Nr 73 • Oktoober 2009

Visions from a Geopolitical “Crystal Ball”

Living in a complex and dynamic world always comes with a great deal of uncertainty. It always haunts us and often pushes to the brink of extreme anxiety in turbulent times. We do not know even in times of peace and tranquillity what the future holds for us, let alone during war, conflict and other major social, economic or political (and, increasingly often, environmental) cataclysms. Some prefer focusing on managing daily emergencies, some become paralysed by inaction or live in a constant fear of inevitable strategic surprises, but some sit back and take a long view of what the future may hold and why.

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1989 with 20/20 Hindsight

It is always difficult to differentiate between current perceptions and those that dominated in a previous era. The benefit of hindsight is that it allows us to re-evaluate past events and, if the conditions are auspicious, to gain better insights into our own earlier shortcomings. What was understood about communism in 1989 is very much at variance with what we can see now, which is why the assessments that were made back then, the strategies that were developed and the policies based on them were all necessarily affected by two serious handicaps. One handicap was the accumulated information about the communist world and the deductions that were made about how people in communist states would behave once the communist system disappeared. The other was the sheer speed of events, meaning that what was valid on Monday was unthinkable by Thursday.

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Baltic Blues

America is away, Britain is down and out, Germany is back and Russia is scary. NATO and the EU are too divided to provide the security that the Baltic region needs. So what to do?

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The Stoltenberg Report: New Life for Nordic Cooperation?

Sub-regional cooperation in Europe – that is cooperation between groups of neighbours in limited parts of the main Euro-Atlantic space – has been called the Cinderella among European organizations. It attracts little publicity or academic analysis and it does not seem to be any politician’s top priority. Nevertheless, it has made useful contributions to stability and reform at certain stages in post-Cold War history, notably in the early 1990s when the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council were created among others. There are some signs that it is gaining prominence again at the end of the 21st century’s first decade.

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The Baltic Sea Strategy – A Unique Initiative for the Improvement of the Quality of Life in the Baltic Sea Region

The Baltic Sea Strategy, which should be close to the hearts of many, represents a new and to my mind a genuinely positive development in EU policy formation. Since the EU enlargement of 2004, the Baltic Sea has been, for all intents and purposes, an internal sea of the Union, a new Mare Nostrum, Our Sea, as the Romans referred to the Mediterranean. True, a relatively small part of the Baltic seaboard is not in the EU, that being the eastern shore of the Gulf of Finland and the exclave of Kaliningrad, which together produce a disproportionate amount of the pollution threatening our sea.

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