Lithuania needs you!

One of the paranoid complaints about ‘Russian propaganda’ is that the Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic states could be manipulated into becoming a disloyal fifth column. In the report on Russian ‘information warfare’ which I reviewed last week, Ed Lucas and Peter Pomerantsev implied that the Russians were having a lot of success. ‘If Europe and North America do not promptly respond to this challenge’, write Lucas and Pomerantsev, ‘the result may be dramatic. Russia is radically challenging Euro-Atlantic solidarity and adding to widespread public discontent.’ But is ‘Russian propaganda’ actually creating public discontent and undermining the Baltic states from within.

A survey published this week suggests that the answer is no. The research company Baltijos tyrimai/Gallup asked Lithuanians whether they would defend their country in the event of a Russian attack. Similar polls conducted in 2005 and 2014 found that only 32% and 57% respectively would do so. Those surveys didn’t differentiate between ethnic Lithuanians and Lithuanian citizens of other ethnicities. This time, though, Baltijos tyrimai/Gallup restricted its sample to Lithuanian citizens of non-Lithuanian ethnicity (mainly Poles and Russians, plus some Belorussians, Ukrainians, and others). Of the 500 people asked, 64.8% said that they would defend Lithuania if the country was attacked by Russia. Interestingly, Russian-Lithuanians were more likely to answer yes than Polish-Lithuanians – 65% versus 59%.

It is, of course, quite possible that the respondents were lying. As some commentators have complained, the question is provocative and people might well have felt constrained about answering no. But the same was true in the previous surveys. If ‘Russian propaganda’ really is meant to create a fifth column in the Baltic states, it doesn’t seem to be working.

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4 thoughts on “Lithuania needs you!”

  1. Why is this even being discussed in the west? I mean, after the Japanese internment, (presumably) antisemitic accusations of dual loyalty vis-a-vis Israel, and so on, I thought this sort of thing is totally politically incorrect, can’t be discussed, and anyone bringing it up is a bigot. Or is this an exception?

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  2. My own reading on this is speculative, but may be enlightening.
    Basically, Xenophobia is something that all humans have and arguably need. We mostly define ourselves by who we are not, rather then who we are, after all.

    Now, in polite society, most Xenophobias are unwelcome and looked down upon. There is however one exception. Russophobia is totally OK, and even encouraged. This results in most other Xenophobias being “rerouted” into Russophobia.

    Therefor, anything is OK if it targets “Russians”, even if these Russians are Lithuanians, Latvians or “Ukrainian lads who dont condone fascism or genocide” (Quote from Kudelias paper).

    Kudelias paper is very interesting btw. for those who dont know it yet:
    https://www.academia.edu/27106129/The_Donbas_Rift

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    1. In the case of anti-Russian sentiments in the Baltics, it doesn’t feel like xenophobia to me. After all, they lived together for 50-70 years, 2-3 generations. Xenophobia is the fear of the ‘other’. Ethnic Russians are not the ‘other’ in the Baltics. I think what’s happening there is just normal ‘ethnic tensions’, promoted and maintained by the government.

      I saw an Estonian poll recently where 24% felt that Russian invasion is the highest danger to Estonia – and 64% said that the middle-eastern migrants sent by mutti Merkel is the most terrible danger. Now, that’s xenophobia…

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      1. Saying “they lived together” is too broad a statement. There is/was a lot of de facto segregation. In Estonia for instance, the Russophone population is overwhelmingly resident in only 2 of Estonia’s 15 counties. In one, Ida-Virumaa (by the Russian border) they form a c. 70% majority. In the other, Harjumaa (where Tallinn is located) they tend to live in a few Russian-majority neighborhoods.

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