Deception - the Case of latvia
A series of articles by the Centre for Eastern European Studies
CEEPS: Deception – The Case of Latvia #31
By Arnis Latišenko, Researcher of the Centre for Eastern European Policy Studies
Looking back on the year 2019, it is clear what misleading and deceptive messages about Latvia have dominated the Russian media. One of the propaganda techniques is a continuous repetition of the same opinion.
Russian deceivers have written again and again that Latvia is reigned by Russophobia, that there is Russian discrimination, Latvia has failed as a state, and its economy is nearly falling apart, life in the USSR was a positive period for the development of Latvia, the country is being militarized, the country is very weak militarily, a military hysteria has taken over Latvia, Latvia is provoking Russia to war, the USA and other NATO partners will not save Latvia in case of war. We’ve often read that we are neo-Nazis, we rewrite history, and, following Washington’s directives, we have aggressive attitude towards Russia and so on.
At the end of December, Vladimir Putin had several times touched on the topic of history in public events, stating that, instead of the Soviet Union, Poland is the one complicit in starting the World War II. We can safely predict that the Kremlin-initiated falsification of history will continue in Russia in the year 2020 as well. In addition, it will be argued that behind this falsification stand Americans, Latvians, Polish, Ukrainians, and not the Russian diplomats, politicians and so-called journalists. In the year 2020, the spreading of these usual deceptive messages in Russia will be continued and, if necessary, new emphasis shall be added.
This article was created for the Centre for East European Policy Studies (CEEPS) as a part of analytical material series, goal of which is to detect deception examples in the web site content, disprove them and explain the misleading methods that are being used.
Deception: Web site sputniknewslv.com on November 3, 2019 published an article “Mindless plan: the consequences of American ‘Global thunder’ on the Baltics”.1 Pentagon strategists have not abandoned the concept of a rapid global attack on Russian sites. American manoeuvres pose a direct threat to the security of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. In the face of widespread armed conflict, these countries will inevitably suffer more than other European countries. The article stated: “It is strange that the governments of Baltic countries (and Poland) do not understand, how dangerous the strategic aviation manoeuvres of USA in Eastern Europe are, contributing to the region’s militarization and vehemently support the armed forces of USA and NATO and the concentration of their attack weapons near the Russian border. There is no logic to understand such behaviour.”2
Refutation: About the militarization of the region: there is no consistency in the deceptive messages of Russia (which is not surprising, of course). On the one hand, they regularly report that Latvia is purchasing old military equipment from NATO partner countries. The fact that the equipment is old, does not add security. There is a joke about Latvia having two tanks and so on. On the other – they raise anxiety about the region’s militarization, where the Balts “vehemently support the armed forces of USA and NATO and the concentration of their attack weapons”. Deceivers write that this is not logical. It should be noted here that, since year 1991, Russia has implemented several military campaigns in neighbouring countries. As a result of these campaigns, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have lost control over some of their territories. During military training Zapad in 2009,3 20134 and 2017, the Russian armed forces with allies were trained for the scenarios which include warfare in the territories of Baltic countries and Poland. As part of the 2009 training, Russia played out a nuclear attack on Warsaw.5 Around 300,000 soldiers attended the Russian organized training Vostok 2018; this was recognized as the largest Russian training since the end of Cold War.6 Although Vostok did not take place near the Latvian border, the scale of it suggests Russian training to be a preparation for a global war situation. Do the authors of said article in Sputnik think that ‘logical’ means to ignore it all and not worry about the Latvian defence? The question is rhetorical, because it is already clear that Sputnik as a tool of foreign policy service of Russia does not care about logics at all.
Latvia has chosen the United States as a strategic partner7 in the security field – it is rational for us to look for an ally who is able to balance out Russia’s implemented militarization in the Kaliningrad region and the regional ambitions of Kremlin that set the framework of Moscow’s regard of the small neighbouring countries either as the vassals or enemies. Simple dignity and respect – those are categories from another dimension.
