If you’re able, and if you like our content and approach, please support the project. Our work wouldn’t be possible without your help: PayPal: [email protected] or via: http://southfront.org/donate/ or via: https://www.patreon.com/southfront
Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson
The political and, in some cases, military stand-off between the West and Russia that has unfolded over Ukraine and Syria also includes a number of secondary fronts in which the two actors’ interests clash. The Baltic States, a long dormant political issue, reactivated itself following the Ukrainian coup of 2014, as the leaders of these states believed that they could benefit from fanning the flames of conflict. In that they were likely mistaken, as the status of the Baltics in the future of the European order is far from certain.
The coup in Ukraine and the subsequent defection of Crimea from Ukraine to Russia followed by the attempted secession of the Donbass prompted the leaders of the Baltic States to claim that they were the next target of the “resurgent Russian imperialism” that sought to restore the USSR via a variety of “hybrid war” measures. Perfectly normal peacetime activities, such as Russian military maneuvers in the European part of Russia, Baltic Fleet exercises, or military flights over the Baltic Sea were suddenly depicted as somehow illegitimate and aggressive. This approach had a twofold rationale: first, it sought to delegitimize ethnic Russian organizations and parties in the Baltics which counter the worst discrimination regime in Europe, one that deprives many ethnic Russians of citizenship in countries in which they reside. Secondly, the “look, look, Russia is attacking us too” card was intended at securing economic and military assistance from EU and NATO that, in 2014, seemed to pour to the front-line states for their new “Cold War” against Russia.
These hopes so far look misplaced. While NATO maneuvers on the Baltic Sea and on the territories of its “eastern flank” states make headlines, so far, they are far less than what meets the eye. NATO’s bark is still considerably worse than its bite. The most significant indicator of NATO intentions is the construction of permanent bases and logistical infrastructure. Thus far, the eastern-most permanent NATO presence appears to be in Poland, in the form of expanded logistical presence and a Polish-led divisional headquarters that, in the event of war, would coordinate the actions of Polish and Baltic States military formations. However, even the supposedly “permanent” US troop presence in Poland is limited to brigade rotations, deployed away from their permanent bases in Germany or even the United States. Those rotating brigades then spin off battalions on forays into the Baltics where they make use of local bases and training grounds, but with no indication of intent to settle for the long run. Other NATO countries have also contributed units to exercise in the Baltics, and the three countries still benefit from NATO air policing mission, which collectively makes them a significant security drain for NATO member-states. All in all, NATO actions are a response the shock at Russia’s ability to mount major surprise operations with hardly a warning from NATO’s intelligence services. They are unlikely to be a real effort in bolstering the Baltics’ defense posture, which, in any event would be a very expensive proposition.
The center of gravity of Baltic States politics are their economics. During the Soviet era, the three countries were significant manufacturing centers, well integrated into the overall economy of USSR. Following independence and the eventual EU integration, their economies have deteriorated to the point, that the single most important economic activity is transit of goods between the EU to Russia (and, to a lesser extent, China) and vice versa. In that respect, they are no different from Ukraine, whose economy also heavily depends on transit of goods between the East and the West. The closest Western European equivalent would be the Netherlands and Belgium, whose economies by themselves would not justify the existence of Rotterdam and Antwerp as the largest and second largest sea-ports in Europe. By the same token, Estonia has the ice-free port of Muuga, Latvia boasts of Riga, Liepaja, and Ventspils, and even Lithuania’s economy benefits heavily from the port of Klaipeda. All of these facilities were built by the USSR in order to provide commercial links to the rest of the world, and now they are the cornerstones of these countries’ economies. Imagine for a minute what will happen to the economies of the Netherlands and Belgium, if they decide to declare a “hybrid war” on the EU. This gives a glimpse of the effect that the Russia-West confrontations have on the economic viability of the Baltic states. Even though they are members of the EU and, in the case of Estonia, of the Eurozone, they have not succeeded in reorienting their economies westward, toward the EU which, frankly, has a very limited need for these countries. Russia’s response in the form of expanding maritime infrastructure in its own Baltic regions, and more recently, requesting that Belarus refrain from using Baltic States’ terminals to export its refineries’ and products from processing Russian petroleum, therefore represents a very effective means of political pressure particularly since the EU, is already planning to limit the structural adjustment subsidies for its Eastern European members, can hardly be expected to come up with the billions of euros necessary to offset the cost of losing Russian transit business. Even in the best of times, the “Baltic Tigers” have experienced major demographic problems due to the rise in emigration and the decline in birth rates, with the resulting aging of the population likely to place a major strain on the countries’ finances.
