From the CIAO Atlas Map of Europe 

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Kaliningrad As a Discursive Battle-Field

Pertti Joenniemi

March 1999

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute


A Mixture of Views

With the changes of the years 1989-91, a distance of some 400 kilometres opened up between the Oblast of Kaliningrad and mainland Russia. Suddenly the rather isolated, protective and strongly defence-related region turned into an entity far more exposed to challenges of European integration than Russia in general. The position of the Oblast was profoundly destabilized. It became Russia’s westernmost part and was surrounded, somewhat uncomfortably, by two countries—Poland and Lithuania—both engaged in developing a deeper relationship with Europe.

A site that functioned as a fortification guarding against unwarranted external influences, is now called—with the changes that have occurred—to spearhead change. Kaliningrad is required to tune in with a cooperative setting that breaks with territorial continuity and the previous constellation of rather divisive borders. It is, more particularly, heavily influenced by actors such as the EU, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Belarus yet remaining within the sphere Russian thinking, policies and practises. An entity that used to be closed, protective and unyielding to reforms has been compelled to open up, reposition itself and relate to an increasingly integrated environment.

It is hence no surprise that Kaliningrad has attracted some attention over the past years. A rather isolated entity (even Soviet citizens were required to have a permission to enter the area) with features of a terra incognito has turned into the Kaliningrad Question (cf. Krickus, 1998). It has gained the image of a trouble-spot and an entity out of tune with its environment. But what is the question really about? This is far from clear as different discursive frameworks tend to provide different answers.

It may be noted that Kaliningrad is located, in the sphere of representations, at a cross-section. There is a mixture of departures and a broad diversity of views concerning the issues at stake. This implies, both in terms of analysis and practice, that there has to be an ability to cope with different political ‘languages’ or logics that do not easily translate into each other. Kaliningrad has to be able to deal, on the one hand, with the return of some affective, emotional and nostalgic issues—here interpreted as representing a primitive logic, and on the other hand, cope with various issues that pertain to realism and a calculation of “national interests” as represented above all by the centre. Thirdly, the Oblast operates at the watershed between the integrated and the unintegrated, i.e. it has to adapt to a European logic of governance.

The primitive standing tends to be rather affective, nostalgic about the past and ideological in content. The views on amity and enmity are not based on reasoning and an analysis of the issues at hand but pertain to convictions and rest on interpretations of history. The revision of borders is seen as a key question, and revisions are called for in order to bring about a political landscape that is in line with strongly felt ideas of right and wrong. Proposals for cooperation across previous divides are regarded as overly risky and there is—with the zero-sum perceptions of security—very little space for any compromises.

The logic of realism is also premised on danger but within limits set by calculations and interests. There are deliberate efforts present within such a logic to stay aloof from any affective and ideological content, and this applies particularly for border-related questions. Policies are not pursued on the basis of some preconceived convictions about friends and foes or some other form of immanent experience, settled by symbolics or premised upon moral or ethical considerations. Instead, they hinge on considerations of the issues at hand and reasoning about the interests at stake. A realist stand aspires for a Westphalian order while the primitive one has connotations of a pre-Westphalian regression.

Whereas the primitive and realist logics attach much importance to issues of security and bordering, the one of governance has a much more relaxed approach to both of these issues. It favours a joint solving of common problems. It transforms, as an approach, the meaning of security by moving away from conceptions of narrow self-interests and zero-sum types of calculations. Security is seen as one of the relevant concerns, but it is not privileged in the same way as in the context of the two other logics. With security being relativized and borders turning increasingly flexible, different projects tend to become possible. There is more space for de-bordering and a crossing of lines.

My effort here is one of grasping, by using this trilogy of logics, some essential aspects of the Kaliningrad Question. It is claimed that instead of a single argument—or a set of arguments limited to one particular logic—there is a variety of logics at play. Each tends to provide answers of its own. There is a mixture of departures and a diversity of views but also shifts may be discovered over time as to their relationships and relative importance. This is so as the logics are socially constructed and therefore conducive to change. They may co-exist and to some extent support each other, but mostly they clash and compete. In the case of Kaliningrad particularly the latter case seems to hold true. The diversity appears to have increased rather than decreased and in essence the problem appears to be that there is no single point where the various views could coalescence and meet.

This is also why a constructivist approach appears, in bringing forward a rather rich repertoire—including some negativities that may flow from the logic of governance—to be particularly applicable in tackling the ‘Kaliningrad Question’ in the first place. Moreover, it sheds some light on why it appears exceptionally difficult to comprehend, cope with and settle.


In Search for a Past

The demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 destabilized Kaliningrad by revealing that the region had an ambiguous history. A breach in the then dominant discourse, i.e. the realist one, raised the prospect of the Oblast turning into a politically disputed territory. It became obvious that although significant to present-day Russia, the region has no anchorage in Russia’s past. It was annexed in the aftermath of World War II—a move backed by the Potsdam allies—and this was done despite a lack of previous ties.

