Øyvind Jæger



The author argues that the security situation of the Baltic countries cannot be separated from the way the Balts themselves speak of security. This is a discourse of danger producing insecurity in pursuit of security. Moreover, this article is a study of identity by demonstrating how Baltic security issues are constituted by discourses of danger revolving around Russian Otherness and European Sameness.  In conclusion, the following aspects are addressed:  the prospects for the coming together of East and West in the Baltic Sea Region – and NATO’s role in this process – and whether this process will come to ease with a parallel between sovereignty and regionality as organising principles for political space, or whether the one will succumb to the other in the course of a prolonged contest. 


If you find my answers frightening, Vincent, you should cease askin’ scary questions.

                                    Jules Winnfield to Vincent Vega in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction[1]


There is no intellectual endeavour that in the end proves not to be futile.

                                                                                            Jorge Luis Borges[2]



This is a study of a discourse of danger producing insecurity in pursuit of security. In this article I will show how the Baltic security situation cannot be separated from the way the Balts themselves speak of security, that is, the Baltic security discourse. Moreover, I will point out how this security discourse is conducive in reproducing insecurity.

Furthermore, this is a study of identity as I will demonstrate how Baltic security issues are constituted by discourses of danger revolving around Russian Otherness and European Sameness. The theme of danger, David Campbell (1992) claims, is part and parcel of discursive practices delineating Self from Other, which in turn are instrumental in fixing (state) borders and ascertaining identity. In this article, I will seek to establish that this is also the case in the Baltic states.

First, through an analysis of security discourse in the Baltic states, I will identify how security is conceived of in these states, and, by implication, what conception of "security" they are about to apply.  Second, the article focuses on the discursive practices of security in the Baltic states. That is, how issues are made security issues, with what purpose or function, and with what effect on the Baltic states’ domestic politics and international relations. Collective identity formation and (re)production of state identity are here taken to be a central, but neglected, feature of security discourse. Third, concluding along these lines, I will briefly look at the prospects for the coming together of East and West in the Baltic Sea Region – and the role of NATO’s enlargement in the process – and whether this process will come to ease with a parallel between sovereignty and regionality as organising principles for political space, or whether the one will succumb to the other in the course of a prolonged contest.

            Over the past few years, the three Baltic states have drafted and debated National Security Concepts. Lithuania and Latvia have recently adopted theirs through parliamentary motion. Estonia is still set to do so – in fact, is yet to produce a draft. In the meantime, Estonia has however adopted a Defence Doctrine. I will take these documents as samples of a narrative genre of writing whose rationale it is to spell out provisions and guidelines for the security policy of a given state.[3] A National Security Concept is a document on which a state will base its foreign and security policy in years to come. More important to this here study, however, is that National Security Concepts – as narrative representations of the way security, threat, defence, war, danger and countermeasures are conceived of – offer empirical material for a study of how security is conceptualised and reproduced through discursive practices. In other words, a National Security Concept is one particular written representation of discursive practice and can therefore be analysed as such. There are of course other representations of discourse. Other instalments in a security discourse underpinning, contesting and engaging the National Security Concept documents are made from academic quarters, journals and policy institutions producing publications on the subject of security. A third source of textual representations would be general public debate. In case of the Baltic states, it is hard to identify much of a public debate on security and hardly anything that is not represented in the two other main sources. What follows, then, is a comparative textual analysis of the National Security Concepts of the three Baltic states. The aim is not only to discern what security concept is at work, but also to understand how security is conceptualised in these particular countries. That is, what is the mode of going about one's security business in the Baltic states and what explains this particular mode.

This article also looks at the friction between NATO and Russia over the enlargement issue, and it explores the possible effects thus generated on regional co-operation and the future of regionality as a principle for organising political space alternative to, or besides sovereignty. Taking that as a launching pad for a content analysis of key security documents of the Baltic states, this article aims at revealing why and how the Baltic states are still entangled in a state-centrist, modernist agenda when addressing their security concerns, thus colliding with the West when engaging in mutual endeavours to mitigate insecurity. 

The Name of the Game

            The Baltic Rim is one of several areas along Europe’s former Cold War demarcation line that are in the midst of regionalisation.[4] Within this region, the Baltic states make for a particularly interesting case because they seem to fall between the chairs of old and new brands of security thinking as well as between those of current security arrangements. On the one hand, they are strongly inclined towards a Western foreign policy orientation, and this quest is met with considerable support and sympathy in the West. However, when it comes to detailed commitment of a NATO-sponsored security guarantee, they are met with a cold shoulder. On the other hand, they are the only post-Soviet states that employ a fierce and unambiguous Westward orientation despite Russian opposition, and they are the only post-Communist states with a common border with Russia seeking NATO and EU membership. Thus, they are firmly in the grips of a security dynamic driven by NATO’s expansion, while at the same time exempted from membership because of geopolitical location and Russian sensitivities. This is likely to produce not only tension in relations between the Baltic states and Russia – and between Russia and NATO – but it also carries a potential for attributing unprecedented significance to the Baltic Sea Region. This potential dwells in the region­idea itself: Any region entails multilateral properties combined with an interaction and institutionalisation marked by modes of social organisation and political conduct that depart from traditional ones. Most regions, and certainly the Baltic Sea Region, also offers equal accessibility for once separated Eastern and Western countries. Thus far, security concerns have not been part of regional dealings. However, regional security arrangements become more probable as the rapprochement between Russia and NATO proceeds, because the rationale for seeking security by pitching the one against the other evaporates in the process.

Moreover, one can as Pertti Joenniemi (1997, 1995, 1994a, 1994b, 1994d), see developments in the Baltic Sea Region as a contest between two principles for organising political space: The state centric and classical principle of sovereignty and a challenging principle of regionality. The claim is that the Baltic Sea Region is about what sovereign states and sovereign more-than-states (the EU) cannot or will not do, which is then left for the region to grapple with. Regionality is a principle that combines sub-national and international dynamics and thus transcends the entire modernist script in which the state is privileged as the dominant organising entity in politics. Regionality, Pertti Joenniemi (1995: 339) writes: 

violates uniformity, as contained in the call for a new world order or other such quite centralist configurations of a modernist design, but it also deviates from and breaks with the principle of organising political space according to the standard statist, territorially fixed logic. 

