Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center Nonresident Senior Fellow Agnia Grigas writes for the Foreign Policy Research Institute on Russia’s use of influence in the Baltic States to attempt to destabilize NATO:

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and subsequent war in eastern Ukraine prompted discussions in the Baltic States and among their allies of whether a similar Russian hybrid warfare intervention in these NATO member states would be possible. Certainly the Baltic States also have a sizable Russian minority and have long been objects of Russia’s historic imperial ambitions. But does Russia have motives in the Baltic States that could lead it to risk confrontation with NATO and challenge the collective security guarantees of Article 5? This article will examine Russian minorities, Moscow’s historic and economic interests, and what is possibly the greatest motive of all—using the Baltic States to destabilize the NATO alliance.

More than any territorial gains, Russia’s greatest motive vis-à-vis the Baltic States is to undermine the NATO Alliance and the collective security guarantees provided by Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. Certainly, any success Moscow achieves in destabilizing Estonia’s, Latvia’s, or Lithuania’s territorial integrity or fuelling separatism will either elicit an effective response from NATO or discredit the authority of the alliance and in turn the entire international system built on its security guarantees. Indeed, many have argued that this is precisely Moscow’s aim as it ratchets up pressure on the Baltic States through airspace violations, the kidnapping of an Estonian border patroller, and calls to persecute former Lithuanian Soviet draft dodgers.

Within the Baltic States, the main factor that could both motivate and facilitate Russia’s policies of interventionism or aggression is a large, concentrated population of Russian ethnic minorities and Russian speakers that reside on Russia’s border. Estonia and Latvia have particularly large ethnic Russian minorities, with about 24 percent and 27 percent of the general population respectively, while Lithuania’s Russian population is just under 6 percent. Percentages of Russian speakers—a figure that includes other Baltic minorities such as the Polish, Ukrainians, and Belarusians—are much higher. Latvia’s Russian speakers make up nearly 34 percent of the population, Estonia’s approximately 30 percent, while Lithuania’s totals almost 8 percent.

Read the full article here.

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