kolmapäev, juuli 12, 2006

Why It Pays to Have a President Who Speaks English

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga is George W. Bush's favorite Baltic President. That reason alone - according to a state department source I spoke with, that was familiar with the decision to go to Riga last year - sealed the deal for which Baltic country Bush would visit before going to Moscow.

Likewise, when Vaira visited London this week, she was treated to a loving embrace by Tony Blair (see photo) in front of 10 Downing Street.

"I think this will be truly an historical year in the relations between our two countries," the Latvian leader told a joint press conference with her British counterpart Tony Blair after the two held talks.

Blair, for his part, welcomed his guest to Britain and said they discussed a range of issues such as the European Union, NATO, the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) summit in Russia and Latvia's military deployment to Afghanistan.

"The bilateral relations between Latvia and Briain are very strong," the British prime minister said.


I have read that Estonian President Arnold Rüütel got to meet with a British head of state - Queen Elizabeth II herself, earlier this month. But one could wager that Arnold, with his interpreter, and the Queen, with her very, very blue blood, didn't hit it off as well Tony and Vaira did. I doubt there were any cordial embraces at their meeting in Scotland.

And there lies the question - why is Vaira the fav., and not Estonia's president? What does she have, other than spell-binding administrative hair, that Rüütel doesn't.

Well, for starters, she's younger (69). She also is fluent in English, indeed she lived much of her life in Canada. I think it's the second attribute that is her strongest. Vaira can speak to Tony and W. in a way that Rüütel, who speaks Russian fluently, can probably speak to Putin and Alexis II when he goes on a sojourn to Moscow. In other words, Vaira talks for the Balts the way Estonian President Lennart Meri once did.

Latvia is very lucky to have a president like Vike-Freiberga. While Latvia routinely produces some minimal headaches for Western Europe and the US (the minority issue, the border issue, the SS marches issue, the gay rights issue), it also has a person that is able to talk to the greatest power brokers in a language that they understand.

But the power brokers see beyond those issues because, like business, it appears that politics really is all about personal relationships. Tony and W. will stand by Latvia because they like its president. US presidents have been to both Latvia and Lithuania on official visits. But no US president has ever (and I mean since 1920) stepped foot in Eestimaa on official business.

So, in a world where communication is quick, painless, efficient, and EVERYTHING, it might behoove Estonia to select in the future a president that can better represent their interests.

Just saying.

25 kommentaari:

Kristjan ütles ...

We realy hope that next president will be Toomas Hendrik Ilves http://www.thilves.ee/eng/index.php

At least me and most of my friends hope so.

Pekka K ütles ...

Oh yes, what a shame that one doesn't get to enjoy the friendship of those two loved and respected leaders. An old saying;"who needs enemies when you have friends like this", comes to mind.

Nele ütles ...

It is not only the language but communication skills generally. President Meri was surely a shiny predecessor who is hard to compete with. Most of all the president must be a carismatic personality. And let's face it - you do not expect to see Mr Rüütel's picture next to the dictionary entry "carismatic", do you?

Purc ütles ...

I think i saw his picture next to the dictionary entry "senile".

Giustino ütles ...

Oh yes, what a shame that one doesn't get to enjoy the friendship of those two loved and respected leaders. An old saying;"who needs enemies when you have friends like this", comes to mind.

Those are the two I know enough to write about. If you can volunteer some info about Tarja and Arnold versus Tarja and Vaira, I'd be happy to add it.

helsinkian ütles ...

I thought Vaira spoke mostly French when she was in Canada. She was a professor at the Université de Montréal in Québec and I believe her French is much better than her English.

Latvia is probably the closest to a US red state there is in Europe. The Bush Administration people must love the anti-gay constitutional marriage amendment that's been the big issue in Latvian politics lately. Sure, the Green Party is huge in Latvia but what most people don't know is that their agenda is closer to the US Republican Party than that of any other Green Party in the world.

Many countries have English-speaking presidents (indeed, the Lithuanian President lived for decades in Chicago and was not only a registered but an active Republican while there) but few European countries have politicians whose agendas resemble that of the political home of George W. Bush, the Texas Republicans, as much as Latvia.

Bush feels at home in socially conservative and nationalist countries. This is why he likes Latvia better than Estonia and Lithuania and why he prefers Slovakia to the Czech Republic. Georgia he just has to love because of the name of that country. Yes, Georgia has a President who speaks English very well and I'd actually agree with giustino on the regard of him, it makes all the difference for Georgia to have a leader with the communication skills that work with US contacts.

helsinkian ütles ...

Both Arnold and Vaira have been around for a long time. I think Tarja first met Arnold about fifteen years ago. Arnold's wife Ingrid has friends and contacts in Finland and I believe she's also been an asset to Estonian-Finnish relations.

Tarja and Vaira hit it off very well from the beginning. Most heads of state are men and both of them like the idea that there's another woman president close by.

