The Baltic Region

Current issue

Geopolitics

Societal security in the Baltic Sea Region: the Russian perspective

Abstract

This study discusses whether the concept of societal security is embedded in the Russian formal and informal discourses as well as in the Russian strategic documents on national security and the Baltic Sea region. Particularly, the paper describes four paradigms of international relations (neorealism, neoliberalism, globalism and postpositivism) and theoretical approaches to the concept of societal security formulated in them. On a practical plane, Russia has managed to develop — together with other regional players — a common regional approach to understanding societal security threats and challenges in the Baltic Sea region. These challenges include uneven regional development, social and gender inequalities, unemployment, poverty, manifestations of intolerance, religious and political extremism, separatism, large-scale migration, climate change, natural and man-made catastrophes, transnational organized crime and cybercrime, international terrorism, so-called hybrid threats, disharmony between education systems, etc. In 2017, Russia and other Baltic countries agreed that the Council of the Baltic Sea States would be the regional institution to implement a common societal security strategy exemplified by the Baltic 2030 Agenda Action Plan.

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The Visegrad Group and the Baltic Assembly: coalitions within the EU as seen through Russian foreign policy

Abstract

Today Russia has difficulty doing business-as-usual with EU states. It seems that the countries of the Visegrad Group (V4) and the Baltic Assembly/Baltic Council of Ministers (BA/BСM) have contributed substantially to this state of affairs. Overall, the tensions between Russia and the EU are building up – another tendency that did not arise on the Russian initiative. This article aims to address the question of whether Russia should establish direct relations with the V4 and the BA/BCM as tools to overcome the mentioned difficulties. On the one hand, these associations date back to before the countries acceded to the Union. On the other, they are products of regionalisation in the EU. In answering this question, we achieve three objectives. Firstly, we look for an appropriate theoretical and methodological framework for the study. Secondly, we produce a comparative description of the V4 and the BA/BCM. Thirdly, we examine the capacity of these associations to pursue an independent foreign and domestic policy. This study uses a comparison method to analyse the activities of the two organisations and identify their significance for the EU.

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The remaking of geopolitical space and institutional transformations: the case of the Baltic Region

Abstract

This article adopts the historical neo-institutional approach to analyse the dissolution of the Livonian Confederation and the ensuing reshaping of the Baltic region in the 16th-19th centuries. These historical events are employed to describe the post-bifurcation incorporation of a society in a different social system. Several inclusion models are identified. The centralised model suggests that the incorporated society reproduces the institutions of the incorporating society. Modified institutions are transplanted to the incorporated society within the quasi-centralised model, whilst only selected modified institutions are transferred within the autonomist one. The author analyses mechanisms playing a part in state mergers and emphasises their dependence on the institutional environment of the incorporating society. For instance, a part of Livonia was incorporated in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (PLC) through transplanting PLC institutions, primarily political ones, to the newly acquired territories. To this end, a mechanism was developed to encourage cooperation from the nobility without further stratification. Sweden, however, acted on the autonomist model when incorporating Estland and Livland. Economic, political, and sociocultural institutions, many of which were of hybrid type, were transplanted, whilst socialisation mechanisms and incentives applied to a wider section of the population. The Russian approach, which had at its core security considerations, combined autonomist elements (establishment of hybrid institutions in the new territories) and centralised components (propagation of Russian imperial institutions). The merger mechanisms included the creation of an Ostsee estate system and incentives for the higher estates coupled with repressions against commoners. Overall, the nature of state mergers and institutional transplantations depends on whether the incorporated territories have had a history of statehood, another significant factor is the degree of similarity between the institutions of the acquired territories and the metropole.

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Evaluating the impact of integration processes on the ethnopolitical competition of languages in the Baltic Region

Abstract

In the literature, the impact of integration processes on language learning and usage is traditionally evaluated either through the prism of sociolinguistics or soft power. This article proposes a new conceptual approach based on measuring various aspects of competition between languages by the language integration and monopolization indices, on the one hand, and the polylingualism coefficient, on the other. The approach is applied to the situation in the Baltic Sea region of the EU. The article uses data from Eurostat, Eurobarometer, and the Baltic statistical offices to analyze the performance of Baltic language markets by assessing the impact of the EU integration on the use of languages in the region. The findings show a growing tendency towards polylingualism in countries participating in integration associations. Integration bodies, however, do not give one language precedence over others but encourage convergence of the languages of their leading economies. The main factor behind a language’s popularity is the strength of commodity and labor markets in the country where it is spoken.

The authors conclude that close economic and political integration stimulates heterochronous processes in supranational associations. The first is increasing monopolization in the language market of the association and the language markets of its sub-regions. The second is the decrease in monopolization in national language markets.

