neljapäev, november 13, 2008

naabrid

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.

12 kommentaari:

Jonas ütles ...

Hello, sorry, a little off topic, but I felt you might like to know. Sveriges Radio just reported that Putin has said he is considering shelving Nordstream and finding another way to transport Russian gas across the Baltic! Potentially good news.

Baltic ütles ...

Tere/sveiki

""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.""

VERY GOOD POINT indeed, and that is one of the side - effects of the globalization process, the one that started since 1490's. Following industrial revolution in England and later in continental Europe, later in the USA and in the rest of the world enables unprecedented development of technologies. Thus, DETERRITORIALIZATION makes us not only chose our neighbors, but also to guard our privacy in better ways rather than to follow the principle of late 19th century: "a party right or wrong, but my party":)

peedu ütles ...

My guess is that in the next ~10 years this blind friendly attitude in Estonian politics towards former soviet countries will fade, because the Soviet era is about the only thing we have got in common with countries like Georgia. Older generation remembers the times when Estonians were in the same position with Georgians, that made us seem like brothers/neighbors and that makes them defend the Georgians so passionately, but the new - my generation - does not and I believe it is only a matter of time when it shows in politics as well. So Estonia will most likely loose some of its virtual neighbors in the near future.

And by "blind" I mean that Estonians know very well Georgia made mistakes in the conflict with Russia, but our country does not admit them on official level. Here is one example: in the 11th Nov Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/11/eu-russia) Jaak Aaviksoo, the Estonian defence minister said "We have to admit that the trustworthiness of Tbilisi has suffered, some countries clearly see that Georgia acted in an unpredictable way." And that contradicts the country's official opinion about the conflict, but later he took his words back (http://www.postimees.ee/?id=48023).
We still officially support Georgia like they did nothing wrong, when the fact is that they did play their fair part in starting the whole thing.

About the loan/support.
I would personally help both, the Icelanders and Georgians, but when the time comes to choose sides, I know most of the under 30 year old Estonians would much rather prefer to save the old lonely iceberg in the N-Atlantic. Older people just support Georgia because they always see Russia as the agressor. That may be very well the case most of the times in history, but it's still foolish to have this obsessive irrational attitude.

The fact is that ties with the old soviets are cut and it's only a matter of time when the new generation makes its way to the politics. When that happens we will see the real Eestimaa, the forgotten northern people of Europe, who we have always been, for the last ~10k years. The neutral, kind of cold but still friendly, usually minding their own business, but always desperately worried about their image in the world...

Although Estonians will never forget the soviet era - and by all means they shouldn't -, it's still time to forgive and move on. There's more important things to think about. But if needed, the revenge should come through becoming a very smart, great and rich country.

We have had many intruders and even the genes show a significant change: not so many Estonians are blondes with blue eyes anymore, which used to be the common thing just couple of hundred years ago. It means we're not exactly the perfect candidate for Northern Council anymore, because we've been forced to transform to something a bit less "northern". Not so pure, so to speak.

I like the idea of Baltic region co-working, like on the Hanseatic times. It could really be the new "cool" thing in the world, like Scandinavian countries are at the moment.

It's time for Estonia to show its own unique northern style image with a murumüts covering the head and also hopefully somehow fit (integrate) the small Russian backpack on as well.

There's no point in trying to fit in with other northern countries, if we're not welcomed and I'm not sure we even are so northern anymore. Finland got into the Northern Council and they fit well, but Estonia has changed. Estonia is still northern, but it has it's own unique twist to it, doesn't it? Russian genes have really added some spice to Estonia. Compare us to Finnish people for example? Yeah it's a major generalization, but I know many Estonians find Helsinki quite boring. We speak almost the same language, but Estonian history has really shaped us differently.

It's getting very off-topic here, sorry about that, but I do wonder how northern Estonia is exactly? There are 2 sides, one supports Georgia, other Iceland. The future lies with the ladder group, but is it enough to count us enough "northern" in the future, to maybe get into the N-Council? To be thought as Northern, rather than Eastern Europe?

peedu ütles ...

And by "ladder" I mean of course "latter". :) Although one could probably find some weird metaphor in it about generation who still climbs up in life...

Inner monologue ütles ...

10 points Peedu.

I wish too that Estonians pipe down on that Georgia love.

Our enemy's enemy does not have to be our friend.

Besides, with a friend like Georgia you need no enemies.

Giustino ütles ...

I know most of the under 30 year old Estonians would much rather prefer to save the old lonely iceberg in the N-Atlantic.

When I look at Geir Haarde, I think that he could be an Estonian.

peedu ütles ...

When I listen to Sigur Ros, Múm or even Björk, I think they could be Estonian.

We have very similar music here, like Cloudspeak (http://www.cloudspeak.ee/cloudspeak-p2ike_ja_j22.mp3), Ragatmika (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOCwMAf3Cq0) Opium Flirt, Mantra Gora, Indigolapsed, Frou Frou, etc.

If anybody is even slightly interested, I'd seriously recommend to listen to those first two songs. Really icy, northern, kind of aurora borealis type of underground music.

Rein Batuut ütles ...

