Latvia’s decision to replace the Belarusian and Russian flags with the old one supported by the foreign-backed opposition and the Russian Olympic Committee’s respectively during the ongoing 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship that’s being hosted by the Baltic country is an unsuccessful Hybrid War stunt conducted at its Western patrons’ behest.
Latvia‘s waging two flag wars with Belarus and Russia in order to virtue signal fealty to its Western patrons’ political diktats. The Baltic nation’s authorities replaced those countries’ flags with the old one supported by the foreign-backed opposition and the Russian Olympic Committee’s respectively during the ongoing 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship that it’s hosting. This prompted Minsk to expel all Latvian diplomats, thus triggering a reciprocal response from Riga, while Moscow sharply condemned the scandal as yet another example of its neighbor’s Russophobia. It’s worth mentioning that Latvia also hosts the UK-backed Meduza media outlet that was recently designated as a foreign agent by the Russian government. This positions Latvia as one of the vanguard states in the West’s Hybrid War on Russia.
Unlike what the West publicly claims in relation to this much-discussed concept, it doesn’t exclusively involve so-called “little green men”, but is mostly non-kinetic for the most part and focuses on ideological, economic, political, and other means of pressure against targeted states. With this in mind, Latvia’s flag wars can be seen as a Hybrid War attack against Belarus and Russia. They’re meant to delegitimize those two governments, the first due to Riga’s partisan support of the foreign-backed Color Revolution movement and the latter with respect to the contentious decision of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in December 2019. Flags are important state symbols so politicizing them in such a way is meant to trigger a response from their targeted people by at the very least making them angry at the situation and/or even perhaps upset at their authorities.
At the same time, however, targeting countries’ flags could also elicit the opposite response by generating more patriotic sentiment throughout society as is the case in the Russian situation. It’s unclear how Belarusians are responding to this since it’s difficult to get an objective assessment of its society owing to current restrictions after hostile forces sought to infiltrate the country under the cover of dispatching so-called “independent journalists” there. Nevertheless, considering the cultural closeness between these two people, it’s presumed that most Belarusians are probably offended by what happened. These sentiments probably aren’t what Latvia expected, ergo why its motivation was probably just to delegitimize those governments on the international arena by politicizing the latest sporting event more so than provoking anything inside their borders.
On that topic, sports are also important aspects of national identity since they allow countries to show off on the world stage. People naturally feel pride at their athletes’ victories, but the good feelings that are supposed to surround such events are spoiled whenever they’re politicized. As regrettable as it is, there’s probably no way to prevent sports from being exploited, but it’s still worthy of condemnation whenever it happens like in this case. The combination of flags and sports, coupled with Latvia’s role as one of the West’s top information warfare centers in the region, shows just how seriously its leadership takes its delegated Hybrid War responsibilities.
Despite that being the case, these latest stunts aren’t successful. They received minimal coverage abroad apart from when Belarus expelled all Latvian diplomats in response to this provocation and have most likely resulted in strengthening those targeted peoples’ support for their governments. All that Latvia accomplished is that it signaled fealty to its Western patrons’ political diktats in order to earn a proverbial pat on the head and keep the cash coming to fund the regional Hybrid War operations that are being organized on its soil. It was self-serving, even to an extent a so-called “own goal” by counterproductively bolstering patriotism in Belarus and Russia, but will likely be replicated through similarly ridiculous stunts in the future if it proves profitable.