For some of those raising territorial issues the disappearance of the Soviet Union opened the prospects for the “real” past to re-appear. They engaged themselves in politisation of history and moralising politics. The region’s status was questioned, during the first part of the 1990s, in a number of interventions. Efforts were made to settle the geographic discontinuity that had opened by proposing solutions grounded in a primitive logic. Russia was confronted with a variety of proposals and demands, such as the establishment of an Autonomous Republic within the Russian federation, the creation of a Russian-Polish-Lithuanian-German condominium, or the turning Kaliningrad into a fourth (independent) Baltic state. Some voices called for an annexation—depending on which period and aspect of history one chose to emphasize—to some of the neighbouring states. The term “Lithuania Minor” was used to legitimate a belongingness to Lithuania, there were proposals for a “re-Germanization” as well as claims to turn the region—partially or as a whole—into a part of Poland (cf. Wellmann, 1996:172-4; Oldberg, 1998:3-4).

This conflictual debate was further fuelled by various proposals to “demilitarize” and “internationalize” Kaliningrad, i.e. proposals designed to deny Russia control of its westernmost part. The governments in Vilnius and Warsaw—not to speak of Berlin—did not take part in the debate, but there were reasons to suspect that the questioning of Kaliningrad’s status was not altogether without official support. However, it soon became clear that in the case of the Oblast there was no past to return to, at least without creating serious friction between Russia and the neighbouring countries. Raising issues pertaining to the past in an official context would have been tantamount to challenging core ideas of Russia’s ‘self’ as well as undermining its territorial integrity. Furthermore, it would also have buried a number of European treaties premised on a territorial status quo and an acceptance of the borders resulting from the Second World War (unless changes were accepted by the parties in question). This is why the debate on territorial belongingness—one primarily premised on a primitive logic—was relatively short-lived and never gained much ground.

It nonetheless spurred some rather affective Russian reactions. Kaliningrad acquired a highly symbolic posture in the Russian discourse. Reforms were delayed, one example consisting of a land reform. It was delayed because of suspicions that foreign purchases would somehow return the land into the hands of foreigners (read: Germans). The various challenges were interpreted as a blow to Russia’s collective self-consciousness (Wellmann, 1996:172). They were purported as deliberate efforts of adding to the burden of a country already a loser and ‘victim’ of the post-cold war period. Depriving Russia of Kaliningrad would, according to some interpretations, push Russia out of Europe. It would further undermining the self-esteem of the country and imply a sell-out of Russia’s grandeur, or—putting it more bluntly—deprive Russia of what it rightfully gained as a compensation for the sufferings of the Soviet/Russian people during the war against Nazi Germany. Some scholars in Kaliningrad itself added fuel to the debate by claiming that the Oblast’s residents posses a legal authority to decide it’s fate (Krickus, 1998:4).


End of Nostalgia?

Obviously the outcome of World War II and the post-war period left a number of issues difficult to reconcile. However, the strength of the primitive argumentation turned out to be insufficient for having any major destabilizing impact in the sphere of politics. Kaliningrad has not been, to any great extent, at the centre of territorial quarrels in any real sense and as Alexander Sergounin (1997a) has observed, such disputes have in recent years played a marginal role in the Baltic Sea region in general. Tensions have flared and some issues still remain to be settled, but in general the seriousness of the disputes has not corresponded to the expectations that prevailed during the first half of the 1990s. It has been possible to cope with the problems and in many cases settle them in a rather satisfactory manner.

Actually, the difference between fears and reality has in fact been quite conspicuous. The striking thing is that a number of disputes have not broken out. As Tuomas Forsberg (1997) remarks, the puzzle has not been the existence of certain territorial issues but rather their non-existence. He concludes that despite various possible reasons for making territorial claims, the Baltic Sea region has in recent years been relatively free from territorial conflicts. The specificity of this becomes quite clear if the trends around the Baltic rim are compared with other border areas of the ex-Soviet Union and the Balkans.

The case of Kaliningrad appears to be largely in line with such a view: the region has not turned into a bone of contention in the way often imagined during the early 1990s. The nostalgic currents of opinion that emerged in Germany, Lithuania and Poland have not been sufficiently strong or persistent enough to insert the issue on the official agendas. With the prevailing of the norm of status quo, the states of the region have adhered to their course and pursued rather cautious policies. Despite some internal pressure and normative arguments, they have refrained from advancing territorial claims. NATO’s enlargement has brought back in place the dominance of the realist logic over the primitive one, and the enlargement of the European Union has, in turn, highlighted the significance of the logic of governance. In both cases the message has been: if you want to join in and be central, do not raise territorial issues in any old-fashioned manner. Refrain from quarrelling about the past! Do away with conflicts and please contribute to stability and co-operative security. These messages have been quite powerful and the impact has been discernible also in the debate on Kaliningrad.

It may hence be observed that the voices advocating territorial adjustment have obviously lost ground. Much of the bitterness about the historical record prevails, but it appears that some of the heat has evaporated with the opportunity to air the issue more freely. The provocative statements of the early 1990s have by and large disappeared and there is far less questioning of the Oblast’s position. The problem no longer consists of demands for change, but rather of a lack of interest and a low level of awareness as to the problems that the region. It also seems that there is less sensitivity about some of the symbolics involved: “Re-Germanization” no more has the same frightening connotations that it did some years ago, and there is greater preparedness to tackle various contentious historical issues. The Russian authorities themselves increasingly deal with Kaliningrad as a normal part of the country in spheres such as granting visas, allowing tourism or inviting the presence of foreign firms.

