The Baltic Tigers after 20 years: is Russia extending a helping hand?

By Česlovas Iškauskas

On the New Year eve the Russian media started escalating the issue of Baltic countries’ future and their place in the region. The forecasts concerning future of the three Baltic States are far from promising. Yet most importantly, the efforts are made to withdraw Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from the general European context by suggesting Eastern values to these countries.

I’ve read the interview to the agency Regnum by Dmitry Kondrashov, editor-in-chief of the “Baltic Peace” and coordinator of the Committee of the initiative “International Russia”. The author used to work in this Kremlin-backed agency and was president of the news agency Rosbalt. He writes articles on culture and coactivity of Russian speaking population and analyses the manifestation of Nazism and extremism in the region, including future prospects of the Baltic States.

The analyst starts the interview from comparing the celebration of seasonal traditions in Russia and in the so called “Pribaltica”. While speaking about the political elite of the region, Dmitry Kondrashov originates it back to 1947, when Lavrenty Beria started executing the horrific Stalin’s orders. The author calls this “korenisation” i.e. “incrustation”. According to Dmitry Kondrashov, then Moscow was supported by the local elite which had local power and didn’t even dream about the federal centre.  Though this centre prohibited people from following any ideology, it tolerated religious holidays, e.g. Christmas. The national elites were supplied by the federal centre, whereas russification is an invented concept (Dmitry Kondrashov).

Moscow“was so good” that, for instance, didn’t prohibit a soviet writer (later president of Estonia Lennart Meri) to communicate with the U.S. intellectuals. Consequently “Pribaltica” has become a “showcase” of the Soviet Union, whereas Estonia’s standard of living was higher than in Denmark (pursuant to CIA data provided by the Estonian writer Uno Lacht).

What ”Pribaltica” could expect in the future? According to the above interview, it has two options: either economic degradation (if priority is given to a titular nation) or prosperity in case of integration into Russian market. By this the efforts are made to prove that the plan for the establishment of the Eurasian Union (it is currently very popular in Russia) should also be attractive for the Baltic States.

On the New Year eve Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement addressing the situation of Russian minorities in foreign countries. According to Konstantin Dolgov, the Ministry’s envoy on human rights, the rights of Russian speaking people are violated in the Baltic States, especially in Estonia and Latvia, including spreading Nazi ideas and the revision of the decisions of the Nuremberg Trials. “These are extremely dangerous trends, and we’ll continue to ask our partners to address this issue”, said Dolgov.

On the very last day of December the Italian magazine Limes published the article about Baltic States after 20 years of Independence. It says, regretfully, that neither Estonia, nor Latvia or Lithuania have desire to fight for freedom and that economic downturn killed the last seeds of patriotism. The article asks: where is solidarity of the Baltic States which was so strong during the singing revolution?

After the 1991 putsch in Moscow the three Baltic States quickly stepped away from Russia and started reforms which have brought the countries to the threshold of NATO and EU memberships. Limes asks: Why the Baltic Tigers have suddenly stopped? The 2008-2009 crisis had such a huge impact on Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, that GDP in one of them (Latvia) dropped by 18 percent.

According to publication, this is the major issue determining the disagreements between the majority of population and ethnic minorities in Baltic States.  By the way, the article highlights that Lithuania has been hastily looking for the ways of taking away the control of supply of energy resources from Russia. Unfortunately, so far its efforts are in vain. The construction of the Visaginas Nuclear Power Plan has also been delayed.

The magazine quotes the British Daily Mail: if the Euro zone and the entire EU collapses, Russia will return to Baltic States and in 2015 will occupy Latvia, later Estonia and Lithuania and then Belarus and Moldova. Though Limes dissociates itself from the above fantasies, it says that history is in a constant process of change, the same could be said about the European integration or evaluation of the status of separate regions.

We can also assure that Independence of the Baltic States is very stable and that it is impossible to shatter it by any persuasion or expostulation. Let’s assume that Dmitry Kondrashov did know what he meant by the words that “then “Pribaltica” signed a civilization sentence and the current economic crisis enforced this sentence”. The EU is not able to help, whereas Russia with the army of Russian speaking population abroad can extend a helping hand.