RIGA - Russia cannot afford a full-scale global conventional war with NATO, so the most realistic possibility is a hybrid war and a surprise attack to seize an area, the new National Defense Concept prepared by the Latvian Ministry of Defense concludes.
In the concept, the characteristics of the security environment are divided into global and regional tendencies.
In the section on global tendencies, the authors of the concept point out that the multilateral international world order is currently undergoing significant changes. Despite existing and legally binding conventions, political agreements and security institutions, some countries blatantly ignore international norms and national sovereignty. This trend reflects the ineffectiveness of international organizations in guaranteeing security and the decline of the multilateral approach to security management.
Existing trends in the international order are characterized by a policy of force, and changes in the international security environment remain difficult to predict. The diversity of security challenges, including the development of new technologies, terrorism, private military and security companies, climate change and pandemics, pose a serious threat to the multilateral model of global development, the concept says.
Due to the fragmentation of the global system, the multilateral approach is gradually being replaced by unilateralism, in which disagreements are resolved from positions of strength. As this process continues, the risk of confrontation and conflict will increase, so the armed forces of nations will play an increasing role in international relations, the document states.
It points out that the policy of force is becoming potentially dangerous for countries that are geographically close to ambitious regional powers, including Latvia, creating the need to further strengthen the unity and military capabilities of NATO countries.
Insufficient military spending by European countries continues to affect the ability to respond adequately to both European military threats and crises outside their territories, the authors of the National Defense Concept concluded, noting that while the US political will to maintain order is declining, Europe's military dependence remain both in collective defense and international operations.
The concept states that as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, new technologies are emerging, which play an important role not only in national defense, but in the life of society as a whole. New technologies, the development of social networks and the growing technological dependence of society are already changing the usage habits of the public information space and revealing more and more new vulnerabilities, thus opening up wide opportunities for manipulation. This will pose a greater threat to democracies in the future than to authoritarian regimes, that not only monitor social networks and the Internet, but also use new technologies to control and influence their citizens, the authors of the concept point out.
The document states that terrorist groups and organizations continue to influence national political developments and international relations. There has been a significant increase in terrorist attacks in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. There is a growing risk that terrorist organizations will fill the power vacuum created by economically and politically underdeveloped countries by offering an alternative to the traditional structure of public administration.
Private military and security companies have become part of today's armed conflict, with some countries "de facto" using private military and security companies to achieve national ambitions, while denying a direct link to mercenaries, the Defense Ministry's concept points out. These companies are a tool that provide services such as logistics and intelligence, force protection and training which are traditionally provided by the state.
The role of private military and security companies in international interventions may increase in the future and create security risks by interfering in the affairs of sovereign states, warn the authors of the concept.
At the same time, the document states that global climate change is making many regions of the world uninhabitable, leading to new conflicts and human migration, which also have a direct or indirect impact on European security. Pandemics natural disasters can hit not only Latvia, but also other technologically and socially advanced countries particularly hard.
The Covid-19 pandemic not only demonstrates the vulnerability of the globalized world, but also reveals serious risks to the global economy.
Global trends show that the current balance of power has changed and that maintaining peace and stability through diplomatic and economic means alone is becoming increasingly difficult.
As Europe's and North America's military and technological advantages gradually diminish, regional centers of power, which will compete for dominance in international relations, will play a greater role. The challenges posed by the changes in the international order require not only to continue to maintain the unity of the allied countries, but also to strengthen national defense capabilities, the developers of the concept point out.
The section on regional trends in the document states that since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the security situation in the Baltic Sea region has been largely influenced by Russia's challenging and aggressive military and hybrid activities.
Russia has had a major influence on elections, public opinion and politicians through the use of information warfare and cyber-attacks. Russia has a clear pattern of future international relations - "anything that we cannot be punished for or retaliated against is allowed," the concept says.
The authors also point out that Russia continues to develop as an authoritarian state whose main strength is its military capabilities, but the recently proposed changes to Russia's constitution only strengthen existing processes - economic stagnation, dependence on natural resource prices and declining living standards.
Russia's economic backwardness is compensated by the strengthening of the cult of the Second World War and the May 9 demonstration of military might, as well as the hidden influence of the domestic political processes of democracies, the concept states.
The widespread story being told to the Russian people that Russia is a "besieged fortress" of the enemy will continue to be an important argument to justify the socio-economic problems of the population. The war in Ukraine, as well as attempts to reduce Belarus' independence, point to Russia's growing ambitions, according to the authors of the concept, predicting that in the future there will be more and more serious attempts to change the geopolitical situation in Europe without excluding military force.
The Russian state-controlled media deliberately cultivates a negative image of Latvia, where Latvians and the Latvian state administration are portrayed as Russophobic and Nazis. As a result, according to public opinion polls, Latvia has long been perceived as one of Russia's main enemies within Russian society. In Russia, suitable soil is deliberately maintained, which justifies aggression against Latvia, it is explained in the National Defense Concept.
The authors of the document envisage that Russia will continue to try to portray Latvia as a failed state in order to mask both the historical socio-economic damage caused by the Soviet Union to the occupied countries and its inability to provide a high standard of living for society today.
In recent years, Russia has invested heavily and developed military capabilities in a strategic direction to the west, with the creation of new units, the introduction of modern armaments, and the reinforcement of military units in the Kaliningrad region. In military training and capability development, great emphasis is placed on force mobility, high-readiness units and the blocking of the Baltic Sea and air routes, according to a document prepared by the Ministry of Defense.
At the same time, Russia cannot afford a full-scale global conventional war with NATO, so its most realistic option is a hybrid war and a surprising attack to seize some territory, as has already been done in Georgia and Ukraine, the authors say, which could be followed by the threat to use nuclear weapons if someone retaliates.
Although the war in eastern Ukraine is not over, there is a gradual "fatigue" due to the unresolved problems caused by the conflict. In this context, some European countries are increasingly showing a desire to prioritize economic benefits over democratic principles, thus demonstrating a desire to re-establish relations with Russia as they were before 2014. This is also evidenced by the trends in international cooperation caused by the Covid-19 crisis, which could increase Russia's activities to encourage Western initiatives to resume cooperation sooner, the developers of the concept predict.
The authors of the document point out that since 2014, deterrence measures in the Baltic region, both by developing national capabilities and deploying NATO forces, have reduced the threat.
The security and defense of the Baltic States will largely depend on the ability to further develop the National Armed Forces and NATO's collective defense, as Russia's domestic political instability and foreign policy ambitions will continue to push for weak targets for its aggression, according to a document prepared by the MoD.