Moreover, with the previously rather divisive border becoming more permeable, former residents have been able to pay visits to the region. In some cases they have chosen to engage themselves in activities such as raising monuments or restoring important historical sites. The appearance of less confrontational options, and ones that are less geared towards the specific location of frontiers, provides more space for both official and non-official postures that aim at tackling the relevant issues by applying predominantly cooperative approaches.

It is also to be observed that the more recent discussion in Kaliningrad itself has been less geared towards foreign threats and dangers, i.e. even there the issue is showing signs of transformation. Anxiety about ideas concerning restitution or demands of “demilitarization” advanced particularly in the Polish and Lithuanian discussions in the early 1990s, have clearly declined. Instead of armaments and military issues, attention has been focused—for good reasons—on the current problems. These do not pertain, in the first place, to territorial control but economic decline, various social ills, issues of poor health, criminality such as smuggling or decay of the environment, many of these being worse in Kaliningrad than in Russia in general. The impact of the primitive logic has turned marginal, although Kaliningrad’s lack of a past remains a serious handicap in preventing the development of any sound local or regional identity.


Issues of Security

Kaliningrad functioned, during the years of the Cold War, primarily as a garrison. It was a closed territory and a base for the Baltic Fleet and the 11th Guard Army. The region hosted pre-positioned weapons—including nuclear ones—to allow a large number of troops to be sent there in case of war.

Western experts conceptualized the mission of the troops located in Kaliningrad as one of striking targets in Denmark and southern Norway, and to land assault troops on the shores of Sweden while denying enemy air, ground and sea assets access to Soviet targets in the Baltic Sea region and western Russia (Nordberg, 1994: 82-93). With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, a large number of troops passed from their previous bases through Kaliningrad finally to be decommissioned or stationed at some other location in mainland Russia.

All this implied that the realist logic coloured strongly the post-cold war and post-Soviet debates on Kaliningrad. The core issues pertained to hard security, military balances, levels of preparedness, threat scenarios an similar matters. Whereas the Russian authorities worried about issues of transit, and more generally the viability of their small exclave, western voices often raised concerns about its “overmilitarized” character. The military capabilities stationed there were provided with an offensive reading. Concerns pertaining to military security had pre-eminence both in Russia and the neighbouring countries. The dynamics of the debate coined suspicions and accusations of hostile intent. Poland and the Baltic countries interpreted Kaliningrad as a further reason to aspire for membership in NATO while Russian officials feared that the Oblast might be circumscribed by an unfriendly alliance. NATO’s enlargement was, in their view, not only detrimental to Kaliningrad but constituted a threat to Russia’s security more generally in undermining the option of a forward defence.

In the end, one may conclude, Russia was able to live with the enlargement of NATO. Moscow tacitly accepted such a move after it was provided with a number of political and military concessions. The Charter signed in Paris in May 1997 legitimized NATO’s enlargement, including an increased presence—due to the forthcoming membership of Poland—around the Baltic Rim, and it justified Russia’s territorial defence in Kaliningrad. Consequently, there is less ground for complaints that Russia is militarily too strong in the region. If some dilemmas nonetheless remain, the Charter sets out the basic conditions upon which a settlement can be constructed.

It hence appears that the enlargement issue, which undoubtedly heightened tensions and pinpointed Kaliningrad as a site of trouble, also helped to tune down some controversies. NATO made it clear that it is not going to grant applicants members if these have unsettled territorial issues with the neighbours. This condition, once understood and reflected upon, has in all probability tuned down border disputes. It has also taken the wind out of proposals concerning renaming, demilitarization or internationalisation of Kaliningrad. A NATO-Russia Council was established and NATO pledged to avoid overly offensive moves, for example deployment of nuclear weapons or non-indigenous troops on the territory of the new members. Some details that pertain to the implementation of enlargement might still cause friction, but in general the conflictual aspects of Kaliningrad seem to have declined once the issue of extending the membership turned less heated.

The Russian military leadership seems to have concluded that the outpost cannot be defended in the first place and only a small contingent of air, ground and naval units need to be stationed there primarily for air and sea surveillance and local defence (cf. Krickus, 1998:8; Pedersen, 1998:116). Western experts increasingly think that Kaliningrad is of little military value, i.e. it is devalued in the calculations based on a realist logic. Concerns for Russian troops in Kaliningrad have become rare in the Polish or Lithuanian debates, and no doubt the termination of the Kaliningrad Special Military District (KOOR) as well as the dissolving of the 11th Guard Army, with some remnants being attached to units in the St. Petersburg region, have further contributed to a more relaxed atmosphere to appear.

Russia has clearly been cutting its forces around the Baltic Sea and its northwestern parts more generally, and the debate has focused more on arms control than worries about military strength. Russia appears to feel reasonably secure against any annexation or take-over. The likelihood of any foreign power engaging itself in altering frontiers in a manner challenging Russia’s sovereign ownership of Kaliningrad is felt to be rather low. Territorial issues and the preserving of strict and divisive borders have therefore become less pressing. The improved atmosphere, combined with the cautious policies of all the relevant state-actors in Europe and an open discussion, implies that at least elements of mutual confidence have started to appear between Russia and its neighbours around the Baltic Rim (cf. Moshes, 1999).