The actual power balance in the Baltic Sea region still leans rather to the Russian side, Poland and the Baltic countries conduct actions in the field of defence as a result from the need to approach the power balance. Sweden and Finland are increasing their defence capacity as well, since the 2014 events in Ukraine. The motivation of northern neighbours increased even more after the Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu announced that in the year 2016, the Russian armed forces would create three new divisions in the western direction. Because of both this decision and the ‘tours’ of Russian submarine’s to Sweden Stockholm has decided to once again (like during the Cold War) strengthen the role of Gotland for the protection of the country. This official behaviour of Russia has caused concern in neighbouring countries, and is followed by the Baltic and Nordic political choices accordingly.
The Sputnik publication continues the approach that has been pursued for several years, meaning that any moves taken to strengthen the defence capabilities of the Baltic States are translated as NATO’s preparations for an attack on Russia. The other commonly observed method, which appears in this article, is intimidation with hostilities in the Baltics. The goal of using these methods is to tune readers into ignoring reality and to invite the Latvian politicians indulge the authoritarian power of Russia.
Deception: Web site lv.baltnews.com published an article November 4 “‘Military hysteria’: why Latvia brags about its defensive abilities.”8 Latvian officials practise dissemination of Russophobia and military hysteria, in order to convince the West to invest more financial resources in Latvia, as well as place more armoured units in the country.
Refutation: If Latvia was stirring up hysteria of an immediate Russian invasion, the Western investment would rapidly fall because their aim is to seek peace and stability, not tension and noise. With the help of the Allied military alone, the Latvian economy could not be sustained, and the total losses would be greater. It is not worth reacting to the word ‘Russophobia’, as we have already addressed this topic several times. The only thing that once again we find – Russian deceivers still use this word at every possibility, when the only thing they want is to criticize the Latvian domestic and foreign policy.
The word used in the title is more ‘militaristic’ (милитаристская), rather than ‘military’ (военная). The choice of words here is important because each word has a different meaning. There are different definitions of militarism. We offer the following explanation of the term: 1) glorification of military department ideals; 2) the dominance of armed forces in the public administration and/or policies; 3) policy, in which military capabilities are national key priority.9 In terms of militarism samples from history, it is usually spoken of the war cult and aggressive, expansionistic foreign policy, that empire expansions were based on. In the 20th century, militarism was present in Japan for thirty years, it was also the component of German National Socialism and Italian fascism. Such countries, which have particularly large armed forces and that spend a disproportionately large share of their income to the military sphere, are called militaristic countries.10
There is currently observable patriotism in the public of Latvia and the representatives of defence and their predecessors in memory are shown respect, but in no way can this be called militarism. Latvian defense spending only relatively recently reached 2% of GDP, which is almost two times lower figure than in Russia in 2018 (3.9%).11 In modern Latvia (in contrast to the period before the Soviet occupation) there are still no modern combat aircrafts or submarines. And, if they were, it would still not be an indicator of militarism. Unfortunately, the Latvian media often times uses the word ‘militaristic’ inappropriately as well. With those words you could describe those, who support militarism ideology, rather than, for example, Latvian military personnel or soldiers who perform their work. Baltnews ignores the true meaning of the word ‘militaristic’ and uses it inappropriately.
There are two statements in the article: “as if in the possible attack from the east” (якобы возможное нападение c востока) and “arguing about it as if inevitable aggression from the Russian side” (заявляя о якобы неминуемой агрессии со стороны России).12 These words are attributed to the Minister of Defence of Latvian Republic Artis Pabriks, although we cannot find an example where Mr Pabriks would have told that the Russian invasion of Latvia is inevitable. Latvia is strengthening the defence capability as an attack is possible, but is not yet clearly inevitable. It is a purposeful deception used by Baltnews. It is not the first time either, that the Kremlin-controlled media has criticized the defence minister Pabriks both for anti-Soviet rhetoric (why would Latvia even speak “pro-Soviet”?), and for promotion of Legionnaires’ memorial.
Deception: Web-site lv.baltnews.com on November 8 published an article “The best advertisement – a ban: why Latvian viewer prefers Russian television.”13 It appears that no other Latvian does as much in favour of promoting Russian media than the Latvian nationalists. The more the National Association is talking about bans on the Russian media, the more people start to love it. Russian federal TV networks have a great impact on the formation of the Latvian information space, it is especially felt among the Russian-speaking residents in Latvia that make up around 40% of the whole population.
