Category Archives: Political Science, International Relations, Law

Latvia Between the Centers of Gravitation of Soft Power – the USA and Russia

Andis Kudors (Centre for East European Policy Studies, Latvia)

As a democratic country, Latvia is open to the influence of different foreign actors. Two countries – United States and Russia have better opportunities to implement soft power policy toward Latvia than others. According to the soft power theory of Joseph Nye, soft power can be implemented through the use of public diplomacy. Nye identifies three dimensions of public diplomacy: daily communication, strategic communication, and work with opinion leaders. Since the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991, the political elite has traditionally been pro-American, and the same applies to the majority of ethnic Latvians. A significant characteristic is the difference of attitudes toward the USA and Russia between ethnic Latvians and the Russian speaking part of society. Previous studies show that the U.S. “loses” to Russia in daily communication. The latter has many more chances to comment on events in Russia and in the world on a daily basis to the Latvian audience. Russia’s daily and strategic communication influences the political socialization of Latvian citizens, as well as social integration processes. Besides that, the securitization of culture in Russia completely changes the assessment of Russian soft power. If the United States is interested in the future support of Latvia for its global foreign policies, then it is important to comprehend the attitudes of Latvian citizens toward the U.S. and Russia and the factors that form these attitudes.

60 Years after the Establishment of the American Latvian Association: A Search for a New Mission

Ilze Garoza (American Latvian Association)

This paper evaluates the work of the American Latvian Association 60 years after its establishment and 20 years after one of its main goals – reestablishment of Latvia’s independence – has been fulfilled. The role of the American Latvian Association in coordinating Latvian emigre efforts to preserve their ancestral language and culture and promoting freedom for their homeland is unparralleled, however, with the aging and dwindling ALA’s membership, the organization faces a set of existential challenges regarding its role, its goals, and its mission for the future. This evaluation based on interviews with the ALA board members and staff and a survey of existing and potential members will seek to answer questions – what are the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the American Latvian Association 60 years after its establishment, and what mission and goals should the organization set for the future?

The Geopolitics of Energy in the Baltic Sea

Jaroslaw Wisniewski (Kings College London)

The first decade of the 21st century re-defined the European approach to energy. With the change of the governing elite in the Russian Federation, growing concerns over the climate change and high volatility of oil prices, energy discourse previously dominated by economics was increasingly seen in terms of national securities of European states. Through the analysis of two major daily newspapers, Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita, the paper focuses on the analysis of the energy discourse in Poland, between 2000 and 2001, focusing on the identification of issues addressed, frequencies of texts and their contents. The paper identifies geopolitics as the key frame applied, with particular focus on cooperation between Poland and its closest neighbours, Germany, Lithuania, Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Explaining Corruption in the Baltic States

Sigita Urdze (Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany)

Corruption is a major problem in the Baltic States. However there are significant differences in the level of corruption between the three states. Data by Transparency International shows that Estonia’s corruption level is constantly decreasing and slowly but steadily approaching Western European level. Latvia’s and Lithuania’s corruption levels have improved as well but still more resemble that of other Central and Eastern European states. From the actual level of corruption one has to differentiate the level of individuals’ perception of corruption (Loveless/Whitefield 2011). In this regard there are far less differences between the Baltic States. The proposed paper wants to first give an overview on the actual level of corruption as well as on the level of individuals’ perception of corruption in the Baltic States. The second part tries to answer the question how the development of the corruption levels and the differences between the two level types can be explained. The explanation of the actual level of corruption includes as influential factors: (1) history and culture, (2) economic development, (3) political institutions, (4) anti-corruption policies. The explanation of individuals’ perception of corruption includes: (1) different understandings of the term “corruption”, (2) awareness of corruption as a problem, (3) perception of anti-corruption-policies, (4) ethnical aspects, (5) perceived inequality.

The Consequences of Playing the Compatriot Card: The Influence of Russia’s Activism on Elite Attitudes in Estonia and Latvia

Jennie L. Schulze (Duquesne University)

Estonia and Latvia were the primary targets of Russia’s compatriot policy during the 1990s as a result of the restrictive citizenship and language policies they adopted after regaining independence. In an effort to reverse Soviet era policies that drastically changed the demographics of both states and privileged Russian language and culture, Estonian and Latvian elites followed a nationalizing approach to state-building that conceives of the state as belonging to the ethnic majority, and consequently adopted citizenship and language polices that disenfranchised their large Russian-speaking minorities. Russia has used a variety of tools to pressure Estonia and Latvia into policy reforms,  including historical aggravation, manipulation of border agreements, citizenship policy, military and economic pressure, international organizations, and propaganda campaigns. Leading scholarship has tended to either ignore  or underestimate the influence of Russia’s kin-state activism on ethnopolitics and minority rights in Estonia and Latvia, and has argued that EU membership conditionality has been more important in shaping citizenship and language policies. In addition, while several studies have focused on the geostrategic motivations for Russia’s activism, few studies have critically examined its domestic impact in target states.  Through elite interviews conducted in Estonia and Latvia in 2008, this paper will fill an important gap in the literature by addressing two central questions: 1) How is Russia’s kin-state activism perceived by Estonian and Latvian elites?; and 2) How does it affect their attitudes toward the Russian-speaking minority and minority integration more generally?

