Analysis of the News: “You can’t work without the Russians, or: Christopher Hill’s command”

Published on:

November 2023

As part of the program Regional Initiative to Combat Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

You can’t work without the Russians, or: Christopher Hill’s Command

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attended the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), held at the beginning of December in Skopje, which chaired the OSCE during the previous year. Lavrov’s participation in this forum was widely covered in the pro-Russian media in Serbia, with the main narrative being that it is proof that you can’t do without the Russians.

The columnist of the Russian state media in Serbia, Russia Today Balkan, Nikola Vrzić, writes that “Bulgaria did not miss the opportunity to be what it traditionally is, that is, Bulgaria,” alluding to the fact that the Bulgarian authorities blackmailed Lavrov’s landing in Sofia.

Given that European sanctions against Russia have been in force since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, to fly from Moscow to Skopje, Lavrov had to obtain permission from EU member states to fly in their airspace. The authorities in Sofia allowed the plane with Lavrov to fly over its territory. Still, they demanded that the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, who, like the head of diplomacy, is on the list of sanctioned persons due to Russian aggression against Ukraine, was not on the plane. So, the plane with Lavrov took a longer route via Turkey and Greece.

In the text by Nikola Vrzić, North Macedonia is presented as a country that “experienced an identity crisis to become a member of NATO”. It is said that Skopje received an order from its “NATO co-owners” for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to come to Skopje and that Bulgaria also followed NATO’s order not to allow a Russian plane to fly over.

Citing the WikiLeaks cables describing the confidential negotiations between Russia and Bulgaria on the unsuspecting South Stream gas pipeline, because, as the portal claims, the Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Energy “every 15 minutes, she left the meeting with the Russians to inform the American embassy in Sofia on her mobile phone what was happening.”

“The point, of course, is exactly that: that’s how independent all those Bulgarians in NATO are. And when they were killing the South stream to their own detriment, as well as the Northern stream, after all, and when they decided to release and not to release but still release the Russians, they did it all. They do it because they have to because they were told so; such is the order in their NATO family, based on rules, and the only rule is, we remember that episode with Slobodan Milosevic, Warren Christopher and the blank sheet of paper, that the members of their family must at all times do everything that is asked of them”, writes Vrzić on the Russia Today portal.

It is concluded that the essence is that Russia does not need the OSCE, but the OSCE, which America commands, needs Russia. The author adds that proof of this is the fact that Russia has not changed anything in its behavior in the meantime but has nevertheless become desirable to the point of being undesirable. “Of course, they didn’t stop hating her all of a sudden, but in the past year, they’ve convinced themselves that they can’t live without her.”

Although the analyzed text of RT does not contain specific fake news, well-known narratives about the hypocrisy of the West dominate throughout the text. Although the reason for the text is Lavrov’s presence at the OSCE meeting, the author draws through the entire text NATO’s attitude towards Serbia and the bombing in 1999 to confirm the thesis about the hypocritical West and benevolent Russia.

Unlike some organizations, such as the Council of Europe, which focuses on human rights, Moscow has not left the OSCE. Given that all decisions in this organization are made by consensus, there are not a few who believe that Russia is trying to sabotage the functioning of this organization. Last year, Poland refused to issue visas to Russian delegation members, which was why the Russians were not represented.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia explained, Russia was invited as a member, which is a continuation of the observance of the organization’s rules. “What we are doing is continuing the rules of conduct so that all member states are at the table since this organization is based on consensus.” And especially considering that the organization is in exceptional times when its very existence is being questioned, we considered it crucial to reach a consensus, especially on those pillars that ensure the organization’s functionality in the future,” said Osmani.