neljapäev, september 16, 2010

the best offense

An interesting opinion piece by the central and eastern Europe correspondent of The Economist. According to the writer, security in the Baltic region has actually increased more under US President Barack Obama's administration than it did under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Still, there is the perception about some leaders in the region that Obama's "reset" policy with Russia has lessened the importance of Baltic issues in transatlantic relations. Being a Democrat, the Obama administration has been portrayed as soft by critics on the right since before he was even sworn into office. John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, and others have consistently drawn a parallel between Obama and former President Jimmy Carter, for instance, who is generally not recalled for his adroitness in international relations.

The "Democrats are weak on national security" talking point can be traced back at least to the 1950s, when Eisenhower lieutenants, like then vice president Richard Nixon, attacked their Democratic opponents as being soft on Communism, and security in general. It has been trotted out in every election since then (and will be again in 2012). An argument could be made that conservative lawmakers, the allies of the US right in the Baltic region, have similar prejudices against Democrats today. They recall fondly the Reagan administration, though there is less nostalgia for the George H. W. Bush administration.

As an American who lives in Estonia, I often wonder exactly how US interests, European security, and local political issues will balance out. From my American perspective, I think it is obvious that the United States cannot completely dictate the Estonian-Russian relationship to Moscow. In some big ways, it does, by pledging to defend a Europe "whole and free." But, remember that twice in the 20th century, American soldiers were dispatched to die in European wars. It is in the US' interests to prevent that from ever happening again.

When it comes to the minutiae of the relationship, it is up to the Estonians to make their warm peace with the Russians. The US maintains its policy on the Baltic region, but that does not in every case correspond to reciprocal moves by the Russians. In other words, looking to Washington to solve your problems is a false hope. Don't expect Hillary Clinton to bring back Päts' regalia.

Obama has also been criticized for dabbling in realism. The embrace of realism by US geopolitical thinkers could be seen as a threat to Estonian foreign policy, which is tied up in the idealism of international organizations: the European Union, the OECD, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and so on. Being a small state, Estonia has attempted various international positions (neutrality was one), but has recently settled into a combination of the two main IR schools: joining and working within organizations to its benefit when the opportunity arrises, attending Russian May 9 celebrations when invited.

What intrigues me about the piece in European Voice is the extent to which northern European security is obscured. It mentions Russia's Ladoga 2009 military exercises. It neglects to mention that Lake Ladoga is closer to Finland than it is to Estonia, and was the scene of multiple military conflicts that involved Finland (and before it, Sweden). Yet somehow, Finland manages to exist in a mental gray area for both Western and Russian geopolitical thinkers. The fact that one could even mention a Ladoga military exercise and draw implications for, say, Estonian security and not Finnish security, given the history of the region, exemplifies this mind trick. It's almost as if the Finns have developed some kind of invisible force field that protects them from future "what if" scenarios. The only question, is if Helsinki is willing to sell its secret defense machinery to Tallinn.

64 kommentaari:

lohekala ütles ...

I think what the author is missing here is
a) Estonia might have all the goodwill in the world towards Russia, but Russia considers itself a big and important country (which it kind-of in reality is), that shouldn't have normal bilateral relationships with small states (which is arrogance at best and "imperialist" in the jargon of past times)
b) Finland has, much by luck and thanks to considerable efforts during WWII, ahieved a status of a "friendly western" state for Russian foreign politics, which was needed throughout the Cold War and which is still kept alive by efforts from both sides (how many times have Halonen and Putin met?). But that does not mean that the Finnish case is replicable, too much is dependent on the necessary amount of goodwill on both sides (see point a above).

Giustino ütles ...

Tarja Halonen is a 66-year-old Social Democrat. I would consider Edgar Savisaar (age 60) her political contemporary. This is a generation that came of political age in the 1970s. Their world view is not going to change. I would imagine an Estonia under Savisaar would have a similar relationship with Russia as a Finland under Halonen.

suicidaalnemees ütles ...

Estonia can't by or use Finish recipe for handling Russia. Fins have 2 defeats in their back-pocket and armed-to-teeth nation who's grandfathers bring trophies back from killed "ryssas". Seems that only thing that makes Russia to listen and act as adult is mental willpower to use lethal force. Finns have this. Former states of USSR doesn't, otherwise they never had been part of USSR.

Giustino ütles ...

I am not sure how long the current Finnish-Russian relationship will last though. Like you mentioned, Halonen has met with Putin many times, but only Halonen. And Savisaar has been back and forth to Moscow too. Boris Gryzlov called him his "best friend" in a political advertisement. That's pretty typical. Most of Europe's left-leaning parties have cosier ties with the rulers in Moscow. One Gerhard Schröder comes to mind.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, Finland is obviously slowly edging towards Nato membership - after Halonen retires I guess we'll end up joining. And that should change the tone in the Kremlin quite a bit. I have to confess that I'm rather content with the present situation with being outside Nato but continously on the verge of applying. That would keep Moscow on its toes and wouldn't really compromise our close and intimate relationship with the North Atlantic community.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

The North. Norway is a Nato member. And the losses in Afghanistan are 9, Estonia 8.
But half of the Norwegians are reluctent to join the EU. Finland has a problem with Nato but EU membership and Euro, no problem.
And Sweden in the middle.
They are all in a comfortable situation to do so.
Rather peaceful times. For now.

Giustino ütles ...

