Steven Pifer
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This piece originally appeared in The National Interest.

Significant progress has been made in improving the defense situation in the Baltic states since 2014, but NATO can take some relatively modest steps to further enhance its deterrence and defense posture in the region, according to a report by Michael O’Hanlon and Christopher Skaluba, which was based on an Atlantic Council study visit to Lithuania. The Atlantic Council was kind enough to include me on the trek, which began in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, and included visits to troops in the field and the port of Klaipeda. I largely concur with Mike and Chris’s comments and supplement them below with several additional observations.

First, one can understand the preoccupation of Lithuania’s senior political and military leadership with the country’s security situation. Lithuania has had a difficult history with the Soviet Union and Russia. Some in Vilnius believe that Moscow regards the Baltic states as “temporarily lost territory.”

A Russian military invasion of the Baltic states is not a high probability. However, the Lithuanians cannot ignore a small probability, especially in light of the Kremlin’s recent rhetoric, the Russian military’s ongoing modernization of its conventional forces and exercise pattern of the past five years, and Russia’s use of military force to seize Crimea and conduct a conflict in Donbas.

When the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense (MNOD) looks around its neighborhood, it can see specific reasons for concern. Russia is upgrading its military presence in the Kaliningrad exclave on Lithuania’s southwestern border. The MNOD now counts Kaliningrad as hosting some twenty thousand Russian military personnel, including a naval infantry unit and substantial anti-access, area denial capabilities, such as advanced surface-to-air missiles. The Lithuanians assess that the Russian military could mount a large ground attack from Belarus, to the east of Lithuania (the border is less than twenty miles from downtown Vilnius). These forces are backed by an additional 120,000 personnel in Russia’s Western Military District, including a tank army. Russia has substantial air assets in the region as well as warships in the Baltic Sea.

For its part, Lithuania can muster fourteen thousand soldiers and sailors (four thousand of whom are conscripts serving just nine months). They are backed up by five thousand volunteers, similar to the U.S. National Guard. Under NATO’s enhanced forward presence program, a German-led NATO battlegroup adds 1,300 troops, mainly from Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. In addition, NATO member air forces rotate small fighter squadrons into Lithuania to provide air policing for the Baltic states.

Second, Lithuania has a logical plan to enhance its defense capabilities. The MNOD is making good use of its defense dollars (Lithuania now meets NATO’s two percent of gross domestic product goal, having tripled its defense expenditures over the past six years). Eschewing shiny objects such as F-16 jets, the MNOD focuses on upgrading the capabilities of its two primary ground units, a mechanized brigade and a recently-established motorized brigade. The main procurement programs of the past three years have purchased infantry fighting vehicles, self propelled artillery and short-range surface-to-air missiles to equip the brigades.

In the event of war, the forces in Lithuania would likely fight a defensive holding action while awaiting NATO reinforcements. The MNOD and Ministry of Transport are working together to enhance the country’s ability to flow in NATO forces, including by upgrading the rollon/roll-off capacity at the port of Klaipeda and building a European standard gauge railroad line from Poland to the main base of Lithuania’s mechanized brigade. The railroad line, which o obviates the need to change the railroad gauge at the Polish-Lithuanian border, a cumbersome process involving changing out the wheels of railcars, ultimately will be extended north to Latvia and Estonia.

Third, the Lithuanians value NATO’s enhanced forward presence in the form of the NATO battlegroup. The battlegroup is fully integrated into Lithuania’s Iron Wolf Brigade, and in wartime would come under the tactical control of the brigade. The rotational NATO force is based with and trains side-by-side with major elements of that brigade.

One potential question is, if Russian forces were to cross the border and the Iron Wolf Brigade deployed, then how quickly would the NATO battlegroup take the field with it? The latter would need a NATO command to do so, and likely also national authorizations from Berlin, The Hague and Prague. Hopefully, those authorizations would be transmitted early as a crisis developed so that the NATO battlegroup could deploy immediately. It adds significantly to Lithuanian combat capabilities, including by providing the only armor unit in the country.

Fourth, as pleased as Vilnius is to have a NATO military presence, the Lithuanians very much would like to add a U.S. component to it. With a U.S. armored brigade combat team deployed in Poland on a rotational basis, the U.S. military has the assets to consider periodically rotating an armored company to Lithuania (and to Latvia and Estonia). These rotations would be useful military exercises in case there is a crisis that requires a reinforcement move from Poland to Lithuania through the Suwalki Gap.

Lithuania is moving in the right direction in bolstering its defense capabilities, with prudent steps taken over the past six years and sensible plans for the future. As Mike and Chris point out, modest steps by NATO and, I would argue, the United States could significantly add to the Alliance’s deterrence and defense posture in the Baltics.


