Does Latvia Matter in Regional Geopolitics?

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Abstract

As early as 1994, scholars, analysts and policymakers began to wonder the extent to which the Baltic States mattered in the relationship between Russia and the West. The general consensus for the following 20 years was that the Baltic States matter considerably, especially following their inclusion in both the EU and NATO in 2004. However, in the past few years two trends have emerged which begin to call this accepted knowledge into question. First, the relationship between Russia and the West has turned more hostile following nearly 20 years of detente. The West insists (especially NATO) insists that it is within its right to protect states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union/Russia’s “near abroad”. Russia, on the other hand, insists that NATO incursion into the “shared neighborhood” is a violation of trust and overstepping normal geopolitical bounds.

Second, the Baltic States who once presented something of a united front for the West against Russia, no longer appear to have a common approach to foreign policy. While Estonia leans toward Scandinavia, and Lithuania leans toward Poland and Ukraine, Latvia is a bit of an odd man out with nowhere to turn. Furthermore, even other states in the Shared Neighborhood no longer seem to see Latvia as a valuable ally within the West. Considering this state of affairs, this paper considers whether Latvia matters anymore in regional geopolitics, or whether they are losing relevance.

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