I am not sure on what basis "threats" are assessed. Every time there has been war in the Baltic region, though, it has been painful, and affected all nations ... In the Great Northern War, the First World War, the Second World War, Estonia was just one small piece of a much larger theater. That's why the glaring absence of say, Finland, in the discussion of northern European security infrastructure bugs me ...

Temesta ütles ...

I am not sure on what basis "threats" are assessed. Every time there has been war in the Baltic region, though, it has been painful, and affected all nations ... In the Great Northern War, the First World War, the Second World War, Estonia was just one small piece of a much larger theater. That's why the glaring absence of say, Finland, in the discussion of northern European security infrastructure bugs me ...

Maybe because the Finnish themselves don't experience Russia anymore as such a big threat? Politicians from Estonia regularly express their feelings of insecurity and need for a decent defense strategy while I cannot remember hearing such voices from Finland (at least not in English language media). And as far as I can tell Russian attitudes towards Finland and Estonia are very different.

Giustino ütles ...

Finnish lawmakers routinely criticize the Kremlin. Was it not Heidi Hautala who was in Moscow in August when Boris Nemtsov's rally was broken up and he was arrested? She's been pretty critical of Moscow. The Russians just prefer to ignore Finns like her in favor of their "pragmatic" partners, like Paavo Lipponen.

I think the Russians don't see Estonia too differently in this regard. They have their agenda: building of Nord Stream, ending NATO expansion, and participating in some kind of global competition with the US, against which they foolishly continue to measure their country.

In all of those three categories, the current Estonian leadership is an obstacle. They use their levers (divisive historical arguments, Russian minority questions, gray sanctions) to try and get a friendly government in power. They basically support Edgar Savisaar's candidacy for prime minister with the hope that he will be a more suitable partner for their agenda.

My main critique/argument here is not that Estonia mimic Finnish policies. It is that when discussing northern European security, the roles/contributions from Sweden and Finland, two of the largest countries in Europe, should be clarified.

Temesta ütles ...

I think the Russians don't see Estonia too differently in this regard.

Don't you think that the very different relations between Russia and Estonia on the one side and Russia and Finland on the other side since the Second World War, and the different way in which Finnish and Estonian leaders approach Russia (Nordstream for example) have an impact on the way Russia nowadays sees these countries?

They have their agenda: building of Nord Stream, ending NATO expansion, and participating in some kind of global competition with the US, against which they foolishly continue to measure their country.

Is it not more some kind of regional ambition to regain influence in the countries that once made up the Soviet Union (which allthough blameworthy doesn't seem foolish to me)?


When speaking with Estonians about the subject, I have the impression that they see Russia as a continuous serious threat to their national security. Do the Finns have similar feelings about Russia?


My main critique/argument here is not that Estonia mimic Finnish policies. It is that when discussing northern European security, the roles/contributions from Sweden and Finland, two of the largest countries in Europe, should be clarified.

Do you mean that Finland and Sweden
should be more aware of the threat that Russia poses for their national security or that they should think more about their role in case of a serious conflict between Russia and Estonia?

Giustino ütles ...

Don't you think that the very different relations between Russia and Estonia on the one side and Russia and Finland on the other side since the Second World War, and the different way in which Finnish and Estonian leaders approach Russia (Nordstream for example) have an impact on the way Russia nowadays sees these countries?

It's good to compare Finland and Estonia in this regard, because Russia's policies towards Estonia are flawed for reasons that do not affect its policies towards Finland.

One: Russian policy makers confuse their own domestic relationship with Federation minorities with their relationship with the "titular" nations of countries that were once under Soviet control. That is, they do not conceive of the Estonians as a nationality, like the Finns, but as more of an ethnic group, like the Yupik or Chechens or Udmurts.

In their relationship with the Estonians, they unfortunately fall prey to the "civilizer/aboriginal" discourse that frames their internal majority-majority relationship. Therefore, how could Russians really "occupy" Estonia? They built roads and harbors and big apartment buildings, they developed it, they brought "civilization"! To conceive of Estonians as a nationality, an equal civilization, would be anathema to their self-given national role as civilizer.

It really caused some problems when they saw Estonia in NATO or the EU. That could mean one of two things: a) Estonians really are a European nationality and equals to Finns, Germans, Swedes or b) it's just some cynical Western plot designed to weaken Russia. Most of us here would choose A. Some Russians (at least) have decidedly settled on B.

Two: On par with this, Russian policy makers fail to see that Estonia is a democracy, unlike most post Soviet countries. They are used to dealing with gentlemen like Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan or Aleksandr Lukasheka in Belarus. They want so badly for Edgar Savisaar to be their man in Tallinn, and he's willing to take the job, but even if you gave every Russian in Estonia a passport, Savisaar still wouldn't be able to muster enough votes to run parliament alone. He needs to form a coalition. The Russians here would be better off tacking closer to their Finnish policy: supporting multiple parties that could form a "friendly coalition." But they still have the post-Soviet wool over their eyes in this regard. They would have to admit that Estonia is a democracy with traditions of self rule that go back to 1918, which is something that would prefer to ignore.

Is it not more some kind of regional ambition to regain influence in the countries that once made up the Soviet Union (which allthough blameworthy doesn't seem foolish to me)?

Right, they spent blood and treasure to assemble the first empire, which was battered by recurring uprisings and unrest until it fell apart in 1917, then was reassembled with blood and treasure in the 1920s through the 1940s, only to fall spectacularly apart in the 1990s. And these guys want to try and hold something like that together again? Playing chess on the "former Soviet" map is just going to drain more of Russia's resources.

