A 21 April article
published by Kremlin propaganda tool Sputniknews.lt
claims that Lithuania cannot accurately analyze publicly available information about Zapad 2017
, the Russian-Belarus military exercises set for September. It repeats Kremlin assurances that the exercises are no cause for concern.
The article uses two common Kremlin techniques of manipulation. The first is “card stacking,” or the selective citation of arguments published in the mainstream news website delfi.lt
on Zapad 2017 to support the Kremlin’s contention that Lithuania and the West are wrong to perceive Russia’s international behavior as a threat. The article first describes Saber Strike
—the annual NATO military exercise organized by U.S. military forces in Europe, and which this year takes place 10-24 June in the Baltics. It then shifts attention to the Zapad maneuvers. In this way the article aims to create the impression that NATO is the first to demonstrate its military power and is provoking Russia. This second technique used is “wolf cries wolf”—in which one accuses his opponent of doing something he himself is doing.
Sputniknews.lt also projects the idea that the Russian threat is exaggerated. To prove this, it refers to an article in the mainstream delfi.lt to imply that Lithuania’s media sees no threat in Zapad 2017, insisting that “there is no sense of the inevitability of the invasion and occupation of the Suwałki Corridor.” However, it continues, “there are grounds for concerns that during Zapad2017, accidents might happen.”
The Suwałki Gap—a narrow piece of land connecting two NATO member states, Poland and Lithuania—could be a target
of Russian military aggression. If Russia captured the Suwałki Gap, it would deprive NATO of the ability to give ground support to the Baltic states. Zapad 2017 is said to include a scenario that would involve seizing the 100-kilometer-long corridor. “Saber Strike,” this year’s NATO military exercise, will practice protecting the Suwałki Gap.
In the last few months, the Kremlin has intensified its propaganda, giving the impression it is worried about growing international tension and breaches of the global order, and that it wants to be honest and dependable. However, it avoids discussing the cause and effect of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, its support of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, the war and subversive activities in Georgia, or its violation of agreements in Syria.
The Kremlin’s propaganda message that it is being forced to defend itself will probably intensify. In a recent speech
at the Moscow International Conference on Security, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu stated that “fortification of Russia’s defense capacities is very well-balanced and is a reaction to NATO actions,” and that “Baltic airspace patrol by NATO aircraft poses a threat to Russia's security as it forms a zone of restrictions embracing part of the Kaliningrad region and the eastern Baltic Sea.”