Today I stumbled upon the article “Anti-Russian Sanctions Are a ‘Disaster’ for Italy” by Russia’s propaganda outlet Sputnik News. Surprised by the factually wrong headline I read the “article”… and understood that even by Russian standards this is really, really harebrained and malicious fact-twisting and lying. Let me explain:
- The “Italian newspaper” Il Nord is actually a blog written by three Eurasianists from Milan, who rile against the US, the EU, NATO, Western liberalism, economic liberalism, Jews, Freemasons, Muslims, the European Central Bank, the Euro,… and they love to dabble in conspiracy theories.
- Supposedly the “trade turnover between Russia and Italy is continuing to decrease as result of economic sanctions against Russia and is comparable to a disaster.” The true part is that last year trade between Italy and Russia decreased, but 77,36% of that drop were Russian exports to Italy. Italian exports to Russia fell by 1,2 bn € during 2014 or by 11,6%, and that drop is in just two sectors: food and fashion. Fashion as Russians spent less on expensive Italian fashion brands and food, because Russia forbade the import of Italian products. Actually, exports to Russia in other sectors did grow. The only sanctions, which hurt Italian-Russian trade are the sanctions imposed by Putin (!) last August.
- The drop in Russian exports to Italy has nothing to do with sanctions, but results from:
- Italy diversifying gas supplies in 2014 and thus buying less Russian gas
- Lower oil prices. 82% of Italian imports from Russia are oil and gas. In 2014 the oil price dropped over 40% and thus Italy paid much less to Russia for oil and gas.
- Italy buying less gas, as the fall of 2014 was the warmest in Italy on record.
- The data used by Il Nord was compiled and presented by the “Conoscere Eurasia” foundation, which is financed by Russia’s Gazprombank, whose chairman of the management board Andrey Akimov is also the honorary chairman of “Conoscere Eurasia”.
- Also oligarch Alexander Abramov, chairman of Uralmash Igor Molibog and Mikhail Baydakov, who fronts Vladimir Yakunin’s jingoistic Center of National Glory of Russia are board members of “Conoscere Eurasia.”
- And Sputnik News itself is a sponsor of the “Conoscere Eurasia” foundation.
- One of the two Italian board members of “Conoscere Eurasia” Antonio Fallico is quoted in the “article.” Fallico is Italy’s foremost Putinversteher and has been promoting Russia’s point of view relentless since spring 2015, but he is not the “chairman of the Board of Directors of the Intesa Bank.” Fallico is just the head of the Moscow office of Banca Intesa.
- Italy’s GDP in 2014 was approximately 1,620 bn € and the drop in trade with Russia of 1.2 bn € equals a mere 0.07% of GDP. That is not “a disaster” but a statistical blimp. Italy’s GDP is expected to grow by 0.6% in 2015 and even a further drop in exports to Russia won’t dampen the growth even a bit.
But Sputnik news claims that “one of the factors leading to the continuation of the economic crisis and rising unemployment in Italy,” which is an outright lie. In short, a Russian-financed foundation with dubious ties to nationalist and jingoistic Russian circles took Italian government data and presented only parts of it to underscore its point that sanctions hurt Italy. Then, its presentation was even further reduced into propaganda by Il Nord to attack the Italian government and create the illusion of a disaster, and ultimately Sputnik news picked that maliciously distorted hit piece to create an “article,” which is factually wrong, disingenuous, and basically a load of bullshit.
But that is what Sputnik News task is: create bullshit to fill feeble minds with manure in the hope that there Russia’s insane idea of Europe being unable to exist without Russia may find fertile ground. But the truth is: the less Europe has to do with Russia economically, the better for Europe.