Giustino ütles ...

Do you mean that Finland and Sweden should be more aware of the threat that Russia poses for their national security or that they should think more about their role in case of a serious conflict between Russia and Estonia?

I am sure they are aware of the threat, but Estonia is a tiny piece of real estate. Read your history, most wars in the Baltic have tended to be multinational conflagrations involving multiple sides. Even if Sweden and Finland were not directly involved, which is unlikely given the history, they would still have to absorb boatloads of refugees, take significant hits on their economies (what would happen to Swedbank's Baltic holdings, for example?). My question is, in what way do those two countries contribute to maintaining peace in northern Europe? They have armies and navies and air forces. They have defense plans. I have read that the forward defense plan of Sweden against Russian aggression involves the Swedish occupation of Estonia. See, that's the kind of stuff I want to read about when we are discussing "what if" scenarios.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Justin says:
*I have read that the forward defense plan of Sweden against Russian aggression involves the Swedish occupation of Estonia. See, that's the kind of stuff I want to read about when we are discussing "what if" scenarios.

This would be mine as well since you currently live with a
Behemoth Bear in your Backyard

Markku ütles ...

My question is, in what way do those two countries contribute to maintaining peace in northern Europe? They have armies and navies and air forces. They have defense plans.

Maybe one year ago there was talk among the Nordic countries to assume responsibility of patrolling the Icelandic skies. Finns opted out swiftly. Firstly, it is Nato's job, since Iceland is a member. Secondly, would Finland like to risk a conflict with Russia after forcing a naughty Tupolev 95 to land in Keflavik? No way. Russia would sooner or later probe the strength of Finnish resolve. Georgian war showed Russia sees through Western B.S. and is ready and able to act.

Right or wrong, Finns think in WW2 they were left alone by Western countries to protect Western values. It was a 'never again'-moment. So, for as long as Finland is not a Nato member, it is going to do absolutely nothing to risk a war with Russia. Not even for our dearest cousin, Estonia.

Finnish contribution to the security of Northern Europe is maintaining good relationship with all her neighbors (including and especially Russia), plus some minor Nato pfp stuff.

Sweden has more degrees of freedom in her relationship with Russia, because of geography (Finland as a buffer state), size, history etc. However, considering how much Sweden has decreased the strength of their military, there is a reason to be skeptical about them sending any sizable military force in defence of the Baltics.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, I wouldn't advice anyone to hold their breaths while waiting for Swedish military assistance... Anyway, Finland is slowly aiming for Nato membership but the political elite is hoping against hope that this won't disrupt our rather placid relationship with Russia. I'm not personally overly fond of this resolute policy of westward drift, but I have to confess that there doesn't seem to be many good alternatives left. Finland has also had periods of fruitful co-operation with Russia which is a very marked difference in comparison with Estonia (or even Sweden). So, at least technically there is always the possibility of a sensible compromise with Russia.

moevenort ütles ...

sometimes I really ask myself, what German people like me perceive as worse: the authoritarian dictatorship style political system in Russia that refuses one group of human rights for its citizen (political rights) and beats up innocent people and works with mafia structures / or the postdemocratic-neoliberal politcial in countries like Estonia that refuse another group of human rights to its citizen ( social rights) ,has e.g. the highest HIV rate north of Africa among its population and understands democracy as a PR business for some elite group as well. it is how it is described in the UN Human rights declaration: one cannot divide human rights, political rights and social rights are important. so in that sense: none of these systems is democratic for me. neither Russia nor Estonia. they both have too much deficits concerning political and social rights.

Martasmimi ütles ...

moevenort ütles...
*(Estonia) has e.g. the highest HIV rate north of Africa among its population.


Is this true?

moevenort ütles ...

the point with the Estonaian HIV rate was some years ago even a story for an big article in old, well regarded and conservative German newspaper, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung". if you understand the German language, here is the link:

http://www.faz.net/s/RubCD175863466D41BB9A6A93D460B81174/Doc~E8C5ACC0425ED47AAB87FB65098A7C5E9~ATpl~Ecommon~Sspezial.html

just for comparison: in 2005 out of 1 Mio people in Estonia 568 people were infected with HIV. indeed the highest rate north of Africa. At the same time, in Russia there have been 238 out of 1 Mio people infected, in Germany just 24.

moevenort ütles ...

I`m sorry, thze link was broken. here is the correct one:

http://www.faz.net/s/RubCD175863466D41BB9A6A93D460B81174/Doc~E8C5ACC0425ED47AAB87FB65098A7C5E9~ATpl~Ecommon~Sspezial~Afor~Eprint.html

Temesta ütles ...

North of Africa, only Ukraine has a higher prevalence rate:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2155rank.html?countryName=Ukraine&countryCode=up&regionCode=eu&rank=39#up

Anyway, Estonian data are quite bad compared with other non-Third World countries.

Markku ütles ...

The recent piece of news about Germany all but ending their conscript army should ring alarm bells in Tallinn. German Bundeswehr is supposedly the backbone of East European defence, and now it will embrace the European way by becoming all talk, no muscles.

Towards 2014, Germany will cut about 9 billion euros from its defence budget and cut the amount of professional soldiers by 40,000. Germany will be able to send soldiers to places like Afghanistan, but she won't be able to resist an armored assault or send a sizable fighting force to the Baltics, Poland etc. on a short notice.

