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Adrienne Warren

The Baltics Go To America, While Russia Comes To The Baltics?

In the first meeting of its kinda since 1998, President Barack Obama hosted Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Latvian President Andris Bērziņš, and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė at the White House on August 30. On the agenda for the four heads of state was the discussions of a broad range of issues, including regional security cooperation, energy security, cyber-security, defense cooperation, the future of NATO, and Russia’s role in the region. The meeting came in tandem with some bizarre and inflammatory remarks from some Russian analysts about retaliating against the Baltics, should NATO attack Syria…

Stroomi Beach, Tallinn, Estonia. author: julcha. source: Flickr

Stroomi Beach, Tallinn, Estonia. author: julcha. source: Flickr

Russian political scientist, Mikhail Aleksandrov, caused waves in the last few days after airing his suggestions for retaliation should NATO decide to attack Syria:

“Previously I have suggested that if NATO attacks Syria, we need to more our military forces to the Caucasus region. However, now the situation has changed, Russia has to impact there, where it will have a clear strategic advantage, i.e. the Baltic States.”

Aleksandrov continued:

“Russia must clearly show to the West that for the aggression against Syria, they will have to pay dearly. So, Russia has to impact there, where it has a clear strategic advantage, i.e. the Baltic States. As in the Caribbean crisis, Russia has to raise the dilemma for the West: if you are attacking Syria in violation of the international law, we occupy the Baltic States.”

According to Aleksandrov, re-occupying the Baltic States would likely prove to be a relatively easy task:

“I think that the Russian forces could enter the Baltic States with minimal damages or perhaps even without damages. Unless someone by his own stupidity would fall under the tanks, as it was in 1991. Moreover, I think that half of Estonia’s and Latvia’s population would meet the Russian military with the flowers, as it was in 1940.”

Meanwhile, at the White House, it was precisely Russia’s influence that was being discussed. As Luke Coffey, of The Heritage Foundation, explains:

“U.S. relations with the three Baltic States can only be fully understood by considering Russia’s role in the region and its domination of the Baltic region over the past four centuries. This geopolitical reality is rooted in both history and geography. With the Cold War over, Russia no longer poses a direct military threat to Europe, but Russia’s future is causing concern in Europe and the U.S. For some NATO members, including the Baltics, Russia is a force driver in military planning and foreign policy formulation and may become an even greater one in the future.”

In addition, Coffey explains, the meeting with President Obama served as an opportunity to highlight and recognise the Baltic States’ achievements in contributing to NATO:

“Although small in absolute terms, the three Baltic States contribute greatly to NATO in relative terms. Estonia is the regional leader in defense matters and is currently one of only four countries inside NATO that spends the required 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. All three countries sent troops to Iraq and have troops fighting in Afghanistan. Estonian troops are serving in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan—one of the most deadly areas in the country. NATO conducts its Baltic Air Policing mission from Lithuania, and the region has hosted multiple NATO exercises.”

Furthermore:

“The Baltic States take the future of NATO seriously and have played an important role in shaping NATO policy on cybersecurity and energy security. Estonia established NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in 2008, one year after a cyber attack originating in Russia. Lithuania has been at the forefront of energy security policy and is home to NATO’s Energy Security Center of Excellence. It is constructing the first liquefied natural gas terminal in the region, which is expected to be ready by 2015. This will greatly reduce regional reliance on Russian gas and should offer new markets for the U.S. natural gas industry. Latvia, recognizing the importance of strategic communications in the age of the Internet, digital media, and 24-hour news is planning to establish a NATO Strategic Communication Center of Excellence.”

Aleksandrov expressed shock that his remarks about a Russian reoccupation of the Baltic States created such a stir, but nevertheless reiterated his opinion, while emphasising that he published it in his blog rather than on his institute’s web page to “stress” that it was his own opinion rather than “the consolidated position of [his] organization”

An interesting time to be in the Baltics…what do you think?

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sources: The Heritage Foundation, The Lithuania Tribune 

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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