A flock of sheep is posing a security threat to the U.S. military base in Romania – so read a headline which trended in Russian media and social networks on January 17.
For entire day, the Romanian sheep were a focus of attention of government-owned press outlets like RIA Novosti and Rossiyskaya Gazeta the sensationalist Life.ru and many others.
The facts of the story seem to be true, and are centered around a stubborn man named Dumitru Bleja and his 250 sheep. Bleja’s farm in Deveselu, southern Romania, is located about 10 meters from the fence of the U.S. military base that is hosting an anti-missile defense system. For more than three years, he has been fighting in court against the Romanian defense ministry, which is demanding that he move his farm away from the U.S. base’s security zone.
The mystery, however, is why the Romanian sheep were, for a day, elevated to a place next to Vladimir Putin in the headlines of Russia’s mainstream media.
The answer lies in Russia’s “National Security Strategy,” signed into law by Putin in 2015, which, among other things, determines information policy and topic priorities for government-owned media.
Thus, ironically, thanks to Russia’s furious opposition to the United States and NATO increasing security measures in Europe – the Romanian sheep became a matter of Russia’s national security interest and thereby earned a top spot in the headlines of the country’s mainstream media.
On Wednesday, Romania’s highest court ruled against Dumitru Bleja for building a shelter for his sheep without a permit, but has not made a decision on whether the farmer must take it down.