September 2, 2008

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to Estonian-Russian relations, especially the recent falling out over Estonia’s decision to remove the so-called Bronze Soldier – the statue that commemorated what Moscow calls the ‘liberation’ of Tallinn in 1944, but which for Estonia symbolised the start of another, much longer occupation. We also examine some aspects of Russia’s domestic situation that influence Moscow’s relationship with its neighbours in general and with Estonia in particular.

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to Estonian-Russian relations, especially the recent falling out over Estonia’s decision to remove the so-called Bronze Soldier – the statue that commemorated what Moscow calls the ‘liberation’ of Tallinn in 1944, but which for Estonia symbolised the start of another, much longer occupation. We also examine some aspects of Russia’s domestic situation that influence Moscow’s relationship with its neighbours in general and with Estonia in particular.

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to Estonian-Russian relations, especially the recent falling out over Estonia’s decision to remove the so-called Bronze Soldier – the statue that commemorated what Moscow calls the ‘liberation’ of Tallinn in 1944, but which for Estonia symbolised the start of another, much longer occupation. We also examine some aspects of Russia’s domestic situation that influence Moscow’s relationship with its neighbours in general and with Estonia in particular.
“Estonia’s team was unfit, badly trained, and badly captained. Its tactics were poor and it showed little skill. The opponents were much stronger – but made even more mistakes. That cost it so many penalties that in the end Estonia won,” is how Edward Lucas, the East European correspondent of the Economist, summarises April’s events. “Celebrating a lucky escape is one thing. An orgy of mutual congratulation is another. What Estonia should be doing is drawing lessons from the crisis, and making sure that it never makes the same mistake again,” cautions Lucas.
According to him, the first defence is good government: “Every internal procedure must squeaky-clean, transparent and efficient, to the highest European standards (or better) ”¦ The contrast between the bullying, abusive, crooked habits across the border must be as sharp as possible, not only to highlight Estonia’s case in world eyes, but also to bring as many local Russians as possible on side.”
Secondly, any attempt to portray a row with the Kremlin as being ipso facto a row with ‘non-Estonians’ would be lethal to Estonia’s national security: “Nothing could suit the Kremlin more than divisions in Estonian society. Nothing will frustrate their plans more than a united front, based on common values rather than ethnicity.”
Lucas finds many shortcomings in Estonia’s handling of the April crisis: Estonia’s friends and allies were not properly briefed in the run up, or during it; the once-excellent Foreign Ministry was not up to the task of countering the Russian propaganda offensive and Estonia’s PR effort became fatally reactive. Finally, Estonia must not sound arrogant: “One of the least pleasant aspects of the last crisis was the tone of voice that some Estonian politicians, editors and officials adopted. ‘This is our problem: support us, but don’t interfere’.”
Lucas predicts that by the time of the next incident, Russia will have learned from the mistakes it made in April and May. “Will Estonia have done the same?” he asks.
Dr Lauri Mälksoo, who currently lives in Tokyo and researches Russia’s approach to international law, explains Moscow’s emotional reaction to the removal of the Bronze Soldier through the hypothesis that Russia sees Estonia as a vassal-state. “It is important that Estonia understands the logic of Russia’s normative world view: in Russia it is assumed that Estonia is inevitably a dependent country. If it is no longer Russia’s “vassal”, it must be some other country’s – most likely that of Russia’s strategic adversary. By the same logic, in Russia’s understanding of history, the Estonia of the 1930s was a “vassal” of Germany and the current Estonia is a “vassal” of the United States ”¦ In President Putin’s version of history, Estonia has always been an object of international relations, rather than a subject.”
Mälksoo argues that this logic helps to explain Moscow’s fury over the removal of the statue: Estonia behaved as an independent country, respectful of its own history and principles, rather than as anyone’s current or former vassal. It thus defied Russia’s expectations and wishes.
According to Mälksoo, if one country does not recognise another as an equal subject of international life, it inevitably becomes a problem for the country that is being belittled. So what can Estonia do? Mälksoo proposes three measures: first, not to behave as a vassal – neither Russia’s nor anyone else’s. Secondly, to draw attention to the anachronistic nature of this vassal-versus-great-power world view: in the contemporary world, a strong state is not one that has a large territory and a huge army, but one that manages to provide freedom and well-being for its citizens. And thirdly, it would be good to try to understand better Russia’s logic of thinking and behaviour; and, along with Western allies, to try to convince Russia that the West is far from being naturally anti-Russian.
Mart Laar, an MP and a former Prime Minister of Estonia, writes about the need for a worldwide condemnation of Communism, similar to the condemnation of Nazism. He sees the Monument to the Victims of Communism that was recently unveiled in Washington DC as only the first step in a process that has to continue.
Jüri Adams, a former Member of the Estonian Parliament, writes about nationalism in Russia. According to him and contrary to the common wisdom, nationalism was actually growing in the constituent republics of the Soviet Union during the Soviet era as well, but considerably more slowly in Russia than elsewhere. The collapse of the Soviet Union allowed nationalism to grow in Russia, to eventually become the dominant ideology; even though the essence and content of current Russian nationalism are unclear. However, one thing that is certain is that Russia’s nationalism contains a logical contradiction: people would like to see at least the territory of the current Russian Federation as the Russian nation state, the Russians’ “national home”. But the current Russian Federation is actually far from being a Russian nation state.
According to Adams, the rise of Russian nationalism is inevitably echoed in the Russian diasporas abroad, but how far their actions can take them will depend on what kind of support they get from the motherland. Adams’ long-term view is, however, softer: he argues that Russian nationalism should evolve in time into a more peaceful and tolerant form.
Andrei Ryabov, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Centre describes other domestic factors that influence Russia’s foreign policy, such as competing economic interests, questions of the state’s identity and the quest for stability. The outcome on the international stage can be different each time: “there is no centre to control and co-ordinate these domestic pursuits. Each time the personalities and groups that make foreign policy decisions have to do it “manually,” according to the specifics of a concrete situation.”
Also in this issue, Enn Soosaar and Tõnu Õnnepalu discuss visions of history in Russia and in Estonia.

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