            In this trend, Joenniemi sees a contest between two different security agendas aligning along the former East-West division line in Europe. In short, the Eastern agenda is still a modernist one privileging the state, attributing prime importance to sovereignty, military defence, security guarantees, and acts of war as the principal threat to security. The Western agenda on the other hand notes the recess of hegemonic power, state centrism and sovereignty, and in this development finds reason to shift focus onto societal, environmental, and economic security. The Western security agenda thus departs from the state centric emphasis on military means for security ends and advocates "softer" security. In this sense it is post-modern. These two security agendas are at odds in the Baltic Sea region (Joenniemi 1995; Knudsen and Neumann 1995).

Security, to be sure, is about the sovereignty and survival of the state as such – the state as an independent political unit. That does not, however, necessarily imply a privileging of the military sector of the state as is the case with classical security. Following Ole Wæver (1997a; 1995; 1994), what pertains to security should be looked at as the speech-act of politics the discursive practice of doing by saying which is at work when states, not least the Baltic ones, are seeking to secure state formations. What is an issue of security, and what not, is delineated through speech-acts in a performative discursive practice coined by Ole Wæver (1997a; 1995; 1994) as securitisation, making security issues of what is spoken of as security: One speaks security, and therefore it is a matter of security. As with sovereignty (cf. Walker 1993), security has no ontological basis outside of discourse. An army is not a threat in and of itself – it is merely an army – but becomes one when denoted in terms of danger. Conceiving of security as a speech-act, Wæver argues that security is not something "out there" with an objective existence and a priori ontology, something that one should strive to acquire as much of as one possibly can. On the contrary, security is an act that comes into play by the very utterance of the word security. 

Tell A Bigger Tale

Security is a field of practice into which subject matters can be inserted as well as exempted. Security is a code for going about a particular business in very particular ways. By labelling an issue a security issue, that is, a threat to security, one legitimises the employment of extraordinary measures to counter the threat, because it threatens security. In other words, security is a self-referential practice that carries its own legitimisation and justification. Security issues are allotted priority above everything else because everything else is irrelevant if sovereignty is lost, the state loses independence and ceases to exist.

            This makes for the point that it is not security as an objective or a state of affairs that is the crux of understanding security, but rather the typical operations and modalities by which security comes into play, Wæver (1995) notes.[5] The typical operations are speech-acts and the modality threat-defense sequences. That is, perceiving and conveying threats and calling upon defence hold back the alleged threat. This is also a self-referential practice with the dynamic of a security dilemma: Defensive measures taken with reference to a perceived threat cause increased sense of insecurity and new calls for defence, and so forth. Wæver’s argument is that this logic is at work also in other fields than those busying themselves with military defence of sovereignty.

Moreover, viewing security as a speech act not only makes it possible to include different sectors in a study of security, and thus open up the concept. It also clears the way for resolving security concerns by desecuritising issues which through securitisation have raised the concern in the first place. Knowing the logic of securitisation and pinning it down when it is at work carries the possibility of reversing the process by advocating other modalities for dealing with a given issue unluckily cast as a matter of security. What is perceived as a threat and therefore invoking defence, triggering the spiral, might be perceived of otherwise, namely as a matter of political discord to be resolved by means of ordinary political conduct, (i.e. not by rallying in defence of sovereignty).

            A call for more security will not eliminate threats and dangers. It is a call for more insecurity as it will reproduce threats and perpetuate a security problem. As Wæver (1994: 8)[6] puts it: "Transcending a security problem, politicizing a problem can therefore not happen through thematization in terms of security, only away from it." That is what de-securitisation is about.

            David Campbell (1992) has taken the discursive approach to security one step further. He demonstrates that security is pretty much the business of (state) identity. His argument is developed from the claim that foreign policy is a discourse of danger that came to replace Christianity’s evangelism of fear in the wake of the Westphalian peace. But the effects of a "evangelism of fear" and a discourse of danger are similar – namely to produce a certitude of identity by depicting difference as otherness. As the Peace of Westphalia signified the replacement of church by state, faith by reason, religion by science, intuition by experience and tradition by modernity, the religious identity of salvation by othering evil ("think continually about death in order to avoid sin, because sin plus death will land you in hell"[7] – so better beware of Jews, heretics, witches and temptations of the flesh) was replaced by a hidden ambiguity of the state. Since modernity’s privileging of reason erased the possibility of grounding social organisation in faith, it had to be propped up by reason and the sovereign state as a anthropomorphic representation of sovereign Man was offered as a resolution. But state identity cannot easily be produced by reason alone. The problem was, however, that once the "death of God" had been proclaimed, the link between the world, "man" and certitude had been broken (Campbell 1992: 53). Thus ambiguity prevailed in the modernist imperative that every presumption grounded in faith be revealed by reason, and on the other hand, that the privileging of modernity, the state, and reason itself is not possible without an element of faith. In Campbell’s (1992: 54) words: 

In this context of incipient ambiguity brought upon by an insistence that can no longer be grounded, securing identity in the form of the state requires an emphasis on the unfinished and endangered nature of the world. In other words, discourses of "danger" are central to the discourses of the "state" and the discourses of "man". In place of the spiritual certitude that provided the vertical intensity to support the horizontal extenciveness of Christendom, the state requires discourses of "danger" to provide a new theology of truth about who and what "we" are by highlighting who and what "we" are not, and what "we" have to fear. 

