Working Paper

Working Paper 86 (2015)   

The role of the Baltic region for the United States:
An analysis of U.S. presidential rhetoric from the Reagan years to today

Publicerad 24.4.2015

Jan Hanska
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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The Baltic Sea and the states that surround it comprise an interesting geopolitical area. For the entire post-World War II period the area has been a no-man’s zone where East and West meet and interact. After the end of the Cold War, the area around the Baltic Sea became a relative haven of stability. But the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, have brought about a new era of perceived insecurity.

This working paper illustrates the role that the Baltic region has played in the foreign policy and strategy rhetoric of the United States in the past thirty years. To accomplish this, the Public Papers of the presidents from the Reagan era to the first years of the Obama administration were searched for references to the region itself, the Baltic Sea and the states in the area and their issues. Within the timeline chosen for the analysis, significant policy changes have occurred in US strategy, but are they reflected in the role the Baltic region has been allocated in US foreign policy and, if so, then how?

In times of stability, the Baltic region seems to be almost inconsequential to the US. But a tense security situation – like the one we are experiencing at the time of writing – elevates the region from obscurity and puts it in the spotlight, but only temporarily. The same process occurred briefly when the Baltic states joined NATO.

More than anything, the re-entry of the Baltic region into both US strategy and presidential rhetoric alike during 2014 and 2015 illustrates the fact that the region has become a crisis area within which the US clearly sees a threat to its international interests and its allies.