IMO, what this means for Estonia is:
1. they badly need a better relationship with Russia. However, Russia does not need this. So the negotiation field is not level, and Estonians perhaps need to make compromises and accept some things that hurt their national pride. At any rate, Estonian political rhetoric towards Russia should become more conciliatory.

2. when the economy picks up again, Estonia needs to beef up her military, counting less on Nato's capability to help. It could mean acquiring a bit heavier military equipment that it currently has, but with careful cost/benefit analysis.

The benefit of joining the Nato for countries like Finland and Sweden just got less, so getting help from them is even less probable than before. The countries bordering Russia do not need a toothless military alliance, because Russia does not respect that.

moevenort ütles ...

@ Markku: what kind of thinking is this? In my opinion cold war rhetorics is somehow out of date. Take an example of countries like Dänmark, Sweden or if you wish Germany as well.instead of playing cold war still, make your country more democratic, deal with your social issues and all the deficits you really have. Because in all those fields Estonia is much more similar to Russia than you might think. I would guess dealing with problems with the high number of poverty or the HIV rate in your country is in each case much more important than any military sand games. this is just stupid.

suicidaalnemees ütles ...

Markku's logic is pretty straightforward. "Old Europe" is downsizing their forces to size there they can't handle control over their own territory. Sweden is good sample, all their shit-hits-fan plans are counting on Finland as buffer. Finland politics talk nice to east, but their military forces are training heavily to deal with ex-soviet forces. Ex-soviets are very well aware of that and based on their respect for power, they treat Finland nicely.

Germany on other hand can relay on Poland and Czech Republic to take the hitting. So, they have no need to spend on their own security. Central Europe dosn't like to remember how bitter was taste to be freed by soviets and how costly it was on long run.

moevenort ütles ...

aha. no wonder that Estonia is in such shitty conditions concerning state of democracy and respecting social rights. I mean, if you spent there the whole day with cold war rhetorics. Try to deal with these SS criminals guys first, who celebrate in your country each summer. (and I mean not just the old ones) Even Israel is pissed of because those developments in your country now. if I can´t hear something it is this " old europe" blaba. you really sound like some ancient place where development has somehow stoped. In contrast to Estonia, "old europe has a working social system and not so much democratic deficits. It´s as I said once hear: planets are seperating your kind of thinking from western europe. Do you really thing we are making war games here cause if expecting russians in front of our door? just for rememberance: the only time we had russians in front of our door was because our nazis started a terrible war. cause and consequence. please don´t be so silly to expects, that German Bundeswehr or anyone else would start a war against Russia just because of the provocations and war games countries like Estonia like to play. Estonia is not more democratic as Russia itself in some sense. Do you really expect anyone here would endanger peace because of some crazy neoliberal and provocative freaks likes Mart Laar or Andrus Ansip? come on, I mean in your counry there are even running around freaks who have sent volonteers to Sakaschwili in Georgia. And Skaschwili is indeed the same kind of undemocratic freak like Putin itself.

hullu poro ütles ...

'Try to deal with these SS criminals guys first' (moevenort)
Let's see you do it first. To quote Wiki 'By late 1957, there were only four war criminals held in prison in West Germany.'
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Sandberger#Death_sentence_and_reprieve )
Sandberger only died last March. Were you calling for his indictment at the time? Why not?

moevenort ütles ...

@ hulu poro:

by contrast to Estonia enough SS criminals came in front of German courtss. At the moment we are dealing in Munich with Denjanuk, in cooperation with US authorities who have taken away his US citizenship and have sent this murder to us after his East European home country was unwilling to make him the process. By the way: the Auschwitz trials against responsable SS guards and high ranking offical already took place in West Germany in the 1960s. apart from many other trials in West- and East Germany in the last decades. As far as I remember, no local SS criminal ever was made a process in Estonia. no wonder in a country were those people are regarded as heroes.

but apart from that: this was not the topic.I just mention it in order to bring to terms your falsification of history.

Giustino ütles ...

Wow, Sandberger only died this year? Peacefully in Stuttgart at the age of 98? So much for karma.

Giustino ütles ...

The Second World War has seriously handicapped the ability of some to think critically, in Estonia, the US, in Russia, in Germany -- everywhere. It has assumed a mythological, quasi-religious quality. It is disturbing to see the impact it has had on some of these "religious fanatics."

moevenort ütles ...

well, the SS aspect was just a side aspect. I mentioned a lot of the current social and democratic problems Estonia is facing ( a practical non-existing social net, HIV, poverty, unemployment, a slavish political culture in which protest or disagreement is not seen as enrichment but as dangerous, a politcial system which is reduced to PR instead of real discussion and so on) - Although the non-ability to deal with old and new nazis or the continuation of playing cold war games are of course a current democratic deficits as well.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Yawn, moevenort. Go, get a life, a falling starre, anything. This paranoid estophobia has ceased to be amusing ages ago.

suicidaalnemees ütles ...

Moevenort. Soviets cleared any nazi or nazi-look-a-likes from here years ago. We have left only soviet killers, who we cant prisoned because left-winged screams are going to blow ears off.

Neo-nazis are at moment everywhere in Europe, but I can't say they have more present in Estonia then, let say in Sweden. Hate, based on whatever, is not a answer to anything.