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This lecture is the first in a new series co-sponsored by The Europe Center and the Stanford Archaeology Center on how modern Europe has been shaped by the concepts, materials and ideology of its past inhabitants.

This first speaker highlights both the ecological and socio-political ramifications of conquest.  Based on work undertaken in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, Dr. Aleksander Pluskowski discusses the way that relationships created during one of the most dynamic epochs of European history, the period of crusading, have left a profound legacy for modern Europe.  The process of crusading resulted in massively modified landscapes and catalyzed population reconfiguration at the frontiers of Europe, during the period of Christian expansion.  The archaeo-historical backdrop to these events is presented, along with a discussion of how Europe and the relationship Europe has with non-Christian societies, was permanently altered.

Aleksander Pluskowski's research focuses on frontier societies, colonization and ecological diversity in medieval Europe.  He is primarily concerned with the nuanced relationships between ecology and culture, moving towards a complete integration of environmental and social archaeology, history and art history.  His ultimate aim is to further a holistic understanding of this formative period of European society, contributing to the management of cultural and ecological heritage today.  His other interests include cult praxis in the past and the construction of religious identities.

"How Conquest Transformed Northern Europe"
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Building 500
488 Escondido Mall
Terman Labs

Aleksander Pluskowski Lecturer in Archaeology Speaker University of Reading, United Kingdom

Main Quad, Building 50
450 Serra Mall
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-2034


(650) 723-3421
Associate Professor of Anthropology

Krish Seetah's research covers a range of issues relating to colonialism and colonization. Prof. Seetah is the director of Stanford's ‘Mauritian Archaeology and Cultural Heritage’ (MACH) project, which studies European Imperialism and colonial activity. Much of his work uses bioarchaeological materials, with a strong emphasis on human-environmental interactions. He is keen to use the long duree perspective to help contextualize the most recent phase of globalization witnessed in the IOW, and study both the impacts of imperialism on ecology, identity and the development of nationhood following mass diaspora.

His teaching focuses on osteoarchaeology, human-animal relationships, the the Indian Ocean World. Recent publications include a monograph titled ‘Humans, Animals and the Craft of Slaughter in Archaeo-Historic Society (Cambridge University Press), and an edited volume ‘Connecting Continents: Archaeology and History in the Indian Ocean’ (Ohio University Press), which won the 2019 Society for American Archaeology Book Prize in the Scholarly category. Seetah gained his Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge, holds two MSc degrees, the first in Ecology and a second in Osteoarchaeology, with a BA in Biology. He has held visiting fellowships at Cambridge University, UK, the Scientific Research Center, Slovenia, and was an ERC Research Fellow at Reading University, UK.

Affiliated faculty at The Europe Center

Conference Agenda for Day 1, October 8, 2014:


9:00 AM

  • Welcome Remarks – Eric T. Wakin, Robert H. Malott Director of Hoover Institution Library & Archives

  • Opening Remarks – Amir Weiner, Stanford University

9:15-10:45 AM – Chair: Amir Weiner

  • Toomas Hiio, Estonian War Museum. Multi-ethnic (or Multi-national) Student Body of the University of Tartu and the WW I: Choices, Political Movements, Volunteers, Mobilizations, and Postwar Consequences

  • Darius Staliunas, Lithuanian Institute of History. Anti-Jewish Violence in Lithuania at the Turn of the 20th Century

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM Chair: Aivars Stranga, The University of Latvia

  • Ēriks Jēkabsons, University of Latvia. The War for Independence of Latvia and the United States

  • Tomas Balkelis, Vilnius University. Paramilitarism in Lithuania: Violence, Civic Activism and Nation-making, 1918–1920

  • Bert Patenaude, Stanford University. “Yankee Doodle: American Attitudes toward Baltic Independence, 1918–1921”


Conference organizers:  Professors Lazar Fleishman (Slavic Department) and Amir Weiner (History Department)

Sponsored by: Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Office of the Provost, Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford Global Studies Division, The Europe Center, Stanford University Libraries, Division of Literatures, Cultures, & Languages, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Department of History, Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, and the Stanford Humanities Center.

Stauffer Auditorium, Hoover Institution


Mark von Hagen teaches the history of Eastern Europe and Russia, with a focus on Ukrainian-Russian relations, at Arizona State University, after teaching 24 years at Columbia University, where he also chaired the history department and directed the Harriman Institute.  At the Harriman Institute, he developed Ukrainian studies in the humanities and social sciences.  He was elected President of the International Association for Ukrainian Studies in 2002 and presided over the Congress in Donetsk in 2005.  He also served as President of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (2009).  During his New York years, he was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and remains a member of the Advisory Board for Europe and Asia at Human Rights Watch.  He has worked with historians, archivists, and educators in independent Ukraine and with diaspora institutions.  He has served on the advisory board of the European University in Minsk (in exile in Vilnius, Lithuania), to the Open Society Institute; on the Board of Directors of the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, and the International Fellowship Committee of the Social Science Research Council.

