Russia in 2018. Challenges and Responses

The fourth Russian Conference of the BALTDEFCOL in Tartu

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This year's presidential election, the Zapat-2017 maneuver and allegations of deliberate influence on the political discourse and parties abroad were just some of the topics discussed in Tartu, on 8 and 9 March, at the fourth Russian Conference of the Baltic Defense College (BALTDEFCOL).

After the welcoming by the conference leaders who thanked their partners, including the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, for their assistance in the realization of the conference, Prof. Mark Galeotti from the Prague Institute of International Relations introduced the subject of the conference. He gave an overview of the domestic political situation and foreign policy ambitions shortly before the Russian presidential election in 2018. A total of about 300 participants - mainly from the Baltic States and the EU, but also from NATO partner countries - attended the two-day conference in Tartu, which has been held annually since 2014, and is now referred to by the Baltic Defense College as a "flagship project".

In total, during the conference, 32 experts in 11 discussion forums presented their experiences and research on various aspects of Russian foreign policy and answered the questions of the audience. Topics covered both military strategies and the question of Russia's capacity for the targeted distribution and manipulation of controlled information abroad. The conference also focused on the experiences of Georgia and Ukraine in terms of their conflicts with Russia. Representatives of the two countries participated in various panel discussions, and the Georgian Embassy in Tallinn participated in the dinner of the first day of the conference at the AHHAA Science Center, which was also attended by Urmas Klaas, Mayor of Tartu. One of the highlights of the first day of the conference was the “Night Owl session" following the dinner, during which the Russian Zapad 2017 maneuver from last year was thoroughly analysed.

On the second day of the conference, the main focus of the discussions was on the possibilities of action of the NATO countries and their allies, the concrete challenges that arise for individual groups of countries and the concept of modern deterrence policy in the 21st century. The conference ended with a concluding panel discussion, revisiting the questions from the previous panels and exploring how and why deterrence policies can work against Russia. The panel speakers and audience members agreed that not only military defence capabilities will be important in the future, but that cyber, and information warfare will also be more significant, and that effective civil deterrence policy will need to involve all participants in civil society. Given this principle, the composition of the panels and the audience was once again praised this year, since the conference is aimed equally at academics, representatives of the military and politics, and offered them, in addition to the individual program units, enough time for networking and further discussion.


Elisabeth Bauer, Milena Vanini

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Estonia, March 23, 2018

Major General Andis Dilāns, the Commandant of Baltic Defense College, welcoming the guests of the conference.

Major General Andis Dilāns, the Commandant of Baltic Defense College, welcoming the guests of the conference.