Back on the 13th of June this year, before the publication of Alternative War, the astounding testimony of Lithuania’s US Ambassador was recounted in this article.
In a written statement to the US Senate, investigating Russia’s attack on America, Rolandas Kriščiūnas gave blistering evidence to the US Senate of Russia’s efforts to cut the transatlantic relationship between Europe and the US, and undermine NATO.
Russia is violating basic international law norms, and is keen to change current international order.”
According to his evidence, “Russia updated basic strategic documents, indicating NATO, and particularly the U.S., as threats. It is written in official documents, it is publically said by Russian politicians, and it is constantly broadcasted on TV for the public. Russia withdrew from international agreements aimed at building trust and stability and thus assuring existence of the international security system. Russia is violating basic international law norms, and is keen to change current international order.”
This came at a time NATO was aiming to build a strategic partnership with Russia, cutting defence structures and focusing on expeditionary forces. Meanwhile, Russia was increasing its investments in defence, modernising its armaments and military structures, reviewing its strategy, doctrine and tactics.
Turning to disinformation and fake news, Kriščiūnas said: “Russia is extremely active in the information field, using pro-Russian media (e.g.Russia Today, Sputnik), propaganda, disinformation, fake news, trolls, leaks etc. in order to confuse public opinion and influence the decision-making. Russia also employs lobbying, PR agencies to disseminate the conspiracy theories, to discredit other states in the international arena and harasses those who criticize the Kremlin.”
“Russia tends to support European extremist and anti-EU groups, strives to foment divisions and instability in the target countries, and to create divisions inside the EU and NATO. Other forms of action: cyber activity (attacks against critical infrastructure, hacked and leaked emails, and cyber espionage), initiation of population resettlement (in order to change the ethnic composition of a frozen conflict region), creation of the proxy groups (pseudo-NGOs, youth organizations, research institutes, think tanks, motorcycle clubs).”
“Russia tends to support European extremist and anti-EU groups, strives
to foment divisions and instability in the target countries, and to
create divisions inside the EU and NATO.”
We know this to be true. We know Russia was successful in America and Britain, failed in France, claimed a shocking partial victory in yesterday’s German election, and is playing an active role in Catalonia to maximise the chaos through the deployment of Russian assets – including Julian Assange.
But Lithuania’s story doesn’t start an end with the statement of a diplomat. The people themselves are fighting back and have been for some time. Last night, one of the Army of Elves reached out to me.
A 43-year-old business consultant who also runs blogs, Ricardas Savukynas has become the de facto leader of a volunteer army, fighting a war against pro-Kremlin disinformation and directed hate speech.
“I am just a regular guy from Lithuania, a citizen, who once noticed that Russian propaganda is being spread in this country by huge numbers of groups on Facebook,” he told The Associated Press during a meeting. Yet, this team of “normal people” work tirelessly, countering individual fake news items word by word through Savukynas’s online reports, and swarm on social media, successfully taking down between ten and twenty Russia trolls a day.
Interestingly, in Lithuania, Twitter is considered the forgotten land in many ways and Facebook is one of the main fronts in this covert war.
“There was this huge thing with NATO posting a video about Lithuanian partizans,” Paul, one of the Elves, told me. “And a lot of the stuff went down – thanks to a one really famous anti-russian-troll, Lithuanian, Andrius Tapinas. He has a Lithuanian internet TV Laisvės TV (Liberty TV) and a talk show “Laikykitės Ten”. In order to battle Russian fake news, he’s made a Russian version of it.”
“We found out about the St Petersburg info centers
some years ago and noticed how many of the comments on the top media
outlets are generated from there. Then, we also noticed how many of our
politicians are financially tied to the Russian channels or even
Tapinas’ work is being crowd-funded through Patreon and, for now, the Elves remain without a formal structure. A group of people working together for the public good.
“There is no organization and there are no headquarters. But what there is, is a problematic nature of our country. Many of us speak both Russian and English and have access to both the Western and Russian media channels which means the information we receive is not overly filtered,” Paul explained.
“We found out about the St Petersburg info centers some years ago and noticed how many of the comments on the top media outlets are generated from there. Then, we also noticed how many of our politicians are financially tied to the Russian channels or even parties. Many movements even within the country have been receiving funding from there — i.e a movement against Chevron going to Lithuania or a nuclear power plant being built or land being allowed to be sold to foreigners. There was always the same group of people, funded from nowhere.”
These stories are now all too familiar from the investigations which eventually led to Alternative War. Whether it is the US, UK, France or Germany, the playbook is always the same and immediately recognisable.
Within this, hope still lies.
The Lithuanian Military has become aware of the Elves and were so taken with their successes they described them as “a new breed of partisan resistance fighters for the 21st century,” at one NATO summit. The comment leaked to the media and tore through the Baltic states like wildfire.
But the Elves can’t be the answer alone.
“a new breed of partisan resistance fighters for the 21st century,”
NATO has done excellent work to counter Russia’s hybrid offensive, as has the EU — for example with STRATCOM, which I am joining as a volunteer — but the time is fast approaching when these volunteer armies will need to absorbed into joint defence fighting forces.
As all of this happened on our watch, I for one will not leave my children a legacy of war which needs fighting on my behalf. Soon enough, in the wake of the Alternative War, these pockets of international rebels will need to rise as one.