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 Security in the Baltic region

 SCCC           Baltic nations have always been in the sphere of influence of mighty empires throughout history. Ever since the expansionist politics of the Tsardom of Russia this area has been very keen to Russian foreign interests mostly because of their access to the parts of the Baltic sea that do not freeze during winter and all the trade routes it comes with. Later on, the USSR incorporated Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia under the auspices of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact which had never been approved de jure by any western country.Strategically and historically, this region was used as a shield to foreign invaders and since the delusion of the USSR, especially in Estonia and Latvia, a big minority group of Russians still inhabit the area, bringing fear that they will cause instability as they did in the Ukraine.These three countries gained independence in 1991, when the UN officially recognized them as independent and sovereign states.In 2004. these countries joined the EU and NATO and from then on, air forces of 16 different NATO member states have been involved in securing the Baltic air space.

Russia,being one of the world’s biggest oil exporters,finds the Baltic sea, yet again, to be of out most importance since it is becoming its 3rd most important trade route in terms of oil trade and especially since the new pipeline between Germany and Russia are in the talks. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. and its military actions in Ukraine have led NATO leaders to rearrange their defense plans in the Baltic region.

 

In the aftermath of the Crimean crisis, both NATO and Russia scaled up their missions in the region in terms of increasing number of fighter air crafts and frequent military exercises.The threat of a Russian encroachment, as seen by the west, is too dangerous to the stability of NATO and EU. Baltic countries are protected by NATO's Article V which calls upon all member states to come to their defense if their sovereignty gets questioned. While all three Baltic states are threatened, the likelihood of an open war could activate Article V and fracture NATO if one or more of NATO's powerful members refuse to come to their defense. As long as NATO is firm, defensive and predictable it is possible to engage in a political dialogue with Russia.

            The USA has been increasingly interested in the area, as The Baltic states are part both of EU and NATO. The USA wants to protect its allies and leave the status quo. The relationship between Russia and USA in this region has been increasingly decreasing over more frequent disagreements, tensions haven’t been so high since the Cold war. In September 2017, Russia will perform one of the biggest military exercises of the century. Analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel will take part in “West 17” military exercise which will take place in Kaliningrad, Belarus and in Russia. It’s not in NATO’s nature to remain silent to Russia’s display of power such as Zapad (West) 17. Stakes are high in this region, both Russia and the USA with its allies won’t give up the chance for political, military and energy control in the Baltics. The question now is, who will prevail?