Estonian independence was restored 25 years ago. If we consider realpolitik, it is a miracle that Estonians made it. As in 1918, our politicians used the international situation to our advantage and did not hesitate to declare independence. This special issue of Diplomaatia explores the international situation and the Estonian diplomacy that made the restoration of independence possible 25 years ago.
MP Mart Nutt writes about the international context that led to Estonia’s renewed independence in 1991. “The Estonian way was moderate radicalism. On the one hand, provoking violence was not condoned, and on the other, people did not give up on the ultimate goal—the restitution of independence,” writes Nutt.
Historian Paavo Palk summarises world events in relation to the restoration of Estonia’s independence. “The only country able to pursue policies in recognising the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and not recognising the occupation most consistently and decidedly was the US, because of its size and strength,” writes Palk.
Diplomaatia’s interview with the first and last head of the KGB press service allows us to understand how Moscow saw the events of August 1991. “How was it possible to assimilate Estonia and Turkmenia? What did they have in common?” asks Aleksandr Mikhailov. “Or Ukraine—where they eat pig’s fat and drink horilka—and Muslim republics, where pig’s fat and alcohol were forbidden? In other words, it was clear that everything would lead to disintegration.”
Mari-Ann Kelam and Paul Goble write about the US policy of non-recognition towards the Baltic States. Kelam describes how the Baltic community in the US succeeded in influencing the American government so that the US continued its non-recognition stance during the Cold War. Goble explains why the US was so slow to restore diplomatic relations with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
“First, due to its long-standing policy of non-recognition, the US did not need to recognise Estonia’s independence; it simply had to figure out how to restore the exchange of diplomats with the government in place,” Goble argues. “Second, it had to be cautious in the troubled aftermath of the coup in Moscow, lest by more precipitate action Washington might have triggered a new upsurge of Soviet revanchism or a new wave of moves by the non-Russian republics of the USSR to leave more quickly than otherwise—or quite possibly both things at once, with risks for all involved.”