The Russian-speaking minority in the Baltic States has not emphasised its presence following Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine. Nevertheless, will the Kremlin eventually decide to instrumentalise this one-million-strong group to destabilise the Baltic States under the pretext of “defending the civil rights” of local Russians?
No one used to consider the fears of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia seriously, when they were repeatedly warning that being attacked by Russia in the future remained a distinct possibility. Yet today, nobody is surprised by the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs comparing Putin to Hitler and his military aspirations in Ukraine to the Third Reich’s attempts to expand its “living space” at the expense of neighbouring countries.
The fear of a Russian invasion is exacerbated by the fact that many Russians live in the territory of the Baltic States. These are mostly older people who more often than not embrace the Russian propaganda that comes through their TV screens. At least this used to be the case until Russian media were banned following the invasion.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many were left without passports of the newly revived countries. As a result, the problem of "non-citizens" and people who acquired citizenship of the Russian Federation, has been a source of many disputes between the re-emerging Latvian and Estonian republics and Moscow, regarding the citizenship status of Russian speakers.
The airport in Tallinn has also become the main hub for Russians fleeing their country. Most of them, at least in Estonia, come to their families, or to those who are there and have social networks established, and yet there is also a group of those who have no one and are in search of housing and care. The question now is what to do with these people and how to integrate them into society. Do they intend to stay longer? Should their children be sent to local schools? Such are the main challenges posed for the countries involved.