The Role of the Presidential Representative: the North-west Federal District

Abstract

The North West Federal District (SZFO) consists of eleven units: the city of St. Petersburg; the oblasts of Leningrad, Vologda, Murmansk, Kaliningrad, Novgorod, Pskov and Arkhangel’sk; the republics of Komi and Kareliya; and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. It comprises 10% of the territory of the Russian Federation, and its 14.4 million inhabitants make up 10% of the population of the Russia. Since the founding of St. Petersburg 300 years ago, the region has served as Russia’s principal gateway to the outside world: “the window on the West” or, as cynics would have it, the “spy hole on the West.” This gateway role is perhaps the chief characteristic governing the priorities set before SZFO head Viktor Cherkesov. It has both a security and an economic dimension. While the security factor is paramount in two other frontier federal districts – the Southern and Far Eastern – in the Northwest both security and economic dimensions are important. From the economic point of view the region’s proximity and ease of access to Europe mean that it is an important entrepot for exports and imports. It is also second only to Moscow as a favored destination for foreign investors. From the security point of view, the region has 3,250 km of border with 7 states, 65 border crossing points, and 22 million visitors annually. The SZFO abuts NATO member Norway in the far north, and is home to the troubled Northern Fleet. It shares a long border with EU member Finland. Russia seized a large chunk of territory from Finland, the bulk of present-day Kareliya, at the end of World War Two, but Finland does not harbor a claim to the territory (unlike Japan, who still claim the Kurile Islands, seized in 1945). The SZFO region also abuts Estonia and Latvia, two countries whose relations with Russia are tense because of the presence of large Russian minorities who have not been granted citizenship. The region also has a frontier and active cross-border trade with Belarus. The region includes the exclave of Kaliningrad, precariously located between Lithuania and Poland and physically separated from “mainland” Russia. The geographic isolation of Kaliningrad, together with the preponderance of military facilities in that province, has made it prone to economic dislocation, crime and corruption. The question of transit for Russian citizens to and from Kaliningrad has emerged as a major bone of contention between Russia and the European Union. In preparation for Polish and Lithuanian entry to the EU, both countries are being pressed to end visa-free travel for Russians to and from Kaliningrad. Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov has said that Kaliningrad should not become a “besieged fortress” after the expansion of the European Union in 2003, and warned apropos of demilitarization of the region that “Russia has no obligations not to have tactical nuclear weapons in the Kaliningrad Region.” For these reasons, the Northwest region plays a direct and important role whenever discussion in Moscow turns to questions of border regimes, customs procedures, immigration controls and the like. Such

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Duka2015TheRO, title={The Role of the Presidential Representative: the North-west Federal District}, author={Alexander Duka and Peter Rutland and Peter Reddaway}, year={2015} }