RIGA, Latvia — On Aug. 30, the western Latvian region of Kurzeme suddenly lost cellular service for seven hours, an unusual event in the tech-savvy Baltic nation.
Though the Latvian government has yet to say just what caused the disruption, the country’s intelligence services announced last week that they are investigating if the unusual loss of service resulted from a Russian electronic attack; a Russian ship equipped for electronic warfare was reportedly just offshore at the time….
Latvia’s concern is a reflection of the growing array of hybrid war capabilities in Russia’s arsenal — from the use of disinformation and propaganda to sow internal discord within a country, to crippling cyberattacks, to old-fashioned military power. Those capabilities have been honed in recent years in the Russian campaigns in Ukraine and Syria. But the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and their Nordic neighbors, have increasingly become a testing ground….
Across the Baltic Sea, Finland has also been moving quickly to fortify itself against both old threats and new ones.
Helsinki is spending heavily on defense, maintains a large conscript army of 280,000 soldiers, and has a growing array of civil defense initiatives. But Helsinki is also beefing up resources outside the barracks, launching a public diplomacy program to train government employees about what disinformation is and how fake news goes viral. The Nordic country has also looked to boost its already close ties with NATO, opening an EU and NATO-linked center in Helsinki in early October dedicated to researching how governments can push back against information warfare.A shooting war is probably unlikely — “it would mean World War III,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told journalists last week — but a quiet one is already underway. In addition to a flood of fake news, including stories designed to inflame ethnic tensions, pro-Russian activists have targeted and harassed a Finnish journalist who was investigating the activities of troll farms in Finland. (Russian internet trolls routinely spread disinformation and amplify societal divides, in Europe as in the United States.)
So far, Finland has proven more resistant than most to the information onslaught….
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