Estonia 16-23 January 2017

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Echoing criticism by President Trump, the pro-Kremlin, Russian-language news site says the Baltic states are not fulfilling their budget obligations to NATO.  

Event: In a 16 January article on President Trump’s interview with The Times of London and Germany’s Bild—in which the president-elect complained that some NATO members have not meet their defense budget obligations—the pro-Kremlin, Russian-language website noted that the Baltic states do not contribute the required 2 percent of GDP for defense. The Times noted that only five NATO members currently meet that target.

The false fact or narrative: falsely claims that none of the Baltic states spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

Reality on the ground: According to official NATO figures, Estonia already spends 2 percent of its GDP on defense and will rise to an all-time high of nearly 2.2 percent under Estonia’s state budget. Neither Latvia nor Lithuania are at 2 percent yet, but both countries have boosted their defense expenditures considerably since the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales. 

  • False facts.

Audience: Russian speakers throughout the Baltic states.

Analysis: In falsely claiming that the Baltics do not pay their fair share of NATO’s defense budget, Russia tries to undermine the alliance’s effectiveness—especially its commitment to collective defense under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.  Article 3 of the treaty requires all member states to “maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.” In 2014, members renewed this requirement at the Wales summit, which led to a declaration stating that “allies currently meeting the NATO guideline to spend a minimum of 2 percent of GDP on defense will aim to continue to do so,” and that members who don’t meet that target at present “will halt any decline in defense expenditure; aim to increase defense expenditure in real terms as GDP grows, and aim to move towards the 2 percent guideline within a decade with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO’s capability shortfalls.” 

If, as falsely claims, the Baltic states do not meet their obligations under NATO, that raises the question of NATO’s willingness to defend them under Article 5. That gives Moscow an opportunity to convince the three states to make individual security agreements with the Kremlin, thereby strengthening Russia’s influence in the region.