The post-enlargement situation might turn out to be conducive to negotiations and provide a framework for tackling various issues pertaining to Kaliningrad as a military base. The agreement between NATO and Russia consists, in one of its parts, of the idea that instead of dealing with issues of arms control and disarmament in the context of the negotiations leading to the Charter, these will be brought up during the revisioning of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). Talks started among the CFE state parties in Vienna in January 1997 and a tentative agreement was reached in April 1999. With the block nature of the Treaty abolished and national ceilings agreed upon as a principle for departure, Kaliningrad will appear in a different light. A system of territorial ceilings has been discussed to stop any destabilizing build-up of forces. This is to ensure Russia that NATO’s enlargement will not imply a build-up of western forces in the new NATO countries. However, limitations could equally apply to the Kaliningrad area.

It would be important to achieve an agreement on sufficiency, although the probability for a decisive break-through appears, for the time being, somewhat limited. Instead of an implicit deal there could be agreement on a general framework regulating essential security-related issues pertaining to Kaliningrad. Such a framework would provide, in one of its aspects, Russia with guarantees on free and unhindered land, sea and air transit under conditions that measures of defence in Kaliningrad do not infringe upon the security interests of the neighbouring countries. The proposals put forward by the then Prime Minister Chernomyrdin in Vilnius in September 1997 go some way in this direction. He proposed, in the context of a broader package, that a “hot-line” could be established between the military headquarters in the Kaliningrad region and the Baltic countries and that the military exercises in the Kaliningrad region could be restricted to those of a solely defencive nature.

Obviously the garrison nature of Kaliningrad has become less pronounced with Russia’s financial difficulties, a general decline in military preparedness, a new military doctrine geared more towards internal than external factors and the fact that conflicts have been shifting more and more to the south. Furthermore, the questioning of Kaliningrad’s status—which was there for some years—has largely disappeared and the issue has not become a point of friction between the Western powers and Russia. There is still some concern about military capabilities and troops in the region, but an increasing number of voices regard the situation as rather normal (cf. Pedersen, 1998: 111). Traditional military themes are sometimes dismissed altogether. It appears, more generally, that Kaliningrad has turned into a regional concern around the Baltic Rim and it is less part of a more general military setting. The tendency to measure Kaliningrad on the basis of the realist logic is still there but the co-operative elements—and in some cases an explicit wish to avoid the creation of new diving lines and instead aim at reducing the impact of those that are already there—seem to have grown in importance. This is to say that the co-operative elements have expanded at the expense of the conflictual ones. The realist logic has increasingly provided for a dialogue and a meeting of minds. It has rather successfully stood its ground against the challenges posed by the primitive logic, but at the same time it has limited the space available for the logic of governance.


In Search for a Future

With the power-political rivalry declining in significance and the wrongdoings of the past being openly aired, a number of positive images have entered the debate during the mid-nineties. It has been recognized that border-areas, such as Kaliningrad, are not automatically doomed to peripherality. They may—in the best of cases—become significant sites mediating political, economic and cultural contacts. Frontiers are no longer barriers with the hard-edged clarity that they used to have, but junctures conducive to cooperation.

These more governance-oriented perspectives have given a different complexion to the debate on Kaliningrad. The stressing of closeness and Kaliningrad’s access to major European centres generated expressions like a “Luxembourg” (Dörrenbächer 1994) a “Switzerland of the Baltic” (Matochkin 1995:8) or a regional “Hong Kong” (Galeotti 1993:58). These visions depict the region as becoming—by utilizing its location and prospects for tuning in to European integration—a blessing not only for itself but also for the broader politico-economic environment. Instead of remaining a detached “fortress”, it might develop into a link with considerable potential for interaction across previous cleavages. Liberated from the constraints of territorially fixed thinking, Kaliningrad could achieve connotations of positive difference, openness, cooperation, growth as well as peace and stability. The relevant actors increasingly comprehended that the problems which are there do not have their background in conflicts between states, but pertain more to the situation locally in Kaliningrad and in Russia more generally. There is a growing conviction that concerted efforts, involving Russia as well as a number of other actors, have to be made if the region is to be provided with a chance of moving towards a more sustainable development.

The basic tenets of a new kind of non-territorial thinking have been described by Richard Rosencrance (1996:45) as follows:”Developed states are putting aside military, political and territorial ambitions as they struggle not for a cultural dominance but for a greater share of the world output”. He asserts that there is an emancipation from land as a determinant from production and power. The traditional power-political and territorially fixated logic is increasingly surpassed by a different one, a thinking that is based on viewing centrality vs. marginality as the core issue.

These changes also have a certain impact on the issue of Kaliningrad. There is less emphasis on territoriality per se, and the agenda determining the fate of the region is not seen as fixed and predetermined to the same extent as before. The deep split—one that cut across Europe during the postwar period and pushing regional as well as local issues into the background—has largely evaporated. The borderlines and territorial delineations employed have become less strict. They no longer rule out shifting and overlapping patterns of cooperation as categorically as previously. Space is also allowed for configurations other than the clearly statist ones. It is recognized that Kaliningrad stands to gain—at least potentially—from the changes underway, having been distinctly peripheral within the previous setting. Thereby it also becomes more difficult (although not impossible) to relegate it to a position of an outpost against threatening otherness and to treat the region as being void of any subjectivity of its own.


