May 18, 2017

Lecture to Swedbank Group’s Risk Week Participants

On 18 May, ICDS Head of Studies and Research Fellow Tomas Jermalavičius adressed the participants of Risk Week – a staff development programme of the major Scandinavian financial group, Swedbank.

The programme, which is conducted at Swedbank Group‘s corporate headquarters in Stockholm, examines various risks, including geopolitical ones, to the business models and business continuity of Swedbankand its customers. The lecture entitled “Baltic (In)Security in the Shadow of Putinism” was introduced by Birgitte Bonnesen, President and CEO of Swedbank Group, and focused on the nature of Russia’s threat to regional security in the Baltic Sea region.
The lecture highlighted the fact that the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are better integrated into Western political, security, defence and economic structures than any other part of the Nordic-Baltic region. This deep and broad integration underlines the achievements of the Baltic states in reforming themselves across the board and maintaining societal consensus and dynamism in the face of daunting challenges. However, the rise of an aggressive anti-Western authoritarian regime in Russia which uses hybrid warfare strategies to challenge the established security order in Europe (and beyond) has created new, and profound, sources of insecurity next to and within the Baltic states. The lecture cast light on how and why Russia has become the paramount security challenge to the Baltic states, the Nordic-Baltic region and all of Europe, and how the Baltic states are responding by leveraging their memberships in NATO and the EU. It argued that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are displaying a great deal of national resilience, determination, political will, and agility, and are “punching above weight” when it comes to dealing with the threat from Russia. It also argued that, from the vantage point of the Baltic states, it is the “integration incoherence” of their Nordic neighbours which creates far more uncertainty and vulnerability vis-à-vis Russia than the apparent “exposure” of the Baltic states themselves. The lecture concluded by arguing that only by fostering greater political, security and defence integration within, and cooperation across, the regional, European and trans-atlantic spaces – rather than reverting to obsolete and parochial “behind-my-village-wall” policies – will the Nordic-Baltic region stands a chance of thriving in the turbulent current and future geopolitical environment.