“Europe isn‘t Prepared for What 2017 May Bring“ (Washington Post), “What‘s in Store for Europe in 2017? A Look at Possible Scenarios“ (The Guardian) or “For Europe, 2017 Will be a Crucial Year With Elections, Challenges and Maybe Chaos“ (Forbes) – such headlines reflect how world media channels were making predictions for Europe before New Year. But let‘s forget Europe and try to come closer to what 2017 can bring to the Baltic states. What can we expect?
An associate professor of International Relations at Tallinn university Matthew Crandall is sharing his insights on 2017 for Baltic states. Crandall’s major fields of research are soft security threats and small state foreign policy.
How could you sum up 2016 for Baltic States? How was the year for the three countries? What were the victories and losses related to international relations?
2016 was a year of calm stability. The alarm and concern from the Ukrainian crisis slowly faded as NATO’s enhanced forward presence resulted in the stationing of more NATO troops and military hardware in the Baltic states. Domestically public discourses over refugees also calmed after having received significant attention earlier in the year. The economy is growing at a slow pace, wages have been increasing and construction continues.
Despite the domestic calm and stability there are concerns about the global challenges and uncertainties. The twin pillars of Baltic security and prosperity (NATO and the EU) have come under question. The election of US president Donald Trump causes some to wonder what the future of NATO’s commitment to the Baltic States might be. Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU also has given concern about the future of the EU.
What are the core events that are going to happen this year in EU and how this may influence Baltic countries?
Three things to keep tabs on:
- President Trump’s foreign policy, especially in regards to Russia. Most likely a Reset 2.0 will take place, what will that mean for NATO’s enhanced forward presence, sanctions, and most importantly Russia’s behavior towards NATO border countries?
- France’s presidential election. If Le Pen wins it will be a death blow to the EU. François Fillon would mean warmer relations with Russia but within a pro EU framework.
- Germany’s federal elections. This will be the second major test for the EU. If France and Germany can emerge with pro-EU leaders the Baltic states can breath easier.
What are the opportunities that Baltic States should not miss to use?
Given the potential for cracks in the twin pillars of Baltic security and prosperity, the Baltic states should look to strengthen security ties outside of US relations. France, Germany, the UK, and Nordic countries would be a good start. The Baltic states should also look to strengthen economic and political ties with countries outside the EU, including states in Asia and Russia. The Baltic states do not want to be left as the last European states holding a hard line towards Russia.
This text is also available in Lithuanian