Briefs

Lithuania: 28 November–4 December 2016

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Pro-Kremlin media in Kaliningrad  broadcasting about the Baltic Sea region claims Lithuania is under U.S. occupation.

Event: On 1 December, Lithuania’s mainstream media announced that the country was prepared to step up defense ties with the United States by signing the first bilateral cooperation agreement. The accord will clearly define the status of U.S. forces in Lithuania. Three days later, Newsbalt.ru—a pro- Kremlin website in Kaliningrad—declared that “Lithuania is under direct U.S. occupation” because it will give up its primary right to criminal jurisdiction of American troops deployed in Lithuania.

The false facts and narrative: According to Newsbalt.ru, the agreement is a “humiliation” for the people of Lithuania. The site criticized the deal without presenting concrete arguments or analysis. It referred to the Nazi German occupation during World War II, adding that during the Cold War, when Soviet troops were stationed in all Warsaw Pact countries, Soviet soldiers and officers who committed criminal acts were subject to the laws of the countries where the crimes took place. 

Reality on the ground: BNS.lt (Baltic News Service), a mainstream news website in Lithuania, reports that under the agreement the Pentagon anchors and restates its defense commitments to Lithuania.  Lithuania, in turn, provides all necessary conditions for those commitments to be met. The pact simplifies procedures and facilitates the arrival of U.S. troops as well as their presence in Lithuania. This make it easier to conduct joint exercises and projects. The draft agreement envisages tax privileges for U.S. troops, such as exemption from value-added, sale, use and excise taxes for purchase of any assets for or on behalf of the U.S. military. Lithuania intends to give up its right to criminal jurisdiction for U.S. except in special cases. The agreement, now being drafted, is based on the established legal practices of U.S. troops abroad. The U.S. has concluded similar agreements with over 100 countries, including members of NATO and the Partnership for Peace countries. Unfortunately, Lithuania has not explained the accord publicly, claiming doing so would be premature.  This allows hostile parties to offer their own manipulative explanations and sow doubt and confusion.   

Techniques: 
  • Discrediting;
  •  creating context; 
  • sowing doubts; 
  • drowning facts with emotions; 
  • diminution.

Target audiences: Russian speakers in Lithuania, the Baltic States, the EU, Belarus and Ukraine.

Impact and analysis: This disinformation case seeks to paint the United States as an aggressive nation that flouts international law and seeks dominance. It also aims to diminish Lithuania and sow distrust in its government, portraying it as a dependent country that is fully subordinated to U.S. law. 

Description of sources: Newsbalt.ru is a Russian language propaganda website in Kaliningrad broadcasting news and analysis about the developments of the Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe. The website states that it presents the news from the Russian point of view.