Lithuania: 16-23 January 2017

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Pro-Kremlin media interprets Donald Trump’s inaugural address as proof of the Kremlin narrative that the United States will no longer protect the Baltic states.   

Event: On 23 January, the pro-Kremlin website posted an article by Aleksandr Nosovich, “The Inaugural Speech of Trump – a bad omen for Pribaltika (Baltic states),” claiming that Trump’s speech “terrified" the entire Euro-Atlantic community, including the Baltic elite, because Trump “no longer needs their service to construct an anti-Russian ‘buffer zone’ in Europe.” The new president “does not intend to take care of American allies in the Baltics,” wrote Nosovich, adding that Trump “challenges the gigantic U.S. infrastructure created to support American global domination.

False fact or narrative: Nosovich interprets Trump’s speech as supporting the Kremlin narrative that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are not independent countries but entities totally dependent on the United States. Under Trump’s presidency, he wrote, “the Baltic states will be redundant as American allies in NATO,” and that the United States “will refuse to support NATO allies both financially and militarily.” The article offers another Kremlin narrative—criticism of U.S. global dominance—as well as hope that Trump “will renounce the messianic course of America, which was aimed at spreading liberal values of democracy and human rights across the globe from South America to Georgia and Ukraine.”

Reality on the ground:  In his speech, Trump gave no indication the United States would abandon the Baltic. Rather, he repeated his previous message that NATO members should fulfill their obligations by paying for their own defense. Washington’s allies are not “terrified” by this message, but rather are trying to understand and influence the new U.S. foreign policy, which has not yet been fully developed. Trump has said nothing about an anti-Russian “buffer zone” in Europe.

Strengthening national security and resilience is among Lithuania’s top priorities. This year, Lithuania is spending 1.8 percent of GDP on defense, though the government hopes to reach 2 percent by 2018 and 2.5 percent by 2020. Meanwhile, Lithuania has been helping NATO efforts in other areas. Its latest overseas mission—a mandate lasting until the end of 2017—is to send up to 30 troops to train in Iraq. 

  • Creating a context; 
  • diminution; 
  • testing the reaction; 
  • spreading confusion and fear; 
  • using loaded words; 
  • no proof.

Audience: Russian speakers in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the West, as well as Russian society.

Impact and analysis: This article on Trump’s inauguration aims to sow regional confusion and fear. Its author, Nosovich, interprets the speech in accordance with the Kremlin’s foreign policy objectives, yet he offers no arguments to support such an interpretation. It merely seeks to diminish the stature of the Baltic states by advancing the narrative that they are America’s lackeys. Nosovich also calls the three countries “Pribaltika”—an expression used in Soviet times which implies that they should belong to Russia’s sphere of influence.