Baltic Countries On Countering Russian Disinformation
DON GONYEA, HOST:
When it comes to dealing with Russian disinformation campaigns, the U.S. could learn a few things from Russia's nearest neighbors. The foreign ministers of three Baltic countries - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - were in the U.S. this past week to talk about ways to work together to counter Russian propaganda and cyber attacks. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Latvia's foreign minister is not new to this topic. Edgars Rinkevics says he and his Baltic colleagues tried to warn people about Russian-sponsored media years ago.
FOREIGN MINISTER EDGARS RINKEVICS: Nobody was listening carefully. We were considered the usual suspects. Now everyone talks about this.
KELEMEN: His main concern now is social media. Rinkevics says he wants Western governments to work with Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to make sure they take steps to counter Russian disinformation.
RINKEVICS: We all should understand that Russia is trying to undermine the very core of our democratic system - be it Latvia, be it the United States or be Germany or Italy.
KELEMEN: The way Latvia's foreign minister sees it, Russia has been trying to undermine the unity in Europe when it comes to the issue of Ukraine. It's trying to get out from under sanctions put in place when Russia annexed Crimea and provoked a separatist war in eastern Ukraine. But he says Russia also has domestic reasons for stirring up debates and extremist views in the West.
RINKEVICS: By weakening this democratic community of nations, that's actually the way of survival for the Russian regime itself because then you can point at everyone else saying look. They are like us or even worse. They are decadent West with all those liberal values. But we have a strong guy who should run the country.
KELEMEN: We spoke at Latvia's embassy here in Washington at the end of a trip he was making to plan for a Baltic summit next month.
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REX TILLERSON: Good afternoon, you all. We'll welcome our terrific partners from the Baltic states back for another visit here at the State Department.
KELEMEN: The three foreign ministers from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania - all NATO members - met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. They're planning a U.S.-Baltic summit at the White House April 3.
RINKEVICS: It's about celebrating the past and looking into the future.
KELEMEN: The U.S. never recognized the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states. All three are celebrating their 100 years of independence this summer. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.
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