Professor. Marc Lavergne, a French Senior Fellow Researcher (Emeritus) on the Geopolitics and Geostrategy of the Contemporary Middle East and Horn of Africa at the French National Center for Scientific Research.
Two weeks after leaving the Black Sea coast, back to the calm shores of the Baltic Sea. My present home in Klaipeda, the maritime gateway to Lithuania, is twin to the one of Batoumi in Georgia. And the three Baltic states of Estonia, Lettonia and Lithuania are at first sight a mirror to the three Caucasian states of Azerbaidjan, Armenia and Georgia. But how far does this seemingly obvious comparison hold, on both sides of the Russian Empire ? Two years after my last visit here, the global geopolitical balance of forces has changed, and it could well impact the prospects here as it does in the Caucasus.
Russia is asserting its ambitions far away in Africa, but it does not forget its former “Republics”, its “Near Foreign”, which it still considers as parts of its domain. It recently managed to reinstate its hold in the midst of Caucasus, a message which might not be lost to the Baltic nations, who only reconquered their cherished independance in 1991.
Indeed, here the European flag is raised on all public buildings, near the national colours. The same as in Georgia, with the difference that Georgia joining Europe remains a dream, and will only be translated into an association in 2024. At this time of Brexit, of Hungary and Poland defiantly rejecting the human rights founding the European ideal, and of the backdrop to a “nation first” handling of the COVID Pandemics, the Baltic States keep expressing their faith and commitment to the European family. For them, those remain a life insurance vis-à-vis their giant Russian neighbor, as does their belonging to NATO.
Still, at a time where the US and NATO troops are abandoning the Afghan people to their fate, the question remains valid : ” Are USA and Europe ready to accept to let any of their soldiers die abroad for their democratic values ?” . A question not so awkward, which I can’t help thinking of, when I watch the vibrant youth of these young states. And so many children, a proof to the faith of their parents in the future. The main resource here is the energy and talent of this new generation : new technologies and ancient traditions and values are the key words. These countries which had lost a quarter of their population though emigration, are now attracting growing flows of tourists – and investors, a tribute to their stability and momentum.