Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies hard at work to fo­ment anti-nato sen­ti­ment in latvia

The Baltic Times - - COMMENTARY - BNS/TBT Staff

Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies were hard at work last year to fo­ment anti-nato sen­ti­ment in Latvia, an­other find­ing by the Lat­vian Se­cu­rity Po­lice’s an­nual re­port.

The re­port says that Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are used to pur­sue Rus­sia’s for­eign pol­icy goals abroad by at­tempt­ing to pop­u­lar­ize cer­tain ideas and be­liefs so as to foster pub­lic opin­ion fa­vor­ing Rus­sia’s po­si­tion.

The Se­cu­rity Po­lice have ob­served that Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are in­ter­ested in partly clas­si­fied and even pub­licly-avail­able in­for­ma­tion that they could use to pur­sue their in­ter­ests, for in­stance, to fo­ment the anti-nato sen­ti­ment in Latvia, in­clud­ing op­po­si­tion to Latvia’s NATO mem­ber­ship, the pres­ence of NATO troops in Latvia, and other mat­ters im­por­tant to the na­tional se­cu­rity of Latvia.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, last year Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies showed in­ter­est in a va­ri­ety of de­vel­op­ments in Latvia, in­clud­ing Latvia’s de­fense and se­cu­rity mat­ters, the de­ploy­ment of NATO troops to Latvia, the coun­try’s de­fense in­fra­struc­ture, so­cio-po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments, pub­lic opin­ion about the gov­ern­ment, re­la­tions be­tween var­i­ous eth­nic groups, the sit­u­a­tion ahead of the lo­cal elec­tions in 2017, Lat­vian res­i­dents’ at­ti­tude to in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments such as the in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions against Rus­sia and Great Britain’s with­drawal from the Euro­pean Union.

Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies largely rely on in­volv­ing lo­cal res­i­dents in se­cret co­op­er­a­tion and de­vel­op­ment of net­works of in­for­ma­tion sources. Thanks to ge­o­graph­i­cal prox­im­ity, Rus­sian agen­cies can or­ga­nize their ac­tiv­i­ties in Latvia “from a dis­tance”, that is, ob­tain in­tel­li­gence through res­i­dents of Latvia who visit Rus­sia.

As a re­sult, Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies last year had par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in res­i­dents of Latvia who reg­u­larly travel to Rus­sia, es­pe­cially those liv­ing near the border with Rus­sia and busi­ness­men whose busi­nesses are as­so­ci­ated with Rus­sia, peo­ple who have vi­o­lated reg­u­la­tions on move­ment of ex­cised goods across the border, Lat­vian State, mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials and em­ploy­ees.

Ac­cord­ing to the Se­cu­rity Po­lice, the Rus­sian Fed­eral Se­cu­rity Ser­vice (FSB) last year had height­ened in­ter­est in the Lat­vian State and mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials, busi­ness­men and NGO rep­re­sen­ta­tives in­volved in im­ple­men­ta­tion of cross-border co­op­er­a­tion projects. Tra­di­tion­ally, such projects are used as a front for Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies’ ac­tiv­i­ties.

The main coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence risks to Latvia last year were posed by the FSB, Rus­sian For­eign In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice and the Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate of the Gen­eral Staff of the Rus­sian Armed Forces, but the big­gest risk was com­ing from the FSB, mostly due to its in­creas­ing ac­tiv­ity in Rus­sia’s neigh­bor­ing coun­tries and the re­sources avail­able to the ser­vice.

FSB re­gional di­rec­torates in Pskov and Kalin­ingrad mostly op­er­ate in Latvia, but Lat­vian Se­cu­rity Po­lice have in­for­ma­tion about the in­creas­ing role of the St. Peters­burg and Len­ingrad Oblast di­rec­torates in Rus­sia’s ac­tiv­i­ties in Latvia.

The FSB has the op­por­tu­nity to use Rus­sian State and mu­nic­i­pal com­pa­nies, non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, univer­si­ties and re­search in­sti­tutes, as well as com­pa­nies and mass me­dia to help it at­tain its goals. The FSB is greatly aided by the Rus­sian Border Ser­vice, which pro­vides the FSB with in­for­ma­tion about border cross­ing vi­o­la­tions by res­i­dents of Latvia, which the FSB then can use to co­erce them into co­op­er­at­ing with Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

Be­sides Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies of other coun­tries were also ac­tive in Latvia last year, but their ac­tiv­ity and threat to Latvia’s na­tional se­cu­rity re­mained rel­a­tively low, says the Se­cu­rity Po­lice’s re­port.

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