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Resilience Against Disinformation: A New Baltic Way to Follow?

Lithuanian people take part in a traditional relay race Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way at the Cathedral Square in Vilnius, Lithuania, Friday Aug. 23, 2019 / AP

The Baltic states, although not immune to disinformation, have accumulated unique experience and developed effective methods to resist and combat this malice.

This report is based on in-depth semi-structured interviews and supplementary surveys conducted with the representatives of several clusters – media, civil society organisations, state institutions, think-tanks/academia and business communities. It aims to assess risks and vulnerabilities, as well as the three nations’ preparedness to counteract foreign-led disinformation. This report also reviews the existing indices that lead to a greater understanding of the intricate nature and interdependences of resilience-shaping factors at various levels, while contributing the unique Baltic perspective to the evolving, global study of disinformation.

Multiple overlapping crises of 2020-21 – ripple effects from the political upheaval in Belarus, surge in illegal migration engineered by the regime in Minsk, the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying socio-political perturbations, as well as China’s economic and diplomatic coercion against Lithuania – served as a reminder that no country could afford neglecting national resilience. The start of a major inter-state conventional war in Europe in 2022 has triggered a multitude of changes in the information environment of the Baltic states and prompted some radical adjustments and responses. Although the report does not cover the developments since 24 February, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion against Ukraine, neither foreign exploitation of vulnerabilities nor the responses of the Baltic governments that have been on display since then come in a vacuum. This report provides useful background and context that will help to understand what conceptual, legal, policy, institutional, political and societal precursors shape the current situation and determine successes or failures of disinformation and counter-disinformation efforts.

The general strength of the Baltic states arises from their historical memory of totalitarianism and occupation, as well as their unique regional context. However, Western-focused internationalisation in all spheres of life has proven beneficial to combatting foreign-led disinformation, which strengthens electoral integrity and ensures continued democratic traditions. That said, efforts to improve civic education and strengthen cognitive security of the societies must be redoubled. National resilience to disinformation must be maintained and further increased by investing in national and especially local high-quality media. Resilience – as a whole-of government and whole-of society effort – requires all stakeholders to continuously cooperate, creating a multi-layered cross-sectoral network, or a team-of-teams approach, able to identify and counter malignant influence campaigns. These and other insights and experiences of the Baltic states highlighted in the report remain as relevant in the post-24/02 world as during the global and regional crises of 2020-21.

Download and read the report: Resilience Against Disinformation (PDF).


Authors of the report: Dmitri Teperik, Solvita Denisa-Liepniece, Dalia Bankauskaite, Kaarel Kullamaa. Report prepared and first time published on INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR DEFENCE AND SECURITY (ICDS) web page.


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