How Russia deploys Baltic Sea topics to influence European scientists

Baltic Sea.
Baltic Sea. Source: ERR

Leaked documents reveal that Russia's administration planned to use scientific and environmental issues as a backdoor to regain influence in Western Europe. The key project was the "Baltic Platform."

Regarding these documents, Russia wanted to establish a scientific platform to re-establish contacts with Western European scientists. The strategy behind: By using non-political topics as a starting point for further cooperation on a political scale as well. The authors of the document name the pollution of and the endangered bio-diversity in the Baltic Sea as a possible topic.

This new document belongs to a bunch of recently leaked confidential papers from the Presidential Directorate for Cross-Border Cooperation, a political think tank linked to the Russian government. An international research network led by German media outlets NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung already revealed Russia's strategy to regain influence in the Baltic states.

Regarding the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung the current document dates from January 2023 and states that Russia has already started to implement its strategy. A couple of high-ranking representatives of several Russian universities might have met in Kaliningrad and the first summit was supposed to be in autumn 2023.

It is suggested that such cross-border activities are quite normal in the scientific world. But usually they are started on an academical level and are not initiated by government agents. And not only after it's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia's activities in these matters are viewed with extreme caution. It looks like a deliberate attempt to circumvent the current sanctions.

Aleksander Toots, deputy director of the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), also known as KAPO, is familiar with the approach: "We have identified similar operations in the past. Russia tries to address issues that ordinary people are interested in. Climate and environmental issues are a good example of this."

Estonian institutions seem not to be named in the document. Regarding the German news outlet Tagesschau, only the Baltic Sea Center at Stockholm University and the Helsinki Commission are specifically mentioned. Both have declared that they have no contact with the organizers of the Baltic Platform or other institutions on the matter.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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