ICDS chief executive Dmitri Teperik, research fellow Tony Lawrence, EFPI junior research fellow Frank Jüris and EFPI senior fellow James Sherr participated in the Rīga Conference 2020 on 11-12 November 2020.
Based on his extensive experience in Ukraine, Dmitri Teperik underlined in a discussion on policies for divergent Europe’s Eastern neighbours the importance of ongoing support for resilience-related grassroot initiatives locally and regionally.
Teperik noted that Western communities should implement transparent policies of engaging various opinion leaders and representatives of different societal groups. It requires the development of a tailored approach in addressing the specific needs and peculiar interests of those audiences across all regions.
“As mindset determines the actions and shapes the results, the dialogue between EU, NATO and countries like Ukraine, Georgia etc. should address not just conditionality of financial aid, infrastructure projects or general principle of good governance, but also a wider set of Western values, perception of democracy, cognitive challenges and mentality in a sense of belonging to Europe. These issues should be studies and discussed with and among various societal groups (not just political elites) as they are driving force for real changes happening on the ground,” Teperik concluded in the discussion that took place in the framework of the Rīga Conference Future Leaders Forum.
Tony Lawrence participated in a warm-up session for the conference entitled “Speed of Assistance: Movement of Critical Inventory during COVID-19,” which explored the vital importance of security of supply and Allied support in a crisis. Lawrence spoke, on the basis of a recent ICDS and CEPA report on reinforcement of the Baltic region, about the need for the Alliance to be able to move armed forces at scale and speed to the Baltic region in the event of a crisis, and the contribution this makes to deterrence. He also outlined some of the obstacles to efficient movement of military personnel and equipment across Europe.
In addition, Lawrence contributed a chapter entitled “Continuing to Build Credible Deterrence and Defence in the Baltic Region” to Transatlantic Futures: Towards #NATO2030, this year’s edition of the Rīga Conference Papers.
Frank Jüris took part in a Rīga Conference Future Leaders Forum discussion on challenges between NATO and China. Based on his previous work on connectivity projects involving the Nordic-Baltic region, he started by defining the China challenge using the concept of China Inc., according to which China poses unforeseen economic risks due to the centralised control of its economy, which in turn enables it to use its economic might for strategic aims.
Instead of characterising China as a rival or competitor, emphasis should be put on investigating how China sees the West. In 1999, a group of Chinese colonels (now generals) authored “Unrestricted Warfare” in which they solved the problem of countering the USA’s military superiority without direct confrontation by posing challenges in the fields of politics, law, environment, infrastructure etc.
In the Nordic-Baltic region China is interested in building dual-use facilities, that would improve its geostrategic position. With the Talsinki tunnel, for example, China could gain political leverage for decades to come and use it as an excuse to develop an overseas supply point (海外补给点) to defend its interests in the region. The fact that Chinese infrastructure projects carry geopolitical as well as economic aims should not be disregarded in efforts to strengthen transatlantic security.
Finally, James Sherr acted as discussant following the panel on “Russia in International Affairs”. He pointed to signs of a deliberate retrenchment in Russia’s ambitions and commitments, but a hard-edged one based on a strictly utilitarian calculus of Russian interests. Armenia is the first major casualty, but it might not be the last. It was emphasised that whilst diminished Russian capacity plays a role in this process, equally important is the Kremlin’s perception that the West is now too internally disrupted to threaten Russia’s interests where they matter. There is no new détente on offer and no narrowing of the values gap in prospect. Moreover, Russia will continue its assault on the liberal-democratic order where it is cost-effective to do so.
The Rīga Conference 2020 was organised by the Latvian Transatlantic Organisation with support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in the Baltic states and co-sponsored by NATO.