Fletcher Faculty Participate in Workshop on Enhancing Baltic Sea Regionalism

By Alex Thomas, MALD 2023 Candidate, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

On Wednesday, August 31, 2022, faculty members from the Fletcher School co-hosted a workshop at the University of Tartu in Estonia on the topics of reinvigorating transatlantic security and enhancing Baltic Sea regionalism. Chris Miller, co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program, and Arik Burakovsky, assistant director, were joined by Fletcher professors Monica Toft and Josephine Wolff, as well as numerous Baltic scholars for the three-day conference in Tallinn.

The first day of the conference included opening remarks from the director of the Estonian School of Diplomacy, Ekke Nomm, and was followed by a keynote address from Jonatan Vseviov, secretary general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, and Jamie Shufflebarger, acting deputy chief of Mission of U.S. Embassy Tallinn. Following this keynote address, Director Nomm moderated the first panel discussion on the topic of strengthening deterrence and defense in the Baltic Sea region. Professors Wolff and Toft served as panelists for this discussion and were joined by Kalev Stoicescu from the International Center for Defense and Security (Tallinn) and Katrin Nyman Metcalf from Tallinn University of Technology.

Dr. Stefano Braghiroli, Associate Professor of European Studies at the University of Tartu said that “the workshop and the academic discussion that we organized in Tartu was a great occasion to discuss and critically examine EU-Russia relations and Moscow’s complex relations with the global west in the context of the war in Ukraine. It provided the unique opportunity to explore concepts applied to a complex reality and to give deeper meanings to factors and actors. The exchange of ideas, opinions, and perspectives with our U.S. colleagues was particularly enriching.”

Day two of the conference included three key sessions. The first session, titled “Russia Loyalists in the Time War: Still a Romance?” explored the core idea of how much a group of “Putin’s understanders” have altered their tactics after the start of the war against Ukraine. The second session, titled “The Baltic Sea Region and Central and Eastern Europe: Margins Taking the Lead?”, was chaired by Professor Miller and sought to explore how a group of countries bordering Russia became agenda-setters for the whole of Europe, as opposed to simply “small states” with limited resources.

Regarding this session, Professor Miller said, “This workshop provided an opportunity to meet with many of Estonia’s leading diplomats and experts on international affairs. I appreciated the opportunity to exchange views with Estonian scholars about the Russian war on Ukraine. I also learned about the impacts on Estonia’s economy and how Estonia is adapting to aid Ukrainian refugees. Finally, we had an insightful series of discussions on Estonian domestic politics and the country’s view of broader European political dynamics.”

The third and final session, titled “Why Did We (Again) Get Russia Wrong? Interrogating the Cognitive Power of Political Science and International Relations,” provided an overview and reassessment of the plethora of academic discourses that have proven to be wrong in the case of Russia’s foreign policy. Professor Wolff said, “I was very struck by the diversity of disciplines and perspectives with which the researchers at the University of Tartu approached the war in Ukraine as well as broader issues of security in Europe. Their analyses of European political parties, ongoing military campaigns, the use of social media by different governments, and the experience of Ukrainian refugees in Estonia offered new insights into the position of the Baltic states in particular, and Eastern Europe more broadly, in the larger contexts of NATO, the EU, and the international community.”

The final day of the conference included a roundtable discussion, moderated by Professor Miller, on Estonian Russophones after the restart of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Arik Burakovsky said, “We were pleased to collaborate with our colleagues at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu and U.S. Embassy Tallinn to organize the workshops. I enjoyed being back in Estonia and especially in Narva, where I previously spent two summers working. I was delighted to chair the roundtable discussion at Narva College, which was a fascinating conversation about how Russophone Estonians perceive the Russia-Ukraine war and domestic politics. Given the recent controversies in Narva surrounding the removal of Soviet monuments, the renaming of streets, and the imposition of visa restrictions on Russians, we could hardly have chosen a better time for the visit.”


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