In Eastern Europe, Militaries Gird Against Russian Might and Manipulation

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Poland — Soon after a United States Army convoy crossed Poland’s border into Lithuania during a major military exercise this month, two very strange things happened.

First, four Army Stryker armored combat vehicles collided, sending 15 soldiers to the hospital with minor injuries. No one died.

But hours later, an anti-American blog claimed a Lithuanian child was killed in the crash and posted a photo of a grisly accident. It was a different collision from the Army mishap, and Lithuanian news media quickly denounced the blog post as fake, designed to turn public opinion against the Americans and their Baltic ally.

The bloggers had borrowed a page from the playbook of Russia’s so-called hybrid warfare, which American and Lithuania officials say has increasingly combined the ability to manipulate events using a mix of subterfuge, cyberattacks and information warfare with conventional military might.

The 12-day military exercise, which involved 18,000 American and allied troops spread across four countries formerly part of the Soviet bloc, offers a window into how Army commanders are countering not just Russian troops and tanks, but also twisted truths.

“The Russians are actively seeking to divide our alliance, and we must not allow that to happen,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, warned separately in a speech in France the day after the June 7 accident in Lithuania.

The military exercises occurred as President Trump sidled up to Moscow, calling for Russia to be readmitted into the Group of 7 industrialized nations and potentially meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia next month.

American commanders say they are tuning out Mr. Trump’s comments and concentrating on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s newest defense strategy, which focuses more on potential threats from Russia and China, and less on terrorism.

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