September 29, 2010
Europe is much larger than the USA. Is this that stupid? From the pure perspective of surface and number of square kilometres, of course, it is completely stupid and I should be banned from the Net forever. However, from a cultural and historical perspective, I think that Europe is much larger than the USA. I mean that the cultural distance is much bigger between Madrid and Helsinki, than between San Francisco and New York.
I remember a Finnish friend who told me once: “the distance from Paris to Helsinki is bigger than the distance from Helsinki to Paris”. As well: a Finn will be more interested in what happens in the rest of Europe than a French will be aware of the differences between a Finn and a Swede.
For this reason I will propose you some different looks on what Baltic Sea is.
First view: NATO and Cold War.
As you can see, from 1945 to the early 90’s, Baltic Sea could be looked at as a buffer zone between Warsaw Pact and NATO, the buffer role being played by Finland and Sweden, although secret agreements linked Finland to the USA in case of Soviet invasion. Of all the former Soviet dominated countries, four (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), plus the ‘neutral’ Finland have got rid of former master and are still extremely worried by the Russian bear. I remember a Finnish saying: “Russi on Russi, vain paistettu”. It is something like:” A Russian remains a Russian, even fried in a pan”. It sounds very friendly, doesn’t it?
Second view: the linguistic areas.
As you can see, the linguistic areas do not cover the previous blocks. To the West, in Germany, we find the German languages with Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Aaland Islands and the Western part of Finland. To the South and the East, the Slav languages expand from Poland to Russia. In the middle, Finno-Ugrian (Finnish and Estonian) and Baltic languages (Latvian, Lithuanian). By the way, for this reason, Finland does not strictly belong to the Scandinavian countries.
Third view: European Union.
As you can see, Baltic Sea has almost become a EU Sea, anyway much more than Mediterranean Sea. However, this domination has raised the concern of Russia, which has only two gates to the outer world: Kaliningrad (circled in hell blue) and Saint Petersburg, at the bottom of Finland Gulf. The inconvenient of Saint Petersburg being that during some winters the harbour is blocked by ice and less practicable.
Then the last view is another perspective of Russian influence:
The black dotted arrows represent the railroads between Russia and Kaliningrad. Belarus having close relationships to Russia, the issue lays much more with Poland and Lithuania, which must include this vital link for Kaliningrad economy in their relations with Moscow, as they cannot afford cutting it in a sanction policy, for instance when they complained against Georgian War. As well, the future gas pipeline, Nordstream, avoids all the Baltic countries and Poland, to land directly in Germany, after a short passage in Finnish territorial waters. This means, that, compared to the current network, Poland and Belarus will loose some tax profits and are finally not looked at as reliable enough by Russia, which prefers a bypass much more expensive than a land pipeline.
Therefore, for those who do not know well the Baltic Sea, I would advise them to have a closer look at this region, much more complex that its size and its location would let think.
Author : f.