The Economic Presence of Russia and Belarus in the Baltic States: Risks and Opportunities

30.11.2012

The research is meant for a broader circle of readers, its main attention being focused on Latvia’s bilateral economic relations with Russia and Belarus. The research was developed with the participation in the aggregate of thirteen researchers, and the political scientist Andris Spruds is the editor of the book.

Objectives of the research are related to the wish to gain a better understanding of the benefits and risks, including the political ones, of the Baltic countries’ economic relations with Russia and Belarus. Over the last years, economic goals have been at the top of foreign policy priorities of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia. The “economization” of Latvia’s foreign policy has already intensified private sector’s cooperation with Belarus and Russia. However, taking into account the wish of the neighbouring country’s centralized authorities to maintain control also of the sphere of entrepreneurship, parallel to the growing mutual economic dependence, the risk of increase in Russia’s political impact on the Baltic States still remains.

Considering the dynamics of relationship with Belarus, it can be concluded that the practice of Latvia’s foreign policy often differs from the normative foreign policy of EU whose objective is to promote the democratization in Eastern Europe. In practice, groups of particular interests are trying to influence the state’s foreign policy in the favour of “more pragmatic” relations with Belarus. And, in the relationship with Russia, Latvia’s “pragmatic” foreign policy is connected not only with economic considerations, but also with the wish to demonstrate to the Western allies our readiness to dialogue with the Eastern neighbour.

In the conclusion of the research, recommendations to the Baltic countries’ governments and companies have been defined – how to continue benefiting from economic cooperation with Russia and Belarus, simultaneously not allowing “offshorezation” of Latvia and damaging the national security situation.

The research is available here