International relations (IR) theory is difficult to define. It is often taught as a theory that seeks both to explain past state behaviour and to predict future state behaviour.
However, even that definition is contested by many theorists. Traditional IR theories can generally be categorized by their focus either on humans, states, or the state system as the primary source of conflict (Cristol, 2017).
The dictionary by Merriam-Webster defines ‘International relations’ as a branch of political science concerned with relations between nations and primarily with foreign policies.
First known use of the meaning ‘International relations’ is 1914, in the wake of the First World War. Before this, matters of war, peace and diplomacy were dealt with by reference to history, philosophy and law.
The study of international relations takes a wide range of theoretical approaches. Most theories of international relations are based on the idea that states always act in accordance with their national interest, or the interests of that particular state.
State interests often include self-preservation, military security, economic prosperity, and influence over the other states.
Before 1991 Russia treated the three Baltic states as one region. After the breakdown of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) Russia changed its attitude and started to approach each Baltic state differently.
Nevertheless, many similar features still remain in the Estonian-Russian, Latvian-Russian and Lithuanian-Russian relations.
In this paper, the author will consider relations between Russia and the Baltic states, explore its evolution, define and compare the main problems between these countries after the EU and NATO enlargement.
Russia and Baltic states have the general history: more than 50 years the Baltic countries were a part of the USSR that is considered today as an occupation of the Baltic countries (on June 14, 1940–28 August 28, 1941).
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have restored their independence only in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR.
Russia also became the independent country and recognized as the successor state to the USSR in diplomatic affairs, and in the same 1991 recognized Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as the independent states again and has established diplomatic relations with them.
27 years of a modern history of the development of the relations between Russia and Baltic states. From the point of view of world history, it is very short term where it is difficult to give estimates or moreover – to predict the future. The author will only try to analyse the main, key moments of development of the Russian-Baltic relations, to what consequences have led these or those decisions, what are their main contradictions and what could be undertaken for its improvement and more dynamic and positive development.
Russia and the Baltic states not only share the borders and have general history of being a part of the USSR, even today the relations between these countries are beyond usual diplomatic relations: the general cultural values, the Russian-speaking population most part of which consider themselves as Russian people and even have the Russian citizenship, these people live in Baltic states but have strong ties with Russia. That means Russia and the Baltic states interact not only in the field of international relations, but also have the general cultural and historical ties which are several centuries old.
But, if in the Soviet period there was a so-called russification of the Baltic countries, then today the Russian culture became the culture of the minority in the Baltic countries. In this work, the author will stop on an issue of the Russian minority and their rights in more detail.
Also, the author will in detail analyse the relations between these countries, will consider their common interests, mutual desires and claims to each other and will give the characteristic to these relations today.
1. BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Russian interests in the Baltic Sea region are a long-term priority of the country’s foreign policy. They emerged and developed long ago and proved more stable than the state itself (under any of its many ephemeral names) (Mezhevich, 2015).
Russia (officially Russian Federation) – the sovereign state in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia with the population of 146 880 432 people.
Russia is the largest country in the world by the area: 17 125 191 sq.km (together with the Crimea).
The capital: Moscow. Official language: Russian.
It is the presidential-parliamentary republic with the federal system of government.
After the collapse of the USSR in 1991 Russia has been recognized by the international community as the successor state to the USSR that means that Russia has undertaken not only questions of nuclear potential, an external debt, state ownership abroad, but also responsibility for the international relations.
From the moment of the termination of the existence of the Soviet Union in 1991, 15 former federal republics have gained independence, including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
After Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania regained their independence, they began to be recognized not only as Baltic countries but also as separate states, each of which has a distinct, non-Slavonic language and culture at its core.
Estonia (officially the Republic of Estonia) is a sovereign state in Northern Europe with the population of 1 319 133 people.
Estonia covering a total area of 45 339 sq.km.
The capital: Tallinn. Official language: Estonian.
Estonia is a parliamentary representative democratic republic in which the Prime Minister of Estonia is the head of government.
Latvia (officially the Republic of Latvia) is a sovereign state in Northern Europe with the population of 1 923 500 people.
Latvia covering a total area of 64 589 sq.km.
The capital: Riga. Official language: Latvian.
Lithuania (officially the Republic of Lithuania) is a sovereign state in Northern Europe with the population of 2 802 047 people.
Lithuania covering a total area of 65 300 sq.km.
The capital: Vilnius. Official language: Lithuanian.
Through the territory of all these three countries there pass the major transport corridors between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe, water areas of the Baltic and North seas. The Baltic countries are connected in the shortest ways with countries of Northern Europe, Poland and Germany.
Geographically, this region lies at the junction of economic and military-political interests not only of Western countries (expansion of the EU and NATO) but also of regional interests of Russia.
Also, it should be noted that the Baltic states membership in the EU made their borders Russia’s borders with the EU.
With the restoration of independence in 1991, the Baltic states are now more secure than at any other time in their history.
Today these countries have close ties with the United States and are integrated into the main political, military and economic Western structures such as NATO, the EU, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), etc.
The Baltic states are the only former Soviet republics that are considered ‘free’ in the assessment of Freedom House.
At the same time, Russia has for years been trying to maintain its influence in the Baltic States, which is still present in a number of areas, from politics to the economy. Whenever aimed at gaining control over the transit and energy infrastructure, Russia’s actions in this respect have been aggressive in nature.
Resource blockades have been applied, an excessive price of gas has been used, attempts have been made to corrupt political elites (by fostering cooperation between them and Russian business circles) and a permanent presence of Russian special services was maintained.
Further, the author will consider in more detail how all these historical, economic and political factors influence relations between Russia and the Baltic states today.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
It is expected that political, economic or socio-cultural relations between Russia and the Baltic States should happen.
However, in spite of regaining independence in 1991, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania still appear to have a fearful relationship with Russia. The reason is the trials the Baltic countries went through in half of a century from 1939 to 1991: the initial Soviet occupation, mass deportation to the Gulag (prison camp, 1941), military destruction, the destruction of the Baltic Jews communities in the Holocaust, the return of the Soviet occupation and another annexation at the end of the Second world war, brutal operations against insurgents and new waves of mass deportation in the late 1940s, as well as several decades of Soviet rule.
Thus, the main problem this study is dwelling on is the fact that, despite the independence of the Baltic countries, Russia-Baltic States relation does not appear balanced.
Hence, the study asks, what are the stages of the Russian-Baltic relations, describes the main agenda areas, like: Russian speaking minority rights, security (NATO membership), economic cooperation and EU membership, and border agreements.
The study also investigates the characteristics of the current state of affairs that affect the Russian-Baltic relations.
1.2 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study are to:
a. investigate the nature of the relations existing between Russia and the Baltic states;
b. analyse the extent to which the Baltic states’ membership of NATO and EU affects the relations between Russia and the Baltic states;
?. consider the challenges and implications of the challenges confronting the relationship between Russia and the Baltic states.
1.3 Research Methodology
The secondary data sourcing has been employed; books, articles, official documents, bulletins, scholarly journals, media sources and online materials were consulted.
Analysis were carried out for better understanding through a contextual analytical means of all the materials gathered for this study, and historical and contemporary texts that are relevant were also consulted in the analysis, and the study suggested way forward in the end.