As the natural gas crisis is deepening and prices are rising in the EU member states, the Russian state press is promoting narratives about Europeans panicking and seeking Russia's help.
NEWS: RIA Novosti writes that “readers of the German newspaper Die Zeit do not agree with the author of an article about the gas crisis in Europe, who says that one reason for the shortage is Moscow's energy policy. “Russia fulfills all its contractual obligations. And, by the way, it can deliver a much larger volume of gas to us than our friends on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean […]. Maybe we do need Nord Stream 3 and 4? ”, readers says. [...] Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently said that Moscow is willing to help stabilize the rising energy prices”.
NARRATIVE: Europeans are calling for Russia's help to overcome the energy crisis.
LOCAL CONTEXT / ETHOS: With winter around the corner, Europe is facing an increase in gas and energy prices caused by several factors, including the lack of sufficient stocks for the winter, the evolution of the stock markets, and low supply. Russia has been accused of being at the root of this crisis - or at least taking advantage of it - to promote alternative export routes to the EU through gas pipelines bypassing Ukraine, especially the recently completed Nord Stream 2. Moscow has denied the allegations and said it could cover the gas needs - but demanded that long-term contracts be signed in exchange for that. Gazprom's goal is to pump 55 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia to Germany annually through the controversial gas pipeline, which goes under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Several European politicians have opposed this Russian project, considering it a geopolitical one, not an energy one. The Russian-German gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 is “one of the Kremlin’s dangerous geopolitical weapons”, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in August. He stressed that no one could deny that the main risks related to Nord Stream 2 would target Ukraine.Rising energy prices have created divergences among the Member States over how the EU should respond. Not all countries are convinced that an EU-wide intervention is needed to respond to this crisis, which some believe is temporary. On the other hand, rising prices have triggered a wave of talks in the EU, becoming a fertile ground for fueling “energy frustrations”.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this narrative is to sow fear in European societies about the gas crisis and to present Russia as a savior. Another aim is to show that the EU absolutely needs Nord Stream 2, and it’s in the interest of the Europeans to have it.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: The Russian news agency RIA Novosti published the news about Europeans asking for the building of Nord Stream 3 and 4, and other media outlets (News.ru, Izvestia.ru), controlled by the Russian government, immediately took over this information to maximize the media impact and give the impression that EU citizens believe that only Russia can save Europe from the energy crisis.If we analyze the news, we notice that there is just one anonymous comment on this topic in „Die Zeit”. RIA Novosti generalized a reader's opinion and presented it as a dominant idea in the EU. The whole narrative is therefore based on a single comment from among many others, which praises Russia and criticizes the author for blaming Moscow for the energy crisis in the EU.
The context in which the news is presented is quite particular. Vladimir Putin is presented as a potential savior of Europe, and the intention is to have readers read between the lines that Nord Stream 2 is not a geopolitical project, not a weapon, but a step towards European energy and economic stability. This narrative is, from several points of view, a bridgehead in the dissemination of future fake news about Russia's energy policy on the European continent. In reality, Putin's proposed solution will generate total EU energy dependence on Russia, while energy stability must be ensured by diversifying sources and switching to renewable energy.
As for Ukraine, Russia has been striving since 2005 to build bypass pipelines that would allow it to keep Kiev in check. Ukrainian military experts are worried that Russia's renunciation of the Ukrainian transit system could untie the Kremlin's hands to start a war against Ukraine at any moment, as there would be no risk of gas supplies to the EU, a major source of revenue, being affected.