Giustino ütles ...

Tarja and Vaira hit it off very well from the beginning. Most heads of state are men and both of them like the idea that there's another woman president close by.

So if Ene Ergma becomes president of Estonia, they could all get together and talk about whatever it is women talk about ...

Giustino ütles ...

Latvia is probably the closest to a US red state there is in Europe.

Baltic kool-aid (we've been oppressed, the Russians are evil, we love neo-liberal capitalism) sells well in US rightwing thinktanks.

But I think Estonia has sort of moved beyond that. Look what happened with Pronkssoder. It was a battle between extremists that got talked to death in the media. And then ... nothing happened.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

If Rüütel will be elected the German public will again not know the President of Estonia at all. Freiberga of Latvia is good for some discussions. The Estonian president does not exist in our media.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Not existence it's a frightening thing to me. History tells.

Purc ütles ...

The Pronkssõdur issue is not a battle of extremists, they are just the ones getting all the attention. I'm a regular Estonian with very democratic views (not an extremist), but when the Russians celebrate the genocide, deportations and occupation inflicted on the Estonian people it pains me deeply.

Giustino ütles ...

I'm a regular Estonian with very democratic views (not an extremist), but when the Russians celebrate the genocide, deportations and occupation inflicted on the Estonian people it pains me deeply.

They celebrate for totally different reasons, I hope. It's more of a "my grandfather fought in a war, ain't he great" thing than a "ain't it great how many Estonians we killed" thing.

But I think some ARE apologists for the actions of the insane dictator Stalin. They shrug it off.

It reminds me of people who celebrate their Confederate ancestors in the southern US today who apologize for their actions saying "slavery would have ended eventually."

Total crap.

But there's a lot more to Estonia than the occupation museum.

Giustino ütles ...

Remember, the US is supposedly a peaceful, stable country - but we've had two big terror attacks on our soil over the past 11 years (September 11, Oklahoma City Bombing).

If the worst that an happen in Estonia is some people yelling over a monument to men long dead, then I'd say civil society is pretty healthy.

Plus it got dealt with in the right way - through the media and mostly peaceful protests.

The reason the Soviets were so brutal was because the society they built was so weak. They could only keep their empire together through violence or the threat of violence.

Estonia's response to the monument controversy showcased its strength as a democracy.

Pekka K ütles ...

There is also this possibility that, Dubya, Tony, and Vaira are linked, by the means of a congress call fascility, to the BIG GUY above thus making their interaction that much more heaven made. Any sign of a Paganism, regardle how well you speak, would send you to the purgatory.

Anonüümne ütles ...

There is also this possibility that, Dubya, Tony, and Vaira are linked, by the means of a congress call fascility, to the BIG GUY above thus making their interaction that much more heaven made. Any sign of a Paganism, regardle how well you speak, would send you to the purgatory.the purgatory.

Giustino ütles ...

If Anu Saagim became president, I bet every head of state would want to visit Estonia ... even Putin!

Pekka K ütles ...

Didn't help us Finns too much having a red headed goddess as a pres., besides blonds are dime a dozen.

eestlane ütles ...

Couldn't agree more.

Giustino ütles ...

Couldn't agree more.

Couldn't agree more that:

1. It pays to have an English-speaking president

OR

2. Anu Saagim should be president

?????

Anonüümne ütles ...

Oh please lord, don't let them make Arnold president again. He has been good in his profession and now should leave the arena while in high respect as they say in the media (aka no way are we voting for him). I think the conservatives on this issue should lose (atm those are only Rahvaliit and Keskerakond a bit). We need a new president, Arnold is definetely NOT the person I want people to see in telly when they watch something about some (probably bogous <.<) country called Estonia.

Giustino ütles ...

Everybody wants Ilves, but KESK and ERL don't like him because he's too "Western".

Are there any other candidates that have a chance at getting those few extra votes in the Riigikogu other than Ilves?

Rüütel will definitely lose the Riigikogu vote. If just a handful (two or three) ERL and KESK voters voted for Ilves, it would be a done deal.

I am not sure how often party members don't vote party line in Estonia.

Pekka K ütles ...

Something that I don't quite like comes across here; you gotta look pretty to be the pres.

I know that, qiustino is not in love with old stuff such as the Kennedy vs. "Tricky Dick" aka Nixon TV debate that possibly started this whole skin deep business in the media and in the minds of the voters. Now it seems that sexapeal of a candidate is equal in importance to any other attribute.

Makes me wonder, though, how would good ol' Abe do running for precidency today?

Giustino ütles ...

Makes me wonder, though, how would good ol' Abe do running for precidency today?

I think has more to do with charisma, rather than just pure "sex appeal."

Charisma does count. Maybe that's why there is no Richard Milhous Nixon International Airport - at least the last time I checked.

helsinkian ütles ...

There is no Nixon airport because of Watergate. That was not about charisma.