Ambassador Vlad Lupan has been the Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to the United Nations, in New York, since January 2012, where he is focusing on development issues, rule of law and human rights, and conflict resolution. He has held a variety of diplomatic posts since 1996 till 2008, last one being Head of Political-Military Cooperation Department and was a negotiator on Transnistrian conflict settlement. He also worked with OSCE field Missions in in Georgia, Albania and Croatia. In 2008 Mr. Lupan joined the civil society, and became a member of the advisory board to the Ministry of Defense. During this time he was also the host of the “Euro-Atlantic Dictionary” radio talk show. In 2010 he became the Foreign Policy Advisor to the Acting President of the Republic of Moldova, and was later elected as a Member of the Parliament. 

Educated at the State University of Moldova and at the National School of Political Science and Public Administration in Bucharest, Romania, Ambassador Lupan earned his international relations degree, and later a master’s degree in journalism and public communications from the Free Independent Moldovan University in Chisinau.  Ambassador Lupan has published mainly in Romanian, though he also published in Russian or English, on foreign and domestic politics issues, including international security matters, Security Sector Reform, Transnistrian conflict settlement and European Union Eastern Partnership.

Dr. Yaroslav Prytula is an Associate Professor at the Department of International Economic Analysis and Finance at Lviv Ivan Franko National University (LIFNU) and a Professor at the Lviv Business School of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine. Previously he served as an Academic Secretary of LIFNU and a Vice-Dean of the Faculty of International Relations at LIFNU. He is a member of the Supervisory Board of Lviv Ivan Franko National University. His scholarly interests are in macroeconomic modelling, quantitative methods in social science and higher education in transitional societies. His current research is related to socio-economic regional development in Ukraine. During 2001 he spent a semester in The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs under William and Helen Petrach scholarship and continued his research during 2003-04 in The George Washington University Research Program in Social and Organizational Learning under the U.S. Department of State funded Junior Faculty Development Program. During 2004-07 he was a fellow of the Open Society Institute Academic Fellowship Program. During 2007-09 Yaroslav was a fellow of the Global Policy Fellowship Program of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (Washington, DC). In 2011 Dr. Prytula was a visiting scholar at the George Mason University under the University Administration Support Program funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). Currently Dr. Prytula is a Fulbright Research Scholar at the George Washington University School of Business. Dr. Prytula was awarded his PhD in Mathematical Analysis from LIFNU in 2000. He graduated from the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics of LIFNU.  Yaroslav Prytula has received numerous awards and scholarships.


Presented by the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, and co-sponsored by The Europe Center and the Stanford Humanities Center.

Levinthal Hall

Mark von Hagen Professor of History Speaker Arizona State University
Ambassador Vlad Lupan Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to the UN Speaker
Yaroslav Prytula Associate Professor Speaker Lviv Ivan Franko National University
Robert Crews Associate Professor of History Moderator Stanford University
Panel Discussions
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The 100th Conference of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study (SASS) and the 22nd Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS): "Region, State, Nation, Community: New Research in Scandinavian and Baltic Studies" taking place April 22 – 24, 2010 in Seattle, Washington.

AABS welcomes papers, panels, and roundtable presentations for the first joint conference of Scandinavian and Baltic Studies in the United States.  The conference aims to highlight and foster academic inquiry that draws comparisons between Scandinavia (Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland) and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania).  Papers that examine stateless peoples and those left outside of the Scandinavian/Baltic approach, but sharing the same geographic space, are equally welcome.  Papers and panels devoted to individual states are also welcome.  Contributions are encouraged from disciplines including (but not limited to): anthropology, architecture, communication, cultural studies, demography, economics, education, environment, ethnic relations, film studies, fine arts, gender studies, geography, history, international relations, law, linguistics, literature, memory, political science, psychology, public health, religion, sociology, tourism, and advancing Baltic and Scandinavian studies.  Presentations are not to exceed 20 minutes in length.
Proposals from Ph.D. students will be considered for a Presidents’ Panel on Scandinavian and Baltic Studies that recognizes the most accomplished and innovative work of new scholars.
Paper and panel proposals must include an abstract (no more than 250 words) and a one to two-page curriculum vitae.  Send this material embedded in the body of an e-mail (no attachments) to Aldis Purs at ( by December 11, 2009.  Paper submissions can be mailed to:
22nd AABS Conference Chair
University of Washington,
Box 353420
Seattle, WA 98195-3420
Conference Website:
Date: April 22-24, 2010
Location:  Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1113 Sixth Ave., Seattle, Washington 98101
Registration information will be available on the website.  All presenters must be SASS or AABS members in good standing.   If you are in need of assistance in finding potential co-panelists from either Scandinavian studies or Baltic Studies, please contact the conference organizer (listed above) to help with such networking by November 1, 2009.