BTW what you mean by non-existing social net? You can get help from local goverments and there is programs any money from central goverment. Your personal social network is your personal thing and yes Estonia dosn't have state-workers who seek not-so-well-socially-netted people and force them to use goverment help. We are really sorry about that.

moevenort ütles ...

@ suicidaalnemees: Of whom are you talking as communist criminals? former Komsomolz secretary Andrus Ansip may be, who organized the beating down of protesting students in the 1980s?

Markku ütles ...

@ Markku: what kind of thinking is this? In my opinion cold war rhetorics is somehow out of date. ... make your country more democratic, deal with your social issues and all the deficits you really have. ...

My country is not Estonia, but Finland. I was analyzing the situation from that angle.

The countries bordering Russia, especially the ex-Soviet satellites like Estonia or Poland have security needs. Those needs can be met by a military alliance, which has enough 'hard' credibility. East European countries do not have much of that as of yet, so they have to rely on stronger Nato partners.

Since those stronger Nato partners - countries like Germany - are downsizing their military, who (besides the USA) has the power to protect Estonia, Poland etc? Nobody, it seems to me, and that has implications to Estonia's foreign and defense policy.

I'd say 90% of the cold war rhetoric comes from Russia. Russia still openly considers Nato as their enemy, even though e.g. the French supply them modern amphibious landing ships. The cause of this hostile attitude is in outdated Russian thinking. They consider some of their neighbors as "near abroad", Russian backyard where they should have some extra influence. That may hopefully change in the future, but for as long as it prevails, European Nato members should not lay down their weapons.

Meelis ütles ...

"Andrus Ansip may be, who organized the beating down of protesting students in the 1980s?"
This is slander. Ansip did not organize this.

Asehpe ütles ...

Oh, don't worry about moevenort. He keeps repeating the same old things (SS guys... bad Estonians... no political culture... different oppinions persecuted) against all evidence.

From where I stand, it seems Estonia shares the history of small countries everywhere, i.e. you get run over every time your more powerful neighbors decide to 'see the world.' The only counterbalance for that is either find some terrible secret weapon that everybody fears, or then make alliances. Estonia is following the latter, Finland sort of did the former (the Russian near-defeat in the Winter War clearly had an impact). Whether or not either will work in the long run depends on the internal political evolution of Russia, and on whether it will insist on seeing NATO and the West as 'the enemy' and 'the standard to measure yourself against (stress on against).

Rainer ütles ...

It's not that I would want to bring up moevenort, but doesn't he sound an awful lot like Karl Heinz Gräfe, an incompetent (East) German "historian" whom this article is about:
http://news.err.ee/culture/1c0f450d-23a7-4ab8-b353-4718120e5299

Giustino ütles ...

Actually, I have read that Finland was the more uncompromising in 1940. That the Finns tried to round up Baltic resistance to the Soviet demands, but were rebuffed because everyone wanted to make his deal with Stalin. We all know how that turned out.

What frustrated me is the assumptions, which are predicated on Cold War and Second World War mythology. Like there is an assumption that there is less of a threat of conflict between Finland and Russia than between Estonia and Russia. Why exactly? Historically, there have been *many* conflicts that involved Sweden (and later Finland) and Russia. But we have been lulled into assuming that it will never happen again, just as we aren't waiting for the Germans to march on Paris or begin bombing London from the skies, or the Italians to occupy Albania. We *assume* it won't happen again.

At the same time, we *assume* that Russia may attempt a reconquest of its former Baltic provinces. Why? Because it accepted their independence in 1920 but took it back in 1940? But in 1940, most of Europe was occupied by either the German Reich or the Soviet Union. Finland was at war with Russia. So how is this compelling logic? Or is it because Putin was once translated as saying something like that "for Russians the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th Century"? From this soundbite, we are able to extrapolate the "knowledge" that Russia is planning another long and costly occupation of Eastern Europe?

And why do we always paint ourselves into the corner of the victim? Russia is *weaker* than the West, and yet the West dwells on the bogeyman of what *Russia might do.* Turn it around. What might an empowered West do to Russia? Slice it and dice it? An independent "city state" of St. Petersburg that comes under European Union mandate? One can think of all sorts of fanciful things. All you have to do is lean the assumptions the other way. I mean, Western powers have invaded Russia before, several times, with about as long-lasting an impact as Russia's attempt to hold onto an empire in its West. Think about it.

Temesta ütles ...

What frustrated me is the assumptions, which are predicated on Cold War and Second World War mythology. Like there is an assumption that there is less of a threat of conflict between Finland and Russia than between Estonia and Russia. Why exactly? Historically, there have been *many* conflicts that involved Sweden (and later Finland) and Russia. But we have been lulled into assuming that it will never happen again, just as we aren't waiting for the Germans to march on Paris or begin bombing London from the skies, or the Italians to occupy Albania. We *assume* it won't happen again.

You are right, but looking at present relations between Finland and Russia, and Estonia and Russia, it's clear that the latter are more problematic, so isn't it justified to conclude that at the present moment a conflict between Estonia and Russia is more likely than one between Finland and Russia? (Actually I think that both are quite unlikely.)
Offcourse these relations can evolve differently in the future, as they did in the past.

Lingüista ütles ...

Giustino, I think Temesta above is right. The question is not "why isn't anybody worried about a war between Russia and Finalnd", but what exactly is the current situation? In the long run, anything -- say, a war between Saudi Arabia and China? -- is "possible". But in the short run?