            The mode through which the Campbellian discourse of danger is employed in foreign (and security) policy, can then be seen as practices of Wæverian securitisation. Securitisation is the mode of discourse and the discourse is a "discourse of danger" identifying and naming threats, thereby delineating Self from Other and thus making it clear what it is "we" are protecting, (i.e. what is "us", what is our identity and therefore – as representation – what is state identity). This is done by pointing out danger, threats and enemies, internal and external alike, and – by linking the two (Campbell 1992: 239): 

For the state, identity can be understood as the outcome of exclusionary practices in which resistant elements to a secure identity on the "inside" are linked through a discourse of danger (such as Foreign Policy) with threats identified and located on the "outside". 

            To speak security is then to employ a discourse of danger inter-subjectively depicting that which is different from Self as an existential threat – and therefore as Other to Self. Securitisation is about the identity of that which is securitised on behalf of, a discursive practice to (re)produce the identity of the state. Securitising implies "othering" difference – making difference the Other in a binary opposition constituting Self (Neumann 1996b: 167).

Turning to the Baltic Sea Region, one cannot help noting the rather loose fitting between the undeniable – indeed underscored – state focus in the works of both David Campbell and the Copenhagen School on the one hand, and the somewhat wishful speculations of regionality beyond the state – transcending sovereignty – on the other. Coupling the two is not necessarily an analytical problem. It only makes a rather weak case for regionality. But exactly that becomes a theoretical problem in undermining the very theoretical substance, and by implication – empirical viability – of regionality.

There are of course indications that the role of states are relativised in late modern (or post­modern) politics. And there is reason to expect current developments in the security problematique of the Baltic states – firmly connected to the dynamic of NATO’s enlargement – to exert an impact on regional co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region, possibly even on regionality. NATO moving east, engaging Russia and carrying elements of the post-modernist security agenda with it in the process, is likely to narrow the gap between the two agendas. Moreover, since the Baltic states are not included in a first round of expansion, they might in this very fact (failure, some would say) find an incentive for shifting focus from international to regional levels. Involving Poland and engaging Russia, the enlargement of NATO will in fact bring the Alliance as such (not only individual NATO countries as the case has been) to bear increasingly on the regional setting as well as on regional activity. That might add significance to the regional level. It does not, however, necessarily imply that the state as actor and state centric approaches will succumb to regionality. Neither does it do away with the state as the prime referent for, and producer of, collective identity, so central to the approaches of both Wæver and Campbell. But it might spur a parallel to sovereignty. A way out of this theoretical impasse would then be not to stress the either or of regionality/sovereignty, but to see the two as organising principles at work side by side, complementing each other in parallelity rather than excluding one another in contrariety. 

The Discourse of Danger

The Russian war on Chechnya is one event that was widely interpreted in the Baltic as a ominous sign of what Russia has in store for the Baltic states (see Rebas 1996: 27; Nekrasas 1996: 58; Tarand 1996: 24; cf. Haab 1997). The constitutional ban in all three states on any kind of association with post-Soviet political structures is indicative of a threat perception that confuses Soviet and post-Soviet, conflating Russia with the USSR and casting everything Russian as a threat through what Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (1985) call a discursive "chain of equivalence". In this the value of one side in a binary opposition is reiterated in other denotations of the same binary opposition. Thus, the value "Russia" in a Russia/Europe-opposition is also denoted by "instability", "Asia", "invasion", "chaos", "incitement of ethnic minorities", "unpredictability", "imperialism", "slander campaign", "migration", and so forth. The opposite value of these markers ("stability", "Europe", "defence", "order", and so on) would then denote the Self and thus conjure up an identity. When identity is precarious, this discursive practice intensifies by shifting onto a security mode, treating the oppositions as if they were questions of political existence, sovereignty, and survival. Identity is (re)produced more effectively when the oppositions are employed in a discourse of in­security and danger, that is, made into questions of national security and thus securitised in the Wæverian sense.

In the Baltic cases, especially the Lithuanian National Security Concept is knitting a chain of equivalence in a ferocious discourse of danger. Not only does it establish "[t]hat the defence of Lithuania is total and unconditional," and that "[s]hould there be no higher command, self-controlled combat actions of armed units and citizens shall be considered legal." (National Security Concept, Lithuania, Ch. 7, Sc. 1, 2) It also posits that 

[t]he power of civic resistance is constituted of the Nation’s Will and self-determination to fight for own freedom, of everyone citizen’s resolution to resist to [an] assailant or invader by all possible ways, despite citizen’s age and [or] profession, of taking part in Lithuania’s defence (National Security Concept, Lithuania, Ch. 7, Sc. 4). 

            When this is added to the identifying of the objects of national security as "human and citizen rights, fundamental freedoms and personal security; state sovereignty; rights of the nation, prerequisites for a free development; the state independence; the constitutional order; state territory and its integrity, and; cultural heritage," and the subjects as "the state, the armed forces and other institutions thereof; the citizens and their associations, and; non governmental organisations,"(National Security Concept, Lithuania, Ch. 2, Sc. 1, 2) one approaches a conception of security in which the distinction between state and nation has disappeared in all-encompassing securitisation. Everyone is expected to defend everything with every possible means. And when the list of identified threats to national security that follows range from "overt (military) aggression", via "personal insecurity", to "ignoring of national values,"(National Security Concept, Lithuania, Ch. 10) the National Security Concept of Lithuania has become a totalising one taking everything to be a question of national security. The chain of equivalence is established when the very introduction of the National Security Concept is devoted to a denotation of Lithuania’s century-old sameness to "Europe" and resistance to "occupation and subjugation" (see quotation below), whereby Russia is depicted and installed as the first link in the discursive chain that follows.

In much the same way the "enemy within" came about in Estonia and Latvia. As the independence-memory was ritualised and added to the sense of insecurity – already fed by confusion in state administration, legislation and government policy grappling not only with what to do but also how to do it given the inexperience of state institutions or their absence – unity behind the overarching objective of independence receded for partial politics and the construction of the enemy within. This is what David Campbell (1992) points out when he sees the practices of security as being about securing a precarious state identity. One way of going about it is to cast elements on the state inside resisting the privileged identity as the subversive errand boys of the prime external enemy.

