reede, juuni 29, 2007

A meeting of the minds

Now if we could only get in some meetings with Sarkozy and Brown! What are your thoughts on this historic visit, and on US-Estonian relations in general? I am of course pleased, but there is still a smidgen of doubtful foreign policy thinking that makes me wonder just how close Estonia should get to the Pentagon and the fourth branch of power in Washington, Dick Cheney's office. Estonia sees the US as an ally, a partner, and -- it must be said -- a guarantor of security. Estonia is grateful -- with its life -- for Sumner Welles non-recognition policy of the occupation of 1940.

But how does the US see Estonia today? Just another "Baltic state"? A symbol of the triumph of freedom and the Cold War and that's all? A bridge to Georgia and the oil rich Caspian region? A "West Berlin" in a sea of post-Soviet revanchism? Somehow I feel the relationship is still not what it could be. How do you think it could be made better? This relationship is still developing 85 years on.

19 kommentaari:

Andres Sehr ütles ...

What happened to your last post? More late night drunken blogging? :)

Regarding US/Eesti relations, lets see how long until the visa requirements get dropped.

Mattias ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Juan Manuel ütles ...

I wonder how the Americans look at that visit. On the one hand, Estonia is a tiny country many people have never heard about. On the other hand, Ilves is a star (or at least has the potential to become a Hollywood star).

Technically, he is an American. Was there no media interest for this man who was an ordinary American citizen before become a, lets say, freedom fighter and the president of the country of his forefathers?

I watched the Estonian news that day just to see him acting between his two identities. I had the feeling that he has learned his role to act as a president in Estonian but in America he was feeling himself as an ordinary citizen that one day is invited to the White House.

When sitting with Bush he seemed to be kind of, I don´t know, intimidated. Was the armchair to small for him?

Also, when talking to the Defense Secretary, didn't he seem to find it difficult to find the appropriate words in English? Particularly when he talked about the two soldiers that had just died in Afghanistan.

Anyway, this is just a very subjective impression from a short news clip. I think he is a very interesting character and it would be a pity if he (and Estonia) doesn't get the attention media he deserves. But again, the US is very big and I am talking as if they had only a few tv channels, like we have here (in provincial Spain).

For Estonia, this is another foreign policy success. They have payed a high price (by sending troops to all the hot spots), but they have got what they wanted. He didn't only meet with Bush and Pentagon officials, he also met with Brzezinsky and I think they had organized some kind of talks at the CFR.

Giustino ütles ...

What happened to your last post? More late night drunken blogging? :)

I got so sick of seeing post-mortems on the riots that I decided to not participate after the fact. That and I think several posts were contained within that post. So it will appear later in other forms.

Technically, he is an American. Was there no media interest for this man who was an ordinary American citizen before become a, lets say, freedom fighter and the president of the country of his forefathers?

I have seen stories on him personally. But I think that most news stories here focused on the cyber war which is still on everyone's imaginations. Anyone that reads newspapers here knows about the cyber war stuff.

As for Ilves, he is an Estonian. It's hard for some people to process that he was born in Stockholm, and that he grew up in New Jersey, but after he got his PhD at Columbia, he moved to Vancouver and then to Germany and so on.

Ilves is what we call an international. He's not really any one thing. His parents were Estonians, he spoke Estonian in his home, so he's not really an American per se like I or Space Maze.

I have met these peculiar creatures before. They know a variety of allegiences. Think about Cristina Odone -- a British journalist Is she Italian, Swedish, American, or British?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristina_Odone

Who knows anymore in this globalized world.

space_maze ütles ...

His parents were Estonians, he spoke Estonian in his home, so he's not really an American per se like I or Space Maze.

He's Estonian in the same way I am American, so I can identify with him there - except for the part where being Estonian is a lot cooler than being American ;-)

I personally don't really know what to say though when people ask me for my nationality. My mother tongue is standard American English. However, due to having been born in Austria, having visited German-speaking kindergartens and schools, and visiting the US every 10 years, my English has a slight Austrian accent.

My German on the other hand is perfeclty clean Austrian German. Too clean - it's so clean that people will sometimes guess that I'm not *quite* local, because I just don't use enough slang.

It'd be daft to claim that growing up in Austria in no way influenced me, it'd be daft to claim that my American heritage didn't influence me when growing up.

Generally, though, I don't feel one cultural identity cancels out the other, for me - cumulative national identities rock. Am I both? Am I neither? Does it matter?

No matter what Ilves might *also* be, he is definitely Estonian enough to be qualified for the job.

Giustino ütles ...

No matter what Ilves might *also* be, he is definitely Estonian enough to be qualified for the job.

He is another piece of the puzzle, especially since he was born in Stockholm, which is where most of the Estonian exiles died and are buried, and grew up newr New York, where the Estonian House served another important function, flying its flag just twenty or so blocks from the UN.


It would be dumb to ignore that the exile community counts. The idea that they are undeserving public office in Estonia is a false one.

