September 10, 2008

English summary

Diplomaatia has interviewed Estonian diplomats, politicians and experts, who one way or another were instrumental in negotiating the border agreements, to get the “inside story” of the border negotiations.

Diplomaatia has interviewed Estonian diplomats, politicians and experts, who one way or another were instrumental in negotiating the border agreements, to get the “inside story” of the border negotiations.

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to two topics – the border treaties between Estonia and Russian and secondly, China.
Diplomaatia has interviewed Estonian diplomats, politicians and experts, who one way or another were instrumental in negotiating the border agreements, to get the “inside story” of the border negotiations.
With debates around ratification now taking place, several diplomats have asked themselves whether another outcome could have been possible had Estonia demonstrated more flexibility in the early 1990s, when the political climate in Russia was different and the relations between the leadership of the two states were still, to some extent, influenced by memories of having been at the same side of the barricades during the perestroika years. Maybe it would have been possible for Estonia to gain the return of at least some setu villages and have a supplementary statement about the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920 included in the text of the new treaty?
Still, the answer most likely would have been no. First, Estonia was prepared to be sufficiently flexible at the time – people’s idealistic expectations regarding the restitution of the old borders had not yet been frustrated by the harsh reality, the composition of the Parliament and views of many politicians reflected the same kind of idealism.
Secondly, the generally liberal attitudes of the then – Russian leadership did not necessarily find the kind reflection Estonia would
have expected in their dealings with the former Soviet Republics. Indeed, when the negotiations started in 1992, not only were the positions of the two sides different, but so were the philosophical foundations of these positions, the understanding of what these negotiations were actually about. “Russia regarded them as negotiations on the terms of separation, where Russia, as a “mother country” can set conditions of separation,” recalls one of the Estonian negotiators. “Estonia, on the other hand, saw it in exactly the opposite way: we have been independent since 1918, in between you have created a terrible mess here, so please be kind and take it all away as fast as you can!”
Given that the principal understanding of the situation was so different, no fast progress could have been expected. Estonia soon found out that it was only via mobilizing international pressure that anything could be gained from Russia. Things being so, it was wise to concentrate all efforts on the withdrawal of the Russian troops, as it was clear that the presence or non-presence of troops would determine whether Estonia would be where it is now in 2005 or where Georgia and Moldova are now.
“We felt that id we concentrate on several different questions, we would leave the impression that our relationship with Russia is a mess; Western states cannot apply pressure on Russia on our behalf on our most important question, but the entire thing will splinter,” recalled a negotiator. “Our interest was that Western pressure would concentrate like a laser on the withdrawal of forces, because this was the main question from a national existence point of view.”
Compared with the issue of the troops, the border question became secondary and re-emerged as the primary focus of the relationship between the two countries only after the troops had left in 1994.
Essayist Enn Soosaar analyses the domestic debates around the signing and ratification of the border treaty and is worried that populism is gaining ground in Estonia. “Estonia’s international success so far has been largely due to the politicians ability to keep foreign policy decisions out of the influence of domestic political quarrels. But will it remain so,” he asks.
The rest of the issue is devoted to China. Mihkel Mutt, the editor-in-chief of Diplomaatia’s parent paper Sirp shares what he calls “the impressions of an amateur watcher,” describing China’s international growth and its possible implications. Hannes Hanso discusses the influence of globalisation on China. He argues that China’s cultural and linguistic isolation guarantee that the influence of Western civilization on China will stay limited for quite some time; still, if China wants to become a respected actor in an international environment it has to tackle some unpleasant problems – such as questions about history, for example.
Kaarel Kaas analyses China’s military modernization programs, he concludes that military modernization, on such a scale, has not been seen since Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR prepared for war. And Märt Läänemets, a scholar residing in Taiwan, predicts a new cold war in South East Asia, the main adversary of the West being Communist China.

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