An example of exclusionary practices of this kind is found in the Latvian National Security Concept (p. 2) in which it is stated explicitly that 

[s]ince the external threat of [to] Latvia can be related to efforts of neighbouring countries to destabilise internal situation in Latvia, it is impossible to shift external threat from internal one clearly. 

            And the Lithuanian National Security Concept (Ch. 1, Sc. 1) cites under a rubric labelled "Specific", "incitement of ethnic groups to disloyal behaviour or disintegration" as "[p]otential risks and foreign threats to Lithuania’s security".

The document Guidelines of the National Defence Policy of Estonia busies itself strictly with military threats, but Mare Haab (1997), an Estonian International Relations (IR) scholar involved in counselling on the drafting of a National Security Concept, notes that "[f]earing a "fifth column" is a distinct part of Estonia’s threat perception". And indeed, a recent proposal by the Estonian Defence Ministry to draft residents-yet-not-citizens for alternative, non-military national service provoked an outcry in the Estonian Parliament casting the proposal as tantamount to creating a "fifth column" within Estonian Armed Forces (Clemmesen 1997). In neither Estonia nor Latvia are Russian speakers (or others) in citizenship limbo allowed to serve even in the volunteer Home Guards (Clemmesen 1997). 

Ethnic Statehood by Insistence on Historical Continuity

The ritualised independence-memory and the scenario of possible provocations soon cast the substantial Russian speaking minorities in Estonia and Latvia as potential vehicles for the dirty deeds of the Soviet Union/Russian Federation. Despite cross-ethnic support of the Baltic state projects shown during the struggle for independence and after, the loyalty of entire populations was, and still is, questioned on grounds of subversive activity of marginal groups (Moshes and Vushkarnik 1997: 92; Stranga 1996: 164-7; Asmus and Nurick 1996:129-30). 

            Relations between the ethnic majority and minority in Estonia and Latvia soured as Russia linked the issue of troop withdrawal to the status of the Russian minority in these states. In fact, it can be argued that negotiations with Russia actually inflated the enemy image of the Russian speaking population in Estonia and Latvia. Russia’s minority linkage was persistently resisted by Estonia and Latvia, but the Russian stance, together with out of context official statements from Russian politicians to the effect that Russia’s national interest would be served by actively coming to rescue of Russians in the "near abroad" (Stranga 1996: 142-61; Stamers 1996: 193-8), caused apprehension to the Balts and fuelled the essentialist notion embedding political loyalty in ethnicity (cf. Anderson 1983; Tilly 1990; Campbell 1992). This is the brand of Herderian romantic nationalism that takes the nation to be an eternal, essential and organic unity of genetic proportions, and where language, community and culture are treated as faculties of a population’s kinship and bonds of blood. These notions and this kind of nationalism is prevalent in the Baltic states (see Jurgaitiene 1993; Clemmesen 1997). It can be traced for instance in the legislation on citizenship in Estonia and Latvia, in property restitution and ownership to land in all three states,[8] and in the stressing of ethnic and cultural nationality in the National Security Concept (NSC) of Lithuania and, to a lesser extent, Latvia. When the Lithuanian National Security Concept casts "national demographic decrease", "dangerous infections", and "the spreading of inhuman, violence-propagating pseudo-culture" as potential internal threats to national security (NSC, Lithuania Ch. 10, Sc. 2), it rings like ethnic nationalism. The Latvian National Security Concept (Sc. 1) is more moderate in tone but states in the very beginning that "(t)he goal of Latvian security policy is to maintain and develop (...) the language, (and) national identity...". In a following section the link between internal and external threats are made explicit in terms of "(e)thnic situation and execution of Citizenship Law can cause political, economical and social problems." This, the paragraph goes on, might then act as a pretence for "neighbouring countries to interfere (with) Latvian internal affairs or to carry out aggressive actions." (NSC, Latvia, Sc. 4.9).

            Through this discourse of danger, facilitated and often fuelled by Russian remarks and policies, mere heterogeneity is cast as danger by the coupling of perceived external threats (Russia) to the possibility – and hence creation – of an enemy within (i.e. Russian-speakers in general). And, unfortunately, by denouncing the zero option in the question of citizenship (extending citizenship to everyone with legal residence within state borders at a given date) and thereafter enacting austere (and belated) legislation regulating the matter, state authorities in Estonia and Latvia made them selves protagonists of ethnic essentialism. In  the process, mutual suspicion and distrust between minority and minority in these countries increased, and Russia’s insistence on linking troop withdrawal to minority issues and the Balts’ refusal reinforced antagonism. Lithuania, by contrast, went for the zero option as early as in 1989 (admittedly with smaller but still substantial minority groups within its borders, and subsequently tightened in 1991), and consequently reached a concluding agreement on troop withdrawal with Russia in August 1993, a year earlier than Estonia and Latvia.[9] Relations between Russia and Lithuania have been considerably less strained and minority issues have not been brought to bear negatively on internal stability, as is the case in Estonia and Latvia (Nekrasas 1996: 60; Stamers 1996: 197-8).

