In the current context, the deeper sources of EU-Russian tensions – most notably the lack of a shared understanding about the European security order – are unlikely to be dissolved any time soon. Thus, the main practical short-term question is how to manage tensions and keep them under control. Some points for consideration in this regard:
- Strong Euro-Atlantic institutions and their strong presence in the Baltic Sea region may be portrayed in negative terms by Moscow, but they constitute an important element for enhancing stability and predictability. The increase of tensions in the transatlantic relationship during Donald Trump's presidency has so far had no tangible negative implications in the Baltic Sea region, but it does increase uncertainty.
- Dialogue between the EU and Russia, and between EU member states and Russia, is needed, but should not be fetishized. The reason for the increasing tensions was not a lack of dialogue, and more dialogue will not, in itself, solve the fundamental disagreements. That said, talking to each other as a way to have a better understanding of the perceptions and intentions of the other side is a basic tool to manage tensions. Among (and, to some extent, within) the Nordic-Baltic countries, there are considerable differences as to how dialogue with Russia is viewed. A shared more pragmatic approach to maintaining contact with the Russian side would do no harm. This should not, however, include re-engaging Russia in multilateral institutional frameworks, from which it was excluded in 2014, without preconditions.