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.