Through much of the end of June, Lithuania has been embroiled in a row with Russia over the implementation of EU sanctions on certain kinds of goods in transit between Russia and its Kaliningrad exclave. Russia has claimed that Lithuania’s actions are a “violation of everything,” and has promised a response that is “not diplomatic.” In turn, Lithuania has argued that it is simply putting into practice the EU sanctions regime agreed upon as early as March, and that contrary to Russian claims, its actions will not halt all transit between Russia and Kaliningrad; rather, it will only stop the flow of sanctioned goods.
For about the last two months, Lithuania has been in the throes of a migration crisis like it has never seen before. In retaliation to the sanctions placed on his regime following the forced grounding of a passenger airliner to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka promised to force Europe (and in particular, Lithuania) to deal with drug smuggling and migrant flows on their own. Aside from Lukashenka’s claim to have been stopping migrants and smugglers in the past, the statement gives clear indication of intent to weaponize migration and the flow of contraband.
On June 14, heads of state from all NATO members met in Brussels for the 2021 NATO summit. This occurred smack in the middle of U.S. President Biden’s much touted trip to Europe, and overall received little media attention. A Google search of the summit produces primarily NATO press releases, the odd news article here or there (but only from mainstream yet highly partisan sources, fringe outlets, and little else), few analyses, and a preponderance of pre-summit anticipatory articles from news sources and think tanks alike.
This month, Lithuania announced the arrival of a 164-tonne transformer as part of the ongoing process for synchronization with the Continental European power grid. This step is considered crucial for successfully exiting the Soviet era BRELL agreement, in which the Baltics’ power grids are controlled by Moscow. Exiting BRELL is a major component of the Baltics’ overall strategy not only for energy security, but for their national security broadly. Under the BRELL agreement, the Baltics have been synchronously connected to the Integrated Power System/United Power System (IPS/UPS) grid with Russia and Belarus since the end of the Soviet period.
U.S. President Joe Biden has claimed that Nord Stream 2, the controversial Russo-German pipeline project, is a “bad deal for Europe” and has stated his administration’s opposition to the project. At face value, that would appear to be a rare continuity with the previous administration, but a deeper dive into the various perspectives in Washington reveals a much more complicated position. Despite spoken commitments to the bipartisan sanctions regime instituted by the Trump administration, it appears that the Biden administration is ready to wash its hands of the issue and move on.
In the world of analysis, contrarian viewpoints are equally disliked and necessary. They help shape a more robust understanding of the situation at hand and can prepare countries for the otherwise unexpected. As much of Europe celebrates Joe Biden taking the helm in the United States after the much despised Trump administration, it is worthwhile to take a step back and question whether or not that enthusiasm is really merited. As such, this paper puts forth an unabashedly contrarian viewpoint for the sake of an enriched understanding of the world as it may be going forward, lest the Baltics be caught off guard in the broader optimism of their European counterparts.
This article provided by our Ukrainian partners, Ad Astra Despite being different in so many aspects, Ukraine and the Baltic states have always had a lot of things in common, the main one being a troublesome neighbor on the eastern border that we all have to deal with. The dissolution of the Soviet Union opened a new era in Russian foreign policy towards the territories that are or were once perceived as a part of the sphere of influence of the former geopolitical empire.
On November 9, 2020, 31 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the Polish Senate’s ratification bill of the U.S.-Polish Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). This agreement contains a number of provisions that will facilitate greater defense cooperation between the United States and Poland and improve deterrence and battle readiness for NATO along the alliance’s Eastern Flank. For the Baltics, this ratification is welcome news, as it not only improves the regional deterrent posture, but also a number of crucial conditions in Poland to enable more rapid and effective defense in the event of Russian aggression on their territory.
In 2014, NATO member states agreed to target defense expenditures of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024. After this commitment, and following Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO turned the corner on its declining defense expenditures. Facing a new challenge in a revisionist Russia, many allies to the east felt a new sense of urgency about funding their defense, aiming to build a credible deterrent against aggression on their own territory.
Belarus seldom registers in the international press during normal times, but while years like 2020 are not so unprecedented, this certainly is not a normal year. Since President Aleksandr Lukashenko was declared the winner of the fraudulent presidential elections on August 9, the country has spiraled into civil unrest and authoritarian repression, and the headlines keep coming like a stampede. While no one was surprised by the announced outcome of the election, most analysts would not have predicted that Belarus would be launched headlong into a persistent crisis.