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A nation must think before it acts.
Today, the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia constitute a political keystone in the construction of a larger, integrated Europe. Clearly, their importance does not stem from their size, scale, economic might or military strength. They are important, rather, as potential exemplars. For while the West can do little to influence the Russian Federation directly, judicious Western support of the Baltics could yield a tremendous payoff throughout Europe, including Russia. Building states and defining national identities in the Baltics would have considerable regional impact by creating a powerful precedent for other post-Soviet states, revitalizing Europe and the NATO alliance, and providing the West with a genuine cultural, civilizing mission. “Europe” could then represent an ongoing process of expanding and binding together the realm in which European cultural values and norms of civilized behavior apply, and not merely an elaborate exercise in bureaucratic scaffold-making. The Baltics could function as the proving ground of this process, bringing together West and East, and endowing the Western alliance led by the United States with a commitment that goes “beyond containment,” as policy thinkers now urge.’ Lastly, in an age of global devolution and regionalism,’ the Baltic republics provide a sterling example of the viability of small states and the contributions they can make in a larger Europe.