Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences

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

10

The Baltic States in Russian Foreign Policy Discourse: Can Russia Become a Baltic Country?

VIATCHESLAV MOROZOV


THE DISCOURSE OF 'FALSE EUROPE'

Using the famous phrase coined by Carl Bildt, one may call the relations between Russia and the Baltic states a litmus test for the success of the region-building process around the Baltic Sea. 1 The stage for future cooperation, as well as for a still conceivable future conflict, is shaped by today's discursive practices, which have their roots in history and in the foundation myths of every nation involved.

The Baltic states have been assigned a very specific role in the Russian debate on international affairs. In the dominant Russian foreign policy discourse, they have an extremely negative image. Estonia and Latvia first and foremost, but also Lithuania, play the role of an embodiment of the 'false Europe', to use Iver Neumann's term. 2 The juxtaposition between a 'true' and a 'false' Europe has been a persistent theme in the Russian debate at least since the nineteenth century, and has been very important for the definition of Russia's self and its place in Europe. Whilst the content of both notions has changed in line with shifts in the political situation, the 'false' Europe has always been used by politicians as a foil against which they can portray themselves as defenders of European values. One of the most characteristic examples of this discursive game was the Russian membership of the Holy Alliance, which allowed the tsarist regime to play the role of a defender of 'true' European values, such as monarchy and order, against the barbarian revolutionaries. Nor was such logic alien to the communists. The Soviet reaction to the creation of the European Community in the 1950s, for instance, can be interpreted in terms of a 'truly European', peaceful and co-operative USSR criticizing a 'fake' project of 'European unity' inspired by the United States and driven by capitalist greed.

This posture in a way helps to overcome the feeling of inferiority that

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