Could Latvia Be The Next Crimea?

BMI View: Russia is unlikely to have the means to destabilise Latvia through its ethnic Russian population as it did in Ukraine. Nevertheless, Riga will view Moscow warily, and raise defence spending accordingly over the coming years.

Following the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis and Russia's subsequent annexation of Crimea, NATO members in Eastern Europe including Latvia are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential for a military operation by Russia to occur within their borders. A direct military invasion of Latvia (and other Baltic states) remains extremely unlikely, as Latvia's NATO membership would force the alliance's member states to respond to any acts of aggression under Article 5 of the treaty, that treats an attack on one member state as an attack on all. Nevertheless, the ongoing destabilisation of Ukraine by well-armed and well-organised separatist groups suggests that Russia is at the very least offering auxiliary, if not direct, support to such groups.

The Latvian government has become concerned that Russia may attempt to mount a similarly destabilising covert operation within its own borders. Russians are the largest ethnic minority within Latvia, standing at 26.9% of the total population in 2011, and Latvia possesses a strong Russian media presence, which could help to foment unrest within Latvia's borders. Latvia's defense minister Raimonds Vejonis announced in April that he believed Russia was trying to use specially-trained professional provocateurs to stir up unrest in Latvia, despite his belief that the direct military threat to Latvia and the Baltic region was quite limited. Latvian MEP Tatjana Zdanoka was placed under investigation in April by security authorities, accused of being an agent of influence for Russia.

Economic Appeal Far Lower For Ethnic Russian Latvians
GDP Per Capita, USD

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This article is tagged to:
Sector: Country Risk
Geography: Latvia