Security service: Russian intelligence agencies currently highest threat to Latvia

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The State Security Service (VDD) currently regards Russian intelligence operations as the biggest threat to Latvia. China's special services activity has decreased compared to previous years, according to the VDD's 2021 activity report published on April 28.

In view of the tensions between Russia and NATO due to the war in Ukraine, it is expected that this year the intensity of Russian special services intelligence activities against Latvia may increase, according to the VDD report. Unlike other countries not friendly to Latvia, Russia also has military ambitions in the region, so Russia's military intelligence service was particularly active against Latvia.

Similar to previous years, in 2021, Russian special services developed events and materials with propaganda potential. For years now, one of the priorities of Russian propaganda has been historical events and a “correct” interpretation, in line with the interests of the Kremlin, said VDD.

The report also recalls that last year, persons detained and prosecuted for alleged cooperation with a foreign special service had acted directly in the interests of Russian special services.

The VDD foresees that this year the Russian special services will be interested in both the response measures of Latvia and its Western counterparts to Russia's advanced military aggression in Ukraine, namely the position toward sanctions applicable to Russia, increasing military capacity in NATO's external border area, the long-term strategy of Western countries to curb the Kremlin's foreign-political ambitions and unity in its implementation, as well as the support provided to Ukraine.

The VDD's report also concerns Belarus. The Belarusian special services expressed interest in the attitude of the Belarusian community of Latvia towards political and social processes in Belarus, as well as citizens of Belarus who have moved to Latvia, fleeing the repression of the authoritarian regime.

A decrease in the level of Chinese special service activities regarding Latvia was observed; largely explained by the Covid-19 restrictions, VDD said, adding that China's interest in Latvia will grow again in the foreseeable future, especially if Western and Chinese disagreements on important issues grow deeper.

The report says that the activities of China's special services were mainly related to interest in sectors and businesses that are important to the Latvian economy. In recent years, China has been investing heavily in the development of innovative products, seeking increased dominance in world markets and improving its image. Therefore, science projects of NATO countries, including Latvia, with high potential for innovation, were also part of China's special services interests in 2021, said VDD.

According to the report, in 2021, China's informative influence was also identifiable in the Latvian newsroom alongside the mass propaganda of Russia's aggressive foreign policy and the information operations directed against Latvia and its allies. In VDD's assessment, such efforts have a negative impact on the media environment as one of the cornerstones of democracy, and they are contrary to the interests of the information room and national security of Latvia. The analysis by VDD shows that the messages corresponding to China's foreign policy objectives were used in a number of information resources financed by Russia and supporting the Kremlin.

During the last year, recruitment cases and attempts of Latvian nationals have confirmed that the foreign special services are recruiting Latvian residents primarily in the territory of their country. The most convenient persons for recruitment are persons who regularly travel to the country for work or private affairs.

The VDD advises Latvian residents to be cautious when coming into contact with unfriendly foreign state and local government institutions, state enterprises and higher education institutions, research institutes, and the high-tech sector. 

The VDD's 2021 annual report is available on the home page of the Service (in Latvian).

The VDD is one of three national security authorities in Latvia. The others are the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) and the Defence Intelligence and Security Service (MIDD). The SAB already reported their 2021 activities, whereas the MIDD's report is not publicly available.

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