Russia views the Baltic States as key target groups to spread disruptive influence

Russia views the Baltic States—and their Russian-speaking populations—as key target groups that can be used as focal points to spread disruptive influence, reshape political and popular opinion, and reinforce misleading or false images and narratives. The main objective of our latest research product is to study of the demographics, public posts, and behaviour patterns of Russian-speaking users of VK, OK, and FB in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. A variety of analytical methods were used, including information search algorithms, data visualisation, applied linguistics tools, structural network analysis, elements of expert systems theory, trend and opinion analysis, neural networks, and machine learning.

Our analysis revealed the presence of a relatively small but significant proportion of active ideological users in every network in each of the Baltic States. This study shows that 10% of Russian-speaking social network users (identified as real people rather than bots) generate 70% of the ideological information found on those networks. Many events taking place offline are used as pretexts to push certain topics into public discussion, making use of dramatic language. Particular attention is paid to topics related to the Second World War, the USSR, present-day Russia, and anti-Western sentiment. Russian-speaking sectors of social networks in the Baltic States are thus widely used both to continue Russia’s information activities against EU and NATO member countries while cementing its own positive image among the Russian-speaking population of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

We identified clusters of clearly active and interconnected ideological users, each of which specialises in the creation (Writers), distribution (Distributors), or consumption (Readers) of ideological information. There is a significant—and growing—number of Russian-speaking social media communities based in the Baltic States which exhibit pro-Kremlin, pro-Russia and anti-Western orientations. They serve as sources of ideological posts that are widely disseminated by active users who capitalise on their connectivity and visibility among the Russian-speaking users of VK, OK and FB in the Baltics.

Full report is available here.

For more information, please get in touch via email linda [dot] curika [at] stratcomcoe [dot] org