Veronika KRASHENINNIKOVA, member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, CEO of the Foreign Policy Studies and Initiatives Institute has told RuBaltic.Ru why for 20 years of their independence the Baltic States still haven’t found another foundation to build up their identity beyond stabs at Russia and the mutual Soviet past and what techniques are used to manipulate society?
- Today we continue to live in a world of symbols and it’s a common thing when something new is actually something well forgotten old. Do you think it’s just a feature of human memory or something more? What can you say about the parallels between the Baltic Way in 1989 and the chain this year in Ukraine, forget-me-not as a symbol of memory of the events of the 13th of January in Lithuania pinned on the suits of the Lithuanian political elite? Are these random coincidences?
You brought up very good examples which show how easy it actually is to understand the West’s instruments in influencing a country’s internal situation. Indeed the instruments are limited, there are a few dozen techniques and they can be used in different combinations. If you read William Blum’s Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II then you’ll be able to get a better understanding of many of today’s events, be it the situation in Ukraine or the Baltic States. Methods and tactics haven’t changed much.
Undoubtedly, there are technological updates to the techniques – if forty years ago they used radio then now they use the internet and social networks.
To the examples you’ve mentioned I can add local girls gifting flowers to internal security troops on manifestations: in Kyrgyzstan they used tulips, in Georgia they used red roses, in Russia they used white roses. An interesting example is given by Blum in his book. In the 60s & 70s in Chile and Argentina during demonstrations women would come out with empty cooking pots and bang the lid on them showing that the government doesn’t give them an opportunity to feed their families. And on the recent elections in Venezuela when Nicolás Maduro was elected there were once again women with empty cooking pots. So when you know the West’s government and non-government agency repertoire of instruments it’s very easy to decipher the current situation, even boring really.
- Not too long ago, Lithuania stopped the First Baltic Channel’s broadcasts for ideological reasons. This was because the series “Man and Law” showed a point of view on the events of January 13th of 1991 that wasn’t in accordance official Lithuanian perspective. What can we see from that fact?
The Baltic States supposedly fought for their independence. And what did they end up with? Not only TV channels are being closed. But also people who propose investigating what happened at the Vilnius TV tower are accused of treason and are persecuted by the law. For a few years now Lithuanian lawmakers and justice system have been persecuting Algirdas Paleckis who only repeated the words of Algirdas Butkevičius, another participant of those events who said that an investigation is needed. But according to the new Lithuanian law, an attempt at revising the events of that day is a crime. After receiving independence the Baltic States joined NATO at the first chance they got and housed their military bases which today let NATO Air Forces patrol along the borders of Russia.
They open streets for neo-Nazi marches even though they are part of the European Union and Europe was built on totally different principles.
Baltic States became sites for the secret CIA prisons where torture of suspected terrorists was conducted because torture is forbidden on US territory so they had to move suspected terrorists to other countries: the Middle East, Egypt, Guantanamo prison in particular and the Baltic States. Concerning the financial part of the question: from a 1/4 to a 1/3, or maybe even 40% of the Baltic States population fleeing to the “old” European Union. Ten years ago in May of 2004 the EU promised them European life in their own country. But it didn’t happen.
- Another interesting fact from modern Lithuanian life – the suggestion of “the father of Lithuanian democracy” Vytautas Landsbergis to change the place of birth in Lithuanian passports from “Lithuanian SSR” to “occupied Lithuania”. There is a systematic equating of communist past to Nazi occupation. What can you tell us of this?
Politicians who call for such actions, also a considerable part of West Ukraine cooperate with the most undemocratic forces of the world. The Galician* fought for the Third Reich. In the last twenty years the leaders of the Baltic States hailed from USA and Canada – children of collaborationists who peacefully hid from justice across the ocean.
It’s sad that these countries in twenty years of independence have not found a different foundation for their identity except unceasing accusations of Russia for their own past.
- In mid December there was a scandal in Lithuania over Oleg Gazmanov performing a song “Made in USSR” on the event of the Russian Constitution’s 20-year anniversary. Some Lithuanian politicians even proposed barring the singer from entering Lithuania and making him a persona non grata. Is this also a manifestation of war on the cultural front? What does this express desire to erase any mention of the Soviet period from their own biography tell us?
