The evolution of US political priorities in the Baltic sea region in the 2010s
The fundamental geopolitical changes in the Baltic Sea region after the end of the Cold War caused the United States to revise its priorities in that part of the world. The process became especially apparent in the second decade of the 21st century when the Ukraine crisis brought to light the consequences of NATO and EU enlargement to the former Warsaw Treaty allies and the Baltic States. This article shows how the US, motivated by the need to ‘contain’ Russia, was developing its overall approaches to ensuring its political leadership in the Baltic region. It demonstrates how Washington is planning to reduce the vulnerability of certain nations of the region to Russia’s military and non-military influence and what steps the US and its NATO allies have taken in this direction. It is argued that, although the Western military buildup in the Baltic Sea region and the US attempts to neutralise Russian ‘hybrid’ instruments are unable to increase substantially the defence capabilities of NATO allies in the Baltic, the security dynamics in the region are likely to turn it into an arena for a struggle between Russia and the West. Russia will benefit from seeing the Baltic region nations not as tools in the Russian-US confrontation, but as partners in regional cooperation aware of their own interests.