Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences

By Marko Lehti; David J.Smith | Go to book overview

7

Regional Security: All or Nothing at All?

JOHN HIDEN

Although questions of Baltic security go far beyond Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the restored independence of these 'small' countries still lies at the heart of all meaningful discussions of the region since the fall of the Soviet Union. This reality is not always palatable in the capitals of the larger European players; that it cannot be ignored is evident from the now tired mantra about the safety of the Baltic republics being the litmus test for the 'New Europe'. Accordingly, the three Baltic states are central to what follows

Baltic leaders are all too well aware from their countries' history between the two World Wars of the price exacted for not fully coordinating their resources and security. In the cautionary words of Estonian president Lennart Meri in 1995, the restored Baltic states urgently needed to co-operate to avoid the risk of repeating the mistakes of history. Not long afterwards a similar sentiment was echoed by the then president of the European Parliament, Klaus Hensch, who also added that closer co-operation between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would speed up their reintegration into Europe. 1

It can be argued, however, that the scepticism behind such strictures takes its cue partly from the negative balance drawn in virtually all studies of the Baltic alliance schemes planned and attempted during the 1920s and 1930s. The notion of folie à trois is now firmly enshrined in the collective historical memory of Baltic regional bloc-building between the two World Wars. 2 It still casts a faintly gloomy pall over the popular reception of today's Baltic Council of three foreign ministers and the Baltic Assembly, made up of parliamentarians from each of the three states. How to dispel this?

The answer first needs to take in a wider perspective. From that it can readily be seen that the record of Baltic disunity has been exaggerated by insufficiently stressing Europe's shortcomings. Thus, what turned out

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