Roundtable discusses the Ukraine Crisis and subsequent political anxiety in the Baltic States
At the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency his foreign policy dealing with conflicts in the Post-Soviet states has been ambiguous. Given this ambiguity, and Russia’s recent aggressiveness both within the region and abroad, leaders of post-soviet states are carefully and constantly monitoring developments in both Moscow and Washington. Kateryna Pishchikova, an associate professor of Political Science and International Relations at an open university eCampus in Italy, and Una Bergmane, a historian and post-doctoral fellow at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, participated in the roundtable discussion entitled “Russia and its Neighbors in the Age of Trump” on March 16th, in A.D. White House. Pishchikova’s presentation primarily addressed ongoing developments in Crimea, while Bergmane contributed to the discussion of the crisis and its influence in the Baltic States.
According to Pishchikova, Russia strategically annexed Crimea in 2014 in order to gain access to Ukraine and to the Black Sea. This aggressive action was widely condemned, and has led to a sense of vulnerability and a state of chaos on the Crimean Peninsula. Despite Putin’s effort to justify the incursion as a legitimate act of self-determination, it is apparent that the Ukrainians and Baltic people feel differently.
However, these attitudes are not universal amongst Ukrainians. In fact, according to Pishichikova, many Crimeans endorse the Russian occupation. Such polling results might be due to Russian ethnic descendants remaining in Crimea.
The Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) feature a high proportion of Russian speaking minorities, many of whom identify as both Baltic and Russian. However, this dual identity does not necessarily translate into support for Russian action within the region. What it does lead to is a feeling of insecurity, particularly as President Trump asserts the need for Eastern Europe to increase its military spending.
The Russian annexation of Crimea has led to a de facto open border between the Ukraine and Russia. Citizens in post-Soviet states are raising awareness towards the potential global conflict with Russia. Trump’s ambivalent foreign policy towards Russia creates consternation among allies as well as enhances deterrence of adversaries. At the meantime, the mutual deterrence could be relatively stable and makes it possible to avoid unnecessary fights. With US military power in mind, the leaders in Baltic States will not risk to take an action until Trump announces his stand in the post-Soviet states.