Refutation: First of all, it should be noted that the Russian so-called restrictions on media activities are noted by politicians not only from the National Association but also from other political forces. The deceivers are trying to put the concern for the security of the Latvian information space as only one political party’s desire, thus trying to reduce the problem, say, only nationalists are calling for a change, but the whole nation is in favour of the preservation of Kremlin’s control of the media in Latvia.
The title of the article “The best advertisement – a ban: why Latvian viewer prefers Russian television” is misleading, because an ignorant reader could create an idea that the most viewed channels in Latvia are the Russian TV channels. In reality, the situation is much more ambiguous.
Consolidated TV viewing time share ( Share% )14
NTV Mir Baltija
RTR Planeta Baltija
REN TV Baltic
According to Kantar data for the most viewed channels of November, 2019, the first two places go to TV3 and LTV1, which are followed by the PBK, which has a Russian production as the largest part of their program, but PBK local Latvian news are very popular in the Russian-speaking audience, which increases the channel’s overall rating. The trio is followed by Russian propaganda channels, which are registered in Britain (REN, NTV) and Sweden (RTR). It is known that the Russian channels really are relatively popular in the Latvian audience, but the bigger picture does not fit into the black-and-white scenario of the title. The second deceptive part of the title is related to the assertion that prohibition of a channel (that has rarely ever happened in Latvia and only for a limited amount of time) enhances the Russian channels’ audience. It is expressed in the article that “in private the representatives of ruling parties do not hide that repetitive prohibition of Russian television channels is absolutely meaningless.”15 Which politicians of the ruling parties have said it, exactly? No names are mentioned. The Russian TV channel REN follows a similar pattern, their program hosts often refer to anonymous experts, scientists: “scientists call for action”, “experts are confident in”, “it has long been a proven fact that”. Only the names of these scientists and experts we do not hear from the hosts of these conspiracy theories promoting channel broadcasts, including host Anna Chapman, who has been banished from the United States for espionage. Where is the research and survey data that shows that NA representatives speaking of the destructive effects of Russian television has led to a popularity of any TV channels? Deceivers do not disclose this because there is no data from such studies. At the same time, we have to admit that the article reminds us of the existence of a real problem, namely, for many long years misinformation, harmful to security and democracy, and propaganda are spread in Latvia and it reaches a significant part of the audience.
Deception: The lv.sputniknews.ru website published an article on November 11, “It’s been enough of scaring us: Latvian people are asking the Ministry of Defence to stop talking about the invasion”.16 Despite the fact that the population has no great enthusiasm, the Ministry of Defence is preparing to explain how to act on the event of warfare. According to SKDS survey data, 92% of Latvian population have either not thought at all about how to handle themselves in the case of a military invasion or have no specific action plan at hand.
Refutation: The title of the article is built on expressions by Artis Pabriks that people have approached him with the question as to why they are being scared. Following the logic of the authors of the article, this question should be perceived as the highest truth and the introduction of a comprehensive state defence concept in Latvia should be stopped. Perhaps, however, it should be better to continue to educate the population about each citizen’s role and obligation to defend their country as far as possible. If the government will decide something about the tax policy, the criterion of ‘the population has no great enthusiasm’ will not define, weather specific policies are correct or not. SKDS survey data that shows people’s ignorance, does not mean that they will not be ready to defend Latvia, if such need arises. In addition, it comes down not only to the involvement in the protection of state during warfare, but to a large extent about the plan of action in order to ensure survival of themselves and their relatives.
At the end it is a reminded of that in the world’s military capability rating Latvia has 105th place out of 137 examined states (Lithuania has 81st , Estonia 112th.17 It is expressed: “Despite that, Riga does not even try to escape the possibility of becoming a priority target in a case of global military conflict.”18 This is part of the intimidation of Latvia’s population, carried out by the Russian propagandists. What at all is the linkage with implementation of the comprehensive defence concept, where one of the steps includes educating population? Is Latvia provoking the Kremlin with this concept? An example of the events in Ukraine in 2014 shows that, on the contrary, weakness provokes the aggressor. What should Latvia do to avoid the “opportunity to become a priority target in a case of global military conflict”? Should we withdraw from NATO and stop strengthening the defence capacities? Russia’s aggression against Georgia and Ukraine prevents such decision from being perceived as a good alternative for Latvia.
