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Research Report


Olav F. Knudsen
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 1998
Pages: 53
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. None)

    During the late 1990s, new trends have hardened the previously fluid relationships in the Baltic Sea region.(2) After the withdrawal of ex-Soviet troops from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia in 1994, the Baltic Sea region seemed about to become an area of low tension.(³) Finland and Sweden joined the European Union in 1995. At the same time the quest for EU membership was started in earnest by Central and East European countries, among them Poland and the three Baltic states. By 1998 this preintegration reached the phase of membership negotiations for six of the applicant states, in accordance with ‘Agenda 2000’...

  2. (pp. None)

    The most relevant state actors on the regional security scene are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia, but state actors are not the only ones to have a security impact. Non-state actors in the region (environmental groups, business corporations, political parties, religious groups, etc.) are numerous, and their activities often have broader political functions. Non-citizen minorities within Estonia and Latvia have become significant in regional politics, although their position is weak and fragmented. They remain underorganized and have only fledgling organizations speaking for them collectively. The Russian government, on the other hand, has taken upon itself to speak for the russophone...

  3. (pp. None)

    Cooperative security presupposes a certain level of trust. If there has been violence or dominance exerted between great and small neighbouring states in the past, distrust found in the small states stems partly from fear that history will repeat itself and partly from the intimidating prospect of subjection. Moreover, moods of envy and revenge for past humiliations might exist among the small states’ élites, in turn inspiring uneasiness on the other side. Elites of the big neighbour are often led by their own previous violence to suspect that a small neighbour may ‘betray’ them, allowing its territory to be used...

  4. (pp. None)

    The problems described above may be seen as posing a puzzle. The policies of the past have contributed to its creation. Once recognized as a situation that requires remedy, the question becomes what policies have been worked out to deal with it - by actors both inside and outside the region.

    Moscow has dealt with the situation by taking a major initiative vis-à-vis the Baltic states. The crowning event of Russia’s Baltic diplomacy in 1997 was the offer of security guarantees to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, made in connection with Lithuanian President Brazauskas’s visit to Moscow in October of that...

  5. (pp. None)

    Given the overview of the regional security situation as it has been reacted to within the region itself, how have the main external players responded to the challenges facing them? In geopolitical terms, the most important external players in the Baltic Sea region are the United States and the European Union, within which Germany’s central role should not be overlooked.

    The United States’s geopolitical position - combined with its capabilities - make ‘counterbalancing’ and ‘extended deterrence’ concepts of practical diplomatic relevance. The concepts refer to possible responses by a remote great power in favour of a threatened state. In this...

  6. (pp. None)

    ‘Soft security’ is not a serious academic concept; it is, rather, a politically current notion in the late 1990s just as it was early in the decade. Still, as a politically popular idea - not least in Northern Europe - it is of considerable importance. Buzan, who has given a first-rate survey of the topic, does so without once mentioning ‘soft security’.(75) Buzan distinguishes three schools of thought: Traditional Security Studies, Critical Security Studies, and the Copenhagen School, the latter being closest to ‘soft security’.

    The origins of the term ‘soft security’ itself are hard to pin down. It may...

  7. (pp. None)

    To summarize the analysis, the region is hovering between fledgling cooperative security and persisting elements of geopolitics. New cooperative structures such as the CBSS and the Barents Council are struggling and do survive, but their relationships to institutions at the European level remain unrefined. The security role of the Nordic institutions is as yet merely at an incipient stage and its prospects are at best uncertain. Security in the classical sense has not as yet found an institutional home in the region. The idea of a sphere of influence continues to have a central place in Russian thinking on security...

  8. (pp. None)

    Cooperative security in the Baltic Sea region is served by an abundance of institutions whose activities are poorly coordinated. None of them seems prepared to take upon itself a comprehensive role in this field. A political initiative is needed to bring their diverse responsibilities and partial mandates together. The conscious joining of responsibilities for functional and geographical areas as well as ‘vertical’ levels - from the subnational and subregional to the regional level, from county to continental level - is clearly the way ahead for Baltic Sea regional stability and security. A sketch of an alternative future is provided by...