The last time I checked, Estonia only has a handful of neighbors. It shares land and maritime borders with Russia to the east and a land border with Latvia to the south. It also has maritime borders with Finland to the north and Sweden to the west.
According to an interview with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet in this week's Eesti Ekspress, though, Estonia, has at least virtual borders with other countries, including Iceland and Georgia.
The question at hand was, why hasn't Estonia directly supported Iceland during its financial crisis, while it has been willing to shell out humanitarian aid to the tune of 17 million EEK [$1.3 million, €1.1 million] to help rebuild Georgia, especially when the Faroe Islands, home to 48,500 [slightly larger than the city of Pärnu], gave their Icelandic brethren a 620 million EEK loan?
Paet's response: a) a "loan is not a present; it has it's own price"; and b) "it's improper to compare Georgia and Iceland: When you have two neighbors and one has had their family killed and house burned down and the other has had one of their two Lexuses stolen, then you can't compare the two."
Except, Iceland and Georgia are not in any physical sense neighbors to Estonia. The Icelanders have an excuse for seeking out neighbors in the Baltic; other than Greenland, they actually have no neighbors. This is why Iceland is on the Council of Baltic Sea States, even though its rocky shores are not lapped by the blue waters of the Läänemeri. They're lonely. They need friends.
Georgia, though, has more neighbors than it knows what to do with. Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, plus the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- that's more genuine neighbors than Estonia has. Some other addresses in the neighborhood include Iran and Ukraine. So, the Georgians are not without neighbors, though they may not like the neighborhood in which they live.
But here's the question: do the Estonians consider the Greenlanders to be neighbors? Do they consider the Azerbaijanis or Turks to be neighbors to their country? "Just drive south to Luhamaa, take a left turn, and you'll be in Istanbul in about ... a week or two." No, I don't think they do.
Now, I understand Paet was just using a metaphor to make a point, that the Georgians were in more immediate need of assistance than the Icelanders. But his metaphor, coupled with Estonian policy, seems to confirm an odd trend in our young century.
It used to be that in the past one could not choose their neighbors. Today, though, countries can live in selective neighborhoods, where states that are thousands of kilometers away can seem like they are right next door, and states that are right next door can seem like they are thousands of kilometers away.