New Thinking

The alterations in thinking about political space imply that there has been somewhat more room available for Kaliningrad to be integrated with its environs, although such integration has turned to into a problem with the local economic and social hardships and the backlashes in Russian politics in general. The implementation of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), an arrangement that presupposes sound political relations with neighbours and the existence of open borders and considerable foreign presence in the region, has turned difficult. Suggesting such a formula has been part of a more general policy whereby Moscow aims at establishing some testing ground and to pave way for marked forces. The plan originated as part of an outside-reaching strategy in the construction of political space. However, the ideas never came fully off ground and a number of errors occurred in the implementation (cf. Samson, 1998). There has, in the first place, been much resistance within Russia among the nationalists, communists and the military establishment but also a number of reformers towards this kind of differentiation. Moreover, in the current situation this goes even for institutions like the International Monetary Fund. The IMF appears to go against such aspirations in Russia as it endeavours at resisting special tax schemes or other such privileges granted to some particular regions. Russia’s joining of the World Trade Organization would have a similar restraining impact. It thus seems that a formula worked out as a compromise between Kaliningrad and Moscow, one that essentially leans on opening up towards the outside, is encountered with considerable difficulties.

Obviously, there is still a long way to go for Kaliningrad in order to develop into a bridge-head of Russia’s Europeanization, and to achieve—in that context—more distinct features of a regionalist entity. The acceptance of a new European integration-centred agenda, with less emphasis on standardization and homogenization, but more tolerance for deviating cases, tends to encounter difficulties. Some Moscow-based analysts and politicians seriously debate whether a poor but traditional Kaliningrad may not be better than a prosperous and an integrated one (cf. Dewar, 1998:2). The options are potentially there with the tendency of territorial entities to become less fixed within the current European system. The role and policies of various actors are not as firmly determined by their geographic location as they used to be, and the norms determining the value, meaning and position of various formations are increasingly open to interpretation. The framing of political space allows—once the influence of the logic of governance increases—for a broader range of alternatives. It spurs plurality, although the Russian attitude towards such pluralistic thinking tends to remain cautious, and Kaliningrad is a case in point.

New and previously unexplored ideas pertaining to the new European agenda are easily interpreted as elements of unwelcome ambiguity. They are conceived as being in conflict with the requirements of ‘security’, a notion imbued with a realist logic. There is the fear that the introduction of such ideas would severely challenge Russia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity. At least through the beginning of the 1990s, with Russia facing potential disintegration, the idea of cross-border cooperation remained a somewhat daring notion. Even later the tensions in the relations with the Baltic countries and the issue of NATO enlargement kept reforms at bay. Occasionally the fear has been expressed that more integration-oriented policies could fuel separatist tendencies. This is to say that adherence to the realist and centralizing logic has prevented the adoption of more flexible and relaxed views. The military establishment has, in particular, viewed the new process-oriented visions of political space with suspicion, although their attitudes have become somewhat more forthcoming over time.

Kaliningrad itself has displayed limited abilities of manoeuvring in regard to the more process-oriented challenges, and this has been particularly obvious during the last couple of years. The skills needed to utilize the new opportunities have turned out to be modest. The Oblast has been unable to keep up with the pace of economic development in Russia, and is hard hit—in some ways harder than any other region—by the economic hardships (cf. Kivikari et. al., 1998:65-6). Having become quite dependent on its nearby environment for example in the field of raw materials and agricultural products, Kaliningrad suffers from the inflation and the declining value of the rouble. It’s location has not turned out to be a liability in the way often imagined, and in many cases the policies of the EU have contributed to hardships rather than the other way around (Fairlie, 1998; Samson, 1998).


The Impact of the European Union

Yet one may see that with the stronger presence of the EU around the Baltic Rim, politics is unavoidably changing its key. Although unable to provide security in any “hard” sense, the Union can significantly contribute to a defusion of a number of conflicting issues and, among these, reduce Kaliningrad’s vulnerability to securitization.

Clearly, a new agenda, devised on the logic of governance, has emerged and occupies an increasingly central place. This implies, as to the other logics at play, that the importance of the realist one gets scaled down and particularly the primitive one suffers a blow. The Union’s nature as a civil power upgrades various domestic and transnational concerns. The presence of the Union fortifies, in general, an inclusive, integration-oriented logic and introduces, in this context, a process of de-bordering. Instruments such as the structural funds spur the formation of regions in a proper European sense. In pertaining to competition for growth, dynamization and participatory politics, regions tend to be taken off the traditional statist agenda. There is more room for various local actors to manoeuvre and utilize the process of de-bordering.

In providing “soft” security, the Union helps to remove possible sources of conflict—both international and domestic. It tends to avert non-military threats to human welfare and survival. The simplest way of doing this is by raising the standard of living and by reducing differences in those standards between nearby actors through more effective economic cooperation. This pursuit of prosperity turns the actors involved more interdependent. An increased awareness of common interests mediated through cultural, educational and social exchanges develops and an improvement of intra-regional and trans-regional transport and communication links takes place. These “socializing” effects, and the evolving habit to move across frontiers, can be particularly helpful in easing tensions pertaining to more traditional conceptualizations of security.

