The Baltic States and Their Region: New Europe or Old?

By David J. Smith | Go to book overview

Editor's introduction: the Baltic States and their region:
new Europe or old?

David J Smith

This edited volume consists of selected papers from a conference held in January 2004 at the University of Glasgow. With European Union (EU) and NATO membership for the Baltic States by that time firmly on the horizon, contributors were invited to reflect upon the relationship of the three countries and their constituent peoples to Europe, both historically and in the period following the restoration of independence in 1991. At a time of growing regional integration, analysis was extended to the wider Baltic sea area, hence the inclusion of chapters dealing with Finland and Russia. In the original call for papers, it was also emphasised that “Europe” should be understood in the broadest possible sense, and not simply as defined by the EU and/or NATO. Above all, contributors were invited to reflect upon the various ways in which the bases of European community and identity have been defined, and to locate the Baltic area within those debates, also highlighting any original contributions to the construction of Europe that have come from this region.


1. New Europe and old

As the countdown to EU and NATO enlargement began at the start of 2003, debates over the essence of the post-Cold War Europe took a dramatic new turn within the context of the impending US-led war on Iraq. Commenting on the transatlantic divisions occasioned by the Iraq crisis, US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld asserted that Europe was now divided into two camps of “new” and “old.” The former was characterised by its unwavering support for an Atlanticism newly premised on support for the “war on terror”; the latter by its inability to grasp the fundamental turning point in world affairs occasioned by the events of September 11 2001.

Whilst the longer-term implications of the “new-old” split have yet to become clear, the attempt to impose a new definition of transatlantic community carried potentially revolutionary implications for European affairs. Not least, the new US rhetoric broke with a continued tendency to define Europe according to categories of east and west. This is a point which is developed in several of the contributions to this volume, most notably those by Chris Browning, Pertti Joenniemi and Marko Lehti.

At the start of the 1990s, the collapse of communism and the demise of the USSR were hailed as marking the emergence of a “Europe whole and free.” In practice, however, there has been a continued tendency to differentiate the former socialist states of the East from the “core” western Europe of the Cold War era. From a western perspective,

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