The Political Culture of Latvian Russian-Speakers in a Comparative Perspective

Juris Rozenvalds (University of Latvia)

One of the striking features in the political development of Latvia during the twenty years of its renewed independence (1991-2011) is the special importance of relations between the two main social groups – Latvians and Russian-speakers – in shaping the political agenda. The debates around the February 2011 referendum on Russian as the second state language in Latvia is a good example. The aim of the paper is to examine the political culture of the Russian-speaking  inhabitants of Latvia as a presupposition and consequence of these relations as well as the general social and political climate of society. Special emphasis will be placed on the attitudes  relevant to the democratic development of society (i.e. a sense of belonging, interpersonal trust, subjective well-being, value of democracy, support for strong leader and trust in institutions).  The aforementioned questions will be examined from three different angles. First, an analysis of the temporal changes in political attitudes of Latvian Russian-speakers from the 90s to the present. Second, a consideration of the similarities and diferences in political attitudes between Latvians and  Russian-speakers. Finally, the political attitudes of Latvians and Estonian Russian-speakers will be compared. The conclusion will state that we cannot speak about  Baltic Russians as a homogeneous mass with respect to their political attitudes. We have to take in account different historical traditions, a degree of self-confidence and self-organization, as well as differences in the social and political climate of Estonian and Latvian societies.

Baltic Energy Security: Tapping into the Middle East and North Africa to Create a Strategic Balance between Domestic, Regional and International Energy Resources

Ginta T. Palubinskas (George Mason University)

Reliance on Russian energy resources has left the Baltic States strategically vulnerable through the energy sector. Key to achieving Baltic energy security is the ability to diversify energy supply: finding a strategic balance between domestic, regional and international energy resources is vital to the political and economic future of the Baltic States. This paper examines steps taken by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia toward energy diversification and assesses to what extent the Baltic States could make use of Middle Eastern and North African energy resources as a means of increasing their energy security over time.

Human Security in Latvia: Perceptions of the Russian Community

Žaneta  Ozoliņa, Ivars Ijabs and Iveta Reinholde (University of Latvia)

Human Security (HS) is one of the concepts that has been embraced by the academic and political communities. Despite the progress that has been achieved in the domain of the HS concept since 1992, several questions remain unanswered – why do only a few countries and international organisations draft their policies based on the concept; why is the HS concept applied more to developing countries, while the developed world looks like a HS-free zone; why are there only a very few attempts to apply the concept to sub-groups within the societies? The paper aims at analysing perceptions and interpretations of the Russian community in Latvia with regard to several aspects of HS, thus bridging the gap between micro and macro levels of the concept. On the basis of the results of focus group discussions in Daugavpils, Liepaja and Riga the paper will present an understanding of what representatives of the Russian community in Latvia consider as risks and threats to their security; what kind of individual strategies they plan to apply and propose; and to what extent financial and economic crisis has influenced their sense of security.

Keyword: Ozolina

Weak Unions and National Politics in the Baltics


David Ost (Hobart and William Smith Colleges)

Trade unions emerged in all of postcommunist Europe in a weak position, burdened by the negative legacies of communism, the rise of neoliberal ideology (even among new union activists), and the effort by employers and the state to restrict the rise of unions. Unions in the Baltic republics, however, are seen by a number of scholars as the weakest of the weak, unable to attract workers, mobilize members, or exert pressure on firm or state. This paper explores that claim, shows strong evidence for its validity, and suggests that it should be interpreted in terms of ethnic nationalism. The argument is that Baltic state policy after communism, particularly in Estonia, sought not so much to weaken labor, but to weaken institutions in which the Russian-speaking minority were heavily invested. That meant undercutting the heavy industry concentrated in the eastern areas, as well as the unions heavily represented there. Factors that contributed to such policies were official efforts to propel emigration, large numbers on non-citizens in unions, and the limited proletarianization of the Baltic population after World War II were all contributing factors to today’s anti-labor outcomes. So whereas even neoliberal governments in other postcommunist countries had to find some common ground with organized labor in order to obtain social stability and electoral support, no comparable pressure emerged in the Baltics.

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.