As to frontier disputes, the EU tends to place the contending parties under pressure to reach an accommodation. The message gets spread that frontier disputes are marginal and anachronistic. Such issues are purported as part of the traditional, territorially fixed agenda. The argument is that they are no longer relevant to the same extent as before. Expectations to comply with and live up to the new post-territorial agenda fall on the Union’s members, but the pressure has also been strongly felt by states trying to get closer to the Union. The expectations shouldered on the candidates are: if you want to join Europe, behave and live by the new rules. The impact of this requirement has been quite powerful, as is also evidenced by the changes that have taken place in the Polish, but to a large extent also the Lithuanian policies vis-à-vis Kaliningrad.

The EU has recently pursued rather active policies in its endeavours to link the Baltic countries and Russia more closely to European integration. The inclusion of Estonia among the six countries eligible for membership is one sign of this. The Commission takes part in the Council of the Baltic Sea States (and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council), that is a process important for Kaliningrad. Contributing to such regionalist schemes may at least potentially turn the border of “Europe” more permeable, strengthen the growth of a cooperative framework in northern Europe and make it easier for non-statist actors to link up to the processes of integration.

Some general requirements for the conduct of such integrative policies seem to be falling into their place, although there is also much to hope for. The EU’s stronger presence in northern Europe certainly ties in with the recent memberships of Finland and Sweden. However, it also reflects a growth of the EU’s interest towards the north-east—a profile that particularly Finland has aspired to strengthen. The European Council of the EU approved, on the basis of a Finnish initiative, an Interim Report in December 1998 on the “Northern Dimension” (cf. Hedegaard & Lindström, 1999). In one of its aspects, the Report singles out Kaliningrad, and thereby bolsters the position of the Oblast on EU’s agenda. Moreover, the Commission is preparing documents devising a more explicit Russia-policy to the approved at the Köln Summit of the Union.


Influencing the Agenda

In its strategy for future relations with Russia, adopted at the Madrid European Council in 1995, the EU committed itself to establishing a substantial partnership with Russia. The aim has been one of promoting democratic principles as well as the respect of human rights. The strategy was complemented in 1996 by an Action Plan, which lists practical measures and activities aimed at contributing to Russian democratic reforms and economic development. Co-operation in justice and home affairs is also singled out as well as a dialogue on security in Europe and co-operation in the field of foreign policy. The Action Plan codifies and registers the bilateral efforts of the members in their co-operation with Russia. There is no special mentioning of the Baltic Sea region, but its objectives are certainly relevant for development in Russia’s north-western areas, including Kaliningrad (cf. Möttölä 1998).

The EU’s Baltic Sea Region Initiative, a programme prepared by the Commission and published in May 1996, is another indication of a “soft” approach. Utilizing the magnetism of integration, with the EU as its main anchor, allowed the establishment a Baltic Round Table. The idea was put forward for consideration to the European Council in June 1993 and implemented in 1993-94. It was introduced in the context of the European Pact of Stability, also known as the Balladur plan. The project was in general addressed to those Central and East European countries which, in some senses, are considered as future members of the EU. The prime participants of the Baltic Round Table were Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. They were asked to provide solutions to a variety of problems regarded as more domestic than foreign, and to tackle the issue by exercising power over themselves rather than putting pressure on any external country.

More specifically, the topics discussed at the Baltic Round Table covered regional transborder cooperation, issues related to minorities, cooperation in economic, cultural and legal questions as well as environmental problems. The participants were expected to pursue a conciliatory line, settle open issues and engage themselves in good neighbourly relations. They were expected to demonstrate competence within a rather concentric setting, with the European Union at the centre of such a configuration. The core issue has not been sovereignty, but one of counteracting marginalization in the form of being pushed into a periphery position in an increasingly cooperative Europe. The OSCE had the task of evaluating the results of the various ‘tables’, among them the Baltic one, and finally a pact was concluded and signed. In general the Balladur Plan envisaged a list of incentives which the EU might use in favour of states which agreed to observe the principles that the final, evaluating conference adopted.


The Union’s Enclave

The increased prominence of the logic of government changes the European configuration as well as the understandings concerning what politics is about. Issues of “low” policy tend to come to the forefront and the figure of Europe turns increasingly into one of concentric rings. The very location of Kaliningrad implies that the Oblast is rather sensitive to such changes. Increasingly perceived as the EU’s “near abroad”, Kaliningrad is in need of special attention and multilateral measures in order to be able to cope with the challenges.

However, the finding of a proper and broadly acceptable approach is far from easy. Both the endeavours of Russia and the EU are needed in developing overarching cooperative structures. A sufficiently stable environment, one that safeguards against further degeneration is required, but above all the main actors need a joint interpretative framework in order to handle the issues at stake. In some cases such readings exist, but there is also much space for false interpretations and profound misunderstandings. Just pretending that there is nothing to worry about does certainly not do. Kaliningrad remians an overlapping case nested in different logics. A realist reading still has a certain standing, but yet the Oblast has over the recent years become heavily influenced by the logic of governance in having turned, to a considerable degree, into the Union’s enclave. This change will become even more pronounced once the second way of EU’s enlargement is completed. With a part of Russia more or less inside the Union, the EU is in need of a more explicit policy.

