This double issue of Diplomaatia mainly focuses on Russia’s global influence operations, while also featuring articles about Estonia’s kinsmen—Finland and Hungary.
The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu), Marko Mihkelson, writes about Moscow’s influence operations, designed to seek out Western politicians and officials whose views could benefit Russia.
“The fight for the hearts and minds of the free world was on, and has not subsided even today,” writes Mihkelson. “Russia’s new clients are mainly extremist forces of both left and right, and by supporting them Moscow tries to weaken the integrity of the European Union and NATO, disrupt the internal stability of their member countries, and create the circumstances for a Finlandisation of Europe.”
Our first interview is with Alexandr Pantchenko, a leading researcher at the Institute of Russian Literature in St Petersburg, who discusses conspiracy theories in Russia with special attention to the so-called Dulles’ Plan.
“The Russian public is suspicious of everyone and everything connected to institutions. This concerns not only the authorities, but everyone who is in some position of power—a university professor, an official, anyone; they are not trusted,” says Pantchenko.
In relation to Estonia’s forthcoming presidency of the Council of the EU (July–December 2017), Diplomaatia has teamed up with the Representation of the European Commission in Estonia to publish articles about the Union and the presidency. The first piece in the series is by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who asserts that the EU economy is growing, and not by lucky chance but thanks to structural reforms.
Vladimir Sazonov, Research Fellow at the Estonian National Defence College and Senior Research Fellow at UT Centre for Oriental Studies, looks at how Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan as part of its hybrid warfare.
“Moscow is not bothered by the facts that the Islamist extremist Taliban has collaborated (and continues to collaborate) with al-Qaeda and that the UN declared it a terrorist organisation in 2003,” writes Sazonov. “Nor does it care that, in many ways, the Taliban grew out of the Mujahideen who fought actively against Soviet forces in the Soviet-Afghan War in 1979–89.”
The second interview is with Professor Gencer Özcan from Istanbul Bilgi University, who presents his vision of the future of the Middle East.
“The region is expected to remain in a constant state of alarm in the coming years. This naturally stifles any democratic movements that are already struggling to survive,” thinks Özcan.
Veteran Finnish journalist Jarmo Mäkelä looks at the security policy choices Finland has made in recent years. Finnish freelance journalist Tuula Koponen writes about the downfall of Hungarian democracy. Erkki Tori, Deputy Defence Counsellor at the Permanent Representation of Estonia to NATO, describes the discussion over the division of labour that arose during the US president’s recent visit to the Alliance’s headquarters. Liis Vihul explains why cyber security is essential to foreign policy.
Lastly, Diplomaatia’s Editor-in-Chief Erkki Bahovski writes about the latest book by historian Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny.