September 24, 2008

English summary

The September issue of Diplomaatia focuses on the Russia-Georgia war and all its consequences.

The September issue of Diplomaatia focuses on the Russia-Georgia war and all its consequences.

English summary

The September issue of Diplomaatia focuses on the Russia-Georgia war and all its consequences.
In the opening article, Maria Mälksoo, a researcher at the International Centre for Defence Studies, analyses the security paradigm shift that took place on August 8, 2008. “Russia’s war against Georgia should make even the most hardened sceptics and the more optimistic flower children realise that today’s Russia and the West are pursuing directly conflicting aims and are employing divergent strategies for their achievement,” states Mälksoo.
She adds that the passionate conviction of the West that Russia had undergone a fundamental change after the Cold War seems to be quite astonishing in hindsight. “Why did the West continue to believe in Russia’s capability to change even when clear signs of danger were showing? Why did the West ignore for so long the East Europeans’ advice presented in the form of a reality check with respect to Russia?” asks Mälksoo. She states that “in the 1990s, the West was over-zealous in its empathy for Russia, making a typical mistake in its strategic risk assessments – it evaluated and predicted the behaviour of the other party on the basis of its own standards.”
Now, the illusions have disappeared and the West must cope in the new reality that has emerged. “For Eastern Europe, it is essential that NATO should re-shift its focus to collective defence and should reinforce its eastern member states by providing a more effective political deterrent through the means of military infrastructure,” Mälksoo claims. “It is in our interests that NATO should reconsider its previous decision not to prepare operational plans for the defence of the Baltic states due to the lack of a real threat of military attack.”
Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Defence Sven Sakkov analyses the military aspects of the Georgian conflict. He concludes that Estonia must rely on NATO even in a new security environment. “It is clear that Articles IV and V of the North Atlantic Treaty are still in force as they were 50, 40, 30 or 20 years ago. (—) The military power of the Alliance – the 26 Allies – forms at least two thirds, not to say three fourths of global military power. Estonia is a full member of this Alliance.”
Indrek Elling, an analyst at the International Centre for Defence Studies, urges that the Georgian crisis should speed up Estonia’s efforts to upgrade its intelligence assets. “It is only natural that Estonia has an information analysis role in NATO, specialising in our eastern neighbours. If Estonia does not know what is happening in ‘our zone’, NATO is often without any information too. This is inevitable, because at present NATO’s intelligence resources are concentrated mostly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the USA is also active in Iraq. Estonia and our eastern Allies either knew or should have known what was going to happen in Georgia.”
Estonian former Prime Minister Mart Laar describes the events that led to the war in Georgia, concluding that the West could have prevented it: “The West did protest / against Moscow’s provocations/, but did it so passively that Russia realised that there was nothing to fear from the West. Georgia, at the same time, felt ever more strongly that it was left completely alone. ”
Diplomat Sulev Kannike analyses the differences between Estonia’s and Russia’s perceptions of their territories, their borders and the resulting risk scenarios. “Russians do not perceive Eurasia as a continent, but as a bowl,” claims Kannike. “In the middle, right at the bottom of the bowl, lies the Russian bear, while enemies, one after another, are trying to overpower it, flowing down the sides of the bowl all through history.” Estonians, on the other hand, have a more isolationistic psyche; like islanders, they wage war only in exceptional circumstances.
Journalists Fyodor Lukyanov and Ivan Sukhov analyse Moscow’s motives and the consequences of its actions. Lukyanov states that the unanimous support the West offered to Saakashvili escalated the conflict to a point where “it was impossible for Moscow to eat its words, even if it was willing to lose face.” While almost two decades had passed after the end of the Cold War, Moscow found itself “in the role of an undertaker who tore down the strange and largely unnatural system of international relations the world had upheld.” Lukyanov concludes that “Moscow has started to play a very risky game where the stakes are extremely high. This means that its gains or losses will be as extreme.”
Ivan Sukhov states that the moment when Georgia lost its separatist enclaves – in all likelihood forever – arrived when it refused to accept the peace plan’s article stipulating that the issue of the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be discussed internationally. However, in the longer term, the stability in the North Caucasus region and its status as a part of Russia have been put under threat by Russia’s own declaration that it recognises both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “The northern and southern parts of the Caucasus are too dependent on each other; if one part is in crisis, it will affect the other,” claims Sukhov.
Opinion page editor of the newspaper Postimees Erkki Bahovski analyses Finland’s foreign policy, asking the question whether Russia’s increasing brutality would cause another wave of Finlandisation. He concludes that Finlandisation would begin anew only if Estonia at the same time undergoes a process of ‘Estlandisation’.
In the book review section, Luukas Ilves looks at the war in Georgia through the prism of Robert Kagan’s recent works, Tiit Pruuli reviews Mart Laar’s and Andres Herkel’s new book on Cuba and Merle Maigre introduces Äsne Seierstad’s latest book ‘The Angel of Grozny’.

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