Courtesy Reuters

The Baltic States, Germany and Russia

ON APRIL 23, 1908, Germany, Russia, Denmark and Sweden concluded the so-called "Baltic Agreement," by which those four states, all of them with Baltic littorals, mutually guaranteed the existing status of this sea and its coasts. The attitude of the two smaller states was purely defensive. Nor was that of the two larger ones aggressive, though owing to their extensive area and hinterland they were bringing forward all possible pressure to strengthen their respective Baltic coastlines. In the case of Germany this pressure was not of any great moment, for, in addition to her coastline extending from Flensburg to Memel, she had another outlet on the North Sea. But for Russia the Baltic was of much greater concern and importance. Her territory extended, it is true, from Libau as far north as Tornea and thus embraced a very considerable part of the entire Baltic coast. But it included two "bottle-necks," the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia. Indeed, for Russia the entire Baltic coast was in the nature of a bottle-neck, a fact which made itself felt in various ways. For the Baltic is nothing but an inland sea, very inadequately and indirectly connected with the ocean by a third bottle-neck, the Sound, between Denmark and Sweden. And behind this narrow coastline on a remote inland sea extended the vast territories of the Russian Empire.

These geographic considerations which were so important before the war hold good in every respect as far as concerns the states which today touch the Baltic. Due to the defeat and dissolution of the Russian Empire, together with the peace treaties of Brest-Litovsk and of Versailles, and due to the emergence of the theory of the right of national self-determination, there are now twice as many of them as when the Baltic agreement was signed: Finland, the Soviet Union, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (with Memel), Poland (Danzig), Germany, Denmark and Sweden. The name "border states" which has come to be applied generally to Finland, Estonia, Latvia and

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