The reason why Baltic-Russian relations seem more pessism-prone is simply that it doesn't come down to 60 years ago -- the Winter War and WWII -- but to only 20 years ago, when the Baltic States were still part of the Soviet Union. It's more recent.

During and after the Winter War, Soviet propaganda raged about "Finno-Ugric Conspiracies" which led to the extermination of the intelligentsia of many a Finno-Ugric people in the Soviet Union -- the Mari, the Erzya, the Moksha, the Udmurt, the Komi, they've all felt the result of Russia's "anti-Finno-Ugrism" as a result of Stalin's anger at Finland and its supposed "ambitions" (Finland did throw some wood into the fire though; see the Continuation War).

But now, after decades of "cooperation", who in Russia fears Finland? Whereas Estonia, Latvia, Lithuana -- these are the guys who slapped Russia on the face and denied their 'civilizing' role (as you put it) just two decades ago. Do you see the difference here?

Another example: Germany was "The Great Enemy" during the Great Patriotic War. Yet now Germany looks like a relatively trustworthy partner, full of Schröderoid supporters. What a difference 60 years make!

So, it is no surprise to see that Russia itself considers Baltic-Russian relations as much more of an irritant than anything Finland might represent. In the long run, anything is possible; but in the short run, where should we expect problems? Things would have to change dramatically in Helsinki for the answer to be "Finland."

Also, consider your scenario: the West is more powerful than Russia, so why aren't we talking about what the West could do to Russia instead? Well, because clearly the West is not interested. "The West is stronger" here basically means the United States (it may be that a NATO sans US would still be a formidable enemy, but I won't hold my breath...). I can't imagine any scenario other than a full-scale Russian invasion that would lead to a "St.Petersburg City State". The West (= US) are simply not interested in flexing its muscles here (there's the Islamofascist threat keeping things busy in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran -- I'm sure Putin is very thankful for that); if they were, they would have reacted much more firmly during the Georgian war. Hell, Saakashvili counted on that, and he was disappointed.

So, Giustino, all in all, it seems that if you want to think about the more likely military threats, it is indeed "what could Russia do to the Balts". This is very likely -- there are very few scenarios in which doing anything other than ranting and raving would actually be advantageous for the Russians --
but the other alternative (what could the West do to Russia if it got angry) is even less likely, by a big difference.

Lingüista ütles ...

At the end of the last paragraph, I meant to say "this is very UNlikely" of course (i.e. that Russia will actually do anything military against the Balts). Ah, the pleasure of writing quickly.

Joshua ütles ...

"Oh, don't worry about moevenort. He keeps repeating the same old things (SS guys... bad Estonians... no political culture... different oppinions persecuted) against all evidence."

Umm... the evidence is right there if you live in Estonia. One just has take time off to observe how estonian people act and talk about other estonian people, and it's pretty obvious.

Hell, just watch Veiko Õunapuu's films and you'll see references to the same issues moe is talking about.

Estonia is very classist society, with all the arrogance and hostility to those who are weaker that comes with it. And most people are blinded to this by the loud rhetoric of eternal war and old-school nationalism.

Joshua ütles ...

Then again, if you watch Ken Loach films so is England. :D Not to mention the similarity of chavs with working class estonians. Comparative study would be interesting. Wonder if there are any doctoral dissertations on that.

Mart ütles ...

What evidence are you talking about, Joshua? You didn't certainly present any in your post.

I don't really see how anyone could agree with moevenort - anything he brings to the discussion is drowned out by his aggressive use of talking points that seem to be scribed straight from regnum.ru.

The comparison with Russia is the most bizarre. Every assessment of civil and political liberties, corruption, public security etc by international organizations gives Estonia very high marks, while Russia is more on par with sub-Saharan Africa.

The part about SS veterans was more understandable, but I think it has been stated to him before that Estonian conscripts were acquitted in Nuremberg and he simply chooses to ignore it.

moevenort ütles ...

@Mart: ok, listen to me: I think I made suffitiently clear, that I am not a supporter of the corrupt and authoritarian political system in Russia.

But at the same time, I am also very critical about the current political situation in countries like Estonia. The political system in Estonia neither respects social rights of the population nor does it give the people any possibility of democratic participation. May be this is new for you, but democracy for many people ( at least in western Europe) means more than more or less formal elections each four or five years. It means transparancy, participation and forms of discussion which are worth the name. this means discussion about different ways for society, in economic terms, social terms and other aspects. not just parroting one and only ideology each day again.

A political system which sees democracy reduced to some more PR-dominated election campaigns each four years, is not worth the name. Its not a democracy, its not even a a bad copy. One can may call it "postdemocracy". this is the correct term political scientists invented for such a system.

The Ansip government has created a perfect example for such a system. There are good in one thing only: PR. to sell the people the ilusion, that everything is fine and that every alternative would end up in communism.
It´s like george Orwell has written once about PR and propaganda: you can tell a lie. But if you constantly repeat the same lie again and again, people will somewhen think it is the truth. this is the situation in Estonia. This, mixed with this retro style of old fashined nationalism, xenofobia, cold war rhetorics and the inability to look beyond the own borders.