This, in turn, calls for a more nyanced policy vis-à-vis Russia at large. Russia has to be lifted out of an analysis premised on a realist logic—and Russia itself has to go along with this—and viewed more extensively than has been the case so far in the context of the logic of governance. The adoption of such an inclusive strategy brings with it questions about Russia’s position in view of European integration. It is not easy to depict Russia as a future member of the Union. However, it is equally clear that a closer relationship has to be established. One possible formula consists of integrating parts Russia (such solutions based on differentiation already exist elsewhere with the Aaland Islands (part of Finland) outside the customs policies of the Union and with Greenland and the Faroe Islands (parts of Denmark) outside the Union. Strategies along similar diversified lines are also debated in the case of Norway (Jervell, 1998). Such a solution with a specific part of some country receiving a treatment different from the other parts—if applied to Kaliningrad—would not stick in the eye in the context of the logic of governance, although it would seem rather problematic if viewed in the perspective of a realist mode of thinking. The previous one does not insist on homogeneous spaces based on strict divisions into inside/outside, whereas the latter does. The previous one would allow for a loosely connected and EU-related Kaliningrad in a post-sovereign Russia, while the latter would caution against such solutions.

On a more practical note, the EU is interested in having assurances that Russia does not object to the EU being engaged in Kaliningrad. This allows Moscow to withhold it’s permission until some more extensive agreement has been reached granting Russia a more central place in European integration. Russia’s leadership has announced an interest in Russia becoming member of the EU, but there has not been much willingness—or ability—to accept the logic that underlies the Union more broadly. Kaliningrad turn—in such a context—into a bargaining card used by Russia in aspiring for more centrality, this locking issues in a problematic way. However, such a situation also brings about a dialogue on not just Kaliningrad but also the broader and more principal issues.

Some basis for a dialogue is already there. Both Moscow and Brussels are concerned that the privileges granted to Kaliningrad are not utilized for smuggling, drawing advantages by circumventing import-export quotas, falsifying certificates of origin or misusing various regulations to advance free trade and integration around the Baltic Rim. The parties also need talks concerning the position of Kaliningrad in the visa-regimes, the implementation of various Tacis project or euroregions such as those of Niemen and Baltica. The position has been, as to visas, a rather flexible ones with Kaliningraders having been able to travel rather freely to Lithuania and Poland.

In January 1998, Poland implemented more strict border control measures in order to keep records of which individuals were crossing the borders. With the potential member countries being asked to tighten their borders and follow standardized policies, even Lithuania might find reason to reconsider its policy of allowing Kaliningraders to visit Lithuania for thirty days without a visa (whereas Russians from the mainland need visa). Talks are required concerning proposals such as those aimed at turning Kaliningrad into a visa-free region for visitors staying in the Oblast but not allowing them to travel to other parts of Russia, to keep the visa-free arrangements with Lithuania in place, and for similar arrangements to be considered with Estonia and Latvia (cf. Fairlie 1998). Already the perspective of wider implementation of the Schengen regulations around the Baltic Rim requires considerable coordination. The Polish restrictions indicate that becoming increasingly EU-relevant may also have limiting consequences. Kaliningrad could suffer severely and become increasingly isolated, i.e. the effect would become one of establishing new, divisive borderlines and hindrances to integration, if the major concerns are those of implementing the Schengen rules, pursuing policies that require strict adherence to the various directives concerning standardization of products, certificates of origin, transit, customs procedures etc. In other words, the question stands whether the EU aims at policies doing away with borders and hindrances to cooperation or if it is in the business of establishing new lines of division. Statist borders do get perforated. There is no escape from that fact, but what is the proper way of interpreting such a development and what are the policies needed?

The EU appears to opt, in the first place, for rather rigid borders and therefore the negative effects seem to prevail. The Union follows the logic of the third pillar, one premised on sovereignty and stateness. The strategy assumed is a reductionist one endeavouring at playing down the multiplicity of the situation.

Such a line might be mandatory on a more principal level taking into account Russia’s limited ability to comprehend and accept solutions based on the logic of governance. However, pursuing such policies seems primarily to have depressive effects on Kaliningrad’s economy and social development (cf. Samson, 1998). The Union does not provide, in the case of Russia and Kaliningrad, for any visions of membership, that is options spurring economic reforms. While the neighbours are rewarded for their active policies, no such message is targeted at Kaliningrad. The neighbours can harbour feelings of success while Kaliningrad has to deal with failure and an increasing gap in future expectations. It stands out as a depressed Russian enclave within a booming region. The instruments utilized by the EU consist mainly of various Tacis projects whereas the neighbouring countries can also benefit from Phare and Interreg as well as the considerable funds facilitating and accelerating adjustment to membership. They have a dynamic future to look forward to whereas Kaliningrad is void of such a vision. The Oblast is pushed into a rather problematic situation; it is unable to link back to a past and the road to a positive future seems equally blocked.


By Way of Conclusion

Given the enormity of Russia’s legacy and the immensity of the problems left over from the previous period, Kaliningrad’s ride towards a linkage and bridge to Europe, and thereby increasing subjectivity, is hardly going to be a very straight or smooth one. The options available to the Oblast are rather limited.

