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Home News Developed National Security Research of the Eastern European Countries Bordering Russia: The Invictus Index

Developed National Security Research of the Eastern European Countries Bordering Russia: The Invictus Index

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Given that Poland, the three Baltic States and Moldova are located in and serve as a “buffer zone” or region-dividing corridor between the EU and NATO countries and Russia, it is increasingly important to assess the level of national security in these countries, which, within the context of the war in Ukraine, more and more frequently become the focus of Russian interests. This is why the Austrian non-governmental (research) organisation Invictus has developed the Invictus Index, a national security research of the Eastern European countries bordering Russia, which addresses a range of factors that directly or indirectly affect the national security of countries, namely: budget and personnel of the armed forces, internal security factors, including corruption, political, economic, information and cyber security, media literacy of public, etc.

Today, it is the eastern border of Europe which should be defined as a “corridor”, where security threats coming from the east are strongly felt. This is determined not only by the historical experience, but also by the geographical location. For the Baltic States and countries such as Poland and other former Soviet republics, the war in Ukraine is certainly more “understandable”, although the consequences are felt by majority of the world on various scales and in various areas.

The purpose of this research (Invictus Index) is to determine the level of national security in five countries – Poland and all three Baltic States, providing an insight into various security risks, especially in the territories serving as a “buffer zone” or forming the corridor dividing regions between the member states of the EU and NATO and Russia, as well as in Moldova, which has continuously been and still is a significant area of various interests of Russia.

Armed Forces – defence budgets are booming

When the public mentions national security, it is mainly linked to external security, where a combat-capable, well-trained and well-equipped army plays the primary role. Since joining NATO, the countries included in this research (except for Moldova, which is not planning on joining the above mentioned organisation at the moment, but not ruling out such an option in the future) have purposefully moved towards an increase in defence spending in the amount of 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Latvia has set a target to increase this to 2% of GDP (€758.35 million) in 2022 and to 2.5% of GDP in 2025. Estonia, on the other hand, has allocated 2.35% of GDP (€770 million) to defence in 2022, with possible further intent of raising it to 3 or even 6% of GDP in the coming years. Lithuania, however, increased its defence budget from 2.05% of GDP to 2.52% of GDP (around €1.5 billion) in 2022. On a per capita basis, Estonia spends the most on defence among the Baltic countries – €580.67. Meanwhile, Lithuania spends €533.86, while Latvia has the lowest per capita military spending at €404.29.

The defence position is particularly strong in Poland, which, in the face of years of Russian aggression in its neighbourhood, increased its military spending to 2.4% of GDP (€14.24 billion) in 2022, reaching the third highest indicator among NATO countries, with a 47.1% jump planned for 2023.

On the previously described background, the most modest of the countries included in this research is constitutionally neutral Moldova with a defence budget of a mere 44.84 million EUR in 2022 or a little less than 60% above the amount allocated a year earlier, whereas – no doubt, within the context of the current geopolitical events – its plan regarding the year 2023 is to increase military spending by an additional 68.2%, reaching 78 million EUR. When recalculating this indicator “per capita”, the amount allocated for defence seems to be absolutely symbolic, reaching a mere 13.7 EUR per capita in 2022, and the indicator in terms of the percentage of GDP is also very modest, significantly below 0,5%; at the same time, the Minister of Defence has already expressed his opinion that the normal rate of military spending even for a country like Moldova would be around 2% of the GDP.

Police – fighting crime and staffing shortages

It is clear that no less important than the state’s external security is also its internal security, which the public faces in the most direct way on a daily basis. State and municipal police patrols, maintenance of public order, prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences – these are the processes which take place literally every day in plain sight of the residents.

According to public data available, at least as far as the situation in Latvia is concerned, there is no reason for optimism whatsoever. Of the approximately 6,000 job positions in law enforcement, the recruitment rate is approximately 77%, and approximately 1,000 of the total of 1,600 vacancies are soon to be eliminated.

Although the situation about police work in Estonia shows a stark contrast to that in Latvia, problems related to shortages of funds and personnel are also faced by the Estonian law enforcement. Regarding the situation with the recruitment rate, which is around 86% and a significantly higher level of remuneration compared to Latvia, the management of the institution points out that the number of the police, border guard and rescue service employees (all of these institutions operate under the same board) has dropped off to its lowest point ever.

The third Baltic State – Lithuania also faces certain problems. Although, just like in Estonia, the lowest level of remuneration in Lithuania exceeds 1,000 EUR per month, the police force is still understaffed.

Furthermore, taking into account the specificities related to the subordination of the police entities in all three Baltic States, possibly, one of the most objective statistical indicators in relation to the internal security is the number of police officers per 100,000 residents, the latest data of which is available only for 2020. Namely, in Latvia, this indicator is 402, in Lithuania – 281, in Estonia – 306, in Poland – 258. Besides, Latvia is the only country among the aforementioned ones where this indicator has grown in comparison with 2012 – 11 years ago, where there were 350 police officers per 100,000 residents in Latvia, in Lithuania – 383 and in Estonia – 336. Poland has seen a reduction only by one officer with the indicator remaining slightly higher than in Moldova, where this indicator was 244.

Economic Security – comparatively unstable and unforeseeable

Economic security is primarily perceived as the economic stability – the ability to accumulate provisions, obtain the necessary financial resources for survival and the reliability of a pension system. On a macroeconomic level, that means also financial resources to ensure the execution of state functions, as well as normal operation of economic processes and stability of the financial system.

