The Baltic Region

2019 Vol. 11 № 3

Geoeconomics and Geopolitics

The ‘сool war’ in the Baltic Sea Region: consequences and future scenarios..

Abstract

The relevance of this topic is determined by the Baltic region playing a special role in the current confrontation between Russia and the West, which is most accurately defined by the term ‘cool war’. Russia borders on the EU and NATO in that region. In this study, I aim to demonstrate the impact of the ‘cool war’ on international relations in the region and explain why the preservation of the status quo is the most likely scenario. I conclude that, in recent years, a certain regrouping has occurred in the region: there has been a stepping-up on the activities of the US and NATO, whereas the influence of EU institutions has decreased. A deep rift has developed between Russia and all other states in the region. There are five possible mid-term scenarios, ranging from outright confrontation to effective cooperation: an armed conflict, a dramatic aggravation of the current tensions without an armed conflict, the continuation of the ‘cool war’, the normalisation of relations, and a transition to large-scale cooperation. I argue that the ‘cool war’ scenario is the most likely, and the other four belong to the realm of the politically possible. Although the improvement of relations with the other states in the region is not very probable, Russia will benefit from taking every possible step towards it.

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Economic and geopolitical aspects of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

Abstract

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project (NS 2) along the bottom of the Baltic Sea is aimed to increase gas supply from Russia to Germany and other EU countries. It serves mutual economic interests: the predicted growth in gas demand in the EU markets and the need to strengthen the energy security of the EU. The implementation of the NS 2 project is complicated by the need to allow for the EU energy legislation and by the expanding influence of geopolitical factors on EU – Russia cooperation, including those stemming from the aggressive US energy diplomacy seeking to prevent the project from being successful and thus promoting the geopolitical interests of Washington. In this work, we aim to study the economic and geopolitical stances taken by the project’s supporters and opponents and to evaluate the prospects of NS 2. To this end, we carry out a factor analysis and employ the methods of economic, statistical and geopolitical analysis.We conclude that the project is high on the agenda of both EU-Russia economic relations and world politics. The project has good prospects despite counteraction from its geopolitical opponents. This is explained by it having a decided economic edge over alternative options for the EU. The launch of NS 2 may contribute both to providing the energy security of the EU and to easing the military tensions between NATO and Russia in the Baltic region. The need to ensure the reliable operation of gas supply infrastructure makes any military conflict in the region impossible.

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Regional economy

Russia-European Union and Russian-Chinese borderlands: economic and demographic dimension

Abstract

In the modern world, the intensity of inter-civilizational, intercultural and interstate interaction is increasing. Border regions, territories where this interaction involves direct contact, are of great importance in this process. This has given rise to a new area of research — border region studies. The Russian Federation has the longest state border, the largest number of neighbouring countries, and centuries of experience in the peaceful existence and cooperation between different cultures. Most importantly, the country straddles two continents. Located between two principal economic actors (the European Union and China), Russia binds the huge Eurasian continent into a single whole. It is very important to study Russian-European and Russian-Chinese border regions to make full use of their strategic advantages for the economic development of Russia. This task has been especially relevant since the deindustrialization of Russia, which occurred in the 1990s and most deeply affected the economy of the Russian periphery. In this article, I rely on the literature, national and regional statistics, and survey results to essay a border region study — a comparative analysis of the socio-economic and demographic processes taking place in Russia’s western regions bordering on the EU and eastern ones bordering on China. My findings may contribute to providing a rationale for the need to abandon a commodity-driven economic model, as well as to creating a broader theoretical and methodological framework for Russia’s strategy towards its neighbours.

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When and why regional clusters become basic building blocks of modern economy

Abstract

In this paper, we examine the modern cluster theory and the specific features of regional innovation clusters as complex adaptive systems. Clusters have become a typical pattern of industrial organization in national economies under their transition to innovation-driven model of growth. We provide an overview of the contribution of various theoretical frameworks (evolutionary theory, spatial development theory, theory of technological change and system innovation, and Porter’s competitiveness theory) to the cluster concept and consider the latter from the perspective of complexity economics. On this basis, we differentiate true clusters from their nominal counterparts and propose three analytical dimensions to explore clusters, namely, as a special class of industrial agglomerations, as a special class of innovation ecosystems, and as a special class of economic projects (cluster initiatives). We examine the properties of clusters corresponding to each class and demonstrate their role in the geographical and functional fragmentation of production, in the integration of local exporters into global value chains, and in bridging communication gaps and developing collaboration among economic agents. We show that clusters occupy a central place among various types of business networks and have a comparative edge making them key building blocks of the modern industrial landscape. Further, we explain how the innovation capacity of clusters is affected by network synergy effects arising from the triple-helix pattern of collaboration among their participants. Finally, we draw conclusions regarding national cluster supporting policies, including those applied in modern Russia.

