The annual Conference on Russia 2022 “Russia: A Restless Embrace of the Past?” successfully conducted


On 3rd – 4th March 2022, the Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) conducted its eighth annual Conference on Russia, which again summoned high level military and civilian experts and decision-makers to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, protracted conflicts in the post-Soviet space, and other topics. 

Among 38 key experts, you will find such renowned names as Ambassador Baiba Braže (Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy), Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger (Chairman of the Munich Security Conference), Dr. Artis Pabriks (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Latvia), H.E. Toomas Hendrik Ilves (President of Estonia 2006-2016; Professor, University of Tartu), Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga (President of the Republic of Latvia 1999-2007) as well as prominent experts from Russia, among others.  This year, the conference focused on such difficult issues as Russia’s war in Ukraine, Russia-China relations, frozen conflicts across the post-Soviet space, and the future of Russia and the West. 
 

       


The Conference was opened with the Welcoming Remarks by the Commandant of the BALTDEFCOL, Brigadier General Ilmar Tamm. He could not pass the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but in conclusion, he stated that the mission of the Baltic Defence College is to educate future leaders and decision-makers to be prepared to tackle current and future crises and security challenges. “The conference is an embedded part of our students' education programme”, he added. He also marked that since 2004, 55 Ukrainian students have graduated from the College. 

The conference kicked off with a Keynote Speech “Ukraine: The Cradle of Russian Civilization or the Graveyard of Putin’s Empire?” by freelance journalist Konstantin Eggert. He elaborated on the overarching question about the fate of Ukraine and Russia, as well as Putin's willingness to re-establish a lost empire. 
After the Keynote Speech, Konstantin Eggert joined Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, Ambassador Baiba Braže, and Prof. Toomas Hendrik Ilves for the first panel “The Rejection of the Soviet Collapse”. The panel was moderated by Prof. Žaneta Ozoliņa, the Chairman of the Latvian Transatlantic Organization. The panellists discussed how Russia and the West have come to terms with the collapse of the Soviet Union over the last thirty years, and what this means for current and future relations during the current war.

The first day was concluded in a Nigh-Owl Session, where Nikita Lomagin, the Dean of the St. Petersburg University; Sir Andrew Wood from Chatham House; Konstantin Eggert, and Maria Snegovaya, the Visiting Scholar, the George Washington University discussed whether Russia is aggressive only abroad or at home as well. This session was moderated by COL (ret.) Dr. Zdzislaw Sliwa, Dean of the Baltic Defence College.

The second panel “Are Russia and China Encroaching on Europe?” brought together Andrei Illarionov, Senior Fellow of the Center for Security Policy, former economic policy advisor to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin from April 2000 to December 2005; Andrew A. Michta, the Dean of the College of International and Security Studies of George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies; Constanze Stelzenmüller, the Senior Foreign Fellow of Center on the United States and Europe, Fritz Stern Chair on Germany and trans-Atlantic Relations; and André Loesekrug-Pietri, the Chairman of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative. The panel was moderated by Dr. Viljar Veebel from BALTDEFCOL.  

The second day started with panel III “Technological Transformations Affecting Russian Capabilities”, where COL Jean-Michel Millet from Joint Warfare Center joined the BALTDEFCOL students LCDR Rene Kalmaru from Estonian Defence Forces and LTC Andrius Jagminas from Lithuanian Armed Forces and BALTDEFCOL graduate from Higher Command Studies Course 2021, COL Kaspars Pudāns, who is currently the Commander of the 1st Brigade, Latvian National Guard. This panel discussed the meeting point of doctrinal proclamations, material capabilities and willpower for the coming decades in a predictive capacity. So, it focused on what behaviours can be expected of Russia, what objectives it has set, and what tools it can use to accomplish these goals. Dr. Illimar Ploom from the Estonian Military Academy moderated the panel.

