October 14, 2011

Summary

The topics of this issue of Diplomaatia include the current economic crisis and its geopolitical significance, the progress made by Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military developments there as described in a recently published Finnish research paper and the parliamentary elections in Latvia.

The topics of this issue of Diplomaatia include the current economic crisis and its geopolitical significance, the progress made by Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military developments there as described in a recently published Finnish research paper and the parliamentary elections in Latvia.

Summary

The topics of this issue of Diplomaatia include the current economic crisis and its geopolitical significance, the progress made by Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military developments there as described in a recently published Finnish research paper and the parliamentary elections in Latvia.
In the opening essay, Risto E. J. Penttilä, the CEO of Finland’s Central Chamber of Commerce, raises the question whether economic crises have replaced wars as the major factor that influences the balance of power and the international political order as such. He argues that in contemporary international relations, economy plays the role that has traditionally been played by wars. Some states or alliances become more powerful due to economic developments, while others lose their influential positions for the same reason. According to Penttilä, this is not necessarily a worrying development – although disturbing, the current economic crisis is not nearly as disastrous as another world war would be.
Luukas Ilves, a civil servant at the Estonian Ministry of Defence, argues that ‘e-Estonia’, our high-tech IT state in the making, can also be seen as a major foreign policy project. Estonia has already positioned itself as a highly developed ‘cyber-state’ that other nations, including great powers such as the US, Germany and the UK, have something to learn from. According to Ilves, by further developing and promoting e-solutions at different levels from cyber security to unified e-commerce in Europe, Estonia could profile itself as a significant player in the international arena despite its small size.
Policy analyst Vladimir Kara-Murza reflects upon Russia’s progress in the 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, explaining why Russia did not become a democracy even though there was a real chance for it in the early 1990s. Kara-Murza claims that one of the reasons why the democratisation process halted was that the ‘de-Communisation’ that East Germany, the Baltic states and Czechoslovakia had undergone never really took place in Russia – instead, former KGB officers gained power.
Another policy analyst, Vladimir Jushkin, assesses Russia’s post-Soviet period from a historical perspective. He sees the current return to authoritarianism partly as an issue of national identity, given the unwillingness of many Russians to regard their homeland as a young democracy – the image of Russia as a historical great power is more appealing. Jushkin points out that while patriotic and nationalist sentiments are growing in some quarters, many Russians are leaving their country to live in the West. He believes that Putinism may not survive for long, but that it will probably not be replaced by a liberal democratic order.
Author and Lieutenant Colonel (in reserve) Leo Kunnas offers an overview of Russia’s military developments in the light of a report recently published in Finland. According to the report, Russia is trying to regain its former geopolitical position, and it is significantly increasing its defence investments. Kunnas is concerned that Russia’s growing military potential could be underestimated by many of our allies who are in turn reducing their defence budgets in a time of economic crisis.
Political scientist Toms Rostoks provides an analysis of the recent Latvian parliamentary elections, which were the second elections held in a year. At the time of writing, a government coalition had not been formed yet, but Rostoks estimates that the elections have fulfilled their major goal, which was to reduce the role of oligarchs in Latvian politics. Although Harmony Centre with its 28.36% of the vote was the clear winner, it will probably be Valdis Dombrovskis, the former PM, who will set up a government again. In Rostoks’s view, the election results indicate both stability and change in Latvian politics – the oligarchs will be ousted, but the political system as a whole will largely remain the same.
In the book review section, history professor Seppo Zetterberg reviews a book by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Omalla äänellä (In Your Own Voice), which was published in Finland a short while ago. Zetterberg characterises Ilves as a philosopher and a statesman who offers his reader interesting viewpoints and thoughts, but who also provokes him to think, to argue and eventually to disagree. This is, in Zetterberg’s view, unusual for a book by a politician, at the same time being an unmistakable sign of a good read.

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