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Centre for Geopolitics

Providing historically-grounded approaches to enduring geopolitical problems.
 
Kadri Liik

26 May 2021

We posed five questions to the Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations to get her thoughts on the Baltic Sea Region

Q: What is the single most significant policy issue faced by the states of the Baltic Sea Region today and why?

I would say that this has to do with the famous Rodrik’s trilemma: the need to combine democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration;  and manage the tensions that stem because the three cannot be perfectly combined. Geopolitically - adapting to the world where the balance of fortune and power is gradually tilting  from the West to the rest; and  trying to shape the international norms for that era that will not overlook the small states’ interests.

The mainstream security establishment is of course preoccupied with Russia, and this is not wrong either – as Russia is the only conceivable  source of a military threat. But longer-term, the big structural questions matter more, as these go to the heart of how societies function and feel about themselves.

Q: At what moment(s) if any do you think Britain played a decisive role in the history of Baltic Sea Region?

Decisive – hardly ever. Rather, one could say that, vice versa -  the Baltic region played a decisive role in Britain some 1000 years ago, when vikings roamed around and England was ruled by Cnut the Great, a Danish prince.

In the Baltic region, Britain has rather been a contributing factor in different episodes. In Estonia’s case, for instance, Britain helped in the war for independence, but 25 years later negotiated the Yalta agreement that perpetuated the loss of that independence. But both these things would probably have happened anyway; in neither case was Britain’s role decisive.  

Q: Will the UK be more or less important to the prosperity and security of the Baltic Sea Region in 2030? Why?

About the same, I would asume. The UK’s importance declined drastically with Brexit, but one assumes that the UK will stay a dedicated member of NATO, and NATO will remain an essential pillar of the Baltic region’s security. So I would not forecast a major change between today and 2030, while there certainly would be a decline if one looks at 2015-2030.  

Q: Are commitments to the European Union in the Baltic Sea Region likely to clash with those to NATO, and if so how?

No. Why would they? But if the question implies that Britain might leverage its role in NATO to achieve gains in its relationship with the EU, then – please do not! That would not be welcomed by anyone in the region, with the possible exception of Russia.

Q: What major opportunities are there for Britain in the Baltic Sea Region?

This depends almost solely on the direction taken by the UK post-Brexit: the global and/or regional role it seeks, the goals it sets  itself, and the resources it dedicates to achieving these goals.