Conflation of state and nation as one inseparable entity is also evidenced in the Baltic states’ practices of inscribing historical memory in state foundations (cf. Haab 1997; Raid 1996; Lejins 1996; Ozolina 1996; Miniotaite 1997; Haab and Vares 1996). A case in point is the Estonian insistence that Russia recognise the Tartu-agreement of 1920 between the Soviet Union and Estonia as the basis upon which to reach an interstate agreement between the two of today, a claim impeding significantly on the issue of fixing the current interstate border (cf. Moshes and Vushkarnik 1997: 95). Another case in point is the re-enactment of pre-war legislation on citizenship in both Estonia and Latvia. The newly independent states conferred citizenship (and hence political rights and duties) automatically to legal residents of the inter-war states and their descendants. All other residents had to apply. Typically for the ethnic tint of legislation, foreigners that could prove their ancestors to be ethnically Estonian or Latvian were granted citizenship even if they had never set foot in the Baltics. Consistently, residents without proper ethnicity or forefathers with legal pre-war residence were deprived of citizenship and subjected to naturalisation, despite the fact that many of them had lived their entire life in the Baltic. A period of fifty years under Soviet subjugation is thus sought rendered legally null and void, erased, as it were, to facilitate the restoration of pre-war independence. The policies of restoration imply that the inter-war republics are taken as an anchoring point for the new states when defining territory, sovereignty, nation and citizenry. In turn, this linkage spills over to colour the meaning of security for the present state formation. And surely, since there is an unavoidable difference between pre-war and post-Soviet republics – for instance in territory and citizenry – security is bound to seem at stake. The restoring of historical continuity by sorting Soviet times into parenthesis character is a performance almost invariably undertaken in Baltic literatures on security, as well as in the National Security Concepts. Thereby the Self (the state, the nation, the people) is depicted as European, and the Other is delineated to the East of Europeanness, that is to the east of the Baltic: Asia, Russia, Chaos. The introductory provisions guiding the Lithuanian Seima (Parliament) in adopting a National Security Concept (Lithuania, Introduction), illustrate this: 

many centuries ago, having incepted itself the Lithuanian State, resting on the Christian cultural grounds unifying Europe, is an integral part of the community of European nations; 

having through many centuries accumulated its historical statehood experience, the traditions of concord with its historically adjoining ethnic communities, fostered the oldest living Indo-European language, unique culture and world outlook, the Lithuanian nation can with these values enrich the community of European nations;  

the Lithuanian nation has never agreed to any occupation and subjugation it has resisted by all possible means and sought to free itself, and this resolution of the nation is unchangeable; [..]; 

the Lithuanian nation’s aspiration has been and continues (to be) to safeguard its liberty, to create and ensure guarantees for secure and free development of its ethnic land, to foster its national identity, to bring up its natural creative potential and to contribute to the advancement of the world; [..]. 

            Apart from the touch of pathos and the slight circumscription of historical facts, this quotation should suffice to illustrate the point made of inscribing a historical continuity. The preamble also provides an illustrious example of the discursive practices of delineating Self as European Sameness. And by implication, as the document continues with an extensive list of threats and risks to national security, it spells out what is Other to the Lithuanian Self, namely: ".. the fragile democracies, militarised states in the vicinity (of Lithuania) with highly unpredictable evolution options." (NSC Lithuania, Ch. 10, Sc. 1). By the same token "fragile democracies and militarised states in the vicinity (of Lithuania) with highly unpredictable evolution options" is also what is Otherness to European Sameness. This rehearsal is reiterated time and again in official statements and in scholarly literature. The former Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Povilas Gylys, stated in 1996 that integration with the EU is "a logical continuation of the history of an European Nation whose statehood dates back to the 13th century." (Grobel and Lejins 1996: 15). And a passage from the speech by the current Foreign Minister, Algirdas Saudargas, given before the Danish Institute of International Affairs on 3 February 1997, reads: 

For centuries, Lithuania has sought to become an equal partner of European Affairs (the coronation of King Mindaugas in July 1253, the failed coronation of Grand Duke Vytautas in 1430 were actually steps in that direction), fulfilling its duty to the Continent by stopping incursions form the East and assuming a balancing position at times of peace (Print handed out on the occasion). 

            Lithuania’s plight and current danger, one is led to understand, is that the division line between an European Self and an Asian/Russian Other be inscribed to the West of the Baltic, leaving the Baltic states once again on the "wrong" side, as it were, and thereby prey to the Other. The talk of "a new Yalta" or "a new Munich" is rife in Baltic security discourse (Nekrasas 1996; Miniotaite 1997). It certainly invokes not only the collective memory of historical continuity, but also danger. Here is the reasoning of Evaldas Nekrasas (1996: 23), a prominent Lithuanian specialist in security policy: 

In Lithuania at least, it is a common understanding that the most eminent danger to Lithuania’s security is not so much Russia itself with all its instability, messianic zeal, problems with redefining past identities and difficulties in defining and calculating present interest, but Western hesitation about where "to place" the Baltic states – among the "successor states of the Soviet Union" or in the group of the Central European states. The first alternative is quite perilous. 

            On this, the Latvian security scholar Aivars Stranga (1996: 162) seems to agree when he notes that the main threat to Baltic security interests stems from Russia’s "unwillingness ... to permit the establishment of a security system in Europe which would give the Baltic states true military and political security guarantees;" then he goes on to stress that the crucial point in this respect is "the pressure Moscow wages against the West" and "the readiness of Western Europe and the United States to yield to such pressure." In Stranga’s mind, considering the forecasted scope of NATO enlargement, it is apparently an excessive readiness.[10] To the same effect, Ronald D. Asmus and Robert Nurick (1996: fn3) note that "Estonian President Lennart Meri has gone so far as to insist that any attempt by NATO to differentiate between the Baltic states and other East-Central European countries would be tantamount to a new form of 'appeasement'".

As mentioned earlier, the Latvian National Security Concept makes no efforts -- except naming Russia -- to veil the sources from which it takes threats to emanate. On the contrary, the Latvian National Security Concept posits as an established fact that "neighbouring states" are harbouring ill will and evil intentions against Latvia. Rhetorically, the Latvian National Security Concept is held in a more sober and pragmatic tone than the Lithuanian one, and there is nothing of the introductory passages invoking a glorious past of the Latvian nation. However, the minority issue and the fear of a "fifth column" of Russian residents disloyal to the Latvian state – a threat perception addressed frequently elsewhere in Latvian literatures on security – is alluded to in the paragraph following immediately after the one identifying the main source of external threat. In the paragraph outlining "Threat" the Latvian National Security Concept states that "(i)f (the) political situation in a neighboring country is completely unstable, different political or military formations may try to seize power in Latvia even without approval or support of the government of this neighboring country." (NSC Latvia Ch. 3: 2).

