News / Europe

Crimea Annexation Causes Jitters in Baltic States

Estonian Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu speaks during a joint press conference with his French counterpart in Tallinn, Estonia on March 21, 2014.
Estonian Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu speaks during a joint press conference with his French counterpart in Tallinn, Estonia on March 21, 2014.
Cecily Hilleary
The recent Russian anne­­­­xation of Ukraine’s Crimea region has sent shock waves throughout former Soviet republics with sizeable ethnic Russian populations.

Russia justified its annexation of Crimea by saying it was meant to protect ethnic Russians that Moscow said were facing violence and discrimination – charges rejected by Ukraine and by the West. 
 
Latvia, Lithuania and EstoniaLatvia, Lithuania and Estonia
x
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
For the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, recent messages from Moscow have been unsettling.

At last week’s UN Human Right Council meeting in Geneva, the Russian delegate expressed concern about the treatment of Estonia's Russian minority.

Earlier this month, Russia said it would offer citizenship to Latvia’s Russians to "save the Latvian noncitizens out of poverty."

And Russia’s Baltic Fleet recently held live fire military exercises along the Baltic coast, billed as part of a “surprise inspection of combat readiness of troops and ammunition.”

“Yes, many Estonians are very much concerned,” Raivo Vetik, professor of comparative politics at Estonia’s Tallinn University, told VOA.

“These kinds of statements by Russian officials trigger, as a rule, heated reactions in the media and among the people. Particularly, in the context of the crisis in Ukraine, many Estonians perceive them as a direct existential threat,” Vetik said.

Vetik said that there are some ethnic tensions in Estonia, but certainly not enough to trigger the kind of unrest that was seen in Ukraine.

“However, if Russia should invade other parts of Ukraine, the situation would definitely change,” he said.

Second-class citizens?
Michele E. CommercioMichele E. Commercio
x
Michele E. Commercio
Michele E. Commercio


During the Soviet era, thousands of Russians migrated to the Baltic states to work. 

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Latvian and Estonian governments implemented citizenship and language legislation dedicated toward creating states of and for ethnic Latvians and ethnic Latvians,” said Michele E. Commercio, Associate Professor at the University of Vermont and expert in Russian minority politics in post-Soviet republics.

Only those Russians who had lived in these countries prior to 1940 were granted automatic citizenship.

Those wanting to naturalize had to pass stringent tests in Latvian or Estonian, languages that are not related to Russian.

Because Russian had been the official language throughout the Soviet era, few were able to pass.

And today, large numbers of Baltic Russians are “stateless,” lacking many of the rights of citizenship, i.e., jobs in the public sector, forming political parties, voting in national elections, not to mention discrimination by locals. 

In its 2013 report on Lavia, Amnesty International reported, “Over 300,000 people – about one-sixth of the population, mostly of Russian origin – remained stateless... excluded from political rights.”

But Commercio doesn’t think tensions are heated enough to spark a Crimea-style rebellion.

“Russians may have been excluded from the public sector, but as these economies have grown and prospered, the private sectors in Estonia and Latvia have grown,” she said.  “And what we see in the private sectors is a large presence of ethnic Russians who are doing quite well.” 

Few have opted to leave the Baltics and return to Russia, she said, because the Russian economy is much weaker. 

She said that Lithuania, though a Baltic state with a Russian ethnic minority, is usually left out of this discussion because the Russian population is much smaller and better integrated into the public sector.

All for one

Unlike Ukraine, the Baltics are members of NATO. 

The 1949 treaty requires member states to come to the aid of any attacked member, which many believe would deter Putin from making any move towards the Baltic. 

Others are not so certain, including Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

“NATO membership may be enough to discourage him, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a given,” Boot said, “because it’s not clear what NATO would actually do if Russia were to commit aggression against the Baltics.”
Max BootMax Boot
x
Max Boot
Max Boot


Boot said he suspects NATO states would be deeply reluctant to go to war with a nuclear-armed state like Russia “just to protect these postage-stamp-sized countries on Russia’s doorstep.”

At the same time, Boot believes protecting the Baltics is important and that NATO must make good on its pledges.

“I think the way to do it would be to beef up the NATO forces which are prepositioned in the Baltic States to make clear to Putin that there are limits to how far his aggression can go.”  

Boot believes Putin is looking to resurrect the historic Russian Empire, of which the Baltics were a part. 

“I think he’s looking to do whatever he can get away with in order to increase Russian power, prestige and the size of the Russian state,” Boot said.

And he said he doesn’t believe Putin needs any pretext for stirring up the Baltics’ ethnic minorities.

“I don’t know that the Russian speakers in Ukraine were all that unhappy either,” Boot said.

“And I don’t think there was much of a secessionist movement in Crimea until Putin came along and drummed up a secession movement in a matter of weeks and a rigged election to get the results that he wanted,” Boot said.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid