Last month's exposure of Herman Simm, former head of the security department at the Estonian Ministry of Defense, as a spy has prompted Estonians to ask themselves important questions, the most primary being, of course: how will this affect our image?
Marko Mihkelson [an IRL member, blogger, and member of the Estonian Golf and Country Club], argued that the exposure of Simm showcases the ability of Estonia to catch those engaged in espionage within its ranks. Therefore, the spy scandal is good for Estonia's image, not bad.
Jaak Aaviksoo [Minister of Defense], reassured his constituents meantime that the spy scandal did not make Estonia a pariah for NATO. Estonia's image as a positive transformer was secure.
There are other questions, though. Aleks from All About Latvia asked me, "how could an Estonian betray his country" by allegedly selling secrets, including classified NATO information, to Russia?
Margus Hanson, the former Minister of Defense, who was sacked over a lost briefcase containing classified information in 2004, first asked himself, "Did Herman Simm [or his wife, Heete, also arrested] steal my briefcase?" and then perhaps asked himself, very quietly so that nobody could hear, "Could this help me get back into national politics?"
I personally wondered why Herman Simm, should he be guilty, would trade classified information that affected the security of the nation in which he and his family lived to a historically aggressive country for ... more land in Estonia.
According to media reports, Simm spent the proceeds from his espionage on buying up properties all over Estonia; properties that have now been seized by state authorities. A farm in Ida-Virumaa here, a cottage in Harjumaa there. It was prime real estate for saunaing and root vegetable cultivation, but little else.
These options, though, are available to most Estonians, poor and rich. So, why did he do it? Greed is probably one factor; but the thrill of just doing it may be another. As Bill Clinton said about the Lewinsky scandal: "I did it because I could."
But what of Estonia's reputation? Well, I think that Estonia's reputation overall is good. That's because Estonia benefits what I would call the likability factor. In spite of their national aloofness, people think the Estonians are cute and their culture is worthy of perpetuation. They visit Estonia and when they return to their homes, they tell great stories about its old city or its islands or its university town.
But in terms of the current Estonian government, I am not sure if Estonia has the greatest reputation. A deeper analysis of the reasons for that perception are for another blog post, however.