The Islamic terrorists that ran amok with automatic guns on the streets of Paris have forced Europe to make a difficult choice once again. Where is the border between democratic freedom and everyone’s personal safety? The Paris massacre, Russia’s increasing involvement in the Syrian conflict and Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet are all connected since the continuing warfare and uncertainty are bringing more refugees to Europe. Ambiguity in interstate relations is a headache for common citizens and heads of state alike. Emotions are through the roof.
Toomas Kiho, editor in chief of Akadeemia, writes about the emotions connected to the refugees in the opening essay of this issue. “But look into the eyes of the refugees—you will see a burning desire for freedom. Put your hand on their chest—you will feel the beat of a heart anticipating a bright future, yearning for a new, better, safer life,” writes Kiho.
Vladimir Sazonov, an Estonian scholar on the Middle East, explores Russia’s ambitions in Syria. “Russia wants to have a more important role in the Middle East, to become the most powerful player in the region and to show that after the US left Iraq, Moscow, not Washington, became the new boss,” writes Sazonov. Sazonov’s article is commented on by three experts—Kaarel Kaas, Helga Kalm and Tõnis Leht—who also express their own thoughts on the issue of Syria.
Milvi Martina Piir, a writer and historian living in Austria, provides an overview of Austria’s attitude towards the refugee issue. Piir asserts that the rather liberal viewpoints of the Austrian people are connected to their complicated past.
Anu Kaupmees, a freelance journalist in Sweden, discusses the changed attitudes among the Swedes towards the refugees. While only half a year ago, the Swedes were irritated about Eastern Europe’s hostility towards refugees, today they have adopted a stricter attitude themselves according to Kaupmees. Sweden has received more refugees per capita than any other EU country, and this has left its mark.
Vladimir Jushkin, Director of the Baltic Centre for Russian Studies, explains how the Kremlin has succeeded in dragging Western countries into a new cold war, but the West has failed to give a powerful reply to Moscow. “What has happened? It feels like the main reason for the Western countries’ weakness is a lack of world-class leaders. The US has no Ronald Reagan, there is no Margaret Thatcher in Europe,” Jushkin writes.
Priit Simson, opinion editor for the daily Eesti Päevaleht just back from Syria, reviews the latest book on Syria.