January 18, 2010

English summary

The August issue of Diplomaatia looks back at the year 1989, when Central European countries shook off the Communist yoke, riding the wave of velvet revolutions.

The August issue of Diplomaatia looks back at the year 1989, when Central European countries shook off the Communist yoke, riding the wave of velvet revolutions.

English summary

The August issue of Diplomaatia looks back at the year 1989, when Central European countries shook off the Communist yoke, riding the wave of velvet revolutions.
In the opening article, Sven Mikser, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Estonian Parliament, writes that the most important consequence of the fall of the Berlin Wall could have been the fact that it changed dramatically the power balance between pro- and anti-status quo forces in the West, thus offering the Baltic states a more realistic chance of liberation than before. Yet all the after-effects of the events in 1989 were not positive: while the West focussed on Central Europe and the Soviet Union, Afghanistan was left completely on its own, for which it took bitter revenge in 2001 and later on.
The issue of pro- and anti-status quo forces also comes up in an interview with Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson, a former Foreign Minister of Iceland, who was one of the first supporters of the independence movements in the Baltic states and who was criticised more than once for the improper behaviour of Iceland, a small country, which should not ‘rock the boat.’
Historian Küllo Arjakas reminisces about Estonia in 1989. Although the year was successful in all aspects, Arjakas claims that when looking back, one gets the impression that several great victories of that time, for example, the denouncing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, have not had a lasting effect.
Pavol Demesh, a former Foreign Minister of Slovakia, describes Slovakia’s bumpy road to democracy: out of the ten post-communist countries, which have joined the EU so far, Slovakia was the only one, with which the EU interrupted accession talks due to democratic deficit.
Istvan Gyarmati, a Hungarian political analyst and diplomat, warns that the democratisation process in Central Europe cannot be replicated elsewhere. Central Europe became democratic because it wanted to, not due to the influence of outside forces. This is why the emergence of democracy in other countries depends on local conditions and why the efforts to ‘export democracy’ might not bear fruit.
Following the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, diplomat Hannes Hanso raises the question whether China will ever become a democratic state like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Hanso is of the opinion that an ordinary citizen may quite calmly criticise regional and city authorities and corrupt bureaucracy in today’s China. Although sceptics claim that a democratic political system would be at variance with Chinese culture and social mechanisms, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan demonstrate clearly that economic prosperity leads to greater civil liberties and, ultimately, to democracy.
Alar Nigul, who fought in Afghanistan as a member of Soviet special forces in the 1980s, analyses the departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989 and the reasons and logic behind the ten-year Soviet-Afghan War. He claims that the first mistake made by the Soviet leadership was to ignore the specific character of the cultural and religious practices of the Afghan people, their fearlessness in the face of death and their custom of blood feud. “In order to win the war, all the men in Afghanistan should have been wiped out, figuratively speaking,” writes Nigul.
Ahmad Salamatian, a former Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a political analyst who currently lives in exile, describes Iran’s presidential elections held in June and the impact of the subsequent demonstrations on the Islamic Republic. “The Islamic Republic is experiencing the worst crisis in its history. But the outcome of the clashes in Tehran will affect more than just Iran’s future,” writes Salamatian in his article, which was first published in July in the English edition of the magazine Le Monde diplomatique. Salamatian asserts that the members of the opposition forces “come from across Iranian society – from the upper echelons of power to the lowest rungs in society.”
Hossein Bastani, an Iranian journalist in exile, analyses the way Iran’s presidential elections influenced its relations with Israel and the USA. Bastani claims that the deterioration in the relationship between Iran and the EU after the elections has sparked new hope in Tel Aviv for the mobilisation of the international community against Iran.
Journalist Andrei Hvostov writes about security political thinking in Estonia in the light of the open letter sent by Central and East European opinion leaders to the Administration of President Barack Obama. Hvostov claims that before Estonia’s accession to NATO, those who make decisions on security policy issues in Estonia adopted the Alliance’s old concept, which largely ignored the long experience of the countries on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea and put under question their historical memory.
Foreign policy expert Erkki Bahovski reviews Chris Patten’s latest book “What Next? Surviving the Twenty-First Century.”

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