Pro-Kremlin media claim NATO’s deployment of a battalion in Lithuania is a military occupation.
Event: On 30 January, the pro-Kremlin website newsbalt.ru published an article, “Are Lithuanian citizens converted into enemies of the nation?” It argued that recent public opinion polls finding widespread popular support for NATO troops in Lithuania are not trustworthy because they were commissioned by Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defense, which aims to justify the deployment of a NATO battalion in the country.
False fact or narrative: The website, which is based in Kaliningrad and serves the Baltic region, says the pollster in this case was motivated “to please its customer”—Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defense. The story claims that “Lithuanian citizens who participated in the study committed a crime against the constitution” because that constitution forbids “weapons of mass destruction and foreign military bases” on Lithuanian soil—and that a NATO battalion there is equivalent to occupation.
Reality on the ground: According to December 2016 polls conducted by RAIT, a public opinion and market research company, 84 percent of respondents support Lithuania’s membership in NATO—an increase of 3 percent since 2015. It also found that 81 percent favor the permanent presence of NATO troops in Lithuania, and that 67 percent say the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battalion is deployed to help deter aggressive states. .
NATO took the decision to enhance its presence in the Baltic states and Poland at its July 2016 summit in Warsaw, in the context of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and Eastern Europe’s changing security situation. Under that decision, the deployment of the NATO Battalion—formed mainly by troops with the 122nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, 12th Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the German Armed Forces—officially began 1 February 2017. More than 450 German soldiers and 100 military vehicles will form one of the maneuver units of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battalion, deployed in Lithuania alongside Dutch and Norwegian troops. Lithuania has been a NATO member since 2004.
Techniques: Creating a context; 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: The article furthers Moscow’s false narrative that NATO is an aggressor which plans to militarize the region and occupy the Baltic states. It diminishes Lithuanian public opinion because the survey contradicts the Kremlin’s point of view. The article mentioned neither Russia’s military buildup in Kaliningrad nor its invasion of Ukraine.