            Estonia is perhaps the one Baltic state that most consequently has pursued a policy of inscribing historical continuity to the current Estonian Republic. Mare Haab (1997) notes this policy not only in the restitution of pre-war ownership to land and real estate, and in the initial pre-war design to an Estonian Defence force,[11] but also in the fact that on 6 November 1991 the Supreme Council of Estonia (the still Soviet type Parliament preceding the Riigikogu) re-enacted the 1938 Law on citizenship (cf. also Wæver 1997b). She (Haab 1997) also points out that the new Parliament, elected in September 1992, took as its urgent business to declare "on 7 October 1992 that the present Republic of Estonia was identical to the Republic that had existed in 1918-1940" (added emphasis). This, she (Haab 1997) observes, was "… utterly unproductive as to the Estonian-Russian relations." She concludes that Estonia’s relations with Russia in the period between recognition of independence (20 August 1991) to the withdrawal of Russian troops (31 August 1994) 

were primarily determined by impacts of historical legacy. Estonia expected Russia to: first, condemn the 1940 aggression against Estonia and apologise for Stalinist mass repression against the Estonian people; second, acknowledge of the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty between Estonia and Russia; third, immediately withdraw all the Russian troops from the territory of independent and sovereign Estonia (Haab 1997).[12] 

            These practices of inscribing historical continuity in state foundations are in themselves a kind of securitisation inasmuch as they cast the entire state project as precarious if not firmly connected to the historic one. This held together with the way the minority issue is handled in Latvia and Estonia and the prominence of the "fifth column" theme in these state’s discourse on security (Haab 1997, Ozolina 1996; Stranga 1996; Stamers 1996; Ozolins 1996; cf. Clemmesen 1997), a fairly explicit conflation of external and internal threats emerges in the Campbellian sense of "exclusionary practices" (Campell 1992: 239). To Campbell (1992), this practice has to do with the construction of state identity, part and parcel of the whole security business.

And surely, the ritualising of collective memory, the evoking of historical continuity, and delineating the Baltic as European Sameness opposed to Russian Otherness is very much a discursive practices to (re)produce identity by defining territory, citizenry, and sovereignty – in short, inscribing borders. So are the righting of historical wrongs: Not only a source of legitimacy in the struggle for secession from the USSR, but a discursive pursuit to link pre-war independence and post-Soviet current statehood. This move is seeking to exempt, as it were, the middle part to facilitate a coherent narrative of the state. Naturally, there is no room for a foreign disjunction in a monological narrative of historical continuity. "The result", Erik Ringmar (1996: 456) contends, 

is an occasion when not only our interests, but also our identities are called into question; when we suddenly will be presented to ourselves as a new kind of character participating in a different kind of plot. In case of an individual, perhaps we could call such a time an "identity crisis"; in case of a society, perhaps we could call it a "formative moment". 

            Consequently, the "formative moments" of state independence in Estonia and Latvia left the Russian minorities there in a political as well as a judicial limbo.[13] In both Estonia and Latvia only those who were legal residents of the pre-war republics on the date of 17 June 1940 (the date of Soviet annexation) and their descendants were granted citizenship, a regulation leaving 90% of the Russian minority in Estonia and 70% in Latvia without citizenship and subject to naturalisation in order to get a Baltic one (Stamers 1996: 192).[14] The minority policy and legislation on citizenship in Estonia and Latvia were met with harsh responses from Russia, alleging gross violations of minority rights and rattling the sabre of Russia’s obligation to protect the interests of Russians abroad.[15] As the issue of minority status and citizenship in the Baltic states is legally settled, monitored by a Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) High Commissioner and a Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) Representative (sometimes denoted "Ombudsman"), and accepted by the OSCE and the Council of Europe, Russia has, however, lessened its critique (Stranga 1996: 193-7), except for an outburst in early 1998, which led to concessions in Latvian naturalisation requirements.

            When legislation on citizenship in Latvia was finally adopted in 1994 (in Estonia 1992, revised in 1995), residents without citizenship were at least conferred a "aliens with legal resident permit" status, but the legislation did not mitigate the judicial limbo they found themselves in. Those not yet eligible for naturalisation are de jure stateless persons, since the state of which they used to be citizens (the Soviet Union) ceased to exist in 1991 (Moshes andVushkarnik 1997: 91). Many find the threshold for naturalisation too cumbersome or too distant to be worth climbing. Instead they opt for Russian citizenship,[16] which is subsequently securitised by representatives of the majority as evidence of Russia’s evil schemes to once again subjugate the Baltic states by establishing and exploiting a "fifth column" of Russian-speaking minorities (cf. Ozolina 1996a; Haab 1997). Tension in minority­majority relations is thus reproduced and continues to sour Estonia’s and Latvia’s interstate relations with Russia. 

In Pursuit of Self

Reading Baltic literatures on security, one is not left in much doubt that Russia is the organised political power, (i.e. the representation of an anthropomorphic collective will). The Russian state is the danger to the Baltic. The danger of Russia is primarily seen as one of encroachment – be it by ways of political or economic subversion, or by downright military aggression – on their state sovereignty. Conflating state and nation, everything Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian is thereby also threatened. The sheer size and might of Russia, and the asymmetric power relations between Russia and the Baltic states itself is inscribed with danger. The prevalent economic and political instability in Russia is denoted as a threat in terms of uncertainty and unpredictability, that is, installed as one link in a discursive chain of equivalence casting Russia as anarchy, the binary opposition to state sovereignty. Baltic state sovereignty is thus underpinned by a discourse of danger securitising culture, crime, diseases, alleged smear campaigns and possible invasions alike.

