From the CIAO Atlas Map of Europe 

email icon Email this citation

CIAO DATE: 05/03

The Internal/External Security Paradox and the Reconstruction of Boundaries in the Baltic: The Case of Kaliningrad

Christopher S. Browning

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
July 2002

In recent years the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea has received growing scholarly attention, but importantly, has also made it onto the radar of the European Commission. Although small in terms of geography and population Kaliningrad is assuming increasing salience as a result of the ongoing process of EU enlargement. With the next round of enlargement likely to include both Lithuania and Poland, Kaliningrad is set to become a geographical enclave within the EU. As a result of this geographical location Kaliningrad will be considerably influenced by the policies of the EU as well as those of Moscow. Consequently, situated on the watershed between Europe's integrating and unintegrated, Kaliningrad is emerging as a rather unique in-between and overlapping entity that not only blurs the geographical borders between the EU and Russia, but also those of governance. 1 What all this means for Kaliningrad, the EU, and for the wider scope of EU-Russian relations has become a source of much conjecture. In particular, two central issues appear to have emerged, which although analytically distinct are also frequently conflated.

The first issue concerns the position of Kaliningrad following EU enlargement. Despite early (but also continuing) EU proclamations that EU enlargement will have beneficial effects for this economically depressed region, it is becoming increasingly evident to Kaliningraders and observers alike that such optimism may be misplaced. For reasons to be elaborated below, EU enlargement in fact looks set to result in the further impoverishment and marginalisation of Kaliningrad, whilst with the institution of the Schengen border regime Kaliningraders' freedom of movement will also be negatively affected.

Linked to this issue of the effects of EU enlargement on the economic and social development of Kaliningrad is the wider question of what this may mean for the character of EU-Russian relations and for the EU more specifically. Essentially this second issue is in fact highly EU centric. At stake here is the fact that with Kaliningrad's enclosure within its geographical borders, previously distinct borders between the inside and outside of the EU are likely to become blurred as Kaliningrad emerges as something of an overlapping space. This is seen as raising a paradox for the EU over its internal and external security needs. On the one hand, the logical demands of internal EU security are seen to support the need for a very strict border regime with Kaliningrad in order to prevent the infiltration of crime and illegal immigration from the Russian exclave. On the other hand, the negative effects of EU enlargement on Kaliningrad threaten to destabilise EU-Russian relations. In this respect, it is argued that in order to foster the Union's external security and enhance the EU-Russian relationship, the border with Kaliningrad should be open and porous with the semi-integration of Kaliningrad into the EU. On this reading, however, preserving external security through opening up the Union's external border is seen to undermine internal societal security, whilst maintaining a strict border regime in the interests of internal security, in turn, is seen to undermine external security.

This paper sets out to do two things. In the first instance, in the first two sections of the paper these two aspects to the Kaliningrad question will be highlighted and the problems of the region briefly illustrated. Making the distinction between the dilemmas facing Kaliningraders as a result of EU enlargement and the internal/external security paradox of the EU is crucial as it will be argued that the EU's concerns are predominately framed in terms of the second issue. The second argument, which is elaborated in the following section, deals directly with the framing of the Kaliningrad issue in terms of a dilemma over the internal and external security requirements of the EU. Whilst the EU approach and the comment of much academic analysis on this issue tends to focus at the level of implementation and practical politics by trying to work out how best to draw a balance between the assumed dichotomous positions of internal and external security, this paper focuses debate at the level of discourse and identity formation.

In particular, it will be shown that the focus on the internal/external security paradox is indicative of the extent to which the question of Kaliningrad in fact represents a challenge to the very construction of EU subjectivity. In short, phrasing the question in terms of the internal/external security paradox pressupposes, and moreover contributes to, a particular vision of what the EU 'is' or 'should be' that draws on a very modern discourse of the EU as a state-like territorially sovereign actor. Framing the question in these terms also entails the reconstruction of a negative self-other binary from the very beginning. This is to say, when framed in these terms the Kaliningrad question becomes one of how best to manage the boundary, not how to overcome it. As such, the paper argues that the very discourse of the internal/external security paradox lies at the constitutive heart of many of the problems raised by Kaliningrad, whilst at the same time this discursive framework also circumscribes the options available for dealing with the very real problems Kaliningrad faces. Although this does not mean progress will not be made, constrained by conceptual barriers progress is likely to be difficult work.

