Britain and the Geopolitics of the Baltic, 1600 to present  

The Baltic – the littoral of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, and Sweden – has been an area of considerable importance to England, Scotland, and then the United Kingdom. In the 16th and 17th Centuries, it was a vital trading partner and source of timber, furs, and many other products. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Navy drew most of its naval stores from the Baltic, watched jealously over the balance of power in that region, and intervened against Russia. In the 20th Century, Britain encouraged the independence of the Baltic states in 1918-19 and fought both the Bolsheviks and the Nazis there. Later, the Baltic states, which regained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990-91 and then secured membership of the European Union and NATO, were supported by the British government. Today British forces provide the backbone of NATO deterrence against Vladimir Putin in Estonia. This course of seven two-hour seminar lectures will trace the evolution of this important relationship through the lens of historical geopolitics. In the final week, students will participate in a simulation exercise organised around a fictional future geopolitical crisis, featuring guests with longstanding foreign policy experience. 

The Geopolitics of the Lands in Between

Alliance politics, energy security and historical memory in the Baltic states, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine put a spotlight on the curious region, stretching from the Baltic to the Black sea, which had been, in different periods, thought of as Europe’s periphery, buffer, barrier or cordon sanitaire. From the fourteenth century onwards, the region had shared deeply interconnected history, most of which was about geopolitics. This course aims to help students orient themselves in the geopolitics, both material and ideational, of this increasingly important area. The course consists of three modules of two lectures, which feed back into each other:

  • Module of Alliance Politics will analyse the projects of bilateral or multilateral security cooperation that had been historically attempted or implemented in the region, from Jagiellonian dynasty to CIS and (post-)NATO, with particular emphasis on the drivers of divergence and convergence in the region;
  • Module of Energy Security will tackle the complex web of oil, gas and electricity flows in the area which links east and west, addressing the latest challenges posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine;
  • Module of Historical Memory will study this important and often overlooked ideational component of geopolitics, which shapes the other two.