Is the Baltic Sea Region the Achilles heel of NATO?

Jan Nalaskowski (Old Dominion University)

The Baltic Sea Region (BSR) is ripe with security concerns. NATO’s presence and the evolution of its character, Russia’s activities, and the diversified security choices of the Baltic Sea states make it a potentially vulnerable environment. NATO’s enlargement not only reshaped the security of the region; it also broke a taboo by accepting the Baltic Republics as its members. By outlining new threats, the organization encouraged its members to act globally, though still within the 5th Article framework. It is relevant that one of the motives for reshaping, namely the cyber-attacks on Estonia in 2007, occurred in the BSR. The Baltic republics add little military value to NATO and will most likely continue to be objects of Russian “sentiment.” Russia’s role remains ambiguous. It responds to global threats in cooperation with the Euro-Atlantic community, but often tries to blur its unity with bilateral agreements, unilateral economic embargos, or moral interventions in domestic matters. Moreover, the Kaliningrad Oblast recently became a threat area against Polish plans to develop anti-nuclear cooperation with the United States. The EU still relies on NATO in many aspects, although the Lisbon Treaty heralds growing independence. The potential conflict of these two choices would mean a weakening of unified response. Many of the Baltic Sea countries will face this dilemma, and non-aligned states from the region will be more eager to cooperate with the EU. The Baltic Sea region is an area where conflicting interests meet. It is probable that a NATO-Russia conflict will soon erupt in the region.

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