Putin is creating information basis for escalation against the Baltic States: ISW explains his goals

Lilia RagutskaNews
Russian soldiers. Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin one again made a series of statements aimed at creating information base for a possible escalation against the Baltic states. He mentioned the deportation of Russian citizens from Latvia who had not renewed their permanent residence permits in that country and said that this "directly affects Russia's security."

This is stated in a new analytical material of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Analysts believe that the Kremlin's constant threats to "defend compatriots" in other countries and threats of escalation under this pretext are aimed at weakening and destroying NATO.

The day before, on January 16, Putin made a series of statements aimed at creating information conditions for a possible future escalation against the Baltic states. Such an escalation may be part of the Russian dictator's broader plan to weaken NATO.

Putin, in particular, is outraged that Latvia and neighboring countries are "throwing Russians out," which, the dictator added, "directly affects Russia's security."

Latvia has recently amended its immigration laws, which stipulate that permanent residence permits for Russian citizens will expire in September 2023. However, Russians were offered to fulfill the requirements of the general procedure for obtaining EU permanent resident status in Latvia, in particular, to pass a Latvian language test, until November 30 last year.

Already in December, the Latvian Citizenship and Migration Board announced its intention to deport about 1,200 Russian citizens who had not applied for new residence permits within the established deadlines.

"Putin has long used an expansive definition of Russia's sovereignty and downplayed the sovereignty of former Soviet republics, and Russia has long maintained that it has the right to protect its "compatriots abroad," including ethnic Russians and Russian speakers outside Russia's borders. The ISW sees no signs that a Russian attack against the Baltic states is imminent or likely, but Putin may be creating information conditions for future aggressive actions by Russia abroad under the pretext of protecting its "compatriots," the analysts said.

The Institute also recalled that in mid-December 2023, Putin made threats against Finland, once again demonstrating his desire to bring about changes in NATO that would lead to the "dismantling" of the Alliance.

According to the Russian dictator, Russia's security is allegedly threatened by the North Atlantic Alliance's "open door" principle, according to which any country that wishes to join the defense alliance and meets the requirements for NATO membership can do so. It is this principle, enshrined in the Alliance's charter, that Putin presents as the "aggression."

According to the dictator, the Alliance "opened the door to Ukraine and Georgia" in 2008. Putin referred to the Bucharest Declaration, which stated that "NATO welcomes the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia" and does not rule out that both countries could one day join the Alliance. Although no steps were taken to open the way to accession for Ukraine and Georgia after this declaration, according to Putin, it violated the desire to remain a neutral state, as enshrined in the Act of Independence of Ukraine.

Therefore, the Russian president complained, the declaration allegedly "completely changed the situation in Eastern Europe" and affected Russia's security.

Instead, the dictator did not mention the Russian Federation's pledge in 1994 to "respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine," including Crimea and Donbas, in exchange for Ukraine's transfer of nuclear weapons to Russia.

At the same time, ISW believes that the real reasons for Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, are not about trying to "protect" Russia from the "threat" from NATO. In fact, Putin's primary goal is to weaken and ultimately destroy the Alliance.

"The Kremlin and Kremlin-affiliated actors have recently facilitated information operations and employed hybrid warfare tactics aimed at destabilizing NATO, and may now be creating the information conditions for possible future Russian aggressive actions against NATO countries and their neighbors," the analysts concluded.

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