If anything, the Baltic States are expected to stop being net subsidy recipients and become active energy consumers from the West which will make the dilemma facing the Baltic States even more acute. Nowhere is this more evident than in the construction of LNG terminals in Klaipeda, Lithuania, and Swinoujscie, Poland, and the plans to construct the “Baltic Pipe” gas pipeline linking Poland with the natural gas deposits in the North Sea. Collectively, and consistent with the at least decade-old US aim to achieve dominance of the global energy markets, these efforts are supposed to “wean” the Baltic States off Russian oil and natural gas and replace them with more costly Western imports. In a way, this makes the Baltics’ the victim of their own policies because, as Donald Trump made clear on a number of occasions, buying US LNG is the price these countries must pay for protection provided by the US troops against “Russian aggression”.
However, the US is not the only country with designs on the Baltics. Poland has reactivated its interest in these countries, all of which at some point where part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The fact that Baltic Pipe would run through Poland appears to be part of the effort to recreate a Polish “sphere of influence” expanding into the Baltics. Sweden, whose sovereignty also used to expand into the Baltics, is also seeking a greater political role through the Nordic Council, in which the Baltic States all possess observer status, and whose activities have been endorsed by recent US administrations.
It is not clear whether the current Baltic governments can easily reverse course, given the empowerment of nationalists in each of the three countries. However, the combination of Russia-West conflict, EU retrenchment and renewed focus on integration among its core states, the political pressure exerted by Poland and the US, and the continued loss of Russia-Baltic economic ties may lead to a rapid deterioration of these countries economies with entirely unpredictable political and even military consequences.
“In a way, this makes the Baltics the victim of their own policies because, as Donald Trump made clear on a number of occasions, buying US LNG is the price these countries must pay for protection provided by the US troops against ‘Russian aggression’. “
I’m absolutely convinced the Balts enjoy being gang-raped by the EU and the US. They are the same kith and kin as the Pshek and Ukro garbage. If Trump doesn’t know already, he’ll find out that the Balts are — alongside the LNG import — very happy also to pay the Western oligarchs for the troops. They are that “clever”.
Their racial prejudice against Russians makes them incapable of thinking rationally. A few years back we had a parade of Waffen SS veterans in one Baltic state. I don’t think this anti-Russian mentality can ever change. In the end they will end up paying a price for it.
Baltic countries have chosen the sad role of victims instead of focusing more the future of post Pax Americana.
The Baltic states were traditionally anti-Russian. During the Second World War, for example, they provided troops for the Waffen SS. These states cannot function without trade with Russia, while their relationship with the EU was a disappointment. Now they have found themselves in a predicament, possessing anti-Russian feelings while at the same time not being able to function without Russia. They have chosen to play on the NATO card, hoping to somehow profit by it. To state that Russia wants to invade them is totally and utterly absurd, as they possess nothing which Russia needs. They, like Poland, should have stayed neutral, profiting from both East and West. However, that was too much to ask from all of them.
I think it is unfair to characterize a nation in any particular way, just because some of its citizens joined the Waffen-SS.
In the first place, no nation – least of a conquered one under military occupation – can control what all of its citizens choose to do.
In the second place, many people – perhaps most – are mainly swayed by what they see as the status quo, rather than by what they might ideally prefer. In 1942-3, with Germany firmly in control of most of Europe, it was not surprising that many young men chose to enter the ranks of what was, after all, thought to be the world’s most elite military organization. (Even today, I feel that the Waffen-SS compares favourably to such rivals as the US Marines).
In the third place, many Waffen-SS recruits may have been under considerable pressure to join up. That would demonstrate in the most practical way their support for the German Reich – a demonstration that could have made all the difference to the fate of their families and friends. Let’s not forget that, as of 1942-3, Germany was the legal military occupier of the countries it had conquered. Rebellion was, technically, terrorism and far less justified than the actions of, for instance, the Taleban against foreign occupiers.
