By EUvsDisinfo

‘Good’ old stories

On 23 January 2023, the European Council announced the creation of the European Union Mission in Armenia (EUMA). Its staff consist of unarmed civilian experts, including monitors, who conduct routine patrols in Armenian borders areas adjacent to Azerbaijan as a means of contributing to stability. The Mission’s task is clear: to observe and report on the security situation on the ground. Its founding built upon a previously established EU Monitoring Capacity, and the EU approved both entities in response to Armenian authorities’ requests.

From the moment of its launch, EUMA was a target for disinformation coming from various sources and actors, mostly following the Kremlin’s standard narrative that ‘the West’ can and must be hostile and ultimately is aiming to encircle Russia. Pro-Kremlin disinformation actions continue on many fronts. They are widely disseminated in both Russian state media and local pro-Kremlin media outlets in the region. The EUvsDisinfo database is full of examples of Russia’s attempts to establish as fact the offensive notion that sovereign states neighbouring Russia are not free to make their own choices in matters of national security.

Not that long ago, EUMA entered the second year of its mandate. Throughout the year, it grew from over 100 to around 200 observers. The number and intensity of pro-Kremlin outlets’ disinformation attacks have also grown.

The playbook

Disinformation is an integral part of Moscow’s foreign policy arsenal alongside blunt political pressure, economic blackmail, threats of hybrid attacks, or other means of undermining local authorities in a particular country.

However, the Kremlin’s disinformation machine’s goals of deceiving, confusing, and sowing mistrust have not gone very far in Armenia. And the situation is changing faster than the Kremlin seem to have anticipated. Armenian leaders now say that they have frozen their participation in the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and intend to work more closely with the EU and the US.

Below, we offer a run-down of mostly pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about EUMA and the EU’s role in Armenia. They can be categorised under the three Ws: the wrong, the wicked, and the wacky.

The wrong: where there’s smoke, sometimes there’s just… smoke

Much of what pro-Kremlin outlets spread about the EU presence is Armenia is simply false and falls under one of three disinformation narratives the Kremlin has created.

Military narrative

For example, local pro-Russian media in Armenia alleged early on that the EUMA is not civilian, but military. This allegation appears to rely upon the tendentious claim that since the mission falls under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, it must be military. This perfectly feeds the recurring pro-Kremlin narrative that the sole agenda of the EU is to wage war against Russia to inflict maximum damage.

However, the mission consists only of unarmed civilian monitors. In order to undermine the Mission’s goals, several reports in Armenian, quoting Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, alleged that the Mission ‘deals with issues that are far from the stated goals’, without providing evidence for her claim.

Intelligence narrative

Another narrative, distributed by a broad array of outlets last October, suggested that, rather than simply observing, the Mission ‘collects intelligence data against Russia and Iran’. The narrative even goes as far as to claim that the observers are there to launch military operations into Iran, if necessary. Observers observe, and they report what they see. But the idea that conducting routine patrols along parts of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border somehow reveals super-secret intelligence about Russia and is part of a plan to launch military operations into Iran strains belief.

NATO vassal narrative

Yet another story, spread since last July, has proclaimed that Canada’s planned contribution of two experts to the Mission is proof that the EU has lost its foreign policy independence and only dances to the tune of the US and NATO. Let us step back and contemplate with awe this massive leap from one tiny fact – two Canadian experts – to such a distant and ridiculous claim.

The point of all this innuendo is to flood the information space with smoke, and then claim that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, or at least some nefarious objective. But there’s no fire here, just the grey smoke of disinformation blown by wheezing Kremlin spin-masters.

The wicked: dark insinuations

More often, however, pro-Russian outlets in the region spread claims that are not just wrong but wicked. They are wicked because they put front-and-centre scurrilous and absurd allegations about the EU, EUMA, and the Mission’s purpose.

One example among many of its kind, spread last summer, alleged that EUMA’s goal ‘is a geopolitical confrontation with Russia’. In fact, the Mission’s goal has been to make an outbreak of hostilities along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan less likely. By doing so, the EU hopes to promote a politically stable and economically prosperous Southern Caucasus.

Yet another article quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, known for advancing a wide range of disinformation narratives, claiming that the EU is ‘openly abusing’ its relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan through EUMA. Lavrov did not specify how this ‘abuse’ takes place.

Behind these allegations lies a real fear that Armenia might bolt from the Kremlin’s suffocating embrace. Russian leaders have only themselves to blame if Armenian leaders want more geopolitical options, but looking in the mirror isn’t a Kremlin speciality. So they project their motives onto their adversaries, which is their speciality, and cry that the EU is trying with its Mission to gain a foothold in Armenia ‘at any cost’.

Financing an unarmed, civilian mission doesn’t seem like a desperate ploy to retain influence. Howling about someone else doing it certainly does.

The wacky: pro-Russian commentators say the darndest things

Our review wouldn’t be complete without a quick glance of the wackier narratives to emerge from pro-Kremlin outlets and commentators.

Here’s a good one: Masonic lodges are the real masters of the entire European Union, and Armenia is powerless against them. How delightfully informative.

Also, Armenian leaders dutifully obey instructions from globalists – themselves in cahoots with ‘Judeo-Masons’, whoever those people are – to commit genocide against humanity using vaccines. Lovely.

In addition, some pro-Russian commentators are sure that the CIA, MI6, Turkish agents, and NGOs funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation staged a coup in Armenia in 2018, did so in order to oust Russia from the region, and now their so-called protégés are the real power behind the current Armenian government. Exciting!

What fearmongers fear

A survey conducted in February 2023 revealed that 60 percent of Armenians ‘tend to trust’ the European Union. By contrast, 67 per cent ‘tend not to trust’ the CSTO, a figure that provides background for Armenia’s decision to freeze its participation in that body.

In short, Kremlin rage appears intended to counter both a shift in Armenian public opinion towards the EU and a shift in real-time Armenian policymaking. But if pro-Russian commentators continue making up nonsense about EUMA and the broader EU-Armenian relationship, normal Armenians and their leaders could increasingly tune them out or grow even more sceptical towards Moscow.

Follow the latest claims against Armenia and EUMA in our database.

By EUvsDisinfo