Monday, March 10, 2014

The Life of a Small Light Next to a Sea of Darkness

You are a very small nation who desperately just wants to be left alone. A small outpost of Balto-Scandinavian culture next to a Russian vastness.

It never has been easy, it isn't easy, and odds are it never will be.
For this tiny country of 1.3 million, things are, from one perspective, excellent indeed. Since independence in 1991, Estonia has welcomed democracy and a market economy, become a member of NATO and the European Union, and adopted the euro. The country exudes modernity, consumerism, and freedom. There’s wireless Internet nearly everywhere—parks, pubs, squares, beaches, forests—and nearly always free. When you walk through Tallinn Airport, you feel like you’re in a trendy version of an Ikea store, with semi-inviting caf├ęs, book alcoves, ready-to-use iPads.
Joe Biden might say LaGuardia pales in comparison.

Freedom House gives Estonia highest marks in democratic development, for both political rights and civil liberties. The country ranks higher than the United States in economic freedom in a Heritage Foundation index.

So what’s to worry?
Estonia’s ethnic Russian minority comprises nearly a quarter of its population (fellow Baltic nation Lithuania has 5.8 percent; Latvia, nearly 27 percent). As a result, Tallinn has to put up with constant Kremlin complaints—the charges nearly always unsubstantiated by international observers—that Russians in Estonia are treated poorly and subject to discrimination by the Estonian government. Russian president Vladimir Putin is believed to have a personal gripe with the country. Or so Estonian officials think, as we know from diplomatic cables, thanks to WikiLeaks. Putin’s father, who fought with the Red Army during World War II, parachuted on a mission into Estonia, where locals, still angry over the Soviet occupation in 1940—a year before Germany invaded—handed him over to Nazi forces.

What’s clear in any case is this: Moscow loves meddling, provoking, and slapping Estonia around.
Some might have thought that NATO and EU membership settles everything. Courtesy WikiLeaks, we know that at least some U.S. officials have considered Estonia paranoid about Russia. It seems instead that recent events in Ukraine and Russian policy toward this small Baltic nation well might concentrate our minds on Kremlin strategy toward Eastern Europe—and on the sad fact that we don’t seem to have one.
Read all of Jeffery Gedmin's article in TWS for the details if you are not up to some of the nuance about the pickle that is Estonia.

Here is the Wikileaks note mentioned:
The Estonian authorities have a pessimistic view of the prospects of relations with Moscow, according to a new portion of secret diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

Russian Reporter magazine has published a secret cable sent to Washington by US diplomats in Estonia last spring. The cable allegedly concerns Tallinn’s policy toward Russia and Estonia’s place in US-Russian relations.

The cable, attributed to US diplomats, including Ambassador to Tallinn Michael Polt, describes Estonia’s views of the prospects of relations with Russia as “pessimistic.” The country’s defensive posture is even “based on an almost paranoid perception of an imminent Russian attack,” the document says.

The diplomats tried to find positive signs in Estonia’s approach, stressing that the country “is working to temper its political stance on Russia.” In particular, Tallinn prefers to handle bilateral issues with Russia “quietly,” the document reads.
Who are we actually sending as ambassador to Estonia? Do they know of nothing about their history? Have they not visited the Occupations Museum in Tallinn? Idiots.

You aren't being paranoid if your are a neighbor of Russia; you are just a student of history.

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