By Dr. Donatas Kupciunas

From 2-5 May, a Centre for Geopolitics delegation, together with members of the Advisory Board, visited the two capitals of the northern Baltic region. The trip began in Helsinki, where the delegation was treated with a fascinating excursion to the island of Suomenlinna, led by Dr. Jussi Nuorteva, the former Director General of the Finnish National Archives. The excursion guided participants through the turbulent and multi-jurisdictional history of this famous fortress. At the courtesy of HE Nicola Clase, the Swedish Ambassador to Finland, the delegation was then invited to a formal dinner at the fabulous Residence of Sweden in the heart of Helsinki.

On 3 May, Prof. Brendan Simms chaired a panel on British-Finnish relations, cordially hosted by HMA in Finland, Mrs. Theresa Bubbear, at the British Embassy. Prof. Henrik Meinander (University of Helsinki), one of Finland’s best-known historians and the author of such books as Gustaf Mannerheim and A History of Finland, gave a powerful account of British-Finnish relations in the longue durée perspective. Prof. Juhana Aunesluoma (University of Helsinki) shifted the focus to the period of the Cold War and emphasised the role of Britain’s soft power in its relations with Finland. The discussion then turned to modern-day British-Finnish relations, with HMA Theresa Bubbear outlining the elements of cooperation in security and defence policy and emphasising Britain’s commitment to Finland’s security. Finally, the Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke, the head of the Centre’s Baltic programme, presented his own account of British-Finnish relations from his experience as a Home Secretary and Secretary for Education in the Blair government.

The Helsinki trip ended with two well-attended receptions, giving the delegation an opportunity to establish new contacts with researchers and policymakers in the region. The delegation was invited to a reception at the Residence of Sweden, hosted in honour of the 17th Century shipbuilder Fredrik Henrik Chapman who was instrumental in modernising the Swedish navy fleet. Later the same day, the delegation had a chance to mingle with the Cambridge University alumni in Finland at a reception held in the British Embassy.

On 4 May, the delegation took a ferry to Tallinn for an event on British-Baltic relations at the Foresight Centre of the Riigikogu. The event was opened by the head of the Foresight Centre, Ms. Tea Danilov, and Mr. James Oates, CEO of Cicero Capital. The Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke introduced the Baltic Geopolitics programme, while Prof. Brendan Simms gave a lecture on the historical significance of the British-Baltic relationship, with lessons from its thousand years of history. HMA in Tallinn Ross Allen then switched the focus to the contemporary UK-Baltic relations, emphasising the importance of its security dimension, while Dr. Kaarel Piirimae (University of Tartu) shared his thoughts on how the Baltic states could respond to the security challenges posed by Russia. The discussion was concluded by Kristiina Tonnisson (University of Tartu), who stressed the significance of connecting the past, present and future in history and practice of international relations.

The trip to Helsinki and Tallinn was another step in establishing a viable network of Baltic research, led by the Centre for Geopolitics. Video recordings of both events are available on the Centre for Geopolitics Youtube channel.

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