It is more or less the result of 20 years neoliberal brainwashing, where many ( not all) citizens have just not learned what it means to think for yourself and not believe in media- bubbles and phrases. Unfortunately it is probably also the heritage of the kind of political culture that developed in 60 years of communist rule. But to blame the communists alone, would be unsufficient. The responsibilty of people like Ansip or Mart Laars is as big. Because they have forced the continuation of that kind of thinking. just with a different ideology which is as undemocratic as the one before.


and now, read my words carfefully, use your brain for thinking instead of propaganda phrases, and then you will (may be) get a slight touch of what I mean. good luck with that!

moevenort ütles ...

just btw: if anyone here ( apart from Josjua) should be interested in serious discussion instead of rpeating phrases or accuse me whatever, there was an interesing interview in English with Prof. Colin Crouch on the website of Deutsche Welle. Crouch invented the term "postdemocracy" some years ago. It´s the same term I was using to characterize the political system of Estonia nothing more.
The interview can be found here:
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,3617727,00.html

Mart ütles ...

Moevenort, what is it that you feel is lacking? You keep throwing words around but you never actually bring up any examples.

In what way are the elections lacking in transparency and discussion? The public debate is held in the media and the press freedom in Estonia is one of the best in Europe. Participation in the elections has been steadily around 60% (discounting the elections for European Parliament) which is nothing remarkable in either good or bad sense.

You seem to mistakenly believe that mr Ansip is running some kind of one-party state. In fact, the support for both Reform and Centre party is around 30% (and IRL and Social Democrats both hovering around 15%). Do you think they all share the supposed ideology that you speak of?

Again, your grievances are not supported by data.

Lingüista ütles ...

Joshua,

the problems you mention are found everywhere. If you watch Bill O'Reilly, you'll see them in America. If you watch Lars von Trier, you'll see them in Denmark. If you watch Paul Verhoeven, you'll see them in the Netherlands (Zwartboek).

Estonian "classicism", as far as I can tell from a difference, is not worse than the average European clacissim.

Moe considers Estonia worse than Germany (or England, or the US, or...). That's a bit different.

No nation is perfect. But to think, for instance, of the celebration of veterans in the fight against the USSR as 'SS-ophilia' is as stupid as to think all Germans are Nazis.

Lingüista ütles ...

Moe, I have to agree with Mart above. You throw words around, you make claims ("The Ansip government is a good example...") but you don't give any evidence or examples of anything that you claim. You just, well, claim.

I could repeat your post, replacing all Estonian references with German ones (Merkel instead of Ansip, etc.), or with American ones (Obama instead of Ansip, etc.), etc. etc. etc... and that would be OK, because there are only claims, no evidence, no discussion, nothing. "Ansip" does this and that (when? examples? discussion?).

All I know from your posts is that you don't like the situation in Estonia. I am at a loss as to the actual evidence/real-world reasons for that. (It reminds me of my mother-in-law, who is very frankly anti-Poland; "all Poles are liars, and thieves... " Evidence? "Everybody knows!..." Etc.

Again, Estonia gets high marks for democratic institutions. The level of transparency is quite good -- check the transparency international websites. I don't see any policies being hidden from the people -- examples? All I see is a state in which opinions are discussed, elections are held, people with different opinions voice them all the time in the media...

Joshua ütles ...

Mart: "What evidence are you talking about, Joshua?"

I mean this kind of sentiment.

"Räägin oma lapsele pigem, et nende perede, kus lapsed mingi haisva ühistranspordiga koolis käivad, kus lastel mingid second-handi kaltsud seljas või isegi ekskursiooniraha pole, on emad-isad luuseritest-joodikutest alamklass! Need on getode ja maakate kamp, kellega minu lastel on tuleviku huvides soovitav mitte suhelda!"

And I'm afraid that's quite rampant attitude. I went to school in an elite school and I certainly remember that from there. And then estonian art students also have similar attitudes. At least the ones I've had the pleasure to talk with. Fuck, it's actually everywhere. Estonia to the succesful. Inhuman really.

Mart ütles ...

Joshua, you present something that looks like it originates from the comments section of Delfi and you follow it up with "And I'm afraid that's quite rampant attitude." That's quite a leap of faith, isn't it?

If we judged everyone by the comments on Youtube, for example, we would have to conclude that there isn't a single decent person in the world.

Meelis ütles ...

"also the heritage of the kind of political culture that developed in 60 years of communist rule."
60 years Communist rule? Communist rule was during 1940-1941 and 1944-1988 (1988-1991 was transition period). So there was 45 years of Communist rule, not 60 years.

Joshua ütles ...

Mart: "Joshua, you present something that looks like it originates from the comments section of Delfi and..."

Actually, I'm thinking that particular passage is a joke. But I did bring up some personal examples where I have seen this condescending attitude towards the fellow estonians. In elite schools. (Horrible places. Should outlaw them. Evryone's a isehakanud baltisaks seal.)

Then there are more sightings of this, but those are more random and it's less easy to group label them.

Põhiliselt Tallinnas siis, sest see on sihuke tõusik-town, kõik mängivad siin härrasrahvast.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Elite schools are fine, provided that the non-elite schools are of high quality too and that entrance is not based on money but ability. In practice these qualifications in most places seem to mean, though, that elite schools are not fine, go figure...

Meelis ütles ...

"this means discussion about different ways for society, in economic terms, social terms and other aspects. not just parroting one and only ideology each day again"
Can you really understand Estonian language? Do you read Estonian newspapers? Probably not.

Lingüista ütles ...

I've gone to an élite school in Brazil, Joshua, and very similar feelings were expressed there by the offspring of the monneyed elite.

I have to agree with Mart here: your experience with this kind of attitude doesn't seem to reflect any larger tendencies. Can you show us something like that published by reputable media -- ERR, etc.? Can you show us an opinion poll that says this kind of attitude is really positively seen?