It would be overly optimistic to think differently. This is so considering the Oblast’s location, the burden of history, the asymmetries of the situation, Kaliningrad’s dependency on fluent transit, hard currency requirements, visa arrangements, customs procedures due to its separation from the mainland, considerable dependency on hard currency as well as import and above all the lack of a “language” that would unify the discourse. Kaliningrad has frequently been depicted as an issue that severely hampers—potentially or actually—the more general developments around the Baltic Rim. It does not just stand in the way of overcoming the post-Cold War division between East and West and leaving behind the position of a European semi-periphery. It also adds—within limits—credibility to a more general discourse on danger, conflicts and the necessity to stay behind well-defined and strongly defended territorial borders. It tends to stay within the confines of a realist logic and a thinking that sets many limits for any Russian participation in the process of Europeanization.

But there also exist a different menu of options, one that has been growing in significance with the emergence of a post-wall Europe. Options are opening up once the territorial determinants of social life and political processes become less strict. It appears that Kaliningrad’s main asset consists of giving credibility to Russia being an European polity, a Russia of regions rather than a Russia of mosaics. The Oblast constitutes, in this perspective, a key site in the discourse on broader issues. It holds out what might be called security at an existential level. Kaliningrad forms an arena which allows Russia, if so wanted, to express its identity in non-adversarial terms and to reconcile its uniqueness with membership of a broader European and international community.

This is to say that it is not just distance per se, i.e. borderlines in a geographic and physical sense that are at stake; many political, cultural and mental barriers must also be dealt with in staking out a more favourable place for Kaliningrad in present-day Europe. It constitutes one of the sites where one has to settle whether Russia and Europe stand apart or whether they have a complementary relationship to each other. Policies may be pursued that make it more difficult to push Russia into some eastern otherness in order to achieve a distinct and orderly presentation of Europe, one with clear-cut external borders and a firm understanding of where it ends. The relevant actors are offered, with the emergence of a more pluralistic and spatially less determined Europe, the option of capitalizing on the weakening of many of the previous restrictions that have pertained to Kaliningrad. The region is offered the option of turning into a representation that is simultaneously Russian and European.

However, given the lack of a deeply rooted and broadly legitimate past, the future of the region tends to be conceptualized in terms of what is already there. Images of a different, less isolationist future easily generate fears that Russia and the current inhabitants of Kaliningrad would lose what emerged with the outcome of the Second World War. Changes are resisted as there is nothing in such a constellation really of their “own” that they can project into the future. Alternative paths are inevitably seen as backlashes, and there is hence little tolerance for plurality. The reactions tend to become defensive and pertain to bordering rather than de-bordering. More generally, they support the prevailing realist logic and leave little room for anything positive and creative.

Some of the issues are quite sensitive, like the question of Kaliningrad not having a Russian but a predominantly German past, and the airing of these has created uncertainty and bad feelings. However, with the falling of the walls in Europe there is no other option than to face the past and open up for a different future. The framework of “Russia” is unavoidably changing. In an atmosphere where ‘security’ no longer constitutes a label that almost automatically triggers demands for extraordinary and protective countermeasures, even the symbolic and identity-related matters such as the name of the Oblast can be discussed (the name signalling the power of the centre to determine images of the periphery as Mikhail Kalinin, former Head of State of the Soviet Union, never visited the region). Ground can be searched for identities and departures that rest on a non-adversarial relationship with the neighbours. Although no immediate and altogether problem-free solutions appear to be at hand, at least the existence of some problems related to the name of Kaliningrad can be recognized, this legitimizing a search for ways to settle them. New options can be discussed and looked for. The Oblast does not have to be perceived as a traditional issue pertaining to distance, borders and more generally territoriality; it may also gain features of an opportunity and a spacial resource with European connotations. This is one possible reading, but there are also others.

Recent developments do not invite for any overly optimistic predictions. The new thinking that is behind the more positive representations has turned out to be too weak in order to yield decisive results, or the effects have been different from the expected ones. There is a certain localism developing, but mainly in the form of Kaliningrad turning into a pocket-like trouble-spot on the new European agenda, an entity that adjusts to its changing environment in a unwarranted and problematic fashion. Borderlines are too often delineated by negative difference—crime, smuggling, corruption, grey economy, some low level violence etc. These serve the purpose of border-drawing, i.e. functions aspired for in order to preserve sufficiently strong notions of a separate “seft”.

It appears, more generally, that the political landscape—one premised on a realist logic—has been blown open by various factors pertaining to integration and the “information age” to be followed by re-closures in the form of negative localism. Instead of linking in to integration in a positive vein, Kaliningrad shows too many features of closing in and shielding itself off. One factor that contributes to the negative choices consists of the lack of any decisive pushes in a positive direction by the major actors relevant for the Oblast. The stimulus and the resources required are not there, and hence Kaliningrad seems to be deprived of positive options in reacting to the new challenges. It is increasingly part of the new and an expression of its inner (governmental) logic, but yet forced to represent such a logic in an adverse manner and in terms of a protracted crisis. Such a pattern is nothing uncommon in some of more remote parts of international relations, although it constitutes an unexpected reaction and case on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea and “near abroad” of the European Union.



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