I was present at that concert in the Kremlin on the 12th of December and the audience welcomed the song fairly well and the EU ambassador to Russia the Lithuanian Vygaudas Ušackas who started the scandal was about the only one who was displeased with the performance of that song. And this is another example of the vain ideological line which the Baltic States chose for themselves. You know, I was in Estonia recently and arrived in Tallinn late evening. On the main square there’s an ideological monument of a cross* in a Fascist style glowing a deathly pale light. A very sinister impression.
When the government puts a symbol like that on the Central Square – it’s a sign to the neo-Nazis: “we’re with you, we’ll cover you”.
It’s also of note that this cross was erected only a hundred meters away from the Bronze Soldier used to stand – this is the change of ideals and landmarks. I have seen the documentary of our Russian colleagues in Estonia about the Bronze Night of 2007 when the Bronze Soldier was moved – it was a vivid demonstration of NATO’s repressive instruments against a country’s population. The police force of Estonia while breaking up demonstrations and arresting participants, simple pedestrians, among which were many foreigners, acted harshly. It gives a nice example of how NATO countries fight against those who disagree with national policy and NATO policy.
- In Latvia and Lithuania there are laws banning the use of Soviet symbols, in Estonia there has beeen glorification of Nazism and accusation of communism for almost a year now – do you see a continuation of the struggle between Soviet culture and American/European culture (if such a thing exists) in this? Maybe this is a new cycle of the fight for the future – whoever lays the foundation of the symbols, makes the meanings, will be the one to control the future?
Equating communism to Nazism always, and during the Cold War, and today was one of the main ideological directions of propaganda against Russia. To them it’s important to erase the values and rewrite history in people’s minds. Make us believe that everything that happened to us was a mistake. That it was a vile time and now we have a chance to be better people and the West will help us better walk this path. But if we look back at history we see that USA always chose allies in other countries from ultra-right and ultranationalists and aided them. USA needs middle-men in other countries who would handle those who disagree and the far-right handle their opponents a lot harder than the American soldiers would. A recent example would be Libya. If American soldiers caught Muammar Gaddafi, they wouldn’t have mauled him like the Libyan thugs did. It was them who the US aided in order to get rid of Gaddafi.
Exactly for these reasons, but of course in a larger scale, certain forces in Washington helped the Third Reich gain strength in Europe in the 1930’s. Of course, the preferred method of action is to fight your enemies with the hands of someone on the side – it’s cheaper and better for your reputation.
This is why Fascism and Nazism are useful to fascist-like and ultra-right forces in USA as instruments to fight their enemies. Harry Truman on the third day of the Great Patriotic War said "If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible…"
- In your opinion, what opportunities does Russia have to broaden their influence in the world?
First off, we stand on the side of truth. Look at the huge advantage we received after we averted the military attack on Syria. The majority of people in the United States and Western Europe are against war.
But sadly the powerful propaganda machine in the Western countries defines the mindset.
If we’re talking about actual instruments of work then for example the Russia Today channel became an alternative source of information for many people in the world. If in Washington you sit into a taxi and the taxi driver is, as it frequently is, not American he will say: “Oh, I’m Russian., I watch Russia Today!”. I don’t know how many people in the American establishment watch Russia Today but their goals and views cannot be changed. In Germany 70-80% of Germans are continuously against the militarization of the country and against Germany’s active participation in NATO operations, sending German contingents to Afghanistan and Iraq, but none the less the government makes different decisions because it’s bound by NATO obligations. But the populace is usually on our side – on the side of truth.
So does Russia need an active cultural policy? Frequently you can hear that some show or singer is Russia’s “soft power” and an agent of the Krelmin, “we don’t need your culture”, etc. How to react to that?
We must continue this work and if our opponents are displeased, it means it’s a working instrument.
We are only starting this work and its scale must be greatly expanded.
*14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Ukrainian) — a military unit formed from Ukrainian volunteers during World War II. One of the Waffen-SS divisions of Nazi Germany.
* War of Independence Victory Column (Estonian: Vabadussõja võidusammas) is located in Freedom Square, Tallinn, Estonia. The memorial incorporates the Cross of Liberty, Estonia’s most distinguished award established in 1919.
Article translated by Pavel Shamshiev.