Russian media regularly publish stories claiming that the West has resigned itself to the annexation of Crimea and is ready to compromise with the Kremlin regarding sanctions. Pro-Russian delegations of marginal European politicians regularly feted in the annexed peninsula are presented as official delegations, proving that the West is softening its position on Crimea.

Website screenshot RIA

Last week former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen became the newest victim of Russian media manipulation when RIA Novosti quoted him out of context, claiming that Rasmussen did not rule out that Crimea will not be part of Ukraine in the future and might strike out on an independent course.

RIA managed to run three separate stories based on Rasmussen’s answer to a question on whether the West should exchange Crimea for Kaliningrad, that was jokingly posed at a Hudson Institute conference  U.S.Sanctions on Russia: evaluating impacts and costs.

This is Rasmussen’s answer:

“As regards Crimea, we should pursue exactly the same policies as we did after the illegal annexation of the three Baltic States into the Soviet Union. We never, ever recognized that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were just republics in the Soviet Union. So eventually circumstances gave them a chance to regain independence and immediately we could recognize their new freedom and the new independence. I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that one day, in the future, circumstances will allow us to  welcome Crimea as a free entity, whether it will be an integrated part of Ukraine, or whatever, I don’t know how. But I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that a new situation could arise, so we should never, ever recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea.”

Rasmussen did not advocate recognizing the occupation of Crimea. On the contrary, he emphasized that recognizing the annexation was bound to have dangerous consequences and would encourage other authoritarian rulers to seize others’ territories. and Komsomolskaya Pravda both ran this fake story.