March 17, 2011

Summary

The current issue of Diplomaatia is mostly dedicated to the topic of psychological defence, which was analysed at a high level conference that took place in Narva-Jõesuu, North-Eastern Estonia, on February 11–12. As a small nation that is still a target for our eastern neighbour’s attempts to define us as a part of its ‘zone of influence’, and as a relatively young democracy that has only recently joined a number of international organisations and established its democratic institutions, Estonia is more vulnerable than older democracies and bigger nations to attacks on its image or even its right to exist.

The current issue of Diplomaatia is mostly dedicated to the topic of psychological defence, which was analysed at a high level conference that took place in Narva-Jõesuu, North-Eastern Estonia, on February 11–12. As a small nation that is still a target for our eastern neighbour’s attempts to define us as a part of its ‘zone of influence’, and as a relatively young democracy that has only recently joined a number of international organisations and established its democratic institutions, Estonia is more vulnerable than older democracies and bigger nations to attacks on its image or even its right to exist.

Summary

The current issue of Diplomaatia is mostly dedicated to the topic of psychological defence, which was analysed at a high level conference that took place in Narva-Jõesuu, North-Eastern Estonia, on February 11–12. As a small nation that is still a target for our eastern neighbour’s attempts to define us as a part of its ‘zone of influence’, and as a relatively young democracy that has only recently joined a number of international organisations and established its democratic institutions, Estonia is more vulnerable than older democracies and bigger nations to attacks on its image or even its right to exist.
In the opening article, based on the opening speech at the conference, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves analyses the meaning of the concept of psychological defence in general and its relation to what we mean by defence in more obvious military contexts. Using examples from ancient Greek mythology to contemporary media campaigns, he argues that these concepts are inevitably intertwined and that psychological attacks often occur along with more traditional methods of warfare. Recognising that Estonians still suffer from deep existential fears for their national survival, Ilves claims that in our case effective psychological defence should mean, among other things, achieving confidence about our survival as a state and a nation.
Jaak Aaviksoo, Estonian Minister of Defence, writes about self-defence in the context of information conflicts. He argues that all nations have a right to define themselves informationally and emotionally, to determine who they are and to tell their own stories on their own terms. The primary goal of information attacks is character assassination – an attempt to destroy a sense of who we are and, along with that, our will and capacity of resistance. Aaviksoo argues that in order to defend oneself in information wars, it is not enough to use the ‘sword of truth’ – one needs creative diplomatic approaches to find win-win solutions, instead of getting drawn into destructive conflicts.
Diplomat Kärt Juhasoo-Lawrence examines a phenomenon called ‘compatriots policy’ – attempts by the Russian Federation to affect the internal affairs of its neighbouring countries through influencing Russian citizens or ethnic Russians living in those countries. The term ‘compatriots’ is meant to indicate that even though these people do not live in Russia, they somehow also, or primarily, belong to the Russian society. Juhasoo-Lawrence argues that the resources invested in Russian compatriots policy indicate that it is an important foreign policy tool, but there is not much discussion about it in diplomatic circles because the subject is sensitive and uncomfortable.
Iivi Anna Masso, Editor-in-Chief of Diplomaatia, analyses the use of the concept of ‘nationalism’ as a ‘weapon’ in information wars or as a means for calling into question the right to cultural survival of ethnic majorities in small nation states. She argues that there is a double standard in action when language policies and minority rights are evaluated in Estonia and in bigger European nation states such as Sweden or France. In the latter, it is taken for granted that immigrants and their children learn the local language, while Estonia is regularly blamed for even modest attempts to enforce the same practice.
Communication consultant Raul Rebane introduces the concept of ‘mental resources’ and discusses its meaning in the context of psychological defence. He argues that mental resilience and greater awareness of one’s own potential resources are important security factors because hopelessness and a sense of powerlessness are among the major goals of psychological attacks against a nation. According to Rebane, collectives – just like individuals – can be considered to be more talented or less talented. Following a method he has developed as a coach, he analyses a number of indicators and argues that Estonia as a nation is talented, but what it needs more in order to be stronger in international competition and more resistant to intimidation is faith in its own capacities, together with self-confidence and optimism.
The final essay by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, David Held and Alia Brahimi launches a series of analyses of the developments in the Maghreb region. In the essay titled The Arab 1989?, the authors offer an overview of the developments in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the region. They analyse the social and political circumstances that triggered the current wave of revolutionary events and the reasons behind their rapid spread throughout the Arab world. Comparing these events to the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, they weigh the similarities and differences and come to the conclusion that the developments in North Africa can indeed be compared to 1989 in Europe, even though it is still too early to predict the outcome of the Arab revolutions.

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