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The Baltic States

 

The extremely complex and diverse geopolitical space of the former USSR can be best analyzed in terms of four main groups of states, singled out in relation to their geographical location, ethnic composition, political leanings, and ideological orientation. 

The first group of countries is represented by the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. They are united by their common past, including the experience of independent statehood in the period between the two world wars. Reannexed by the USSR in 1940, they retained their strong pro-Western leanings and, half a century later, seized the opportunity offered by Gorbachevs liberalization and finally broke away from what they regarded as the imperial center.

Having regained their full independence, the three countries declined membership in the CIS. They view as their natural allies the countries of western and northern Europe and therefore strive to join Western political, economic, and military organizations. In late March 2004 these states joined NATO and in May they acceded to the European Union.

Their relations with Russia are strained not only because of the security implications of their membership in NATO but also because of the substantial ethnic Russian minorities, who found themselves subjected to various discriminatory practices by the governments of the three Baltic states. It is unlikely that in the foreseeable future the Baltic republics will be inclined toward far-reaching economic, political, and cultural reintegration with Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

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