The Council of Baltic Sea States will hold its first ministerial meeting since 2013 today.
The organization aims to provide a dialogue to increase cooperation between member states and resolve regional issues. Today’s meeting will be the first without a Russian representative, as the country was suspended from the council in March due to its invasion of Ukraine—Russia later formally withdrew in May.
Russia’s withdrawal from the council is symbolic of the country’s increasing isolation in the Baltic. The only other non-NATO member states in the region—Sweden and Finland—are undergoing the process to be admitted into the organization. Swedish and Finnish NATO membership would essentially turn the Baltic Sea into a NATO lake surrounding and isolating the Russian Baltic ports of Kaliningrad and St Petersburg. While the closure of the Baltic Sea to Russian shipping is extremely unlikely due to international treaties, NATO would be capable of doing so in the event of an armed confrontation. As a result of this potential danger, expect Russia to increase its presence in the Baltic Sea—though it will have to ensure any deployments do not impede its war in Ukraine. This means any additional deployments will be highly limited.
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Cian is a Research Analyst and contributes to both Analysis and the Daily Brief. He specializes in Australian and European geopolitics with a particular interest in the strategic autonomy of the EU.