In this discourse of danger, the current thaw and policy of liberal reform in Russia is interpreted as a mere parenthesis in a brutal history of Russian imperialism, her true nature, as it were. It is widely held among the Balts that the imperial traditions in Russian foreign policy might resuscitate at any time and imminently pose a threat to the Baltic states. The bottom line of Baltic threat perception and assessment is one of Russian coercive aggression.

The Baltic states increasing vocal quest for Western integration after 1991 have excluded alternatives to a security policy based on "hard" NATO guarantees. As the Baltic states realise that they will not be the first to join NATO, their foreign policy orientation is becoming disparate, and Baltic unity is cracking as Lithuania woos Poland, Estonia looks to the Nordic countries and Latvia still pins its hopes on the USA (cf. Foreign Policy Concept, Latvia, p. 11).

Indeed, the West (i.e. NATO), notwithstanding the Partnership for Peace, is reluctant to project its power to the Baltic states. Rather, the West stresses other means of security, other types of security, and other modes of going about issues of a political nature that not in and of themselves have to be treated as security problems. This is pretty much in accordance with the post-modern security agenda. Although elements of the post-modern security agenda are paid attention to in the Baltic states – even in the National Security Concept documents – and there certainly are dissonant voices to the dominant discourse of danger, the modernist security agenda is still dominant. Albeit, as indicated, it is under increasing pressure because Baltic securitisation no longer seem to have the same effect on the West as it once did. 


Could it be that NATO’s enlargement and the prospect of an EU expansion are inaugurating an opportunity – indeed, an imperative – of shifting discourse from securitisation to integration? And could it be that one is facing the presence and contest between two different discourses of an entirely incompatible nature? One which essence it is to "other" Russia through persistent securitisation? Another which crux it is to engage and involve Russia in a heterologue among East and West (or at least a dialogue between NATO and Russia)? If this is the case, the NATO enlargement summit in July 1997 will most likely be a watershed point after which the enlargement issue will be out of the way, so to speak, enabling a further rapprochement between Western Europe and Russia – politically as well as economically. This dynamic of engaging rather than "othering" Russia certainly carry repercussions for the way "the Lands between" Russia and current-scale-NATO are dealing with both. A NATO-Russia modus vivendi on the enlargement issue and subsequently increased co­operation between Russia and Western Europe surely undermines some of Eastern Europe’s rationale for "othering" Russia. The paramount objective of countries in Eastern and Central Europe is Western integration, which already requires them to solve whatever border and minority disputes they may have with their neighbours. It is likely that a further NATO-led integration, not least an integration of the states further East (those with closer proximity, even common borders, with Russia) will require these states to engage Russia constructively in addition to solving actual disputes. Certainly, many East Europeans themselves underscore their possible role as a bridge between the West and Russia. Sadly, however, the vigorous discourse of danger and the practices of overly securitisation interrupts the bridging. This will have to change if integration is to continue.

Moreover, the second tire in the coming together of the European continent is prospectively constituted by the EU and the plans for an EU expansion. Since Russia welcomes an EU expansion and there is little reason to expect the EU to overtake NATO in issues pertaining to European security, the discourse of EU-driven integration is certainly not one of danger and securitisation. On the contrary, a discourse of danger, particularly one securitising Russia, is disqualifying almost per se in the EU. There are indications that at least some influential Balts now understand this, and that they have come to regard the success of multilateralisation  (their successful strategy of internationalising concerns by staging a sense of security drama and practising high-pitch securitisation) as exhausted. It is a strategy of yesteryear that no longer will increase the prospects for a rapid Western rescue. Many are yet not convinced. Convincing them might prove to be a difficult process precisely because of the hitherto successful securitisation. Rather, it is now time to pick up the old bridge-vision and take it further, to envision a extended, united "Europe of difference" – no less. That would be a "Europe" including Russia. This, of course, is an elaboration in concord with the notion of the two contending security agendas. And, it is a (perhaps wishful) scenario envisioning the end of power-politics, hard-ware security, state-centrist, and enemy-producing security discourse. And, it will be surely ironic, if it holds to be true, that a change of this magnitude and significance is being spearheaded by NATO – a former hard-ware military alliance of the Cold War.

However, this article maintains that the Westward thrust of the Baltic states to date has been part and parcel of a Baltic discourse of danger delineating Russia as Other and Europe as Self. With few exceptions the discourse on Baltic security identifies an array of dangers emanating from Russia and threatening the entire gamut of Baltic security from sovereignty to ethnicity. The conflation of state and nation and the invoking of historical memory as legitimisation of state-building enterprises reproduces the perception of threat and perpetuates the discourse of danger. A rationale for widespread securitisation is provided, and a precarious Baltic state identity is (re)produced. Precisely because identity is precarious and elusive and because state institutions are weak, faltering or lacking, the entire state project is perceived as vulnerable. The discourse of danger is instrumental in propping up state institutions, borders and identity to mitigate the sense of vulnerability. Only firmly anchored to "the West" can the Baltic countries ascertain their state identity, it is held. This, however, implies that the division line between East and West must be reinscribed between Russia and the Baltic states, which in turn perpetuates insecurity, permits securitisation, and bolsters identity by "othering" difference. In short, Russia is the Baltic states’ constituting Other (cf. Neumann 1993; 1996b; Knutsen and Neumann 1995: 31).

Rather, the discourse of danger should be substituted with one of difference; the mode of discourse should shift from one of threat-defence sequences to one of discord-mediation sequences, allowing difference to meet and discord to be resolved without the conjuring up of existential threats, danger and in-security. Otherness need not be invoked to ascertain and (re)produce identity – difference will suffice.

A struggle of speak is now waged against the continuos re-inscription of the division line between East and West in Europe. This is performed not only by the Balts but also by those elements in the West subscribing to classical, hard-ware, enemy-producing security, as well as in the entire belt of states currently separating NATO and Russia. This is the struggle between the modernist and the post-modernist security agenda – in a sense also a struggle between East and West. The question is not which will prevail – but how to get together. 


