Originally Posted by Epigon
I have to admit, I don't really understand the Russian politics when it comes to the Baltic countries (disclaimer: this is a geographic term, I am not impying Estonians are Balts)
If Russian minorities don't like it there and feel threatened, they would have emigrated to a larger degree. If they are persecuted, surely they would have fled in the past 25 years.
On the political field, the Russian complaints about SS marches and historical revisionism are completely pointless and fruitless. They, along with Poland, are the most ardent anti-Russian European NATO countries, right there with Sweden and a large part of Finland.
It's because it plays to be the victim in politics. Russia complains about being the victim of anti-Russian western plots, the EU complains about Russia acting like a big tyrant, etc. etc.
Being the victim is part of the song and dance states use to seek moral authority alongside your standard sympathy, and it plays very strongly to a domestic audience.
This goes back to historical injustices as well, which make wonderful analogies for the modern audience. Poland calling back to Soviet oppression in the east, Russia raising warnings about a Nazi comeback in the west - they all love to remind the people that they are the victims.
Even those who weren't direct victims love to dip their toe in (insert another British 'Putin is Stalin!' article here).
In the end, really consider who the audience is for these messages. Most of the Russian transmissions about the Baltics and Nazis are meant for the domestic sphere, with the additional benefit of trying to muddle the ground in any information conflict (as in Ukraine). When times are trying or there is political upheaval at home (see Poland, Venezuela, Argentina, ad. nauseum) then you will often see a more bellicose tone aimed mostly at bringing the people around in support.
Therefore: cut the oil and gas transit, cargo routes/transit and every concievable economic cooperation. Down to the last bit. Go for self-sufficiency. Build a 'UUUUUGE wall thereafter. The countries may be beautiful, but they have little strategic value, rather bad soil and climate, and practically no strategic resources. A hypothetical NATO force stationed there would be quickly isolated and annihilated: the countries themselves have little military power.
You're right about NATO - it's mostly a show of force meant to reassure some members and act as a not-so-subtle "we're watching you" message to Russia. Militarily, a few hundred soldiers isn't going to do much in a serious conflict.
As for the autarky route... well, when has that ever worked? Russia's economy is depending on its oil. It can wield that as a weapon when threatened, but it requires that profit to sustain itself economically.
More importantly, the interdependence of Europe and Russia actually helps reduce the chance of wider conflict. That's why, despite "sanctions" being deployed you have BP recently announcing expansion of its investments in Siberia in collaboration with Russian state-oil firms.
Autarky isn't a solution in the modern world, especially for a nation like Russia where so much of its economy is dependent upon resource exports.
What it can do, though, is continue to remain on message - keep telling citizens at home and sympathetic ears abroad about the resurgent Nazis, the threat to poor defenseless Russian minorities. Remind them of Ukraine and Odessa and the continued ignorance by the west of all those tens of thousands of civilians being raped/butchered/blown up/poisoned/etc. by Kiev's forces.
It may seem pointless to you from a "it doesn't change anything" perspective, but that's because such commentary isn't meant to really change a thing. All those American politicians who gave lip-service to Russia's aggression and tyranny and what have you in annexing Crimea were just there to get some air time, play to domestic audiences, maybe add a bit to the foreign discussion (not much), and then go home and move on. It's not as though there was going to be an actual attempt to get Russia to give Crimea back - it's just politics as usual.
Like I said, everyone likes to be the victim, and making others out to be threatening aggressors helps that along nicely.