Oggmonster ütles ...

I like the fact that mr. Ilves is a social democrat who at the same time feels comfortable among "falcons". It's like hitting two birds with one stone.

andres kahar ütles ...

Timeless questions, G – sweet. How exactly does the US – or any “great power” – look upon small states in its sphere of influence. Who really knows, except the man who walks behind The Man, and whispers in his ear...?

Colour me sceptical, and excuse me for falling back on an old saw, but when questions about US interests come up, I cannot help but recall: 'Great powers have interests, not friends.'

I’m sure a majority of the US political and pundit classes see Estonia as an exceptional and refreshing success story. For free market ideologues – of which North America is chock full – Estonia’s reputation was secured long ago. Participation in Afghanistan and Iraq operations cements the state’s rep as a dues-paying alliance member. I’m also sure that stories about a multilingual, efficient and peaceable people have made enough rounds among opinion-makers who matter that there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at work.

Much as I hate to say it, I wonder whether American power-players see Estonia and the Baltic as much more than a useful cordon sanitaire in a long-redlined region. It’s useful now, as a way of sending signals to the Kremlin, even bear-baiting. But I also wonder how many of the current US illuminati really care about – or remember -- the Sumner Welles declaration. That is, except for the old Cold Warriors, many of whom slip up at TV roundtables by referring to the “Soviet Union,” and are presently enjoying a full cup of ‘See, I told you so!’ Successive US administrations have hung so many states, peoples and movements out to dry; I’d say Kissinger-style Realpolitik is alive and well, and probably the guiding set of policy principles long before ‘Hank’ did foreign policy for Nixon.

Sorry to sound so glum. I actually quite like America in many of its forms, and find myself put off by the dumb anti-Americanism one encounters in many parts of Canada and Europe. But Foggy Bottom has rather earned its rather international reputation for calculating and treacherous policymaking.

Maybe I shouldn’t have read that piece about the Kurds couple days back…

Kristopher ütles ...

A symbol of a country's policy toward another country should be its embassy, right? The US Embassy in Estonia is a cold, paranoid place. It seems to be staffed by two people who take long breaks. The local staff they employ are strange, something is wrong with them, there is no human connect. About eight years ago, the Embassy was full of life. There was a library with great local staff who appreciated American literature and a liberal loan policy. There were picnics in the park on the Fourth of July and attaches would take time manning the grill. Many of the changes cannot completely be explained by the end of USAID or by 9-11.

I am grateful that the US gave my ancestors a home. They had to face small town elitism and work their way up from nothing, but it was worth it, and it would have been much harder anywhere else. It is a great land. But I'm not sure what non-recognition policy accomplished, other than being a symbolic anchor for the relationship with the Baltic lobby, which blossomed during Reagan. Because the US recognized Estonian independence just like every other country, and they did it later than many, indicating that they were on the fence for a while there.

It sickens me that Balts continue to cozy up to US administrations just because they were once our supposed guarantor and as if Balts were indebted -- considering the way that we cozy up is by sending troops into the black hole that is Iraq.

Bush Sr. was a craven, aristocratic intelligence wonk, and his son is a craven, narrow-minded, unethical corporation whore. Neither administration had a heart or a conscience where the Baltics are concerned. They're black-hole men. They learned nothing more at Yale than Divide et impera - pronouncing it the American way - mercantiilist theory. and fratboy pranks.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Estonians along with Latvians and Lithuanians got politicians who lived and were educated in other countries.
When students are forced to study abroad why should'nt do the politicians the same. Just to keep up with the pace of changes worldwide.
Thinking about Germany, remembering our chancellor Helmut Schmidt when he was citing the Financial Times in the Bundestag, everybody knew he could read and talk English, but is was a freak show, for our common member of Bundestag like watching an alien.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

The non-recognition policy was helpful during the process of regaining independence in the Baltics. But I still remember the first years, when even Bush senior and his government were concerned that too much drive toward independence in the Baltics could disturb Gorbatchev's reforms. It started even with Reagan. And when the first Iraque war was ready to start the Soviet Omon troops in Riga were shooting around, the pro Soviet interfront was active, the Bloody Sunday in Vilnius. The Western states like Germany were addressing diplomatically all sides to stay peaceful. There was no country, NO Western government that said we want the independent Baltic States back, instead there had to be held elections, referendums, several times with proof of a majority(often 2/3) etc.. Controlled by international observers. It was a time when I learned the consequences of the difference between de facto and de jure.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Here is the clear BUT of US policy towards the Baltics before 1991.
Bush senior in an interview with CNN 1997:
'There were a lot of examples where we tried to understand his [Gorbatchev's] position, tried to be restrained. Probably as good an example [as any] was the Baltic states: we never recognized, in the U.S., the Soviet occupation or the takeover of the Baltic states; we always had funny little embassies in Washington during the Cold War days. But when Gorbachev was having difficulties with [President Vytautus] Landsbergis of Lithuania, we tried to understand his position, we tried to understand and to hold back the public demands. We had one Senator that went over and was dramatically knocking on the door of Lithuania or something: "Free Lithuania, Mr. Gorbachev!" Well, he was up for election, we all understood that; but for a president, you've got to show a certain restraint and be sure to keep things on the right track. ... [We] tried to understand the tremendous pressure on Gorbachev inside of Russia. And I think history will say, well, that was a prudent thing to do.'

