It’s safe to say that Latvia can expect a few thousand more Russian trolls attacking its major government and corporate websites soon.
Latvia has finally signed an accession agreement with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last week, after anti-graft measures and reforms demanded of Riga came into force. In some ways a very small step, the symbolism of the accession agreement was lost on no-one: Latvia is determined to retake what it believes is its rightful place in the West.
Moscow certainly noticed, and so the usual array of barely-disguised propaganda sites went into overdrive about Nazis in Latvia, oppressed ethnic Russians, terrorism, corruption, the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and the usual suspects. (A fun game to play is to find all of the Western websites that parroted this line and usually like the idea of liberalising reforms.)
Latvia, like its sister Baltic states, has been the newest battleground in Vladimir Putin’s version of asymmetric warfare. Internet and telephone services have been under constant attack by Russian hackers (it would be a terrible idea to use your favourite laptop in a hotel there). Russian military forces have tested scenarios for war in the Baltics, subtly announcing this and broadcasting footage into those countries, and so on. The ethnic Russian populace has also enjoyed an increased diet of Russian-language propaganda, often telling them that the very homes in which they live are currently being raided.
The news of the OECD accession will only act as so much chum in the water for a weakened but very dangerous shark. With the old NATO alliance under terrible strain, it remains to be seen what the Kremlin’s next move will be, and whether Riga is prepared.