Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Kateryna Pishchikova responding to audience questions at the roundtable discussion “Russia and its Neighbors in the Age of Trump” at the A.D. White House on 16 March.

March 16, 2017

Round Table Highlights Tensions Between Trump, Russia, Baltics and Ukraine

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President Donald Trump’s foreign policy could provoke further conflict between Russia and its neighbors, according to a panel held by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

Prof. Kateryna Pishchikova, government, commented on the aggravating role of the United States in these regions already riveted with tension.

“[The U.S.] pushes both sides, not just Russians, but also Ukrainians, to up their stakes, fight for leverage … to escalate so that the interest and the attention to the region and the conflict is high,“ she said. “These are, I would argue, the pitfalls and the risks of the ambiguity in [our current government’s] policy.”

Similarly, Una Bergmane, postdoc, spoke to the uneasiness Trump provoked when he “questioned the strategic rationale of U.S. commitment to Baltic security” as a candidate.

Pishchikova spoke about the history of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, emphasizing the ensuing conflict with Russia and its annexation of Crimea.

“There was this moment when the [Ukrainian] people were expecting more change and leadership change in Kiev, and there were a lot of expectations and a lot of political volatility as well,” she said. “This is the climate in which less than a month later Russia actually annexed the Crimean peninsula … because the Crimean peninsula was the home to the Russian black sea fleet, the biggest Russian fleet.”

Speaking about the non-committal border territories between Russia and Ukraine, she called the territory disputes “hybrid and fluid and messy kind of arrangement.”

Bergmane discussed Russia’s relationship with the Baltic states and the similarities and differences between the Ukrainian and Baltic connections to Russia.

“According to data from 2012 … around 66 percent considered themselves as patriots of Latvia,” she noted. “At the same time, many of them, around 32 percent also identified themselves with Russia. So they [have] these double identities, that does not necessarily exclude [one from the other]”.

In the context of media and censorship, Bermane raised a question as to whether Baltic states should restrict Russian media influence, despite being democratic nations with motivations to protect freedom of information.

“Other Baltic states have done it in the past, there have been temporary bans of public broadcasting of Russian media which was done as a reaction of what was seen as a violation of, for example, of Latvian and Lithuanian law … because of basically what was understood as hate speech that was channeled through the Russian state-funded media,” she said.

Ishan Sharma ’20 walked away from the lecture with heightened concern with for the current state of affairs and increased uncertainty for the superpowers’ futures.

“There’s a very real possibility [that] if Trump doesn’t take adequate measures to ensure the integrity of NATO, that if Putin decides to test the waters in the Baltic states, that we could have some very severe consequences in which NATO’s world order falls,” he said.