Briefing Paper

Project: Russia and Eurasia Programme

Agnia Grigas
  • Russia attempts to constrain the independence of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and to undermine their political, economic and civilizational choices. However, it has failed to alter significant aspects of their strategic direction.
  • The Baltic states are susceptible to corruption and external influence as a result both of Russia's efforts and of domestic conditions – large numbers of parties vying for power, fragmented political systems, the commercialization of politics, a poor regulatory framework, institutional weaknesses and substantial Russian minorities.
  • Russia's tactics take the form of oil sanctions, 'gas isolation' and dissuasion of Western firms from investing in Baltic energy projects. Business elites are co-opted through bribes, financial incentives and the 'appeal' of Russian business culture, which is network- rather than market-driven. More legitimately, Russian culture is also promoted vigorously.
  • Many of the weaknesses that constrain the Baltic states are self-induced. Russia's influence depends to a considerable degree on legacies of the Soviet period and is also likely to fluctuate, depending on its own economic performance, global developments and domestic conditions in the Baltic states.

Project: The Means and Ends of Russian Influence Abroad