Estonian internal security and Russia in 2017
The 2017 annual review of the Estonian Internal Security Service, which is among the special services also functioning as an investigative agency and the rights of the police, states that while Estonians are mostly concerned by a possible terror act, the greatest problem in ensuring national security is still the threat to constitutional order that arises from the Kremlin’s divisive policies. The review studies the security threats arising from the Kremlin’s operations using three examples.
The first is manipulation of the young. In accordance with Lavrov’s statement in 2017, Moscow is paying increasing attention to establishing a network of sympathetic (and Russian-speaking) youth outside Russia and, in fact, began to lay the groundwork years ago. Several large events were organized for compatriot youth that Estonian youngsters participated in as well. Besides the fact that these events are highly appealing for youth, given that accommodation and travel expenses typically covered alongside free entertainment, the danger lies in the fact that “As well as spreading Russia’s world ideology and the Russian official interpretation of history, rebellious and easily manipulated people are sought at youth events to be recruited and exploited later. (…) The Russian interpretation of World War II (including cultivating the myth of the Red Army as liberators) and the justification and glorification of Russian foreign policy is often at the core of the influence activities conducted during these events.”Moscow is also seeking to prevent Russian-speaking youth from assimilating into Estonian society, its sphere of values, and culture so that they can be better targeted for the Kremlin’s divisive policies. Thus, Russian authorities collect personal data on participants and on people close to them, aiming to use them as a tool for reaching foreign policy goals while appearing to support the ambitions and success of these youngsters.
The second tool to divide societies is to create public tension over memorials, paying consistent and increasing attention to history as propaganda. This approach was visible around the 9th of May campaigns distributing ribbons of the Cross of St George and the organization of “Immortal Regiment” marches and various road trips sporting provocative symbols outside Russia.
Thirdly Moscow makes tremendous efforts to legitimize the annexation of Crimea, primarily by using “people’s diplomacy”. To this end, a conference titled “Crimea in the Modern International Context: The Friends of Crimea Forum” was held in Yalta, resulting in the foundation of the international Association of Friends of Crimea. Russian TV channels continued to target Estonia in 2017. False statements and misinformation were knowingly presented in the guise of factual reports. The propaganda machine continuously associated Estonia with Nazism and xenophobia for depicting differences and causing enmity between different communities in the country.