It is kind of ironic, given Estonian history, that when the chancellor of Germany arrives to visit Tallinn, the local politicians line up to shake her hand and bask in her presence.
It's also sort of ironic, again given Estonian history, that in reaction to Russia's invasion of Georgia, some Estonian politicians are openly welcoming the possible stationing of NATO troops on their soil. Where will these troops come from? I am not sure. But I wouldn't be surprised if they happened to be compatriots of Dr. Merkel's.
The mutual rapport between the German and Estonian leadership, though, illuminates some of the fundamental dilemmas for the EU given the Georgian crisis. Tallinn, you see, was once Reval. Its Lutheran spires are testament to its Europeanness; its Low German-inspired vocabulary connects Estland to Deutschland in a way that the average Dietrich or Tiidrik might not understand, but the elites certainly do.
But when the German elite looks at Georgia, they perhaps know not what to do. When the EU expanded eastward in 1995 and again in 2004 and 2007, Stockholm became the regional capital of northern Europe and Berlin the heart of the union. Austrians and Slovenians could rub elbows and share mountain climbing tips; Swedes and Estonians could swap Baltic Sea sailing stories.
The predicament with Georgia is that its invasion by Russia and the apparent attempt to unseat its government bring European values, rather than cultural heritage, to the fore. It's no longer a civilizational question, it's a values question, and, in this case, it is much trickier territory for a European elite that is trying to carve out some kind of coexistence with the bloodthirsty capitalists next door in Moscow.
The crisis in that country continues to unfold and, perhaps, will revert to a new kind of frozen conflict. I think, though, that the Georgian crisis has acutely raised the "civilizational project versus values-driven project" question for the European Union. Is it one or the other or both? As of today, there is still no answer.