11:56 GMT29 January 2020
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    When they clicked on a female profile in a dating app, they were probably hoping for a little romantic adventure. Instead, they turned out to be the lab rats for a NATO-led anti-disinformation test.

    NATO soldiers fell into a honey trap set up by a communications team and went on Tinder dates with a non-existent woman, Der Tagesspiegel daily reports.

    According to the newspaper, some NATO soldiers participating in allied drills in Latvia, near the Russian border, flirted with women on Tinder in their leisure time. At least one of them asked for a rendezvous, and two men reportedly left their post for a date one evening, in breach of rules.

    The date never occurred because the woman's profile was created by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence. The centre, based in Latvia's capital, Riga, is said to be studying weaknesses in army ranks and ways to counter them.

    In another test, the communications team launched a website that soldiers advertised as a platform designed by and for soldiers. Soldiers there could chat about the army and life and could buy T-shirts there – which required them to reveal their home addresses for delivery.

    The Strategic Communications Centre is headed by Janis Sarts, a former senior official within Latvia's defence ministry, who had also represented the country in NATO and the European Union.

    Janis Sarts is reportedly leading a team of 50 people analysing fake news and developing strategies to win in psychological warfare.

    "Deception and lies are spreading faster than ever before," he was quoted as saying. "It's about raising awareness among the population and governments."

    NATO regularly holds major international exercises in the Baltic countries, including Latvia. The Saber Strike exercise mobilised around 18,000 troops from 19 allies and partners in June 2018, while the latest war games, codenamed Silver Arrow, wrapped up this week and brought together over 3,000 soldiers from 12 NATO allies.

    Russia has repeatedly objected against NATO's build-up on the alliance's eastern flank, saying that it will undermine regional stability and result in further tensions.

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