First - the Georgian crisis took place at a time of relative (financial) stability, while the Icelandic crisis was caused by something the whole world is now suffering of.
Second - politics is about interests and benefit. For Estonia the relative benefit of supporting Georgia is greater than that of supporting Iceland. Of course, European integrity etc, but Estonia's main interests asides the common European values lie within national security, which has a lot more to do with Georgia than Iceland.

Giustino ütles ...

If you take a long-term view, given the current situation, Estonia is going to become a lot more like Iceland than Georgia in the future. Iceland has been a NATO member since 1949. It's played the role of the intermediary before: it hosted the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit; it recognized Estonia first in 1991 -- because it could.

Small countries have that flexibility. You'll note that the most recent NATO meeting on Ukraine took place in Tallinn -- not Berlin or Paris or Rome or Warsaw.

With regards to Georgia, Estonia lacks a truly independent foreign policy. Indeed, it is in a difficult place to ever say no to any other former Soviet republic that wishes to reform or integrate with the West.

Estonia itself feels that it has no right to say no to a country that wishes to join the alliance, just as some said no to Estonia at first. That would be hypocrisy, and the Estonian elite believes in principles over all other considerations.

So Estonia is not acting with the luxury of France or Germany, who can say no or yes and mean it. If Estonia is asked something of Georgia, Estonia will probably say yes.

Estonia also has been playing the game for a relatively short period of time. It's elite assumes that Georgia and Ukraine must follow the same exact path it did, of MAP, then invitation, the accession. But MAP has only existed for a decade, and NATO has existed for six decades. So maybe the alliance needs to adjust itself to remain influential.

What? Adjust itself? Why, that's appeasement. Some might think this way. But the reason the West has been inherently stronger than other alliances is because it is fluid and it has the ability to adjust.

Think about the current situation. Saakashvili is a political corpse, according to The Economist at least, yet there is no mechanism underway to replace him. Ukraine is stuck in a three-way power struggle with never ending political crises. The Georgians and their elite are said to want NATO membership; the Ukrainians are said to not want it, but sections of their elite do.

The best course is to keep the door open but engage in other softer ways. I mean, what do we want for these countries? That they would have healthy democracies, market economies, and a rising living standard. Isn't that what they themselves want? Instead of the symbolic nature of MAP, shouldn't the West be focusing more on these goals?

Anna ütles ...

Peedu, can I vote for you in the next elections? :)

Inner monologue ütles ...

You can. Except, instead of Peedu you voted for you are going to get Savisaar or some other nasty fart you were trying to get rid of.

Libe ütles ...

[Excerpt from rough draught of Eddie Savisaar's forthcoming memoirs, Savisaar! This Is My Life, That Is My Sandwich! Translated from Russian to King's English by Siret Kotlet.

[The following is from Chapter 32: "Neighbours"]

Oftentimes my thoughts stray to considerations of friendship. Who is your true friend? Who can you trust? Is it possible to ever truly know someone? How can you ever be sure that your neighbor is not going to have sexual relations with your wife and steal your documents for blackmail purposes? These are the age old questions by which all great civilisations have flourished or foundered.

In January 1991 I discussed these issues in depth with my old friend Dmitrii [Yazov]. Dmitrii was a believer in persuasion. He finished his glass of vodka and swallowed his sausage and said: "Tovarish! Your neighbours and my neighbours are all neighbours in this democracy. But still your neighbours do not believe in fighting for our cause. Must I dispatch a pressgang to your neighbourhood in order to persuade your neighbours that we are your neighbours also?"

I did not have a good answer. But the food was excellent. Seljanka as rose coloured as Siim's arse after a towel slap in the sauna. Fish and sausages. Large portions. I convinced Dmitrii that we were neighbours in good standing but we had to resolve these constitutional crises beforehand. The renegades of the so called Citizens Committees had narrow ideas of what a neighbourhood was.

One time I went on a retreat to Lake Baikal with some neighbours. Fine men all of them. We became lost in the woods and ran out of food. My ideas of neighbourhood were challenged and I killed three men and ate them. I survived. A чукча spirit guide who was dressed as a man-wolf assured me that this was an important part of my transformation into a great man. The чукча smashed me on the head with a tree branch and when I awoke I was in a brothel near Irkutsk. The telephone sounded and it was a Gosplan comrade. I spoke to the man on the phone: "I have important news my friend! I have a plan."

Sometimes though our best plans fall apart. I had one neighbour who turned against me by inviting that fucker Vapper to a party. Vapper was flogging those pictures of me in some ironic spirit. That was a bad week. During intimate moments with Vilja I heard not the satisfying creaking of strained floorboards or her passionate efforts to catch her breath but only the sound of her laughter. She said in my ear: "Our home would look so lovely as every home if we had a picture of you." It was a stupid thing to say since my pictures were already adorning all walls of our home. But her motive was to plot against me with that retrograde fuck Vapper. As I sat in my bath I made a plan to smash Vapper in the head and eat him alive. What would a neighbours flesh taste like? These questions sometimes float into my head.

I stalked Vapper for the next three days. I took unflattering pictures of his bald spots and posted these pictures in the gentlemen's and ladies' WC's. On the third day Veiko came to me and said: "Have you heard about Vapper? He has an obsession with hair plugs!" This news made my heart sing. But I do confess to still having thoughts about eating Vapper and other neighbours.