Summary of Baltic-Russia Youth Forum 2018

  1. PANEL „NATO-Russia relations: Where are we standing now and what does the future hold?

Participants: Mark Voyger (moderator), Robbie Gramer, Robert Pszczel, Martin Hurt, Andrey Kuzichkin


NATO-Russia relations are at the lowest point since the Cold War. Relations have always been difficult, but there usted to be partnership nevertheless. With its legislation, NATO tried to ensure Russia of its defensive agenda. The NATO-Russia Council was established to cooperate whenever possible. Since 2014 the Council and the relationship between Russia and NATO can be considered frozen. There is currently to a common base and no more trust between the two states. NATO tries to seek dialogue, but the current state could not be changed by now. Due to Donald Trump, the American Perspectives towards NATO-Russia relations remain largely uncertain. Trump tries to improve ties with Russia while Congress supports EU-deterrence efforts. Looking at the actual actions the picture remains difficult to evaluate. While Trump has been questioning NATO multiple times, other American politicians raised to reassure NATO in their commitment. Currently, there is still support in Washington for NATO but not in the rest of the country. It is questionable if the population is willing to take risks. Upcoming Congress elections and their result will indicate the US view towards NATO.

From an Estonian perspective, Russias aggressions already started the Georgien Conflict and not Crimea. Nevertheless, Estonia tries to uphold the dialogue between the countries but from a position of strength. For NATO dialogue is important as it does not want to escalate tensions nor deploy larger formations to the Baltic states out of financial reasons. Despite the Russian aggression, it considers the current situation to be stable. From a strategic perspective, there are currently no major changes. However, Russia is not the major concern on the NATO Agenda due to the issues of terrorism and migration. Nevertheless, even though NATO has to combine the different views of its states, it appears close and united in the NATO-Russian Council meetings. For NATO the future relations with Russia remain largely unsure.

Russia considers its relations with NATO to be difficult and NATO as a threat to Russia. The EU is viewed as a vehicle for America and its plans. All relations with western countries are in general seen as problematic. Putin sees a need for Russia to reclaim territory and power. Nevertheless, Russia is largely driven by its internal conflicts. It has growing economic problems and a shrinking population. There are two possible ways of Russian further development. Eather it will deepen its authoritative System and engage more into hybrid warfare. This will be costly and dangerous for the economy. Another possibility would be the thrive towards a liberal system and an innovative economy. However, NATO should expect Russia to deepen its dictatorship tendencies while trying to improve the economy.

Q&A: Even though there are many views, NATO is largely in favor of North Stream 2 and the diversification of energy resources. Trump’s actions are mostly thriven by his economic interests. Neither Russia nor NATO want an escalation of the conflict. NATO does not want Georgia or Ukraine as members until their conflicts are solved. China-USA conflicts are more economic than security issues.


  1. PANEL “Hybrid threats. Russia’s influence on the Baltic states”

Participants: Margus-Tarmo Pihlakas (moderater), Col. Peeter Tali, Dr. Vladimir Sazonov, Mark Voyger, Kalev Stoicescu, Euan Grant


Even though Hybrid Warfare still lacks a clear definition, one can state it follows the principle of „subduing the enemy without fighting“. It involves a combination of civil and military means. Since Russia has no sufficient resources, it uses a toolbox of different measures to find cracks and disable collaborations. Since the climate change in NATO-Russia relations, the Baltic states and Russia try to find a way to live next to each other. Why does Russia try to undermine NATO then? First, there is a paranoia that the West and the US try to weaken Russia. Dating back to the 19th century, Russia feels humiliated and robbed of former allies. Moreover, Russia gained confidence as Obama decided not to intervene in Syria when the red line was crossed. Putin views democracies as vulnerable and does not like alliances and solidarity. Due to this fact, Russia aims at single countries to destroy consensus. The western response is not far enough since Russia won’t stop attacking. Russia depends on an enemy to justify its defense spending to the citizens. As Russias aggressions continue, dialogue is still needed. Nevertheless, NATO should increase sanctions as there is no common language between the conflict parties.

Moreover, NATO should strengthen its look on international law. While propaganda is able to influence it cannot enable troops. Russia needs a law argument to justify its actions. The Russian Hybrid Warfare uses law in all subjects and bends it for their purpose. International law changes de facto not de jure. This can be seen in the Arctic, where Russia claims territory. Western states have to collaborate and identify misuse of international law.

Informational warfare as in the case of Russkij Mir is heavily based on the historic past. Major targets are Russian speaking minorities, which resemble a large part of the Estonian population. Narratives include the picture of a „Russian world in Estonia“ and insinuated Russophobia towards the diaspora.



