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Afghan lesson for Baltic states

The US fiasco in Afghanistan may affect both foreign and domestic policy of the Baltic states

Afghan lesson for Baltic states

The August 2021 hasty withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan, where it had been since 2001, caused serious consequences both in the United States and among its allies. The Afghan fiasco of the United States and indifference it has demonstrated towards its allies will undoubtedly find its projection in the Baltic countries.

Some observers and experts tend to assess the Afghan events as the beginning of a US global dominance devaluation to narrow American presence in other countries. This idea gets widespread and primarily worries European politicians guided by the so-called Euro-Atlantic values, with the United States being their key mouthpiece. Thus, there were contributions and statements in Germany that a reduced US presence in Europe will lead to a weaker European defense capability, and every effort should be made to keep the United States from repeating the Afghan scenario on the European continent.

However, the most pronounced champions of the pro-American line in Europe are, as you know, countries like Poland and the Baltic states. The current political leaders of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia take cue from balancing themselves against Russia, claiming to be "frontline".

Until recently, it looked flirtatious, and now it should sound alarming to the Balts. It is clear that the United Stated hardly considers those countries as the next departure point for the American military after Afghanistan, but account must be taken of two things.

The first one is the stance taken by former US President Donald Trump. "If we got along with Russia, that would be a good thing, not a bad thing. And just about everybody agrees with that, except very stupid people," he encouraged the presidents of the three Baltic states at a meeting in April 2018.  These are certainly statements of a president who has already stepped down, but when leaving Afghanistan, current American leader Joe Biden also refers to Trump's withdrawal agreements. And in general, a certain change in the White House's style does not actually find its way into the key areas of US foreign policy. Thus, the Russian-American summit in Geneva showed that Biden is by no means intended to bring relations with Moscow to a direct confrontation.

The second thing is the military maneuvers in Latvia that began on August 30, 2021, with the American engagement not announced this time, unlike all the previous ones.

It is possible that somewhere down the line, the Americans may leave the Baltic States within changes in their global policy, though allegorically, i.e. they will erode support, mainly political, but also military. The Americans simply have other things to worry about right now.

This will be painful for the EU-fed Baltic countries, and the previous Baltic defiant statements are not relegated to oblivion, being stored in memory of those who form the core of the European Union. Given the Afghan experience, the EU leaders will barely look to the US in their dialogue with the Baltic states, and the American administration won't be particularly worried that the EU failed to pay up something to the Baltic states. An example is the August appeal of Lithuania to the EU for help in the migration crisis – in response, Lithuania was only allocated a tenth of the amount it requested.

The US conduct when leaving Afghanistan alters the internal political relations between the Baltic countries as well. Until now, representatives of the pro-American lobby have held themselves out of public criticism. When political opponents made harsh statements about them, critics were widely ostracized. And in general, activities beyond pro-Americanism were declared harmful dissent.

Now the Baltic opposition, which counteracts the pro-American government, should feel more confident. The Baltic electorate may well demand answers from the parties as to whether the Baltic foreign policy should remain pro-American or the time has come to return to multivectorness. How should one build engagement in pro-American coalitions in order to avoid migration surges? What schemes should be elaborated in the Baltic states in case of geopolitical changes arising from the national interests of the United States?

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