Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2004
13 Pages, Grade: very good
5. Baltic Sea Region
On the 1st of May 2004, Lithuania will join the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and thereby achieve the main goal of its foreign and security policy since it gained independence in 1991.
There had been different options for Lithuania to choose its future orientation concerning the foreign policy. It could have stayed neutral (as it had done in the interwar period) or it could have tried to build up an alliance between the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia). But the option Lithuania finally chose was the aim of West-integration. This decision was of course a deliberate one: Lithuania has always regarded itself as a part of Europe and the Western culture. Thus, after having become independent, the wish to join the most important and influential Western and European organizations must be seen as natural (see Miniotaitė 2001).
At the same time, one has to realize the challenge which EU and NATO enlargement cause for Lithuania’s foreign and security policy. On the one hand the country has to take its responsibility as a full member of both organizations. That means for example that Lithuania will be much more involved into international affairs (as one example might serve the war on terrorism since the terrorist attacks of September 11th).
This article deals with another dimension of challenge: Lithuania’s bilateral relations. Especially the relationship towards its neighborhood countries will experience serious changes. With Lithuania going to be the Eastern border of both alliances, its neighborhood relations will gain importance both for Lithuania itself and for EU and NATO. Thus, the question raised in this paper is: How do Lithuania’s relations with Russia, Belarus, Poland and the Baltic Sea states look like? Accordingly, this article shall focus on the present appearance of these relations. After this analysis some conclusions shall be drawn concerning the future development of Lithuania’s bilateral relations out of consideration for the changes that will be caused by EU and NATO enlargement.
After fifty years of being part of the Soviet Union, diplomatic relations between Russia and the new independent republic of Lithuania have been established on the 29th of July, 1991. Since that date bilateral relations have experienced a lot of changes. There are, of course, economic ties. Since its crisis 1998, the Russian market again is becoming more and more important for Lithuanian companies and investors. Politically, there are consultation mechanisms especially on governmental levels while the inter-parlamentarian contacts are behind because of the Russian Duma having failed to ratify several important bilateral agreements. Concerning the cultural and inter-societal dialogue there are for example contacts between universities. But although Lithuania does not have as serious trouble with Russia as Latvia and Estonia (regarding minorities and borders), both countries have their own potential conflicts.
First of all, there is the problem of the Kaliningrad oblast, which has to be taken into consideration. Especially the EU enlargement is often regarded to lead to its isolation. With the neighbor countries Poland and Lithuania being part of the European Union, one might be concerned that Kaliningrad will be neglected or forgotten. The scenario is rising of the future EU member states enjoying economic growth, security and environmental progress while the Russian enclave stays on its level of backwardness, thus facing enormous challenges such as increasing criminality, health problems and poverty (see Siedschlag 2002: 69). Furthermore, Russia regards the Kaliningrad problem as a question of sovereignty.
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