1 Neprātīgs plāns: ar ko Baltijai draud amerikāņu “Globālais pērkons. Sputnik, 11/01/2019, https://sputniknewslv.com/opinion/20191103/12703790/Baltic-About-American-Global-About-concept.html
3 Krievijas militārajās mācībās tika inscenēts iebrukums Baltijas valstīs. jauns.lv, 14.10.2009, https://jauns.lv/article/news/226771-russian-militarajas-macibas-tika-inscenets-invasion-baltic-country
4 Zatlers: mācību “Zapad 2013” novērojumi liecina, ka tie ir uzbrukuma manevri (Zatlers: training “Zapad 2013” observations suggest that those are attacking maneuvers). LA., September 25, 2013, http://www.la.lv/zatlers-macibas-zapad-2013-novices-liecina-ka-tie-ir-uzbrukuma-manevri
5 Krievijas vērienīgajām mācībām ‘Zapad 2013’ nav aizsardzības mērķi, norāda Pabriks (Russia’s ambitious training in ‘Zapad 2013’ has no defense goals, says Pabriks). delfi.lv , 09/20/2013, https://www.delfi.lv/news/national/politics/russian-verienigajam-macibam-zapad-2013-nav-aizdibas-merki-norada-pabriks.d?id=43670945
6 Uģis Libietis . Sākas vērienīgākās mācības Krievijas Federācijas vēsturē “Vostok 2018” (The largest training in the history of the Russian Federation “Vostok 2018” begins). LSM, 9/11/2018, https://www.lsm.lv/article/news/arzeme/sacks-verienigakas-school-russian-federation-vesture-vostok-2018.a291864/
7 Ārlietu ministrija. Latvijas Republikas un Amerikas Savienoto Valstu divpusējās attiecības (Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bilateral relations between the Republic of Latvia and the United States). 26.11.2019, https://www.mfa.gov.lv/arpolitika/divpusejas-at ratioibas/latvijas-un-asv-attiecibas
8 “” Милитаристская истерика “: зачем Латвия похваляется своей обороноспособностью. Baltnews , 04.11.2019., Https://lv.baltnews.com/Russia_West/20191104/1023477845/Militaristskaya-isterika-zachem-Latviya-pokhvalyaetsya-svoey-oboronosposobnostyu. html
9 The Free Dictionary. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/militaristic
10 Militarism, Its History, and Its Impact on the Economy, https://www.thebalance.com/militarism-definition-history-impact-4685060
11 SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, https://www.sipri.org/databases/milex
12 “Милитаристская истерика”: зачем Латвия похваляется своей обороноспособностью. Baltnews , 11/11/2019 , https://en.baltnews.com/Russia_West/20191104/1023477845/Militaristskaya-isterika-zachem-Latviya-pokhvalyaetsya-svoey-oboronosposobnostyu.html
13 Лучшая реклама – запрет: почему латвийский зритель предпочитает российское ТВ. Baltnews , 08/11/2019 , https://en.baltnews.com/school_Russian/20191108/1023483972/Luchshaya-reklama–zapret-pochemu-latviyskiy-zritel-predpochitaet-rossiyskoe-TV.html
14 Konsolidētās TV skatīšanās laika daļa (Consolidated TV viewing time share %). KANTAR, November, 2019 https://www.kantar.lv/petijumu-dati/televizija/
15 Лучшая реклама – запрет: почему латвийский зритель предпочитает российское ТВ. Baltnews , 08/11/2019 , https://en.baltnews.com/school_Russian/20191108/1023483972/Luchshaya-reklama–zapret-pochemu-latviyskiy-zritel-predpochitaet-rossiyskoe-TV.html
16 Хватит нас пугать: латвийцы просят Минобороны прекратить говорить о вторжении. lv . sputniknews . ru , 11.11.2019., https : // en . sputniknews . ru / Latvia / 20191111/12742054 / Khvatit – ing – pugat – latviytsy – prosyat – Minoborony – prekratit – govorit – o – vtorzhenii . html
17 Latvia Military Strength 2019, https://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.asp?country_id=english
18 Хватит нас пугать: латвийцы просят Минобороны прекратить говорить о вторжении. lv . sputniknews . ru , 11.11.2019., https : // en . sputniknews . ru / Latvia / 20191111/12742054 / Khvatit – ing – pugat – latviytsy – prosyat – Minoborony – prekratit – govorit – o – vtorzhenii . html