• Léa Giffard

The media coverage of « Russophobia » and the current diplomatic crisis between Russia and Western p


In the context of the « Skripal case » and its aftermath, one should observe the media coverage of the diplomatic crisis. Pro-regime newspapers and independent ones denounce anti-russian sentiment as it has acted as guidance to the acts of Western powers.

According to the point of view shared in Russian media, Western leaders voiced as one person their solidarity to Great Britain and accused de facto Russia without waiting for any scientific evidence. The waterfall of expulsions of diplomatic staff that followed is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War. One may wonder to what extent this Russophobic speech is a mirror to Western countries’ behaviors, and whether or not it is pure speculation from the Russian side.

  • “Russians did it” is a de facto assumption from both Russian and Western sides: Russia is immediately accused in any case when it is involved, and Russians, if they are accused, think straight away that it is them because of the ambient russophobia. They illustrate this mere fact by the American answer to the Skripal case: on Monday, 26th of March, the United States announced the ousting of 60 people with a diplomatic status out of the US. According to the speaker of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, Americans had planned this action beforehand. Why would Americans close the Russian General Consulate in Seattle? Why did they overreact when the UK sent “only” 23 diplomats away? The newspaper Nezavissimaya Gazeta claims that the “Kremlin Report”, released in January of this year is “the fundament on which the administration of the United-States has to build more and more new levels to the sarcophagi of sanctions”.

  • Russians are tired of Western countries’ double standards and doublespeak. On the one hand, a country like the UK promotes freedom of speech and tolerance on its territory. On the other hand, many Russians tend to think that this automatically engaged mechanism of thinking that Russia is a “rogue” State is actually of form of aversion if not racism. One columnist of the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda interviewed a pro-Russian British journalist who affirmed that « Russophobia is a form of racism publically accepted” – title of the article (with about 2000 shares on the online article on social networks). Izvestia calls all those events “Russophobe flash mob”. In Poland, the anti-Russian sentiment is still alive from the Soviet period. Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, has signed last year a law advanced by the Polish Diet (low chamber of Parliament) that forbids use of propaganda of “communism and other totalitarian regimes” in names of buildings, roads, schools and other objects and monuments. This law gave the local authorities until the 31st of March to destroy all the buildings that enter that category. An article in Rossiskaïa Gazeta describes the event as follows: « Poland gets rid of its gratitude » to the Red Army that liberated its territory from Nazis.

  • The example of the Skripal case is blatant in its incomprehension: the two sides stand on their positions, russophobia faces Western-defiance. It embodies a dialogue of the deaf. Russian newspapers argue that Europe is led by the US. Nezavissimaya Gazeta quotes Manfred Weber, the leader of conservative party to the European parliament who sees in the whole situation “a war from Putin against Europe”. In Germany, “anti-Russian propaganda has overstepped the line”, writes Nezavissimaya Gazeta, political parties are “alienated by the topic”. Maria Zakharova said on the 23th of March that even though Russia introduced its version of the events, anyway if Russia speaks “In the West no-one will listen to us”. “Manipulation of public opinion at the expense of information” was led beforehand, she reports.

  • One may focus on the peculiar case of French-Russian relations. Traditionally, France is empathic to Russia, a fact pertaining up to today’s conflict in Ukraine. Indeed, France always tended to put the blame on NATO for the conflict in Ukraine: if NATO had not been so aggressive and had not enlarged to new members from the ex-soviet States, then Russia would not have been so outraged and hurt in its feelings, writes the historian Laurent Chamontin. France tends to project its own model of “Jacobinism” on Russia, that is to say overcentralized State with zones of influence. Therefore, France accepts the idea of the “close stranger”, spontaneously taken for a natural zone of influence. France systematically critics American raids. Russophobia exists in France, but is less univocal that the one existing in the US or UK.

  • One may conclude that diplomatic relations on the regard of Skripal case were mainly led by states of mind and survival instincts than by a proper strategy. Diplomacy is thus endangered, Russia and Western countries are defiant to one another and those misunderstandings are fueled by an escalation of tit-for-tat statements, more and more aggressive from both sides. The tactfulness and cold bloodness than any diplomat should present seem to have been put in parentheses. Regarding France, public opinion is still interwoven with complacency towards Russia and a feeling of fear. The visit of the French president in Russia might well resolve tensions between the European union and Russia.

Bibliography:

ASATRYAN George, LARU Dmitry, PORTYAKOVA Natalia, ZABRODIN Alexei, https://iz.ru/724956/nataliia-portiakova-dmitrii-laru-georgii-asatrian-aleksei-zabrodin/ogulnyi-fleshmob

ASLAMOVA Daria, “Angliskie jurnalisty : rusofobia, eto ofitsialno odobrenyi vid racisma”, Komsomolskaya Pravda, 25/03/2018. Available at : https://www.kp.ru/daily/26810.7/3846072/

CHAMONTIN Laurent “Quelle russophilie française ? Contribution à l’histoire des représentations françaises de la Russie”, Diploweb, 19/01/2018. Available at : https://www.diploweb.com/Quelle-russophilie-francaise-Contribution-a-l-histoire-des-representations-francaises-de-la-Russie.html

GRIGORYEV Evgeny, “Rusofobia nie ukracit eru Merkel”, Nezavissimaya Gazeta, 07/05/2018. Available at : http://www.ng.ru/columnist/2018-03-27/7_7198_frg.html

ROKOSSOVSKAYA Ariadna, “Spisok na slom”, Rossiskaya Gazeta, 26/03/2018. Available at : https://rg.ru/2018/03/26/v-polshe-demontirovali-pamiatnik-blagodarnosti-krasnoj-armii.html

SHESTAKOV Evgeny, “Rossiya ne namerena snosit hamstvo stran zapada”, Rossiskaya Gazeta, 27/03/2018. Available at : https://rg.ru/2018/03/27/rossiia-ne-namerena-snosit-hamstvo-stran-zapada.html

SUBOTTIN Igor, “SCHA rasskretiat kremlevski doklad”, Nezavissimaya Gazeta, 27/03/2018. Available at : http://www.ng.ru/world/2018-03-27/100_7199_sanctions.html

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