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Geoeconomics

Global value chains in the age of uncertainty: advantages, vulnerabilities, and ways for enhancing resilience

Abstract

In this paper, we seek to explain the fundamental vulnerability of global value chains (GVCs) to sudden shocks, as revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and outline ways for enhancing their adaptability to the increased uncertainty at both conceptual and policy levels. We consider the concept and a typical multi-structural model of GVCs, highlighting the network complexity of the system of distributed production and trade in value added. Not only does this system bring competitive advantages to GVC partner countries, but also it entails risks of cascading production disruptions. We examine these risks by analysing the ripple effect of supply disruptions in GVCs when a sudden local shock can propagate globally through inter-firm supplier links, generating growing output losses across industries and economies. From this perspective, we describe the pandemic-induced breakdown in the global just-in-time supply system in spring 2020 and its role in the escalating global recession. In analysing the mechanisms of post-pandemic GVC adaptation to uncertainty, we look at the concept of economic resilience and properties of resilient systems (robustness, flexibility, redundancy, and dynamic sustainability). We scrutinise the supply chain resilience model used by leading MNEs (GVC organisers) in their disruption risk management at pre-disruption and post-disruption stages. We classify resilience strategies devised by MNEs after 2020 into three interrelated categories: namely, multi-structural GVC optimisation (diversification and relocation of suppliers), operational optimisation (building redundancy and production flexibility), and GVC digitalisation. We conclude by outlining windows of opportunity to improve international specialisation and growth patterns, which may open in the 2020s for developing economies, including Russia, due to the ongoing restructuring of GVCs and their global supplier networks.

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The spatial structure of Baltic Sea ferry services

Abstract

Ferry service is a transport system of regular routes which links areas separated by water bodies. Sometimes ferries are the only connection of an island and the mainland which is not rare in the Baltic Sea. A typical example of this is the island of Saaremaa. Ferry service is the backbone of cargo and passenger traffic in the Baltic Sea region.

This article aims to describe the spatial structure of the ferry service in the Baltic Sea. To this end, a statistical database on 101 ferry routes has been built with passenger and car traffic on each being calculated with an original methodology, which in its turn can be applied in analysing the spatial structure and traffic of ferry services in other regions. Baltic ferries account for over half of all European ferry-borne car and passenger traffic. The Baltic stands out as a region with exceptionally long ferry routes which sustain timber exports. The main cargo shipping country in the region is Sweden.

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Ports of Eastern Baltic and Russian transit policy: competition and cooperation

Abstract

The ports of the Baltic states have been handling Russian cargoes for many years. Thus, there is no apparent need for Russia to reroute all freight flows to domestic ports. It was not long ago that Eastern Baltic ports were regarded as ordinary competitors, however, the current geopolitical situation has drastically reshaped the framework for transport cooperation in the region. Competition and cooperation strategies are often equally viable for the ports in the Eastern Baltic Sea. Yet volatility in global markets, the unstable positions of leading exporters and importers, and changes in the economic and political environment call for new strategies and forms of interaction. This study aims to understand to what extent port authorities in the Eastern Baltic can combine competition and cooperation policies when formulating their vision and handling transit cargoes. The article draws on official statistics and Russian and international publications on the theory and practice of transport routing and the functioning of hub infrastructure. The study applies the methods of case study and statistical and comparative analysis to outline the current situation in the Eastern Baltic ports and their potential to attract more freight flows from Russia. The article tests the hypothesis that Eastern Baltic port authorities should pursue a co-opetition strategy. The study concludes that, in the immediate future, this strategy can be employed only in cases of extraordinary circumstances, for example, at peak loads.

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Digitalization

The population of the Kaliningrad region and the digital economy: a sociological analysis

Abstract

Since 2019, the Kaliningrad region has been running a regional digital transformation programme as part of the national initiative The Digital Economy of the Russian Federation. The programme seeks to improve the quality of life by creating information infrastructure and streamlining public administration. The regional Ministry of Digital Development has already presented an interim report on its implementation focused, however, mainly on the economic performance.

The study aims at conducting a sociological analysis of the region’s population as a participant in digital transformation. It employs the questionnaire survey method with 384 respondents selected by quota sampling. The results show that slightly over a half of the population has a positive attitude to digitalisation, while about 20% believe that the digital economy leads to the degradation of society. The respondents named the development of the high-tech economy the major advantage of digitalisation and the proliferation of digital surveillance its major disadvantage. Kaliningraders reported extensive use of various digital technologies. Yet, the low indices of digital literacy and personal data protection are alarming. The findings, which supplement the regional digitalisation report with sociological data, can be useful in planning and implementing measures within the regional digital transformation programme.

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Valuating the appropriation of digital technologies across Russian regions

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved a powerful catalyst for the integration of digital technologies in everyday life. Many digital routines have replaced the traditional ones relating to purchasing goods and services, information exchange, movement, document issuance, or scheduling medical appointments. Despite technology proliferating through society, the digital divide is widening. The place of residence is a factor affecting the involvement in digitalisation, along with age, education, income, and the availability of ICT infrastructure. This study evaluates the readiness of the population of various Russian regions to embrace digital technologies. Based on a comparative analysis of traffic to the most popular websites on the Russian Internet, grouped into five categories (e-commerce, e-government, information exchange, spatial mobility, scholarly communication), an index method for assessing readiness for digitalisation is developed. The study uses Yandex search data from February 2019 to January 2021. The findings suggest that Russian regions may be divided into digitally advanced areas, runner-ups, average performers, and the digital periphery. Recommendations are given on how to increase readiness for digital transformation in territories of different types without running the risks of forced digitalisation.

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