Russia's Neighborhood Policy a One-Size-Fits-All, Say Security Analysts

The Kremlin, seat of the Russian government Photo: ITAR-TASS/Scanpix
3/29/2012 4:40 PM
Category: Politics

Russia's tactics of influencing its EU neighbors Estonia and Latvia are identical, the only difference now being in the strength of the vibes they cause, said Martin Arpo, a national security agency specialist.

"The keyword here is Russia's so-called compatriots policy [...] The fact alone that Russia refers to a part of a foreign country's population as its 'compatriots,' conferring on them an exceptional legal status not based on Russian citizenship, is worrying behavior on the part of a neighboring power," Arpo said on ERR radio.

Commenting on the political situation in Latvia after the recent language referendum, Veiko Spolitis, Latvia's deputy minister of defense, said that "the clout of Russian nonprofits has perceptibly grown since five years ago, as has their funding by Russia." Drawing a parallel with Estonia, both Edgar Savisaar's Centre Party and the Harmony Center of Riga Mayor Nils Ushakovs have signed cooperation agreements with Russia's ruling United Russia party, and they have also harmonized some legislative initiatives, Spolitis said.

He said one of the issues causing public concern in Latvia is the nature of the Kremlin-sponsored but London-headquartered TV channel PBK, which targets propaganda at the Russian-speaking community in Latvia and Estonia. "This has led Latvian legislators to consider whether we should mount an effort with other member countries to amend the EU audio-visual directive so that it would bar media channels of non-democratic foreign countries from influencing EU viewers," said Spolitis.

Arpo, however, doubted the point of such desperate measures as EU-wide banning of foreign media channels. Although the pressure can be seen as worrying, he said, small nations should not resort to media bans, precisely because free and critical media outlets are a strength.


Erkki Sivonen

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