Russia's Baltic policy: the good, the bad and the other

  • 2007-06-29
  • By Mike Collier
RIGA 's RESPECTED British publication The Economist has sparked debate in the Latvian press that is likely to spread throughout the region with an online article examining the tricky subject of relations between the three Baltic states and their Russian neighbor.

The article, which is not bylined but appeared on the weekly magazine's website on June 28, identifies the planned construction of a nuclear powerplant in Lithuania but also involving Poland, Latvia and Estonia, as a perfect paradigm of how it seems impossible to separate Russia from Baltic affairs. Russian President Vladimir Putin is quoted declaring his desire for an open tender on the project, speculating that "Russian companies would put in a very competitive bid."

Perhaps the most intriguing piece of information in the article comes from what is described as "a wily senior official" in the Latvian government who expresses the never-publicly-stated Latvian attitude to Russia as: "Don't tease, don't appease."

The Economist also claims Russia's basic policy is to court one Baltic nation, intimidate another and ignore the third, with the roles periodically rotated to keep everyone on their toes and prevent a unified Baltic position on any issue.

At present, Latvia is seen as the country being courted by means of large amounts of Russian investment money, Estonia is on the receiving end of the Kremlin's displeasure following the Bronze Soldier incidents [which many believe were actively hyped by Moscow] and Lithuania is being largely disregarded 's apart from the small question of a nuclear power plant which would provide Baltic access to non-Russian energy.