Panel IV “Ghosts from the Past, Phantoms of the Future? Protracted Conflicts in Former Soviet Territories and the Invasion of Ukraine” followed. The panellists were: Dr. Artis Pabriks, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of the Republic of Latvia; Major General Jim Morris, Commanding Officer of the Joint Expeditionary Force; Eka Tkeshelashvili, Management Systems International in Ukraine, former Vice Prime Minister and State Minister for Reintegration and Chair of National Security Council of Georgia, and Vladimir Socor, the Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. It was moderated by Dr. Marc Ozawa, the Senior Researcher at the NATO Defence College in Rome. They discussed disputed territories such as Transnistria, Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk trying to answer the questions: To what extent does the current state of affairs of these regions represent frozen conflicts with no prospect of settlement? Might the war in Ukraine provide an opportunity to settle these conflicts? 

In 2014, President Biden of the United States stated that he once looked into President Putin’s eyes and saw no soul behind them, therefore the next panel carried the title “Putin Looks into Biden’s Eyes: What Does He See There”. During the discussions, Anders Åslund, the Resident Senior Fellow of Atlantic Council of United States of America; Laurynas Kasčiūnas, the Chair of the Committee on National Security and Defence at the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas);  Anton Barbashin, editorial director at Riddle; and Andrei Illarionov, Senior Fellow of the Center for Security Policy, and former economic policy advisor to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin from April 2000 to December 2005 gave their insights on the first year of Biden’s Presidency and the US-Russian relations being at their lowest point since the Cold War’s end. It was also discussed the opposite – What did Putin see when he returned Biden’s gaze? The panel was moderated by Dr. Asta Maskaliūnaitė, Director of the Department of Political Studies of BALTDEFCOL. 

Finally, Panel VI “The Return of History or the End of the World? The Russian Ultimatum to the West” evaluated events from the so-called ‘Wild Nineties’ to the present. Since then, the Western experts have predicted Russian collapse or decline while Russian political analysts have described a decline of the West and a continuing shift toward geopolitical multipolarity, in which Russia would regain its former status as a global power. Dr. Stefan Meister, the Head of the International Order and Democracy Program, DGAP; James Sherr, the Senior Fellow at the International Centre for Defence and Security; and H. E. Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga were discussing these two confrontations in the light of the invasion of Ukraine. The panel was moderated by Dr. Sandis Šrāders from BALTDEFCOL. 

It was the first time, the Conference organisers invited specialists to coffee break conversations. It was a special online broadcast programme, where experts and specialist shared their views after each panel. Special thanks for your valuable input goes to Dr. Algirdas Revaitis from the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania; BG (ret.) Gianmarco Badialetti from the Italian Army; Dr. Toms Rostoks, Centre for Security and Strategic Research at the National Defence Academy of Latvia and Dr. Margarita Šešelgytė, Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University; Dr. Illimar Ploom  and COL (ret.) Dr. Zdzislaw Sliwa; Elisabeth Bauer, Head of the KAS office for the Baltic States, and Georgian Ambassador to Estonia, H.E. Archil Karaulashvili; Louis Wierenga, Baltic Defence College; Grzegorz Kozłowski, Ambassador of Poland to Estonia; Žilvinas Tomkus, Vice Minister, Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Lithuania; Alena Kudzko, Vice President of GLOBSEC & Director of the GLOBSEC Policy Institute; and Prof. Dr. Giray Sadik, Chair, Department of International Relations, Faculty of Political Science, Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University, Turkey. 

The conference was concluded with the Remarks by Dr. Sandis Šrāders, the Director of the Conference on Russia 2022, who thanked all the Speakers, participants and our sponsors, civilian ambassadors, and media partners. Sincerest gratitude was expressed to NATO Public Diplomacy Division, NATO Defence College, Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, the City of Tartu, Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association, Latvian Transatlantic Organisation, Lithuanian Atlantic Treaty Association, Postimees, The Lithuania Tribune, New Eastern Europe, Georgia Today and Latvijas Radio. 



For the second time, the Conference on Russia Proceedings 2022 was published. This volume takes up the mantle of the previous version, focusing on a single global challenge – the COVID-19 pandemic – looking at how it has reshaped the relationship between Russia and the West. See the PDF format HERE. Photos from the conference could be find HERE
 
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