Is the UK defence secretary right that Russia is a danger to the stability of the Baltic States?

Andrew Foxall

Andrew Foxall is director of the Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society, says Yes

This is nothing new – and has little directly to do with events in Ukraine. Russia has been destabilising the Baltic States for much of the last decade. In 2007, it was behind a series of cyber attacks on Estonia. In 2009, it rehearsed the invasion and occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as part of a large-scale military exercise (“Zapad-09”). Beyond the military, Russia has used a number of other levers to destabilise the region: the Baltic States are heavily dependent on Russia for oil and gas, and during the 2000s, the latter regularly cut off this supply. Estonia and Latvia have significant ethnic Russian minority populations, and Russia has used propaganda as a means to vigorously promote its own interests within these communities. Moreover, Russian organised crime networks continue to actively subvert state structures in all three Baltic states.

Sam Greene is the founding director of King’s Russia Institute, says No

Does Russia pose a real and present danger to the Baltic States? No, it doesn’t. At least not yet. President Vladimir Putin went to war in Ukraine to achieve three things: to demonstrate to Kiev that Moscow holds a strategic veto over its future, to show to Russians that he cannot be put on the back foot, and to demonstrate to the West his willingness to draw and defend lines on the map of Europe. He’s done that, and he is now in the process of cementing his gains. But it has come at a high cost to his standing in the world, to the Russian economy, and to the wealth of the elite who keep him in power. Pushing this conflict further – and particularly crossing a Nato border – does not serve his purposes. The task for the West, then, is to re-up its commitment to Nato solidarity and security, and thus to drive home to the Kremlin the full cost that further escalation would bring.