Briefs

Lithuania: 27 June – 3 July 2016

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Lithuania Pro-Kremlin media promotes the narrative that following Brexit, the Baltic states will be kicked out of the EU.

Event: On 27 June, Rubaltic.ru, a Russian-language website based in Kaliningrad and targeting the Baltic states, published an article by Aleksandr Nosovich, “For the sake of saving the EU, Eastern Europe together with Pribaltica [the Baltic states] will have to be kicked out.” In it, Nosovich—a journalist well-known for his pro-Kremlin views—argued that the UK’s landmark 23 June vote to leave the European Union would mark the start of EU disintegration. Eventually, he wrote, the EU’s founding members would have no choice but to expel the Eastern European and Baltic states.

The false fact or narrative: Nosovich uses the arguments of the pro-Leave campaign in the UK, namely that the British labor market is flooded with guest workers from the Baltic states and Poland, and that British taxpayers are assuming the burden of supporting those migrants. As a result, the countries of “Old Europe”—the EU’s original members—will now face an exodus of “depressed, disappointed economic migrants” from the Baltics and Eastern Europe. 

The second reason for expelling those countries from the EU, he argues, is the financial cost of supporting those states, which will increase following Brexit. The third reason, Nosovich wrote, is the “destructive and absurd” politics that often undermine the vital interests of the EU itself: the sanctions against Russia; closer EU relations with Eastern Partnership countries; opposition to Russian-German construction of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. The Baltic states and Poland were always backed by the UK—without which, he says, it will be much more difficult for the Baltics to push their anti-Russia policies. “The Baltic states and other depressing outposts of Europe” will provoke skepticism for EU integration within the EU, possibly provoking another systemic EU integration crisis,” he said. “Thus, the outcome will be that Germany and other big EU member states would have to exclude them.”  
 
Facts on the ground: EU membership has generally enhanced Britain’s ability to achieve military and diplomatic objectives in dealing with Russia, Iran and ISIS. The UK prospers as the world’s fifth-largest economy and has remained one of its most powerful nations. The UK was and is areliable partner for the Baltic states and Eastern Europe as well as for the Eastern Partnership countries. The refugee crisis—not Eastern European migration—was one of the main reasons for the Leave vote. In general, Eastern European migrants are highly skilled and have significantly contributed to the economies of EU member states.

EU financial assistance (structural funds, direct payments to farmers, etc.) constitutes the economic foundation of many member countries including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece, as well as those of Eastern Europe. It is not true that Eastern Europe receives the most EU assistance. For example, Baltic farmers receive one of the lowest direct payments per hectare of arable land in the EU. Meanwhile, benefits of “old” EU members are two to three times higher. In fact, the average EU subsidy is €268 per hectare, while Lithuanian farmers get €143/ha, Dutch farmers €457/ha and Greek farmers €500/ha. According to the Special Eurobarometer of the European Parliament, a survey conducted in April, 74 percent of respondents agreed that what brings citizens of the EU’s 28 member states together is more important than what separates them. 

Lithuanian public opinion polls on Brexit have not yet been published, but press reports suggest that in general, Lithuanians perceive Brexit by the effect it might have on their country: the exchange rate of the British pound, the status of Lithuanians in the UK and Lithuanians at British universities, and Lithuania’s post-Brexit geopolitical security.  

Technique
  • Manipulation 
  • Card stacking, signaling and testing the reaction.
  • Facts are selectively chosen (only those that are pro-Leave) and mixed with speculation. They also arranged to create a mood of anxiety, even panic among the target audiences.  The idea that “the Baltic states and Poland will be kicked out of the EU” may be a warning to citizens of the Baltics. 
 
Audience: Lithuanian- and Russian-speaking segments of society in Lithuania, the Baltic states, the West and Russia. 

Impact and analysis: This article aims to advance the Kremlin’s views on Brexit, divide the EU by encouraging resentment against Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), weaken support for sanctions against Russia and undermine CEE security by accusing them of Russophobia. Yet it doesn’t mention that the EU introduced those sanctions because Russia invaded Ukraine, or that Russia violates the Minsk II agreement. By doing so, the author hopes to renew Cold War-era divisions between the Warsaw Pact and the West.