Here it is, the Kissinger, the big country attitude. You little funny embassies.

esthetecyclist ütles ...

Being in America and, narrower still, being in circles that know about Estonia's existence, I can say that there is not a lot of agitation for or interest in Estonia. This of couse saddens me, as Estonia is so very clearly a "Western" country where rule of law trumps plutocracy. Unlike Russia, which is, needless to say, somewhere between Byzantium in its oligarchy and "Injin country" in its barbarism.

But the current row with Russia about missile defense shields and sundry sticking points must, one suspects, call up Estonia into analysts' minds, given Estonia's sizable, incorrigible and belligerent Russian population. As someone else noted, it could be merely seen as a litmus test for Putin & Co., which would be dolefully short-sighted.

That said, being a regular reader of the NYTimes, Harper's, and The New Yorker, I never see anything on Estonia. I wish I saw more, because Estonia and the Baltics in general are of great importance to Scandinavia, Germany and Poland, which means they are of great importance to us.

But only the elite in this country know that, while everyone else is trying to figure out how to pay for health insurance, how to deal with family members killed or otherwise injured in Iraq, or how to buy more useless crap they just don't need.

Juan Manuel ütles ...

Bush Sr. and his secretary of state (was it James Baker?) were scared that the Soviet Union might split into dozens of republics armed with nuclear weapons and they backed Gorbachev to the last minute. They even distrusted Yeltsin, whom reports identified as the new strong man for reform in Russia.

Gorbachev did many good thinks, but his opposition to the independence of the Baltics will always be a dark side in his legacy.

Juan Manuel ütles ...

Hhehe, Justin, the image you linked to has changed and now there is an awesome girl in bikini instead of Bush. Very funny. Russian counter intelligence may be attacking your blog...

Giustino ütles ...

Juanma,

Russian counterintelligence can blow me.

Regards,

G.

plasma-jack ütles ...

The US Embassy in Estonia is a cold, paranoid place. It seems to be staffed by two people who take long breaks. The local staff they employ are strange, something is wrong with them, there is no human connect.

I agree about the paranoia part, but the local girl working with the PR seemed very cute. And the cultural attaché is a pretty cool guy. Aldona herself was a little intimidating with her conservative and religious image but overall not a rude person. But let's wait for the next ambassador to prove himself.

in upstate NY ütles ...

As an American citizen of Estonian heritage, I am currently troubled by the US-Estonian relationship. And probably my dismay is a nagging feeling that Estonians are very enamored of the United States.

The conservative Americans that sided with the Estonians have historically been the most anti-Soviet. And that worked to Estonia's benefit. And given my family history, I am hardly a fan of the Soviet Union. However, these same conservatives are deeply anti-democratic in nature.

Their hatred of the Soviet Union was that of the wealthy hating any kind of socialism. Those conservative Americans really did not have problems with the Soviet Unions imperial designs per se, so much as the political system. In other words, if Imperial Russia had managed to reacquire the Baltic states after WWII, that may not have been a problem for those Americans.

Additionally, these conservative Americans would also have had a problem with Estonia's land redistribution that occurred in the early 1920's. In fact, the United States participated in the violent suppression of the anticipated redistribution of the Dole estate in Guatemala during the 1950's.

Throughout the Cold War years, the only ones knowledgeable about Estonia were the virulent anti-Communists. Others with more moderate views tended not to know where or what Estonia was.

Although the anti-Communists are probably the most knowledgeable about Estonia, Estonia should not necessarily count those Americans as friends. Pat Buchanan recently wrote cogently about the Bronze Soldier incident. However, he regretted that Estonia was admitted into the EU and NATO, as that may obligate the US in a showdown with Russia.

I think Estonia should be very skeptical of the US as a great power. Like all great powers, the US is not a benevolent power, especially not now. Also the US shares very few mutual interests with Estonia. I believe Estonia is much better off solidifying its relationship with its near neighbors and the EU, as it has been doing.

Per Aldaris ad astra ütles ...

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the ex-Soviet satellites of Europe will continue to cozy up to the U.S. until Europe can be a guarantor of their safety. Even with the growing recognition in the EU that there is a need to develop some type of defensive capability the day when the small member states can rely on the EU to be their protector is far off.

NATO without the North American partners (US and Canada) is capable of holding off the Russians in their current form but years from now-- who knows? Estonia needs only to look back at its recent history... they cannot rely on European alliances as we know them. The Swedes and Finns wouldn't even do much more than talk about alliances during the time of the First Republic. Who would really come to their aid now in a military crisis if the US/UK backbone of NATO wasn't there?