Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that all countries were obliged to combat neo-Nazism and urged European prosecutors to observe objective standards in these efforts.
Russia has repeatedly criticized marches staged by former members of the SS in the former Soviet republics of Latvia and Estonia, which are members of the European Union.
"For instance, it is hard for us [Russia] to understand why some countries close their eyes to human rights violations and why they break up anti-fascist demonstrations but do not notice rallies of former Nazis," Putin told a conference of European prosecutors.
For starters, I'll point out that the Nazis weren't fascists. They were Nationalist Socialists. Although the party was hijacked by Hitler's leadership, which was more concerned with nationalism than socialism, the Nazis started out as a working people's party. His social engineering of culture had more in common with Stalinism than Mussolini's fascism.
But that's beside the point. I get the feeling that Putin is not unlike our Bush. Bush only watches FOX News - a right-wing media outlet in the US that favors his worldview. Putin probably only gets his news from the state-controlled media, which, in turn, tells him everything he wants to hear.
As far as he knows, Estonia is a place where Nazi concentration camp guards are honored as heroes and Russian-speakers are slaves, forced to learn this strange bog language with its ä's, ü's, ö's and õ's.
It shouldn't be that way. In the 15 years since the reassertion of Estonia's independence, there has been no official visit of a sitting Russian president to Estonia. There hasn't even been an official visit by a prime minister to Estonia. It would make sense to open the eyes and ears of Vladimir Putin and invite him to come and see Estonia for himself. And don't just meet him in Tallinn. Meet him in Tartu or Kuressaare.
This government, and perhaps the next one has the unique ability to do that. No one questions the allegiance of the Reform Party of Ansip. And if Rüütel stays, or if Rüütel is replaced by Ilves or Aaviksoo, or whomever, they will have a unique opportunity to invite Putin to Estonia before he is supposed to retire from public office in 2008.