• 2004-09-29
Lithuania is up in arms over a recent television program, broadcast from Russia, that accuses the Baltic state of co-opting terrorists 's Chechen or otherwise 's who went on a killing spree in Russia last month. For the commentator, Andrei Dubrov, and many other Russians as well, the proof of Lithuanian culpability was the pro-Chechen Web site that had been domiciled in Vilnius.

In fact, for this over-emotional commentator, the existence of the site apparently signifies that all of Lithuania now supports child murderers. But like a true Russian journalist 's many who are unprofessional and have no morals whatsoever 's he forgot to check the facts: the scandalous Web site has been shut down by Lithuanian authorities.

Be that as it may, Dubrov's program was particularly devastating since it followed another 's this one on a different channel 's show that questioned the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and Lithuanian independence. Coming at a time when Russia is trying to establish a "duty-free, customs-free" corridor to connect it to the Kaliningrad exclave, the report elicited a storm of public protest. An ethical council consisting of journalists recommended that the Russian-language channel be stricken from Lithuanian airwaves.

What is going on here? It is too easy to give in to paranoia and claim that nationalistic, quasi-Stalinist forces in Russia are aiming to turn the clocks back to 1990. At the same time, this ongoing PR campaign against the Baltics 's now on the level of baseless accusations and slandering 's has gone too far and cannot be ignored. One can only wonder what ignominious slander the Kremlin toadies who call themselves journalists will dream up next.

Regarding Russia, there seems to be two processes taking place 's bereavement and a rising nationalism. The two go hand-in-hand, and indeed, Russia in many ways resembles the United States after 9/11. Beslan has become that country's crumbling twin towers, as the images of innocent children being shot in the back spur a nation to intense feelings of sadness, anger and patriotism.

It is not inevitable that part of this emotional tempest will be channeled toward the Baltics, but, alas, it has. The key is to distinguish which part arises from bereavement, and which from nationalism. So, for instance, when a commentator accuses Lithuania of cooperating with terrorists via a Web site (which, for all we know, could be connected with Shamil Basayev), that should be disregarded as overemotional nonsense and not given much credence, it is a provocation by a weeping Goliath and should be treated as such.

On the other hand, when Russia starts doubting Lithuanian independence over the airwaves, government officials should act. However, closing down the TV channel (the First Baltic Channel) altogether might be a rash decision, if only because this is precisely what the Kremlin wants 's then it won't feel so bad about running roughshod over its own media. The trick here is to be wiser than those who want to see us fail.