  1. PANEL “Cyber security and NATO’s cooperation with the EU”

Panelists: Piret Pernik (moderator), Bruno Lété, Hon. Urmas Paet, Siim Alatalu


Cyber Attacks should be considered a great danger and have a severe impact on today’s security strategy. NATO and the EU adopted two joined declarations to establish a cooperation in the field of Cyber Security. Even though there is not a lot of action yet, they are ought to share strategies, resources, and research. The danger of Cyber Attacks is really high as it is possible to attack critical infrastructures such as hospital and banks. Recent conclusions show that it is key to not only focus on Cyber defense but also offense. Cooperating with the EU, NATO gains civil perspectives and resources. Nevertheless, EU and NATO can only push their member states to act, as Cyber remains a national Agenda. For further development, it is necessary that decisionmakers recognize the importance of the topic. However, Europe has severe difficulties coping, as they lack skilled people. NATO and the EU should focus on investment, human skills and cooperation to counter the emerging danger.

Problems of the cooperation emerge from the framing of both organizations. Due to its civil framing, the EU might hesitate to engage in defense and wants NATO to do it. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, Cyber Attacks are not limited to military infrastructure but also target civil buildings in order to create chaos. Moreover, the attacks do not distinguish between non-allies and allies but attack regardless of membership. NATO is able to contribute knowledge as it is part of their agenda since 2002. Until now, this work was focused on protecting own infrastructure. But what to do with an Article 4 situation? EU might help to educate people as attacks get more complex. Working together, NATO and the EU have to overcome severe obstacles, rooting in the severe differences of the organizations. Even though the two cooperate in Cyber Security, the process develops rather slow. There are three key problems of cooperation. (1) There is no shared situational awareness or sheared mechanism. (2) The two organizations only have a coordinating, not binding role. (3) EU and NATO do not exercise together and all attempts so far failed. Nevertheless, the momentum and willingness of both players are existent.

Another important player in Cyber Security is the private sector. The industry involves heavily in the area and there is a need for cooperation between companies and governments. Together there is a great chance to decrease human error and a better detection of cyber attacks.

NATO cooperation with other partners than EU is also developing successfully. However, all countries choose their own degree of engagement and measurements. NATO and EU also support other countries to improve their abilities to counter Cyber Attacks. Nevertheless, both institutions should improve their donor cooperation and make them compatible. Summing up, cooperation between NATO and EU in the field of Cyber Security is successful but still under development. Even though the cooperation faces obstacles the momentum for joined interaction is there, as all EU countries are willing to enhance their defense cooperation.





(1) The concept of ‘Russkiy Mir’ and its multi-dimensional visibility in the Baltics.

     Slide Show:

–   Definition: State-sponsored civilizational concept encompassing various historical often   contradicting themes targeting Russian speakers primarily outside Russia with the purpose of constructing the common identity and mobilizing regime support

–   Agents: (Quasi-)Media, TV Channels, NGOs, State Institutions, Marginal groups

–   Goals: pro-Kreml view, destabilization, split the people, xenophobia, control of agents, power promotion

–   Target audience: Russophones, compatriots (including former Soviet citizens)

–   Opportunity: Concept could be used for cultural integration instead of Kremlin influence. It is important to understand each other and exchange cultural viewpoints.

Conclusion: (1) Complex phenomenon. (2) Heterogenic group. (3) Difficult to counter. (4) The hybridity of ideas and approaches


(2) Russia and the Baltic States in the context of international law.

Slide Show:

Two major Topics

(1): Accountability of International Law

             – No higher functioning institutionàUN?

-National law is considered more important than international law

-Not beneficial

-Powerless courts

-Multipolar vs. 2-Polar Systems: What are the interests of the players. Who decides?

             – Hybrid Warfare: What are the means states use? How can this be limited?

  • Bending International Law

-National law has priority over international law

– Hybrid warfare and means are not covered by international law

-use of media to create perception in favor of national policy

Conclusion: Current state is a grey zone that needs to be updated. There should be a clear and universal mandate for peacekeeping operations. To detect misuse of media, there should be a universal fact-finding commission consisting of experts, identifying false statements.


(3) Hybrid threats, cyber and information security: a set of new features in the framework of inter-relations between Russia and the EU/NATO/the Baltics.

In current state, war itself became unnecessariy and states developed new concept. Traditional  and new strategies blend together. Hybrid warfare includes the following areas:

  • Information security: Russia uses media to spread their historical argument. People must be educated to detect disinformation and propaganda. They need to develop critical thinking. Moreover, they need access to a variety of media.
  • Economic security: States could counteract the economic power Russia has. EU should have clear and unified stand against Russian economic threat and if necessary apply sanctions. At the same time, EU should continue the dialogue out of a unified standpoint.
  • Cyber Security: Essetial is dialogue. There is a lack of a common Cyber Law. Possible to develop, at least in some areas such as cyber terrorism. There is need to develop trust to share information and have joint exercises.


(4) The Baltic States, Russia and a new international system in the making: prospects for making a difference.


The UN is not able to solve current problems. The conception of the current world order is outdated and does not represent the de facto structure of today’s world. Other countries found their strength and power. As a consequence, they all want their state in society. There is no common base of values shared. At the same time, today’s problems are no longer primarily of territorial nature. Almost all international Systems came out of wars à Do we need another war to change the current order?


To solve the new fields of conflict states there should be a focus on problems not on power.  Therefore the international System should work outcome based.