Thursday, 30.05.2024 - Friday, 31.05.2024

Riga Dialogue 2024

Riga Dialogue continues to be a yearly meeting on the state of affairs in the Baltics and the world

The Riga Dialogue on May 30 – 31 was host to around thirty international experts, from the Baltic states, the United States, Germany, as well as numerous European countries, who led lively and at times controversial debates. While the grand headlines remained similar to those of the past years, there were new nuances in various aspects. The war on Ukraine was an inevitable recurring theme in all panels, with different emphases in each debate. The same applied to the upcoming US elections and their impact on European and global politics, as well as directly on the war in Ukraine. Lastly, the change to a multi-polar world order, China’s rise and Europe’s decline were important talking points.

The public panel on the 75th Anniversary of NATO discussed the current challenges of the alliance, all while underlining its importance in times of a changing global power balance. In the context of the US elections, especially the importance of European cooperation and autonomy was highlighted.

During the first panel, former Latvian President Valdis Zatlers brought the upcoming US elections to the table, arguing that the results would not change much for world politics. In any case, the US would be less involved in conflicts around the world, which might lead to some countries looking for a country which could take up the role instead. He also argued that the West should assume an active role instead of a reactive one, indicating a turn towards growing European autonomy from the US. Interestingly, he concluded by declaring that Latvia was currently the safest it has ever been: While the country may share a border with the aggressor country, Latvian citizens would be well aware and increasingly prepared for the danger.

The second panel “Global Perspectives: Aligning on Euro-Atlantic Geopolitical Hotspots” was largely dominated by the full-scale Russian invasion since 2022. The focus lay on the dire need of a common Western definition of a Ukrainian victory or a Russian defeat in order to defend a unified position against Russia. In this context, the upcoming US elections and their influence on the Ukrainian war was discussed. In addition, there was agreement found on the fact that Europe and Ukraine would need the United States on their side for succeeding possible negotiations. This is in contrast to a new US American tendency to isolationism, no matter the results of the presidential election. Thus, European cooperation on defence and support of Ukraine are more important than ever.

In the panel on “Russia’s Future without the West (?)”, experts dealt with the present state of the country as well as its vision for a multi-polar world void of dependence from the West. Furthermore, the surprising resilience of Russian economy was brought up by some. In addition, the question was raised whether or not Putin’s Russia currently follows a grand political strategy. Russia’s and China’s relationship was described as being inherently asymmetrical, with Putin being significantly more dependent on Xi Jinping than vice versa. The global importance of the war on Ukraine was discussed, with some participants arguing that

“Guns or Butter: Trade-Off between Military Spending and Civilian Needs” was the name of the final panel. It raised the question to what extent a choice between the two can be made and how governments can effectively communicate and justify their priorities in this context to the public. There was a strong agreement on the importance of further supporting Ukraine as much as possible, but it was brought forward by some participants that the solution could lie not in more quantity, but rather more efficiency and quality.

It is thanks to LIIA and the valuable guests that the conference continues to be a yearly meeting on the state of affairs in the Baltics and the world.

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