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In pursuit of an innovation development trajectory of the Kaliningrad region

Abstract

Amid growing inter-state competition, national innovation policies are increasingly seeking to promote the development of regional innovation systems to intensify innovative processes and to enhance the economic competitiveness of territories. An efficient regional innovation policy requires a territorial adaptive approach to the development of mechanisms for innovating socio-spatial systems. These mechanisms should take into account the specific features and inalienable resources of territories. Whereas regional innovation systems are becoming increasingly acknowledged in public administration as versatile, the stage of a system life cycle, which is an equally important factor, often escapes managerial attention. In this article, I analyse the innovation system of the Kaliningrad region at its inception. The Kaliningrad case is of considerable interest for a study into the patterns and characteristics of the governance of innovation systems — a management paradigm aimed to promote regional development during a change in their functioning mode. In this work, I analyse the current structure of the Kaliningrad regional innovation system, of which some elements date back to the Soviet period, paying particular attention to the subsequent change in the framework conditions. I show that a new innovation trajectory requires taking into account the economic and geographical position of the region, its level of socio-economic development and economic specialization. My findings could contribute to both improving the national policy on managing innovation processes in Russian regions and developing the concept of regional innovation systems as regards research into their life cycle stages.

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Political Regional Studies

Russian soft power in the Baltic States through the lens of research: traditions, competition, confrontation

Abstract

In this article, we aim to analyse the research discourse in the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) as regards Russian soft power, which is considered as hard power, and to compare the theses that dominate this discourse with the actual interactions between Russia and the three states in media, education, and culture. Each Baltic country has built a system of political and legal restrictions to diminish the effect of Russian soft power, which is considered in terms of hard power, i.e. as a threat to national security. The current forms of Russian soft power are becoming less productive in the region and their use in the negative political context of bilateral relations has the opposite effect for Russia – the country loses in reputation and image. The main factor at play is the information content of the Russian-language media space. At odds with the historical and political views of a significant part of the Baltic States’ ruling class, it is becoming the target of counteraction. At the same time, Russian high and mass culture and, partly, educational services are in demand from both Baltic Russian speakers and ethnic Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians. Our analysis shows that the views of Baltic researchers that Russian soft power is politics-driven and foreign to the region are exaggerated and biased. In its turn, Russian soft power in the Baltics retains the potential to aid the country’s foreign policy, being a complement to the latter rather than its direct tool.

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Polish-Russian relations as reflected in the programmes of right-wing political parties in Poland: a quantitative and qualitative analysis

Abstract

Programmes of political parties are an important element of public discourse. In this article, I present the results of research aimed at defining the place of Russia and Polish-Russian relations in the programmes of several Polish right-wing political groups. I attempt an overview of the political programmes of the right-wing parties as regards their principal features, internal structure, and central postulates. Content analysis shows that relations with Russia are an impor tant element in most political programmes proposed by Poland’s major right-wing political groups. Based on a qualitative analysis, I distinguish between parties that postulate a determined and assertive policy towards Russia, parties committed to a neutral position on Russia, and those that seek the improvement and pragmatisation of Polish-Russian relations. There are two important conclusions from the qualitative analysis. Firstly, international relations have a pronounced influence on the programmes of political parties. Secondly, as to the right-wing parties considered in the Polish political discourse as pro-Russian (the National Revival of Poland, the National Radical Camp), they are either far from being pro-Russian or Russia is quite low on their agenda.

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Cultural Islam in Northern Europe

Abstract

In this study, we aim to analyse the position of cultural Islam in Northern European countries. To this end, we examine publications in major print media. Content analysis of relevant publications gives a detailed picture of narratives produced in mass consciousness as a reaction to the presence of Islam at the local and regional level and makes it possible to identify individual trends in the evaluation of such narratives in both scientific and popular analytical literature. The growing secularization of Islamic communities in Northern Europe and changes in the value-driven behavioural algorithms of believers lead both to the polarization of Islam and changes in attitudes to Islam from outside the religion. Studies into the factors affecting the dynamics of this phenomenon have both theoretical and practical significance since they help to evaluate the most promising forms of cooperation within regional collaborations and national programmes for international partnership. The forces promoting the cultural Islam project position it as an antidote for political and radical Islam. At the same time, the main factor preventing the legitimation of cultural Islam across immigrant Moslem groups (or, more precisely, communities, i.e. associations of people originating from countries where Muslims predominate) is the relevant isolatedness of those groups and their commitment to the Ummah. The novelty of research into how Islam and culture interact within those groups is closely associated with the goal of establishing whether cultural Islam is viable as a phenomenon of collective consciousness and whether it meets the following requirements: 1) satisfying the essential need for preserving the tradition and 2) ensuring flexible adaptation to a foreign cultural context. Our analysis of the data obtained has led us to conclude that cultural Islam is gaining ground within immigrant communities and associations. This can be viewed as a practical contribution to studies into the dynamics and mechanisms of adaptation, acculturation, and, perhaps, integration of Muslims and corresponding social groups into the socio-cultural space of Northern European countries.

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