 I would like to thank Lene Hansen, Grazina Miniotaite, Iver B. Neumann, Robert Geyer, Mare Haab, Zaneta Ozolina, Ole Wæver, Henrik Thune, Jan Risvik, Clive Archer, Helge Blakkisrud, Erik André Andersen and especially Pertti Joenniemi for discussions and comments on earlier drafts of this article. I researched and wrote up this piece between New Years Day and Easter 1997 while I enjoyed a Visiting Fellowship at the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute, to which I am grateful for support and hospitality.



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[1] The film script is available on the Internet at

[2] Quoted in my own translation from the Norwegian, edition of Borges’ Ficciones (1993: 32).

[3] One should note (possibly not to the Balts own liking) that documents of this kind and the very idea of spelling out National Security Concepts in writing with the aim of having them adopted by a parliamentary consensus, is one rooted in a Soviet political tradition. Many countries do however have a tradition for writing in this genre, and on the issue of war and defence, it winds back two millennia to the Chinese Sun Tzu. On the Western hemisphere, the works of the military strategist Carl von Clausewitz is indispensable, (cf. Paret 1986; Hendel 1992). National Security documents as such, however, appeared only post-World War II in the US when the deficiency of collective security on the one hand and national interest on the other, was resolved with the concept of national security. (See Morgenthau 1973 [1948]: 542, 407 ff).

[4] International Relations literatures on regionalisation are many. For one of the latest that also discusses the previous, see Joenniemi (1997). On changes in international relations (IR) and how to study them after the end of the Cold War, the literature is far more extensive. A sample of central and recommendable works would include Ashley (1984, 1987); Buzan, Wæver  and de Wilde (1997), Campbell (1992), Der Derian and Shapiro (1989), Der Derian (1992), Neumann (1996, 1996b), Walker (1993), and Wendt (1992). Within the field of security studies, the Copenhagen School (with Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver as key figures) has claimed its own turf. The School has emanated from the IR milieu at the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute and deals with security and identity in a way that is regarded as sufficiently original and coherent to qualify as a line of thought and to warrant the term ‘school’ or ‘coterie’ as referred to by  Iver B. Neumann (1996b: 162), Cf. Neumann (1996b), and McSweeney (1996:81-93).

[5] Page reference to the Working Paper version.

[6] Page reference to the in the Working Paper version.

[7] Campbell (1992) refers to Delumeau (1990) on this point.

[8] However moderated to match EU regulations in order to pave the way for future EU membership.

[9] The agreement between Lithuania and Russia was reached after the Lithuanian side abandoned its claim to compensations for damages inflicted on Lithuanian land, property and material by the presence of the Red Army. Negotiations between Russia and the two other Baltic states stalemated at the same time (April 1993) as Estonia and Latvia stuck to their compensation claim (at times reckoned in astronomic figures), and as Russia offered a harsh response to what it alleged ‘blatant mass violations of human rights in Latvia’, following the decision by Latvian authorities to issue temporary residence permits to Russian officers stationed in the Baltic. See Lejins 1994.

[10] Cf. also the statement by the Latvian Foreign Minister V. Birkavs in Grobel and Lejins (1996: 34).

[11] This is a parallel to the emphasis in the Lithuanian National Security Concept placed on total defence and guerrilla warfare, explicitly referring to the «Forest Brothers’» armed guerrilla resistance to Soviet occupation waged up to 1953, and – on the level of symbols – the uniforms of the Lithuanian National Guard which is celebrated replicas of the uniforms of the inter-war National Guard.

[12] Quote taken from an early draft of Haab’s article. Page numbers not available.

[13] The literature on the ethnic issue in the Baltic states applies a variety of ways to differentiate the population’s ethnic composition. ‘Russian-speakers’, a term favoured by Russian authorities, lump together all non-Baltic groups without regard to ethnic origin. The numbers here refer to those who in the 1989 census declared their ethnic identity as Russian, a number which peculiarly also includes Belorussians and Ukrainians. The 1989 census provides the latest figures, according to which 62% of the Estonian population regarded themselves as ethnic Estonian, whereas 52% in Latvia stated Latvian origin. In Lithuania, 80% considered themselves Lithuanian, while only 9% viewed themselves as Russian. There has been net emigration among the non-Baltic ethnic groups since 1991, altering the proportions slightly. See Guntis Stamers (1996: 190-2, note 50).

[14] The naturalisation requirements include five years of permanent residence permit; demonstrated language skills; familiarity with the country’s history, Constitution, and National Anthem; and an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. Estonia tightened the residence requirements in a 1995 revision of the law of 1992. A permanent residence permit is now obtained upon 3 years temporal (and legal) residence. After the 5 (previously 2) years of permanent residence one must undergo 1 ‘waiting year’ before being eligible to apply for an Estonian citizenship – altogether 9 years after entering the country. In Latvia, the process of naturalisation is regulated according to age groups allowing the last tranche of those not born in Latvia to apply for citizenship in 2003. Politically, aliens are not enfranchised and can not run for office in general elections, they are not entitled to own real estate or weaponry. In course of Latvia’s privatisation process, «aliens» were on general basis allotted fewer privatisation vouchers than citizens, which in turn received bonus vouchers. Also, Latvian state pension is summarily reduced with 10% for non­citizens. See Stamers (1996: 190-3) and Moshes and Vushkarnik (1997: 90-1).

[15] Most notably in the Main Provisions of the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation issued on 2 November 1993, in which the Political Section states that Russia might employ military force to defend the interests of Russian citizens abroad, military facilities and armed forces of the Russian Federation situated abroad, and to prevent the expansion of military blocs or alliances to the detriment of Russian security interests. See Stranga 1996: 146.

[16] In Estonia the number of residents with Russian citizenship is up from some 34,000 in 1994 to 89,174 by April 1996 (Haab, 1997), and 110,000 by 1 October 1996 (Moshes and Vushkarnik 1997:  92).