Incipit Vita Nova – So Begins New Life
The 16th Lennart Meri Conference (LMC) will take place on 12-14 May 2023, in Tallinn, Estonia.
The title of the conference, “Incipit Vita Nova – So Begins New Life”, is taken from the text “La Vita Nuova” by the 13th-14th century Florentine poet, Dante Alighieri. The meaning of this phrase has often been debated, but in the context of our conference it refers to the new security and international order arrangements that will be needed following the return of large-scale war to Europe. As Fiona Hill has asked: How do we reconfigure ourselves internationally to deal with this?
Last year’s LMC was the first major foreign and security policy conference to take place in Europe after the start of Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale aggression against a neighbouring state. The atmosphere reflected the shock and horror of the participants, but the conference at least offered a forum for decision makers and analysts to weigh and define the situation.
A year later, the war is still ravaging Ukraine with far-reaching implications not only for Europe, but also for other regions, for the system of international organisations, and for the rule of law. It has marked the end of the post-Second World War security architecture in Europe and threatened the wider international order. Our conference will consider the new, emerging international system and the changing roles of different countries, regions, and institutions.
The immediate future of Ukraine and Russia will naturally be a key concern. We will reflect on the meanings of loss, victory, and peace, and on the war’s impact on Russians’ self-perception and their expectations for the future of their country. More broadly, we will consider how Russia’s war has changed the security dynamics in its immediate neighbourhoods—Central Asia, the Black Sea region, and the Western Balkans.
For Europe, a more active security posture will be essential in the light of deepening frictions between the US and China. Russia’s war has already pushed the EU towards a more substantial geopolitical profile. We will consider whether and how the EU can also strengthen its role in securing the European continent and articulate a clear position on the Indo-Pacific region.
The LMC will take place two months before NATO’s Vilnius Summit, where Finland and Sweden will hopefully be welcomed as full members. Our discussions will centre on NATO’s ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and new challenges, on the substantially changed security situation around the Baltic Sea, and on the role of the US in Euro-Atlantic security.
Russia’s war reaches well beyond our continent and its impact will also be felt in Africa and the Middle East. Russia, China, and the US and Europe are all competing for influence in the ‘global south’, albeit using very different approaches. Our conference will address a range of regional and global security issues, including food and energy security, climate change, competition for global influence, the impact of Russia’s war, the looming arms race, and the resurgence of the nuclear threat.
These and other issues—such as societal polarization, resilience to hybrid threats, the security of supply chains, and connectivity—demand constructive thinking, cooperation and coordinated approaches. The LMC is intended as our contribution to these processes. President Lennart Meri once said that “politics in our modern times is a future-producing factory.” As workers in this factory, we all have role in determining what kind of future, and what kind of new life, emerges from the horrors of the war.