Briefs

Lithuania: 7-13 November 2016

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A Pro-Kremlin website serving the Baltics claims that once in office, Trump will ignore the security interests of Central and Eastern Europe, and that Americans voted for a man who supports Putin.

Event: On 9 November, Rubaltic.ru, a pro-Kremlin, Russian-language website in Kaliningrad —an exclave of the Russian Federation—published an article by Aleksandr Nosovich mocking the widespread view in the Baltics that the the election of Donald Trump “is one of the biggest disasters in their post-Soviet history.” According to Nosovich, Trump is not interested in NATO’s commitment to the Baltics, “deterring Russia” or creating an Eastern European “buffer zone.” He said “the [newly elected] president values Russia and a direct dialogue with President Putin.

The false fact or narrative: The Rubaltic.ru article notes that during his election campaign, Trump called NATO an “obsolete organization,” opposed longstanding U.S. commitments to defend its allies, said he admired Vladimir Putin as a “strong leader” and called for direct negotiations between Moscow and Washington to settle their differences. The article also claims that, since Trump won the Nov. 8 elections, “the American people voted for Putin’s man.” Nosevich’s comments may have distorted Trump’s views, which in any case are vague. On NATO, Trump criticized alliance members which have not paid their own way—not the existence of the alliance itself. His praise of Putin’s strong leadership may have been to draw a contrast with that of President Obama, rather than to signal agreement with Putin on specific issues. During the campaign, the New York Times could find no evidence supporting allegations that Trump is a Russian agent.

Reality on the ground: European officials, foreign policy experts and the media have hotly debated how Trump might change transatlantic security relationships. Trump’s statements during the campaign raised European concerns that the United States might end security guarantees or no longer act as a global leader. If the new administration does turn more inward, European nations—beset by differences over migration and other crises—appear too divided on national lines to fill the vacuum. 

After Trump’s victory, Putin’s spokesman commented that Moscow hopes relations with Washington will improve once he takes office Jan. 20, 2017.  Dmitry Peskov described Putin and Trump as “very much alike” in how they see the world. However, Russian officials have not specified how a U.S.-Russian rapprochement would develop. Some commentators are wary of what they see as the President-elect’s “unpredictability.  Others say it’ll take time to improve relations. Yet another view from Moscow is that longtime hostility to Russia from Congress and the federal bureaucracy would limit Trump’s freedom to maneuver, even if he wanted to improve ties. Neither Nosovich’s article nor other official Kremlin comments have mentioned Russia’s role in the decline of relations—especially its annexation of Crimea, its invasion of eastern Ukraine and its support of Syria’s Assad dictatorship.

Techniques
  • Creating a context, 
  • signaling, 
  • testing the reaction
Audience: Russian-speaking segments of society in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and the West.

Impact and analysis: The article aims to strengthen Russia’s reputation as a peacemaker while playing down the importance of the Baltics as well as Central and Eastern Europe. It also raises suspicions about commitments by the EU and NATO to their member states.