Baltic States








Potential again (2008)




The Baltic states had been part of the Russian Empire before 1918. They were again occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939 after an agreement between Stalin and Hitler (the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) to carve up eastern Europe between them. For Stalin this was perhaps a delaying tactic while he built up the Soviet Union's armed forces. For Hitler too it was probably a preliminary to deceive Stalin about his real intentions which showed when he invaded the whole area in 1942. They were reconquered by the Soviet Army in 1945.

The Baltic states were then incorporated into the Soviet Union. Stalin announced that it had been "at the request" of the governments of the territories. However all three maintained exiled governments in London and western governments never formally recognized their incorporation. All three have now achieved independence and joined the European Union.

Even before the coup of 19 August 1991 they had been attacked by troops apparently belonging to the Soviet Ministry of the Interior, but it denied responsibility. There was speculation (since confirmed) that the orders were given not by Gorbachov but by the sort of people who made the coup. Until August 2008 the danger of war seemed to have receded as all three states have been recognized as independent. However, the status of the Russian minorities (and in Lithuania, Polish) may be a cause of dispute in the near future.

If a Nationalist group gained power in Russia the danger of war would increase. The recent weak state of Russia probably meant that conflict here seemed unlikely.

In any case, Russia now pursues its ends by means of its gas supplies.

However, the war in Georgia shows that this period is at an end (August 2008). If Russia pursues the same methods in the Baltic as in the Caucasus, there may be trouble in the future. Potential grievances Russia could exploit are the status of Russian speaking residents in all three states, but especially in Estonia. Many of these have been denied local citizenship. One of Russia's main excuses for the war in Georgia was to "protect" Russian citizens.

How would NATO and the EU respond to an attack on these member states?

The next move was an announcement at the time of the 2008 US presidential election that Russia would station short range nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad. This was seen as a challenge to the new president Barack Obama, and a response to the Bush regime's stationing of anti-missile systems in Poland.

Last revised 24/02/10


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