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According to Professor Muiznieks, since the early 1990s, the Baltic states have been seen as unfriendly in the eyes of Russians due to their "return to the West" attitude. Professor Muiznieks explains the key features of Baltic-Russian relations while looking at how these problems may be resolved in the future.


Professor Muiznieks begins by discussing the less than warm relations between the Baltic states and Russia. He explains how this is particularly due to the Baltic states’ desire to “return to the West” since the early 1990s and escape Russian influence after so many years of occupation. This is particularly evident in the EU and the UN where Poland and Baltic States form a sort of anti-Russian “axis.” However, the Baltic states’ membership of such organizations means a share of their secrets, which, as Professor Muiznieks explains, the Russians subsequently exploit for intelligence purposes.

At the same time, Professor Muiznieks cites another crucial security issue for the Baltic states, energy security. Currently, there is less oil transit through the Baltic states then there was before; Professor Muiznieks believes this has helped issues of corruption. However, he notes energy companies still play a significant role both locally and in relations with Russia. Looking the future, Professor Muiznieks believes that while there are options for the Baltic states to lessen their electrical dependence on Russia by looking to Scandinavia, the shutting of Lithuania’s nuclear plant will most likely mean Latvia and Lithuania will turn to Russia for further supply. To Professor Muiznieks, the current situation holds opportunities but also many risks.

Unfortunately, the strategic power-plays continue on another platform, memory wars. Professor Muiznieks feels World War II is the key point of debate between the Baltic states and Russia. While Russia sees the war as a great triumph, the Baltic states view the conflict as a catastrophe which led to further occupation. Professor Muiznieks discusses the fact that this battle plays out locally through monuments or textbooks but also internationally through border disputes and UN resolutions. He cites the European Court of Human Rights as a new strategic arena for this war because of its utmost authority on the continent and the fact that its rulings can cement one group as victims and force others to pay compensation.  However, Professor Muiznieks believes any truce is unlikely. For him, this conflict is too linked to many personal family histories and not government based enough to be put to a real end.

Professor Muiznieks also looks to “compatriots” as a focal point of Baltic-Russian relations. “Compatriots,” in this case, are Russian citizens living abroad, particularly in the Baltic states. This issue is serious because Russian speakers comprise over a quarter of both Latvia and Estonia’s populations. Professor Muiznieks explains that tension was caused in the Baltic states after Russia’s war with Georgia as to how Russian policy would change towards its diasporas. In addition, Professor Muiznieks reveals that there is further concern over the possibility that Russia is encouraging speakers abroad to take up citizenship to create legal basis for any action against other states in the future. Professor Muiznieks also argues that funding for these “compatriots” is perhaps to counteract increasing EU influence in the region.

Overall, Professor Muiznieks believes that the Baltic states are seriously suffering from the global economic crisis which in turn is making it difficult for them to counteract Russian policy and be effective. Professor Muiznieks argues this makes the Baltic states quite vulnerable.

In a lengthy question-and-answer session, a multitude of points were raised. One of the key issues addressed was where the Baltic States, and in particular Latvia, fit in the European framework. This led to discussion of several other issues such as Scandanivia's changing role in the Baltic States, the role of the Baltic States in NATO, and language integration. Finally, another possibility much emphasized was the potential creation of nuclear power plants as a way to offset surging prices for Russian energy.

Encina Ground Floor Conference Room

Nils Muiznieks Director, Advanced Social and Political Research Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Latvia Speaker

There are some peculiarities in conducting interviews about the Soviet past in post-Soviet space. What details of everyday life do interviewees reveal? And how do life stories shaped during Soviet times, but recalled and reconsidered in the post-communist era influence the interview?

Prof. Dalia Marcinkeviciene is chair of the Women’s Studies Center, and a lecturer in History Department at Vilnius University. Her research interests include Lithuanian family history during the period 1795-1990; theories in Sovietology. Marcinkeviciene was awarded Fulbright (2002-2003) and AAUW (2005-2006) research fellowships. She is an author and editor of three books (published in Lithuanian): Famous Lithuanian Women, the 19th – the Beginning of the 20th Century. Vilnius University Press, 1997; The Society of Married People: Marriage and Divorce in Lithuania, the 19th – the Beginning of the 20th Century. Lithuanian Institute of History, 1999; Life Stories of Lithuanian Women. Vilnius University Press, 2007

Encina Ground Floor Conference Room

Dalia Marcinkeviciene Chair, Women's Studies Center and Lecturer in History, Vilnius University Speaker
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