Staunton, December 13 – Russia’s special services are increasingly active in Latvia not only in gathering intelligence but also in carrying out influence operations intended to split the population and weaken the authorities; and these measures, the Latvian government says, now threaten the national security of that Baltic country.
Riga has warned about the activities of “foreign special services” before, but there are two new notes in the latest report of the outgoing Latvian government: it equates these activities with terrorism; and it names Russia as the source, something Latvia has generally avoided (bbc.com/russian/international/2015/12/151210_latvia_russian_intelligence_activity_antonenko).
According to the report, officers of these Russian services have been given ever more authority to act by Moscow, and this “increases the threat for Latvia and its citizens.” Some of this activity is directed at intelligence collection especially given the buildup of the NATO presence in Latvia.
But much of it involves active measures designed to influence public opinion in Latvia, to promote divisions within the Latvian population and to weaken the government, the report says. Some Latvian opposition deputies question whether the situation is deteriorating as fast as the government says, but significantly they do not dispute that Russian services are active there.
The efforts of Russian special agents to influence public opinion in Latvia now form “a whole system” involving the insertion of articles into the traditional media and on the Internet designed to “cultivate the view” that Latvia is a deeply divided society and is economically incapable of survival if it continues its current anti-Russian course.
The report says that Russian agents are “trying to create a controlled network of agents in the mass media as well as in government and municipal organizations, public organizations and among politicians and businessmen. Ever greater attention is being devoted to the virtual milieu and to social networks.”
Latvian commentators on the report have pointed to a number of ethnic Russian writers and activists and suggested that the latter are in the employ of Moscow. The Russians named deny the accusation, although in many cases, they do not appear to have the kind of alternative sources of income that would explain their ability to act as they do.