The West and Russia face many global challenges that require solutions. The mistrust that has always accompanied the relationship between the two parties makes cooperation difficult. In addition, since the annexation of the Crimea by Russia in 2014, a spiral of sanctions and counter-sanctions has severely damaged the neighbors' economic relations. Nonetheless, the crises in the Middle East, the increasingly dramatic effects of climate change, and the associated global migration movements - problems that affect both Russia and the West - require global responses.
The countries of the Baltic Sea Region have a special interest in stable relations with Russia because of the direct neighborhood. The much anticipated summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump took place in Finland for that reason. However, here, especially in the Baltic countries, reservations about rapprochement with the seemingly overwhelming neighbor are particularly strong.
In order to avoid further alienation between the West and Russia, there is a need for spaces where positions can be exchanged and discussed at eye level. By organizing the discussion event "Russia and the West in (un) explored waters. What's next? ", the FES in Riga, in close collaboration with the Latvian Institute for International Affairs, created such a space.
Tobias Mörschel, head of FES Baltic States, opened the "Lunch Discussion" with introductory remarks on the current relations of the West and Russia, as well as reflections on the self-conception of the West, which has changed significantly since the appointment of Donald Trump. The head of the regional office for cooperation and peace in Europe at the FES in Vienna and one of the four panel guests of the event, Reinhard Krumm, stressed that "the West" is a complex with many faces, which makes an equal exchange with Russia difficult. Nevertheless, he called to engage in understanding and rapprochement and warned not to let the already strained relations continue to get worse. Imants Lieģis (Latvian Ambassador to France), Łukasz Kunesa (European Leadership Network) and Vladimir Morozov (Russian International Affairs Council) agreed, although there was need for discussion on how and, above all, by whom such rapprochement could be made. The audience had different opinions on that too, according to a poll initiated by moderator Andris Sprūds (Latvian Institute for International Affairs).
The publication "Riga Dialogue Afterthoughts 2018: The New Normal in the European Atlantic Security Order", which is closely related to the discussion event and also includes articles by the podium guests, provides further aspects and perspectives on this topic (free Download at the link below).