The point, however, is that this modernist discourse stands in clear tension with the widespread view that the EU's raison d'être is that of securing peace within Europe, the achievements of which have been frequently applauded. With its initiation in the 1950s the European Community has actively worked to overcome the divisions that led to the Second World War. Central to this has been the promotion of cross-border networks and regions and the promotion of multiple overlapping local, regional and European identities to meliorate the exclusionary nationalisms of the past. Internally, the result has been the emergence of a 'neomedieval/postmodern' space in which nation-state divides between borders and governance have become increasingly fuzzy, the aim being to lock the peoples of the EU into a sense of common destiny. 2 Infused with this identity there has also been a constant motivation to spread the peaceful values of the EU to the wider world 3 and this has clearly existed as one of the central motivations behind the enlargement process.

However, whilst the understanding of the EU as a peace project has resulted in a certain postmodernisation of the EU internally, in its external relations pursuing similar policies has always been contentious. This is not least because with the EU seen as a model society to be copied, the outside has often been characterised as unstable and potentially threatening the security of the Union. Consequently, the EU has tended to view its outer edge in rather modernist ways, with its borders understood in security terms as a first line of defence. 4 This is why the forthcoming members are being required to apply the Schengen acquis and to shore up their Eastern borders with non-members. Kaliningrad, however, brings this tension in the EU's external relations - between the EU's desire to fulfil its peace mission and the negative effects of its desire for modernist exclusionary borders to protect itself from external threats - to the fore, since as a result of its location it eludes such neat approaches. In this respect Kaliningrad exists as a challenge to the very subjectivity of the EU. If the EU is a peace project then the questions Kaliningrad asks are where does this end and are we included? As this paper argues, with the EU approaching the Kaliningrad issue largely through the modernist frame of the internal/external security paradox, the answer to these questions appears to be that the peace project ends at the borders of the EU and that Kaliningrad is therefore not included. The consequences of this perceptual frame, however, may actually be to undermine peace and stability in Europe.

The argument of this paper, therefore, is that if the Kaliningrad question is approached using different conceptual lenses, different solutions and opportunities will likely arise, that may enable the EU to reassert itself more convincingly in terms of its peaceful ambitions. As such the paper advocates adopting more postmodern/postsovereign conceptual lenses that undermine the traditional tight links between the understandings of sovereignty, territory, governance and identity that imbue the internal/external security dilemma through which the EU currently approaches the Kaliningrad issue. In this way the opportunity for creating a genuine border region, in which the EU's border will become reconceptualised as a contact zone and invitation for interaction rather than a line of exclusion, may well arise, a development, however, that would also entail a significant reconfiguration of EU governance and subjectivity more generally.

Finally, to set the Kaliningrad question in a wider context the paper also briefly looks at the issue from the Russian perspective. As within the EU, in Russia there is also a tendency to see the question in terms of finding the appropriate balance between questions of internal and external security. However, certain rather postmodern trends can also be identified in Russia, just as they can in the EU.


Note 1: Christopher S. Browning and Pertti Joenniemi (2002) 'The Identity of Kaliningrad: Russian European or a Third Space?', Paper presented at the ASN Special Convention, Nationalism, Identity and Regional Cooperation: Compatibilities and Incompatibilities, Forli, Italy 4-9 June 2002 Back

Note 2: For such 'neomedieval' descriptions of the EU see, James A. Caporaso (1996) 'The European Union and Forms of State: Westphalian, Regulatory or Post-Modern?', Journal of Common Market Studies (Vol.34, No.1) pp.44-48; Nick J. Rennger (2000) 'European communities in a neo-medieval global polity: The dilemmas of fairyland?', in Morten Kelstrup and Michael C. Williams (eds) International Relations Theory and the Politics of European Integration: Power, security and community (London: Routledge) Back

Note 3: To quote Commission President, Romano Prodi: "Europe needs to project its model of society into the wider world. We are not simply here to defend our own interests: we have a unique historic experience to offer." Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, '2000-2005: Shaping the New Europe', European Parliament (Strasbourg), 15 February 2000. Available at |0|AGED&lg=EN&display=Back

Note 4: Sven Arnswald and Mathias Jopp (2001) The Implications of Baltic States' EU Membership (Helsinki: Ulkopoliittinen instituutti & Institut fü Europäische Politik) pp.60-61 Back