In the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Latvia is taking steps to curb the influence of its Russian-language media. As the WSJ reports, the country’s National Electronic Mass Media Council is taking a Russian-language TV station off the air for its perceived pro-Putin bias:
The media watchdog said it was suspending Rossiya RTR based on the agency’s analysis of news broadcasts between March 2 and March 17 that “justified military aggression against a sovereign state.”These broadcasts were determined to have violated Latvia’s Electronic Mass Media Law, which bans “incitement to war or the initiation of a military conflict.” Officials in other nations, including Lithuania and Ukraine, have taken similar action against Russian-language stations recently.
The Latvian government has also begun investigating politicians suspected of being sympathetic to Russia. Given that Latvia’s population is one quarter Russian, the increasing scrutiny may cause considerable unrest.Here’s the big question: How will Russia react? Putin justified the Crimea grab and his aggressive posture toward Ukraine by citing the alleged mistreatment of ethnic Russians or Russian-speakers. The Russian populations of nearby states are largely descended from people who moved to the Baltic republics after they were annexed by the Soviet Union as part of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939. In the post-Communist era, relations between the natives and the Russian minorities have always been tense.A flare-up in the Baltics would have greater repercussions for the Western nations than the conflict in Ukraine did. The Baltic republics are members of NATO and the EU, and the United States is treaty-bound to defend them against any Crimea-style Russian aggression.