Within the context of the tense global events of last year, many indicators, such as the increase in prices of resources, goods and services, have gone well beyond any previously planned boundaries. For example, in terms of the annual increase in producer prices in January of 2023 on the EU scale; in the group of the four states in question (except for Moldova, which is not a member state of the EU yet; its indicator is: 24.5%), Latvia has taken a stable leading position with 38.8%, leaving behind Lithuania (26.8%), Poland (26.7%) and Estonia (12%).

It is generally known that these indicators are directly proportional to the government’s ability to implement reasonable measures for the economic support and inflation control. Based on the above information, society makes its judgements regarding the abilities of its leaders to take care of the economic security of the population.

Corruption – trends are not encouraging, enforcement lags behind

The manifestations of corruption or abuse of the power entrusted by society, position or official status for the benefit of personal interests or closely related individual’s interests are studied in the form of a local scale survey by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau on a regular basis by interviewing members of society and representatives of companies.

On a global scale, the incidence of corruption is explored by determining the corruption perceptions index in various countries – the action taken by the international anti-corruption organisation “Transparency International”. In 2022, Estonia gained 74 points in this ranking, Lithuania – 62, while Latvia retained its previous indicator – 59 points out of 100. Poland takes a little lower position with 55 points, whereas the evaluation of Moldova reaches 39 points.

Political Security – occasionally hanging by a thread

The concept of political security is related to the stability of the operation of the state administration institutions, their legitimacy and ideological resilience, as well as the relations between the levels of power, their recognition and assessment. The subjective perception of security within this context demonstrates the relationship between the residents and the power, which may increase the stability and facilitate the participation of the people or, just the opposite, create tension and even increase the potential of violence.

One of the indicators of political security is the political participation of citizens, which is most clearly visible in elections. For example, in the 13th Saeima elections in Latvia the turnout was 54.46%, and in the 14th Saeima elections – 59.41%. The aforementioned data primitively outlines potentially unwelcome trends – disbelief in being able to change something and a potential situation where the nationwide processes will be affected by a comparatively small percentage of electorate, who will possibly be attracted to the country by unwanted elements – not the friendliest ones for the state.

Low election activity is also faced in Lithuania – in the first round of the parliamentary elections in 2020 only 47% of the voters participated; in the second round – 39% of eligible voters participated, thus even lagging behind Moldova, where 47.51% of eligible voters participated in the parliamentary elections in 2021. During the recent parliamentary elections in Estonia, the turnout was just 63.53% (a decrease of 0.14 percentage points compared to the previous elections), while the turnout in the parliamentary elections in 2019 in Poland was 61.74%.

Although surveys related to political security are not conducted too often – according to the data available on the Global Web, the latest considerable activities in this area accompanied by public description were conducted more than 15 years ago – TheGlobalEconomy.com compiles the political stability index (inseparably related to political security) assessing the political stability of all the global countries on a scale between minus 2.5 and up to 2.5. Of the five countries in question, the higher positions in this list are taken by the Baltic States: Lithuania takes the 19th place in Europe (globally – 48), Estonia – 20th (51), slightly passing Latvia which takes the 24th position (57), whereas Poland is in the 31st place (71), but Moldova – in the 40th place.

Information, media – skills of use are still to be developed

The days when the public sources of information consisted of a few newspapers, magazines and a small number of television channels and radio stations are gone. However, in this age of information abundance, when most of the information is provided electronically, information is used also as a powerful weapon of propaganda to spread disinformation (fake news) and shape public opinion favourable to certain groups of people and their interests (both private and political).

One of the more comprehensive indicators available in the public domain regarding society’s skills to perceive information available from various sources correctly and critically, weeding out disinformation and fake news, is the Media Literacy Index compiled by the Open Society Institute – Sofia the results of which are divided into five blocks.

It should be noted that the indicators fit the results of the contributed work. According to the index of 2022, Estonia taking the 4th position with 72 points, convincingly falls within block 1 together with Finland, Norway, Denmark and other highly developed countries. Lithuania and Latvia, receiving 58 and 54 points, respectively, are at the lower part of block 2, namely, in the 17th–21st position, whereas, Poland with 56 points is right in the middle between them, namely, in the 19th position. Moldova with 32 points is ranked at the lower level of block 4.

Cyber Security – effort pays off

Along with a more noticeable entry of high technologies in our daily lives, cyber security also plays a significant role in which this society supposedly did not even care to think about in the recent past. This term is defined as a set of processes, best practices and technological solutions which helps in protecting the critical systems and network against digital attacks.

Under the circumstances of a dramatically growing number of cyber-attacks, the security of cyber space in each country is monitored by designated institutions, while information on the security of cyber space is summarised in the National Cyber Security Index or NCSI which determines both the index of the relevant country and the digital development level.

The research of the Invictus Index has ranked the five countries from the buffer zone based on Defense budget, Defense spending per capita, Increase in producer prices, Corruption Perceptions Index, Political Stability Index, Media Literacy Index, and National Cyber Security Index. In the chart, Estonia has ranked 1st, followed by Lithuania at 2nd, Poland in 3rd place, Latvia at 4th, and then Moldova at 5th. This research by Invictus will shed more light on the area with more transparency and statistical data.

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