March 11, 2013


The March 2013 issue of Diplomaatia focuses on Georgia’s domestic politics and Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, but it also touches on the foundations of Estonia’s foreign policy and a phenomenon referred to by some political scientists as ‘phantom states’.

In the opening article, diplomat Mikael Laidre explores the philosophical foundations of Estonia’s foreign policy, which he defines as values-based pragmatism. Laidre quotes from a 2008 essay by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves titled ‘In Remembrance of the Melians,’ which recounts a story familiar to us from Thucydides’ ‘Peloponnesian Wars’.
Melos, a small and sparsely populated island, had declared its neutrality in the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens, a great naval power. The Athenians wanted the islanders to submit to them, but the Melians asked for negotiations to maintain their neutrality. The Athenians answered they had a right to rule simply due to their superior force, claiming that the question of right applies only when both sides have equal power to enforce it, i.e. ‘the strong do what they can and the weak do what they must’. The Melian Dialogues culminate with the Melians’ decision not to give in to pressure. Consequently, the Athenians kill all the Melian men and enslave all the Melian women and children.
However, according to Laidre, the story of the Melians did not end with this: Athens, blinded by arrogance, eventually lost the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC, its empire was dismantled and the Melians, who had escaped to exile, could return to their homes. “What the Athenians had considered useful turned out to be both morally wrong and pragmatically harmful,” concludes Laidre who is also a historian specialising in ancient history. “The moral of the story is: being truly values-based is useful and what is truly useful is also based on values. This applies to the great and the small alike.”
Kaupo Känd, an international diplomat from Estonia, analyses Georgia’s internal politics. He thinks that many see Georgia’s parliamentary elections in autumn 2012 through either rose-tinted or dark glasses, yet he claims that neither of the two options gives an adequate picture of the situation on the ground. The Georgian Dream alliance, led by a billionaire businessman and current prime minister, won the parliamentary elections. Känd sees this as a positive development for democratic processes in Georgia because the alliance is not a monolithic party, but a coalition of a total of six parties. “Exclusive decade-long rule by one and the same party cannot benefit any nation,” Känd adds. Still, he insists that Europe must continue its efforts to help Georgia fulfil its dreams, “unless we want one more Eastern Partnership country to end up in the wrong company – in the Eurasian Union.”
Andres Herkel, an Estonian MP and co-rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Azerbaijan from 2004 to 2010, characterises the practical style chosen by Azerbaijan in its foreign policy as ‘caviar diplomacy’.
“Not a single rapporteur in the country could say no to caviar ten years ago – Baku was swimming in it,” Herkel reminisces. Since then, however, Azerbaijan’s self-image and power have significantly increased – not due to caviar, but due to the nation’s energy resources and its growing role in regional politics. “The effectiveness of caviar diplomacy is demonstrated by the fact that Azerbaijan’s sympathisers are cajoled into participating in election observation missions in the country and that the voters are mobilised against draft decisions that claim there are political prisoners or there is no democracy in Azerbaijan.”
Herkel insists that the situation is worrisome: although caviar diplomacy is currently grappling with human rights issues, it cannot be ruled out that the same instruments would be used to take on other organisations or issues, for example, security policy. “And then some other nations, greater and more powerful than Azerbaijan, might spearhead these efforts.”
In addition, this issue of Diplomaatia features an article by Daniel Byman and Charles King, originally published in the 2012 summer edition of The Washington Quarterly. The authors analyse the characteristics of so-called phantom states (including, for example, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Northern Cyprus), the dynamics of phantom state-building and their place within the framework of international relations.


This article was published in ICDS Diplomaatia magazine.

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