Sunday, May 07, 2006

Baltic World In New Focus

There seems to be a sudden Baltic focus in important parts of the trans-Atlantic relationship.

US Vice President Cheney was just a couple of days - as I have been writing about - in Vilnius in Lithuania.

Baltic? Well, the city of Vilnius itself is significantly more Central Europe than Baltic Europe, but Lithuania is still considered as one of the Baltic countries.

One of the results of Chancellor Merkel's visit to Washington in the past week is that President Bush will visit her in Stralsund in mid-July. That's definitely a Baltic city.

That coming meeting is surely a sign of the new weight of the relationship between Washington and Berlin. It will be the third meeting between Georg Bush and Angela Merkel within six months.

It's the most intense of the relationships between Europe and the US at the moment. And the most significant.

But back to the Baltics.

From Stralsund President Bush will head for St Petersburg and the G8 Summit there. Another distinctly Baltic city.

But he will be back in Europe within just a couple of months. Then he's heading for Riga in Latvia for the NATO Summit there in November. Another distinctly Baltic locations.

So the US President will be visiting three important Baltic cities within just five months. It will be a distinct record in high-level US presence in that part of the world.

From a Swedish perspective we might note that our airspace will be filled with an American leadership heading for Baltic cities. But they will just pass by - on present plans, they will not be landing.

Stralsund has its own place in Swedish history.

It was of course an old Hanseatic trading city with all the links to the Baltic world of those days.

But it was in 1628 that Swedish troops helped it to withstand the siege by the Catholic forces of Wallenstein in the Thirty Year's War. And when that war ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Stralsund and parts of Pomerania ended up under the crown of Sweden, where it was to remain the one way or the other until the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, when it become part of Prussia.

In more modern times, Stralsund was part of the East German dictatorship after 1945.

I remember how the house in the main square once built for the Swedish garrison commander was then used as the House of the National People's Army. The town itself housed a school of the East German navy.

Bu now Stralsund is part of modern Germany. And it is part of the parliamentary constituency of Angela Merkel.

That's why it is part of this coming into new focus of the Baltic world.