No, it is not the beginning of a joke, but a somewhat whimsical description of today’s situation in the East of Europe.

For many decades, the Balkans were described as ‘the powder keg of Europe’, considering the many conflicts that started there and extended to most of Europe – indeed, to most of the world, if we look at the Great War that we remember these current years. The Balkans however, managed to (bloodily) resolve their differences and turned to producing a generation more interested in wealth and lifestyle than in vendetta and bloodshed.

After some decades when Europe was busy fighting the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the economic crisis, a new menace appeared on stage: a renewed, re-empowered Russia, clamouring for her rightful place under the sun. From international alliance building (look at the BRICSA states and the Shanghai Agreement), Russia has since moved to increasingly direct measures. Once the staunchly pro-Russian Yanukovych was ousted, Russian ‘patriots’ were quick to rebel and invite in the Russian forces. Thus, the Crimea fell to Moscow after a referendum even the organizers admitted was a sham while the eastern counties of Ukraine are even now scenes of outright war between the Ukrainian armed forces and the Russian-backed rebels.

Alongside the Ukrainian operation, the Russian leadership increased their accusations regarding the Baltic countries human-rights record, particularly regarding the treatment of the significant Russian population.

As I mused earlier[1], one of the options for the Kremlin is to create and bolster local ‘resistance movements’, aiming at their country’s total or at least partial unification with Russia.

On 6 October, parliamentary elections were held in Latvia, with the Russian-speaker’s ‘Harmony’ party winning 24 seats out of 100 in the Saeima[2]. As the experts asked by BBC’s Patrick Jackson point out[3], it seems to be Russia’s interest to create and foster frozen conflicts, precisely in order to further their goal of remaking the Russian Empire. The Hon. Dr. Liam Fox, MP, former UK Secretary for Defence, voices the same opinions[4]

It is then quite clear that most people fear the same: a Russian bid for a renewed maritime border along the Baltic. What then is to be done?

Obviously, the answer must be as complex as the question itself. First, the Baltic countries security services must keep a constant vigil and employ all the constitutional means at their disposal in order to disrupt and confound the plans of the Kremlin. Perhaps the recent abduction of an Estonian Kaitsepolitsei (Security Police) officer[5] is just an outward sign of the silent battles fought in the region.

The second layer of the response must be the military build-up of NATO forces in the region, coupled with the clearest messages regarding the Alliance’s determination to protect and preserve the independence and sovereignty of those countries.

Finally, the economies must be kept strong, as people who see that they can and do become ever wealthier, with ever increasing living standards are less prone to join violent movements, being more preoccupied with living better.

In conclusion, determination in purpose, determination in action and determination in unity is the likely key to confound the Russian plans.

[1] Does history repeat itself?, at the Internet address

[2]Latvian election: Coalition keeps strong Russian party out, at the Internet address

[3]Ukraine crisis: ‘Frozen conflicts’ and the Kremlin, at the internet address

[4]“Baltic countries should be worried”. Exclusive GLOBSEC interview with Dr. Fox, at the Internet address

[5]Estonia angry at Russia ‘abduction’ at border, at the Internet address

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