Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2008

Soft security problems in Northwest Russia and their implications for the outside world. A framework for analysis and action

Pekka Haavisto, Nikita Lomagin, Christer Pursiainen

January 2001

Finnish Institute for International Affairs


Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the traditional security dilemma based on the perception of a military threat between Russia and the West has largely given way to a variety of new challenges related to non-military security, so-called soft security threats. These threats are not merely problems internal to Russia, but constitute existing or potential problems for other countries as well.

Soft security threats in Northwest Russia are the main focus of this paper. They are of particular significance to Finland, the other Nordic countries and the Baltic States because of their geographical proximity. Ultimately, these threats pose a challenge for the whole of the European Union and the wider international community.

This paper aims at proposing a framework that could act as a starting point for further research and debate, as well as for political action. The ‘holistic approach’ offered here starts with an understanding of the various soft security problems as a whole, calling the attention and co-operation of all segments of domestic societies and international community, rather than dealing with them as isolated problems that would be the responsibility of only sectoral officials and administrative organs.

Firstly, the paper identifies and offers a general description of the currently recognised and potentially most serious soft security risks in Northwest Russia. Secondly, it discusses the Russian agencies related to soft security decision-making. Thirdly, the prospects of international co-operation for solving soft security problems in Northwest Russia are discussed.