and collapsing formation), in the second comment we are indirectly suggested to think who would benefit from such a message. Here willy-nilly our glimpse goes to Russia. Especially, since the Russian version of the record on YouTube appeared already when this bombastic auction of the humanitarian aid was going on when Russia offered the aid to Italy. Let’s see how a story about selfishness of the West and love of Russia gets into a wider context of propaganda.    
As we have already noticed, the mentioned video recording was constructed from the classical bricks of truth and lie. Of course, it’s true that we consider Italy as the cradle of European culture. Maybe the second part of the message is also true – Europe and other Western states neither are able nor want to help friends who are in trouble? If this is true, maybe we should not rely neither on solidarity of the EU nor Transatlantic security system?   
Of course, we cannot – such an idea is brought by megaphones of Russian and Pro-Russian propaganda. How could we trust it if NATO partners not just fail to help each other but even throw a spanner? The false news spread by the channels controlled by the Kremlin had to illustrate this statement – as if Poland did not let Russian aircrafts that were carrying humanitarian aid to Italy cross its airspace.
On 24 March a number of Russian Internet news portals and some Lithuanian websites that repeat the Kremlin propaganda, for example, , started spreading a message that was posted in social networks by Alexei Pushkov, Chairman of the Information Policy Board of the Russian Federation. The cited report of this politician says: ‘Poland did not let aircrafts of Russia that were carrying the aid to Italy to cross its airspace. This is villainy at the state policy level. Moreover, this aid was designated for the EU and NATO ally of Poland. From now on Russia should not make any concessions to Poland. No concessions at all’.   
This message contains some truth: as we can see from the portal of the global flight tracker service, from the Moscow region Chkalovsk military airport to Rome Russian aircrafts actually were flying by making a big 2,400 km loop through Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don, the Black Sea, Istanbul,Thessaloniki, Albania and the Adrian Sea. However, the remaining part of the message is a complete lie. The truth is that Russians did not even try to fly over Poland. ‘We have not received any requests from the Russians to cross the airspace of Poland’, – representatives of the Public Relations Department of the Ministry of National Defence answered the inquiry of the Polish news portal defence24.pl. The news spread by Russia was also denied by Pawel Lukaszewicz, representative of the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA). ‘Statements as if the airspace of Poland was closed for aircrafts from Russia, are false. The airspace over Poland is open, efficiently controlled and safe. The air transport over Poland is not restricted’, the officer told.   
Despite the fact that a piece of these false news collapsed, Russian propaganda continues to show Poland as irrecoverable Rusophobic country that is dancing after Donald Trump’s whistle. Lithuania is presented in the same colours. Already next day after false news about Russian aircrafts stopped by Warsaw, an article appeared on the Lithuanian propagandistic portal , where it was told by quoting Aleksandr Nosovich, the author of another propagandistic channel : ‘Vicious Rusophobs in Poland and Lithuania are worried about Russian humanitarian aid to Italy. The ‘eastern wing’ of NATO is afraid that the fight of Russian virologists with coronavirus in Italy will strengthen geopolitical position of the Kremlin and reduce Transatlantic solidarity of NATO states. There is no need to show this solidarity and help Italy. On the contrary, in a critical situation Poland takes away medical masks from Italians’. The readers are suggested to believe in the conclusion: NATO and EU allies will leave the Baltic States abandoned the same way like Italians.
As regards Lithuania, almost an apocalyptic script is being drawn by the Russian media – because of pandemic and breaking links with the western partners the country as if will experience an economic chaos that nobody will help to deal with. The Internet portal tries to prove that after the border control of Schengen states is returned, supply of food products from the Western states will stop, starting with Poland, Germany and Spain that Lithuania is strongly dependant on. Besides, the country will lose a major portion of its export market. The article says not a single word about movement of any freight from Lithuania and to Lithuania despite pandemic, continues like before.        
Finally, Liubov Stepushova, the author of the article of all her own doubtful statements makes the following conclusion: “Lithuanian politicians should draw their attention to the fact that sanctions imposed against Russia prevent the country in delivery of its agricultural products to a wide market of Russia. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about people in own country rather than think about ambitions of the USA’.   
Sanctions have been mentioned here not by chance – today it is a very painful topic for Russia, which is experiencing a double knock both because of coronavirus and rocket speed dropping oil prices. Therefore, in messages designated for inhabitants of Western states there are attempts to oppose Moscow to helpless Europe, to show it as a do-gooder and saviour, to which imposition of sanctions in the current situation should not be fair. A bombastic auction of the ‘humanitarian aid’ to Italy – as a rare possibility to push up the West once again to refuse sanctions by using the weakest chain of the EU. The weakest not just because of catastrophic outcomes of the pandemic to this country but also because there are a number of persons who express hot sympathies to the Kremlin among politicians of Rome that could be used for making influence on the decisions of all EU.          
Did the aid that 80 percent of which was useless according to the Italian daily La Stampa bring any tangible results? It seems that despite the fact that in bad Italian language thousands of comments were written in social networks about panegyric to Moscow and indignation at still imposed sanctions – success of this propagandistic auction is doubtful. As Mario Cortis, an Italian journalist, noted in the interview broadcasted on radio, majority of the Italian media understands how much the aid from Russia is worth, from the country that cannot control the outbreak of pandemic in its own country and for the venture of which Italians will have to pay one way or the other.    
Meanwhile on 3 April the General Assembly of the United Nations refused to accept the resolution suggested by Russia and seven other countries, including China, Iran, Cuba, Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela and North Korea, suggesting lifting sanctions to most countries, including Russia as a result of fighting the coronavirus. To this the news agency Ria novosti controlled by the Kremlin could oppose just a grumpy declaration that ‘a small group of sanction policy apologetics (…) could not give up their politicised attitude and interests’.  
We just have to wait to see what measures Russia still has in its arsenal for reaching its objectives. New convoys of ‘humanitarian aid’? Having in mind that Russia catastrophically is lacking both doctors and ordinary protective gear and its health care system is actually collapsing, Moscow almost has no such possibilities. Unless, by scarifying its citizens the Kremlin would start selling the last stock of medical equipment to the West. Instead of oil that is continuously depreciating.    
Aras Lukšas

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