Snobs and élitists are a worldwide problem. Every country has a share -- usually more than it wished it had.

Joshua ütles ...

"Can you show us something like that published by reputable media -- ERR, etc.? "

Well if you can read estonian then Sirp, Looming and Akadeemia are definitely magazines/newspapers to read. They're sort of neutral ground for any kind of thought. So actually discussion does exist in Estonia, though perhaps just between certain types of people - people who read and write in Sirp, Looming and Akadeemia for example.

You can just browse www.sirp.ee and there are all sorts of different interesting articles discussing various different things.

An example of article that would support moe's discourse? - http://www.sirp.ee/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10784:vajame-uut-sotsiaalset-oiglust-ja-vordsust-vaeaertustavat-poliitikat-&catid=9:sotsiaalia&Itemid=13&issue=3301

There are all sorts of people with different ideologies writing there. For and against something, so Sirp is definitely something to read if you want to see all sides. The obvious newspapers like Postimees and Päevaleht are indeed more ideologically driven and are more choosing what they publish, as they are financed by certain groups and people who belong in cetain parties.

But academic newspapers like Sirp are pretty neutral.

So yeah. I don't really have anything to add.

Joshua ütles ...

Fuck. When I said Looming, I meant Vikerkaar. Damn.

Lingüista ütles ...

Thank you, Joshua. I can sort of read Estonian with a dictionary (am now halfway through E nagu Eesti); I will check the references you gave.

But consider this: the kind of political debate that you mention in this publication is typical of democracies. The US, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands -- you can find magazines like the ones you mention, where people can express opinions -- including the kind that you don't like -- to be debated with others. Granted, the general climate is different (so the Netherlands is much more 'lefty-liberal' than the US, for instance); but you can find all kinds of opinions (some quite stupid) regardless.

Where is the evidence that Estonia is worse? Up until now, I've seen the same kind of stuff you find in other democracies.

(Compare it to Russia, for instance, were opposition opinions are rarely expressed in positive terms in the government-driven mainstream media; where you have to impopular venues like Эхо Москвы or Новая газета to publish different opinions (and there they often grow out of proportion into caricatures of opposition)...

Mart ütles ...

I might not agree with Joshua in many aspects, but Sirp is indeed awesome. It's the only Estonian newspaper that is totally worth subscribing to (the others you can easily skim on the internet).

Joshua ütles ...

"Where is the evidence that Estonia is worse?"

I don't think I've actually claimed it as worse than others. My reaction was more a reaction to what I understood to be a denial of these sightings.

While me and moe agree on certain things, having a similar negative experience with Estonia from which we base our narrative, we're still different persons.

For example I don't really believe in the manifest destiny of western civilization.

So my role in these discussions has from my part been: "hey whatyoumean it's made up? i mean look there and there, these things are real. i mean just yesterday this guy comes along and says "fuck you!", and i'm like this shit is real and it's so wrong."

But then why so passionately then, if objectively these things are common sightings in all human societies?

Well, perhaps just subjectively these things suck the most in your own home. With Estonia, it's personal.

Piimapukk ütles ...

"Snobs and élitists are a worldwide problem. Every country has a share -- usually more than it wished it had."

I'd disagree with this - it is the impoverished, multiplying ignorant masses that are a problem. Just for the heck of it, reverse the existing dynamics and imagine that the world was overpopulated by the elitists and on moneybags. Would we have the problems we have now? Instead of wars and famine, we'd have wine and cheese parties, instead of mad religions, we'd have book clubs. Instead of soccer - opera.

Poverty seldom breeds anything noble.

Perhaps a new major war is on the order? Time to cull the herd and reshuffle the wealth distribution. How far off is that Clash of the Civilizations Samuel P. Huntington promised us?

moevenort ütles ...

the difference between Estonia and Germany -somethings is changing here. slowly but surely. whiley in Estonia it is lience like on a graveyard.

what happened in Germany yesterday:

"Bizzare images and sounds were transmitted live via a mobile webcam out of Stuttgart's Schlossgarten park on Thursday and beamed onto thousands of computer screens all over Germany. At first glance the images seemed familiar from … anti-nuclear protests in the past: Demonstrators sitting in the path of a police vehicle, police emerging dressed in absurdly war-like armour, wanting to clear the way for their colleagues and finally resorting to water cannons to do so. But (the images) didn't fit with what came out of the headphones. Not only were a considerable number of the demonstrators chanting 'Wir sind das Volk' ('We are the people,' a slogan associated with pro-democracy protesters in East Germany) but they also began singing the German national anthem -- further evidence for the presence of a core conservative element in the protest movement. After all, what is at stake is the kind of thing that conservatives like to preserve: almost 300 trees -- some of which are very old -- and a city park threatened with being turned into a construction site.

"The otherwise respectable citizens, who react to water cannons by singing the national anthem, see themselves as legitimate representatives of the nation and are in the process denying this role to those (authorities) who sent police into the park. Germany's conservatives no longer feel represented by local and national government."

source: Der Spiegel, http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,720735,00.html

moevenort ütles ...

sorry, in Estonia there is silence like on a graveyard.

moevenort ütles ...

here is the article about the event the quotation is related to:

10/01/2010

"The World from Berlin
Germany Shocked by 'Disproportionate' Police Action in Stuttgart"

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,720735,00.html