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Baltic Countries Feel Struggle In Ukraine Is ‘Our War’: Playing Important Role On Several Fronts – OpEd

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Shortly after Vladimir Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that “if Ukraine doesn’t hold out, the countries of the Baltic will be next (svoboda.org/a/zelenskiy-esli-ukraina-ne-vystoit-strany-baltii-budut-sleduyuschimi/31734661.html).

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Not surprisingly, Vadim Shtepa, editor of the Tallinn-based regionalist portal, Region.Expert, says that for the governments and peoples of the three Baltic countries, there is a strong feeing that the fight in Ukraine is “our war” and they have taken real actions to underscore that fact (severreal.org/a/chetyre-fronta-vojny-zhurnalist-vadim-shtepa-pro-baltijskij-vzglyad-na-proiskhodyashchee/31791230.html reposted at region.expert/4fronts/).

Latvia and Lithuania expelled the Russian ambassadors and recalled their own; and Estonia closed the Russian consulates in Tartu and Narva, the latter of which had become a disseminator of Russian “Z” imperialism. In response, some Russians are calling for Moscow to break diplomatic relations with the three (rubaltic.ru/editorial/20220405-moment-istiny-rossii-pora-razorvat-diplomaticheskie-otnosheniya-so-stranami-pribaltiki/).

And even before this, Shtepa continues, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania committed themselves before any other EU countries to ending the purchase of natural gas from the Russian Federation. They did so in order that Moscow would not earn money from them to fight its war in Ukraine.

Putin’s calls for NATO to expel the three from NATO have angered the Baltic peoples but they have also had the unintended consequence of leading the leaders of the Western alliance to reaffirm their support for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and provide expanded military support to these three frontline states.

Andrius Kubilius, a Europarliamentarian from Lithuania, has declared that what is happening in Ukraine is “our war,” specifying that there are now “three fronts” in that war: in Ukraine itself, in Western capitals, and countries like the Baltic states who take in those fleeing from Russian oppression either in Russia itself or in Ukraine.

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According to Shtepa, there is an additional, “fourth,” front that involves conflicts between the Moscow Patriarchate and its eparchates in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All three leaders of what many still call “the Moscow church” in those countries have denounced the Moscow patriarchate for its cheerleading of Russian crimes of war and against humanity.

If Putin’s war in Ukraine continues and if the Moscow Patriarchate stays in the Kremlin leader’s corner, then it is entirely possible, the Russian regionalist says, that the Orthodox churches in the Russian church in Estonia will join the autocephalous Orthodox church there and the Russian churches in Latvia and Lithuania will seek autocephaly themselves.

If indeed that happens, it will be a major defeat for Patriarch Kirill and Moscow, a defeat all the more bitter because it is self-inflicted.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected]com .

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