Deception - the Case of latvia

A series of articles by the Centre for Eastern European Studies

CEEPS: Deception – The Case of Latvia #2

By Arnis Latišenko, CEEPS researcher

This is the second article in the monthly columns of the analytical material series of Russia’s deception policy in Latvian language. Reminder: the goal of these series is to detect and disprove the disinformation, spread within deception campaigns, that are directed against the state of Latvia. Regarding the tendency of the campaigns of deception against Latvia to particularly discredit NATO reinforcements’ presence in Latvia, the project will pay special attention to the topic of NATO in Latvia. This time the focus is set on a case of the official Russia’s implemented deception, which is related to a video of the Latvian national partisan movement that was published on NATO Twitter page in the middle of July.

Deception: On July 16, 2017, Dmitry Kiselyov’s broadcast ‘Vesti Nedeli (Weekly News)’, referring to the video of partisans, published by NATO, showed a storyline attempting to blacken the commemoration of the national partisans of the Baltic countries. Mr Kiselyov created the story in a way that the audience could build with confidence a close link between the partisans and the Holocaust in Latvia. As accustomed for the Russia TV, the Latvian Legion was also linked with the war crimes.

Refutation: Here are a few facts to mention. First of all, Latvian Legion did not take part in the Holocaust in Latvia, since it was established only in the spring of 1943 – about a year after the last big Jewish mass murder in Latvia.1 Second, the Latvian Legion and Latvian national partisans are not the same, those were two different formations. Partisans formed after the World War II from several groups. The largest group consisted of those who avoided or deserted the Red Army and the Wehrmacht, the so-called ‘Green Legionnaires’ and the ‘Green Red Army men’.

It is estimated that about 4,000 men had left the Latvian Legion to join partisans. In addition, the number of persons, who avoided the mobilization by the Red Army, and the Red Army deserters was more than ten thousand people. The rest of the groups consisted of former guards, policemen and the administrative staff of the government during the German occupation, as well as those individuals that the Soviet occupying power stripped of property or those who were persecuted.2 Mr Kiselyov deliberately avoids discussing the post-war events and partisan war themes, mainly paying attention to the Holocaust theme, thereby artificially trying to create in the audience an associative link between the Nazis and the Latvian national partisans.

Deception: A short film about the Latvian national partisans, in general, led to a fairly wide resonance amongst the Russia’s officials, for example, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin or the Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova.3 On July 13, 2017, writing about the Latvian national partisans in her Facebook post Zakharova put the words guerrilla war in quotation marks, and called the partisans ‘inexterminated fascists’. In Zakharova’s opinion, Latvian national partisan movement was created by and its curators were the Western special services.4

Refutation: By inserting words guerrilla war in quotes, Mrs Zaharova has, first of all, refused to recognize the goals and amplitude of the guerrilla movement. National partisan war had several causes and goals (including personal, in some cases), but the main cause of war was the destruction and denial of Latvia’s independence by USSR – thereby the fight took place in the name of idea, it was a fight against a criminal, totalitarian regime and for the renewal of Latvia’s statehood. Although supported by Western special services, it was first and foremost a social movement.

Any cooperation with the special services of Sweden, the UK or any other democratic country at the time could not be considered as anything objectionable – it was a joint contribution to the fight against communism after the World War II. Second of all, the crimes, committed under Stalin’s regime, are well known. It was a regime, that was undoubtedly responsible for mass murders, including the Russians as well who were majority of victims, therefore the resistance to the criminal totalitarian regime of Stalin is recognized as morally justifiable behaviour. Third, we can ask M.Zaharova and D.Kiselyov the question – why do some nations have the right to fight against the occupation of their land while others do not?

Deception: On June 29, 2017, published an article: ‘Russia can block Baltic states in 36 hours? That’s why NATO will attack first?’ The author is dissatisfied with the military training in the Baltic States, that is said to happen ‘too frequent’. The author also assumes that NATO is implementing trainings because it plans to conduct military aggression against Russia by occupying the Kaliningrad region.5

Refutation: NATO is exclusively defensive organization, whose main goal is the protection of its Member States – it is confirmed by the NATO framework agreement. The document declares that Member States ‘reaffirm their faith in the purposes of the United Nations Charter’ and that ‘they [the Member States, author ed.] are committed to join efforts for collective defence’.6 In Article 2 of UN Charter it is written that ‘all Member States (the United Nations Member States) in their international relations shall refrain from the use of threat or force against any national territorial integrity or political independence’.7 Planning an aggression and occupation of the territory of another country would be contrary to NATO’s founding documents and to the purpose of its existence. The statement of deployment of NATO recruitments in the Baltic countries with the aim to carry out aggression against Russia does not stand criticism, because the deployed troops in the three Baltic countries add up to 3,200 people, that is of no threat to Russia.

Deception: On June 20, 2017, website Sputnik in the Latvian version published an article ‘Recommendation for Latvian women: think well, before saying ‘no’ to a NATO soldier’, in which the author expressed that NATO soldiers constantly rape women in the areas of their stay. Thus, it is concluded that the cases of rape will repeat in the Baltic States as well. Moreover, the author adds that in the local population conflict cases with NATO soldiers, the provocations will be blamed on ‘Russia and its local agents’.8

Refutation: Apart from the open xenophobia and racism, which the Sputnik’s article expressed, attention must be directed to the specific reasoning method of the author. The author argues that ‘for self-evident reasons, the information on rape crimes committed on local women by NATO troops has not been published’. If this information is not publicly available, where has the author obtained it and how did they check its verity? Another example, ‘as far as I know, NATO soldiers do not hold special ceremonies with the locals’. The author relies on the reader’s belief in his statement, which he is not entirely convinced of himself. Anything can be said with this approach. It should be noted that the criminal, disciplinary or other type of responsibility of the NATO troops, whilst in other Member State, is governed by the Article VII of NATO SOFA agreement, which determines the sending and the receiving countries the right to exercise their jurisdiction according to the nature of committed violation.9

Deception: On July 2, 2017, the blog site V mire Novostei published an article ‘Baltic revelation: NATO forces will oppress the dissatisfied Europeans’, that explained how NATO forces are currently deployed in the Baltic countries with the goal to suppress the local population. With regard to Latvia, the article ‘proves’ this thesis with two arguments. Firstly, deployed contingent is too small for resisting the Russian army in the case of a conflict. Secondly, the local politicians fear the people of their countries.10

Refutation: First of all, the decision on NATO troops’ deployment in the Member States, bordered by Russia, was adopted in 2014, during the Welsh summit within the framework of Readiness Action Plan. Such a decision was made, taking into account that the security environment in NATO borders has changed – in the context of Russia’s policy regarding Ukraine.11 Second, taking into account that the majority of politicians in Latvia walk the streets with no security, and the fact that Latvia is a democratic country12, politicians in Latvia can only be afraid of not being re-elected.

1 Inesis Feldmanis. Latvija Otrajā pasaules karā (1939–1945): jauns konceptuāls skatījums. LU apgāds, 69. lpp.

2 Heinrihs Strods. Latvijas nacionālo partizānu karš 1944–1956. LU apgāds, 40.–41. lpp.