This article argues that both Russia and China will re-invigorate and expand their international espionage activities. Russia’s renewed vigour in engaging in aggressive espionage campaigns is due to the current setbacks that it is facing as a result of its ill-fated invasion of Ukraine. The sanction-induced prohibitions that limit access to state-of-the-art technologies will unleash renewed enthusiasm to obtain these latest technologies by covert means, be it HUMINT and/or cyberespionage. The future robustness of China’s aggressive espionage activities is projected to be fuelled by its systematic ‘de-coupling’ from those nations leading in science, engineering and technology, such as the United States, as well as the growing opposition to the use of developmental institutions such as the Confucius Institute and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as intelligence collection platforms. This article predicts that as Russia and China become ‘outsiders’, they will becoming increasingly aggressive in their espionage campaigns as pragmatic states acting in survival and developmental mindsets, and it elaborates on some of the more relevant forms of espionage employed.
Based on representative primary sources as well as authoritative academic and think tank analyses, this article aims to evaluate the role that Asia’s emerging superpower came to play in the Baltic trio’s security, with particular emphasis on its harder aspects and most recent developments, which marked a certain shift in the respective bilateral relationships. Structured according to the conventional levels of international relations analysis and rough chronological order, the qualitative study tracks the more or less direct impact of China for the comprehensive security of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ranging from the systemic (global) to purely bilateral domains. The results show that China has indeed become a security factor to be reckoned with there, particularly since roughly 2017–2019 and primarily due to its deepening strategic partnership with Russia. Some of its security effects, however, are even older, more nuanced, yet still significant. Since roughly 2019, however, China’s security factor has increasingly acquired challenging and even threatening characteristics as is most clearly demonstrated by its relationship dynamics with Lithuania.
The article considers traditional and non-traditional security concerns faced by the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the face of China’s increasing presence. Consequently the article first considers the geo-economic challenges posed to these Baltic States through the China and Central and East Europe Countries (CCEEC) grouping, and China’s Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) initiative. This economic leverage translates to political leverage able to be exerted on the Baltic states by China, with regard to human rights and the issue of the Dalai Lama. Moreover, such mechanisms and Chinese financing serves to politically divide the Baltic states, and also divides EU solidarity vis-à-vis China. Finally there are the conventional security issues posed to the Baltic states in the Russia-China naval exercises carried out in Baltic waters in 2017; with China’s role in effect providing implicit support and legitimisation of explicit Russian threats in the Baltic. It concludes by suggesting alternative infrastructure routings to at least reduce the threat of Russian interference.