After the Breakup of a Multi-Ethnic Empire: Russia, Successor States, and Eurasian Security

By Susanne Michele Birgerson | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
The Baltic Successor States

INTRODUCTION

Conditions in the Slavic and Central Asian states have not been supportive of independence. Political instability, economic decline, ethnic divisiveness, and the lack of a unified or even coherent sense of national identity have served to weaken the states of these regions, making them more susceptible to pressure from Russia.

The Baltic region by contrast is the exception that proves the rule because conditions in this peripheral region are conducive to independence. And yet tense relations with Russia have similarly troubled the Baltic transition to independence. All three regions remain economically and even politically dependent on Russia though the Baltic States have gone furthest to rid themselves of these dependencies. However the “success” of the Baltic States remains conditioned upon cordial relations with Russia. But Russia’s aggressive opposition to Baltic membership in NATO and its delay in signing border agreements have hindered the efforts of the Baltic States to integrate with the West. Cooperation with Russia is also beneficial in conducting trade. For instance economic cooperation between Latvia and Kazakhstan would be greatly facilitated by Russia’s willingness to allow both countries to use its rail and airspace so that more costly means of transport could be avoided.1

Why have the Baltic States opted to distance themselves from Russia as much as possible? How do conditions differ in the Baltic States from those in the other two regions under study? The remainder of the chapter addresses these questions. First the distinctive characteristics of the Baltic region will be touched upon for perspective vis-à-vis the other two regions. The Baltic region differs from the Slavic and Central Asian regions in several significant respects.

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