Earlier this month, outside influences, again widely believed to be Russian, tried to replicate the success of the “Lisa” faux-scandal in Lithuania. They instigated the affair by planting a report via an email to the speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament claiming German soldiers, who are leading NATO’s new battle group there, had raped a teenager….
But whether or not this particular attempt is ultimately traceable to Kremlin-funded propagandists, Vilnius was expecting such provocations. With reinforcements of NATO troops moving in to guard against a ground or air assault, Lithuanian officials presumed that sooner or later, an information attack of this sort would be launched against the “Enhanced Forward Presence” (EFP). Lithuania’s Defense Ministry Spokeswoman Vita Ramanauskaite explains her country’s fatalistic anticipation in two words: “history lessons….”
Ramanauskaite says such hostilities were detected in Lithuania already a dozen years ago and counter-propaganda measures were put in place. She credits this early awareness with the successful snuffing out of the rumor. The “fake rape” claim was quickly red-flagged in communication channels throughout the armed forces, police and government institutions and within NATO. In addition, she notes, the general public has been sensitized to the dangers of propaganda and information attacks, with 68 percent agreeing in a recent survey that they pose a threat to national security….
In an exclusive interview with DW, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, was still extremely concerned about the incident, despite its failure to escalate.
“This is a clear example of information manipulation with a sense of weaponization,” Ducaru said, “because it really was supposed to affect the perception about the presence of German troops as the [EFP] framework nation in Lithuania. It was supposed to affect morale; it was supposed to affect everything – the operational functioning.”
And despite the failure of this particular attempt, says Dr. Stefan Meister with the German Council on Foreign Relations, Russia has seen clearly that disinformation is its most successful weapon to weaken and divide the West.
“It fits much more in line with their goals and it’s much cheaper than any military buildup or any modernization of the army,” Meister explained. “And in the end it works. We are so insecure about our media system, our politicians and growing populism and so on.”