Baltic Rim Monitor Articles
The recent elections to the EP have not brought any major surprises in the countries of the eastern part of the Baltic Sea Region. As regards the three post-Soviet Baltic republics, it can be said that the representatives of national minorities have generally managed to keep their positions. However, what draws attention is the fact that the results of extremely Eurosceptic parties are poorer than expected.
In one country, a president has been elected by a popular vote, in the other – by a vote of the parliament. The method of choosing the head of state is connected with the scope of presidential power. The President of Lithuania has far greater powers than the President of Latvia. Both new leaders have centre-right views, they are definitely pro-European and see the futures of their countries in NATO.
Over 2,000 soldiers as well as heavy military equipment from 14 countries have been deployed to Finland to take part in a military exercise. The military hardware consists of artillery, tanks and aircraft. This year, Finland has become the arena of Bold Quest, an annual military exercise led by the US Army General Staff for several years now. The exercise, which is to last two weeks, began in the middle of May.
Spring Storm 2019, a large-scale military exercise held in the easternmost NATO bastion, has just come to an end. The exercise has demonstrated that, out of all NATO member states, Estonia is the country most threatened by Russia simply due to its geographic location. The exercise has also shown that by operating on the Estonian territory, NATO could seriously restrict Russian activity in the Baltic Sea.
The first round of the 2019 presidential election in Lithuania has been narrowly won by Ingrida Šimonyte, a conservative candidate and former Minister of Finance. She will now compete for the highest state office with Gitanas Nauseda, an economist and former chief adviser to the President of SEB Bank. Both candidates share similar views, however, it is Nauseda who is considered to be the favourite for the position.
Between April and May, the Estonian army and its NATO allies are going to take part in military drills in Estonia. For this reason, in April, four multinational battalion battle groups stationing at Tapa Army Base were reinforced.
The Moscow meeting between Kersti Kaljulaid and Vladimir Putin has put an end to Russia’s long-time diplomatic isolation from the NATO member states that are heavily exposed to the Russian threat, namely the three Baltic states. Not only has the visit of the Estonian president attracted a lot of criticism in her home country, but it has also pushed many to question the goals and the general meaning behind such a meeting.
The Estonian Internal Security Service (Estonian: Kaitsepolitsei, KAPO for short) announced that it has detained its former officer suspected of spying for Russia. The man is a Russian who used to serve in the police and KAPO after Estonia regained its independence. He was once a highly-regarded officer who decided to leave the service in 2012. It seems very likely that shortly afterwards he was recruited by Russia’s intelligence agency.
Although a several month-long anti-corruption investigation in Latvia’s capital city has not yet come to an end, the Mayor of Riga has already fallen victim to the enquiry. The decision to dismiss Nils Ušakovs from office was made by the Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Latvia, who is granted such a power by law.
Although it has been over a month since parliamentary elections were held in Estonia, a new government still has not been formed. Contrary to earlier expectations, the two largest parties in the new Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) have not reached an agreement. What is more, it seems very likely that the victorious Reform Party will end up in the opposition.
The Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club which is friends with Vladimir Putin and has been subject to U.S. sanctions, started operating in Finland at the beginning of the year. This is yet another manifestation of Russia’s hybrid activities in this Nordic country and a warning signal for Finnish security services, which have recently been very preoccupied with the increased activity of Russian agents.
In the 2018 report of SÄPO secret services published in March, Russia was indicated as the main danger to the security of Sweden. Similarly, according to the report of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service, Russia is the only dangerous threat to the security of the region, including the sovereignty of Estonia and other Baltic states.
The Finnish Parliament has approved two bills that will expand the surveillance powers of the country’s security services. The draft legislation has been prepared by the government which argues that the adoption of the new bills is necessary in order to increase national security and to effectively fight against terrorism, espionage and the activities of foreign military.
The right-wing opposition won the local elections in Lithuania, narrowly beating two co-ruling groupings at the central level. However, as many as a quarter of votes went to local social committees. The main grouping representing Lithuanian Poles which in part of the country run for elections in coalition with the Russian Alliance has lost.