In the fourth place, the Waffen-SS recruited successfully from all parts of occupied Europe. It is unfair to single out any particular nations for obloquy.
I agree with most of what you have written. The best troops in the German Army were the Waffen SS and the paratroopers. The Waffen SS at the beginning of the Second World War was made up of volunteers. However, due to the high casualty rate, the number of volunteers began to diminish, and conscription was introduced, which created the ludicrous situation that German anti-Nazis ended up in the Waffen SS. In the occupied territories, the Waffen SS did accept volunteers, but I don’t think they recruited anybody by force, as that would have been going too far. For example, few people know that in 1945 Berlin was also defended by 20,000 French members of the Waffen SS. They all got killed. Very brave, but very foolish. As for the Baltics, all the Balts who joined were volunteers.
It IS fair to criticise countries which hold annual parades to honour the SS and its atrocities against Jews and others.
These are shitty little Nazi countries.
They are cut from the same cloth as the Ukrainian Nazis, who also like to strut around with swastikas and SS regalia.
They make a point of desecrating Russian war memorials.
They deny citizenship, passports and government jobs to nationals of Russian heritage who were born there.
They thought the streets of Brussels were paved with gold. They should have asked the Greeks about that. They have nothing the EU wants except prostitutes.
Let them stew in their own juice.
Plenty of truth in what you have written. Now those who have joined the Eu are either having second thoughts, or regret joining in the first place. As for the Baltic states, they found themselves in the ludicrous situation of being dependent on both the EU and Russia, and I doubt very much if they really know what to do.
‘…as Donald Trump made clear on a number of occasions, buying US LNG is the price these countries must pay for protection provided by the US troops against “Russian aggression”’.
Maybe these countries should consider inverting their policies, and buying cheap Russian gas while requesting Russian protection against “American aggression”.
What “American aggression”? you may ask. Well, whose troops and tanks are swarming throughout the EU and, increasingly, Eastern Europe? Not Russian ones.
Just because a small group of heavily bribed Quisling politicians invite the NATO forces in, that is no reason for the peoples of those countries to approve or accept foreign military occupation. Vidkun Quisling came to a bad end.
Russia was criticized for not taking over Donbass, with large Russian speaking populations. They ASKED Russia to take them back and Russia refused them. So now the Baltics, who luxuriate in hatred of the Russians, think Russia wants these ingrates back. Not too smart.
Donbas and other regions of the Ukraine were historically always Russian, which explains the presence of Russians. Ukraine annexed these regions during the communist period, one way or another. To say that Russia refused to take Donbas back is incorrect. Donbas now has the unofficial status of a republic. Russia is playing the waiting game, waiting for Ukraine to financially collapse, or disintegrate, or both, which it almost certainly will. Western Ukraine is the former Galizia, and people over there do not consider themselves Ukrainians, but Galizians, as they are of mixed blood, possessing Ukrainian, Polish, German, Scandinavian and Baltic blood. Central Ukraine is Orthodox, all the people being of Russian origin, while Eastern Ukraine is made up Russians. As for the Baltic states, their mentality and prejudice will never change. I don’t know what their future is going to be, bearing in mind their low birth rate and economic dependence on others.
These countries had quite developed economies at the time of independence, shipbuilding, machine building etc.
They were de industrialised when they joined the EU. Their economies were financialised and they had short lived property speculation bubbles.
Now their economies have collapsed, and anyone who can has emigrated.
The only thing they produce that the EU wants is prostitutes.
They are similar to Ukraine – rabidly Russian, neo Nazi, raped and colonised by western finance crapitalism.
Many leading politicians are neocons with US citizenship.
They go out of their way to give vent to their Russophobia, desecrating war memorials and denying citizens of Russian heritage the right to vote, passports, or any government jobs, and generally treating them like Palestinians on the occupied west bank.
They hold big annual Nazi SS rallies.
They have tiny populations and economies, which have now collapsed.
Let them stew in their own juice. Let Brussels and Washington pay for them.