Briefs

Lithuania: 9-15 January 2017

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Pro-Kremlin media in Lithuania and Ukraine try to minimize the importance of an open letter from European leaders to Donald Trump.   

Event: On 12 January, Rubaltic.ru, a pro-Kremlin website based in Kaliningrad, published an article by Andrey Starikov titled “Baltic states ask Trump to give up on friendship with Russia.”  It mocked the open letter written by 17 Central and Eastern European leaders to Donald Trump and published in the Washington Post on 9 January, 11 days before Trump’s inauguration as president. Among other things, the letter urged him to strengthen, not weaken, transatlantic ties.

Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin media also criticized the letter. On 10 January, antifashist.com posted an  article, “European mongrels wrote a letter to Trump with an appeal not to flirt with Putin.” The same day, another pro-Kremlin website, ren.tv, published an article, “17 politicians and former European leaders wrote a letter to Trump about Putin.” 

The false fact or narrative: The articles made derogatory remarks about the letter and mocked its signatories as the “main deterrents against Russian aggression.”  Rubaltic.ru’s Starikov claimed that such letters are no longer a means of policy-making but rather a psychiatric diagnosis.”  Starikov concluded that “the Baltic states understand that their role will be reviewed with the arrival of President Trump, and their political weight will be reduced.” The website antifashist.com compared the letter to the “miserable whining” of those whom Washington used previously “in its Russophobian activities.” Now the Europeans are “frightened by the prospect of their uselessness,” it said. The website ren.tv reported that the European leaders asked President-elect Trump not to normalize relations with Russia and “warned” that “stabilization of U.S.-Russian relations will harm the U.S. and Europe.” 

Reality on the ground: On 9 January, European leaders sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump which expressed eagerness to work with his administration to bolster the transatlantic alliance. The signatories noted that Central and Eastern European countries on the front line with Russia are concerned “that the prospect of a new grand bargain with Russia” will “threaten the peace, predictability and security that Americans and Europeans created together through … victory in the Cold War.” The letter stated: “Putin does not seek American greatness. As your allies, we do.” It continued: “As your treaty-bound allies, we appeal to Americans in the new U.S. administration and Congress to stand firm in the defense of our common goals and interests: peace, Atlantic strength and freedom.” But if Trump accommodates Putin, they warn, there will be severe negative consequences for both Europe and the United States. 

Techniques: 
  • Creating a context; 
  • discrediting, 
  • diminution; 
  • testing the reaction; 
  • spreading confusion and fear; 
  • using loaded words; 
  • no proof; 
  • false facts.

Audience: Russian-speaking segments of society in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and the West, as well as Russian society.

Impact and analysis: By criticizing the letter, the Kremlin aims to advance its foreign policy goal of improving relations with the Trump administration. The article portrays the Baltic states as well as other Central and East European countries as U.S. lackeys.