Olav F. Knudsen (Ed.), Security Strategies, Power Disparity and Identity: The Baltic Sea Region

By Dabrowska, Monika | CEU Political Science Journal, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Olav F. Knudsen (Ed.), Security Strategies, Power Disparity and Identity: The Baltic Sea Region


Dabrowska, Monika, CEU Political Science Journal


Olav F. Knudsen (ed.), Security strategies, power disparity and identity: the Baltic Sea region (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007)

In spite of the changed zeitgeist of European international relations in the 21st century the lingering perception of existential uncertainty remains topical and one can safely assume that more than twenty years of peaceful coexistence is needed to eradicate it totally. Thus, even though the scope of security studies had changed, and the deepened and broadened agenda acquired a new and complex significance, the role of power, the nature of security relations and the conceptions of identity still constitute the fulcrum for researchers wishing to advance our understanding of the dilemmas of regional security studies. Exploring whether the power differentials are of little importance or are they still politically significant, Security Strategies, Power disparity, and Identity: The Baltic Sea Region invites the reader to an insightful journey to learn more about unequal power relations between the countries of the Baltic Sea region.

Security, power, and identity, the three intrinsically interwoven phenomena, stand at the focal point in this insightful analysis of security relations in the Baltic Sea region. Acknowledging that power influences both the security choice and the identity choice, the authors set an ambitious task of researching under what conditions unequal power may prevent or encumber the emergence of cooperative security understood not as the lateral relations between respective countries of the region, but rather as the actions undertaken by group of states with various power, security needs and conceptions of identity. Wishing to explore the possible effects of power disparity on cooperative security and integration, the authors tackle the issues of progress towards cooperative security versus the threat perceptions often enhanced by power disparity; the influence of strong group identities, and the role of concrete conflicts and specific interests in security context.

This volume edited by Olav F. Knudsen constitutes a collection of papers by distinguish scholars: fine examples of considered thought, careful yet innovative theoretical approaches, meticulous empirical analyses, and sound knowledge of the field. Chapter 3 traces the development of events and ideas relating to security in the Baltic Sea region and although it says little of the origins or possible reasons for its specificity and is, at best, succinct on Russia's role, it provides the reader with much needed factual overview. Chapter 4 offers a brilliant account of "an identity dimension to security choice and a security dimension to identity choice" (p. 51). The author explains the politic of 'having a cookie and eating it too' and explores the strategy of balancing between remaining Finnish and Swedish and institutionalizing national security. The emphasis on identity aspect might not be satisfying for everyone however for the question why these two strategies differ from the policies of the other states in the region does not appear; especially lacking is the comparison with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, so different in their security approach. Another focal point of analyses presented in the book is the possible change of state structures relative to integration processes and other transnational phenomena, like international cooperation of expert groups: Chapter 5 focuses on the role and impact of epistemic communities, while Chapter 6 brings into a view the societal factor and via discourse analysis examines how and to what extent identities mediate power disparity. These findings are particularly interesting when one compares them with Chapter 3 propositions. Finally, Chapter 7 broadens the security context of the volume by approaching the debate from the perspective of information technologies as an additional power resource through the case studies and Chapter 8 surveys the Baltic Sea region security landscape using the game theory as an analytical tool. …

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