BY: Daniel Ranjbar
PEJOURNAL – Russia’s relations with the Baltic states, including Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, have deteriorated since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Russia and its Western allies blaming Russia for the increase.
It should not be overlooked that the differences between Russia and the Baltic states are rooted in the centuries-old history of the inhabitants of the region. Army of Poland and Lituvania occupied Moscow for two years to become the only country in history to conquer Moscow, unlike Napoleon, the leader of France, and Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany.
The three Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II (1941-1945), took action against the Soviet Union during the war that the Russians never seem to forget. Lithuania played the most important role in this, as several guerrilla groups were formed in the country to confront the Soviet army. Even today in these republics there are many tendencies towards Nazi Germany as anti-Russian nationalist movements in the society and even in the Latvian capital every year the supporters of Nazi Germany parade. The recurrence of these memories every year deeply saddens the Russians, who killed 27 million during World War II, and has become a source of tension between Russia and the Baltic republics.
Today, Russians who lived quietly in the Baltic states during the former Soviet era are deprived of citizenship rights in these republics or have lost most of their rights and benefits. Many Russians now live as ‘non-citizens’ in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. These people do not have the right to vote, the right to be elected even in local councils and the right to buy land.
In the last two decades, Russian presidents have made the defense of the rights of Russians in the Baltic states a priority, while Russia has repeatedly called on international authorities, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union, to address the issue of non-citizens in the Baltic states. Baltic and discrimination of Russian rights in these countries to react.
Today, the teaching of the Russian language is banned in most of the Baltic republics because the governments of these countries pursue a policy of excluding the Russian language. This has caused more dissatisfaction among Russians and anger among Russian officials, and has unprecedentedly widened the scope of differences between Russians and central governments in the Baltic republics. However, the membership of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since 2000 has closed Russia’s hand to any military action.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been part of the defense of the three countries from the very beginning, and today the planes of NATO member countries, including Britain, cover the airspace of these countries. Every year, NATO conducts exercises in these three countries, which, according to the scenario of some of these exercises, will counteract military action and Russian aggression.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) deployed four battalions in these countries and Poland due to rising tensions between Russia and the Baltic republics. The move sparked new tensions between the Baltic states and Russia, and Moscow began retaliatory exercises in the northwest in retaliation.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the Kremlin wants peace in the Baltic region and has no intention of taking military action against countries in the region, experts in the West believe that the Russia-NATO conflict may start in the Baltic. Many Western military experts argue that Russia can occupy the Baltic states and Poland before an effective NATO response, so the United States needs to increase its military presence in the region. The world should pay special attention.
Moscow showed a non-key reaction to joining the alliance in 1999 and 2004, although Russia later acted more cautiously, so much so that Moscow is now working hard to prevent the alliance from expanding. Under these circumstances, the events in Ukraine pushed the Russia-NATO relationship into a deep systemic crisis and a security challenge between Moscow and Brussels, to the extent that controlling this crisis has now become an inherent part of both sides’ activities.
Russia’s view of the Baltic Sea is symmetrical and proportionate; the only important issue is that NATO and the prospect of its expansion were considered a long-term challenge by Moscow even before the Ukraine crisis. On the other hand, after March 2014, Moscow reconsidered its policies towards Ukraine, which was suffering from erosion.
Poland intends to deploy US Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) shield in Poland, CFE sanctions on Poland, Estonia and Lithuania, and their interpretation of the Soviet Union’s past, including problems between Russia And the Baltic States. Russia is not watching either, with Kremlin leaders saying they have taken more defensive measures in response to moves in the West, which are of most concern to the Baltic states. Concerns about Russia peaked in 2014 as Moscow, following events in Ukraine, paved the way for the secession of the Russian-majority Crimea from Ukraine by holding a referendum, and then Putin added it to Russian territory.
The Russians are now expressing concern over the deployment of US missile defense systems in Romania and Poland, calling it a step toward undermining their security, and in return for their defense capability in the Kaliningrad region on the Baltic coast. They add that advanced weapons, including Alexander tactical missiles, are stationed in Kaliningrad, contrary to NATO, which have the ability to destroy any target anywhere on the Green Continent.
Given all that has been said, it seems that the Baltic Sea can act as a scene for Russia-NATO conflict, on the other hand, this region is quite suitable for reducing the risks and the gradual normalization of their relations. Thus, how this area works depends on the conditions that occur. Achieving success in this region, which has complex and difficult conditions, can lead the whole relationship between Russia and NATO towards a brighter future, or the situation can move in exactly the opposite direction.
In 2019 , Latvian President Venus Raimonds called on the European Union to take steps to deter Russia so that it does not have the opportunity to attack other European countries.
In Russia, too, some extremist or nationalist representatives occasionally threaten the Baltic states.
For example, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, known for its extremist rhetoric, recently said that the Russian military should seize the Baltic republics.
In short, Russia has now become a dangerous and unpredictable element in the international environment for Europe. While Moscow used to side with the West and operate alongside European countries in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, since 2014 Russia has become a country facing the West and Europe. On the other hand, Moscow did not expect that the long-term and irreversible expansion of NATO would be so successful, that the balance of power is now shifting in favor of NATO in various regions.
Problems between NATO and Russia continue, and Moscow’s anger has intensified, especially with the collapse of the CFA. Russia, in particular, has criticized its NATO allies for not yet signing a new treaty. On the other hand, the US withdrawal from the ABM agreement and the deployment of missile defense infrastructure in Poland and the Czech Republic have also exacerbated differences. In addition, the Kremlin blames its Western partners largely for the color revolutions in the post-Soviet space in various countries. All of this has led to escalating tensions between NATO and Moscow.
Although in the past the Baltic states’ reluctance to establish relations with Moscow was more about identity and domestic issues, now and after the Ukraine crisis, these tensions have become more serious. Russia has pushed the situation higher than the security crisis. After the Ukraine crisis, the Baltic became a vulnerable point for escalating tensions between Russia and NATO.
Overall, it seems unlikely that there will be a glimmer of hope for improved relations between Russia and the Baltic republics, given that US anti-Russian sanctions are becoming increasingly complex and that Russia’s differences with the United States extend to Venezuela. . It remains to be seen what Moscow will do despite the new US policy of moving troops inside of Europe and planning to increase US troops in Poland and the Czech Republic !!