esmaspäev, juuni 27, 2005

Russia Plays Hardball

According to various state information channels in the Russian Federation, the Russian government has revoked its signature from the border treaty inked with the Republic of Estonia on May 18 in Moscow.
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov:

There will be no ratification since there will be no agreement itself. We need to start new negotiations to settle the border issues.

According to the Estonian foreign ministry there are no border issues.

The Estonian side has repeatedly assured that it has not linked any new issues to the border treaties, and thus, the Russian side's assertion that Estonia has added new aspects to the treaty is ungrounded.

You've got to love Lavrov. The guy shakes hands with Urmas Paet, and then decides a month later that he didn't really shake hands. Later, in Helsinki, Lavrov said he feared that the European Union might 'yield to temptation' in saying that:

Estonia ratified the agreement, although with some amendments, and Russia should have also ratified the agreement with its own amendments, for the sake of the agreements simple existence. In order to avoid such a temptation, we revoked our signature under the agreement. The agreement doesn't exist.

So where does that leave Estonia? Should they revoke their preamble to appease a bitter neighbor? Why would a sovereign nation do such a thing? I hope the EU does step in and ask the RF to honor its obligations. It will be interesting to see what the bureaucrats in Brussels will do when they are finally called upon to show some spine.

pühapäev, juuni 26, 2005

Eesti Beebi Boom...and a Maelstrom of Marriages


I heard the news today at around 8.30 am, while my 1.7 year old daughter was pointing at my nose and saying "noo-noo" and grasping at my face, trying to wrest control of my left eye from its socket.
Our friend Pille gave birth to her first daughter Roosi on Jaanipäev, June 23, 2005. Roosi pushed her way out in just 45 minutes, and she is the latest child to join what is called the Eesti Beebi Pomm, or Estonian baby boom.
Over the past two years, Estonian women who climbed out of the economic reforms of the early90s with stacked CVs and reliable bank accounts have been encouraged to have more children by the state, which will pay their entire annual salary to them during the year they take off upon motherhood. But they also have heard some kind of biological clock ticking, and so everywhere I go I see titad (babies). You could notice the difference on the way to my wife's work. First in line was Marta Maria, our child, who came in December 2003.
But soon the office secretary, as of September 2004, was immensely large, as was Epp's co-worker, who also was expecting. Then our friend Eberhard and his wife Ingrid had a son this past February. So all of a sudden we are surrounded by new life. And the Estonian state is surrounded by new tax payers.


On this side of the Atlantic, another trend is crouching and creeping. On July 7, my friend Becky will marry Pete, her beau of many years, at a country club on Long Island. I have a feeling that, before 2010 is out, I will be dining several times a country club on Long Island. Becky's Wedding will no doubt be large and leave a lasting impression. This is because Becky and Pete, despite their lowkey Yankee collegic demeanor, are Italians at heart. There will be much wine and celebration. If only they would step on a bottle after the society of ethical people marry them.

Becky and Pete just returned from a wedding in Ol' Mississipp'. This is the part of the country Northerners like to feel superior over because we beat them in a war about 150 years ago. It still does feel good though. Winning does. This particular wedding joined not plantation perverts though, but Plimouth progeny, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins.
It must have been hot down in the Delta. Speaking of the War of Northern Aggression, our friend Jess, and her BF Dan, will also tie the knot sometime next year. My wedding blessing in July 2003 was devoid of the attendence of such luminaries as Jessica, and even my best friend since the High Priesthood of the Hookachal (the 80s) days, Jocko.

Therefore I may not be in attendence when Frank D. of Setauket, gives away his daughter Jessica, of GA, to Daniel G., son of Frank G. of Florida. But that's ok. The name for their first child? My only hope is that Jessica will rechristen herself Gessica. Now that...would be cool.

Finally, my own brother will tie the knot, ETA Sept. a country club on Long Island.
Toot sweet. They too are mired down these in lists of people to invite, clothing to wear, hors d'oeuvrs to serve, Motown or Disco, questions.

For him and his bride to be, it must be great to have their own event, after sodding off through so many of their contemporaries'.

To all the babies, brides, and beaus...this is me saying "Good Luck" or "Kõige Head!"

neljapäev, juuni 23, 2005

Somebody Gets It...

Here is a great piece by the Eurasia Daily Monitor that explains why the Russian Federation are the ones with "dead donkey ears" when it comes to their failure to ratify the border line agreed upon by the Estonian foreign ministry and Russian foreign ministry on May 18.

the Russian government seems intent to retaliate against Estonia's reassertion of the state's legal continuity, as reflected in the Estonian parliament's reamble to the law on the ratification of the border treaty.

The piece, by Vladimir Socor, goes on to spell out why it doesn't really make a difference what Estonia's preamble says.

The refusal has no legal grounds however. The duma would be asked to ratify the treaty as signed, not the preamble to Estonia's ratification law. Moreover...the preamble contains no reservations toward the border treaty's terms, no demands of any kind, and no conditions for the treaty's implementation as signed with the Russian side.

So now, the Estonian government can only wait. They have a border line, as decreed by President Arnold Ruutel yesterday. A very interesting end to an interesting Spring. One interesting thing I have been just starting to understand is the basis for the preamble, which is to restate that the Estonian government today is the legal continuation of the Estonian government proclaimed in 1918, and recognized at the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920.

In September 1939, the Estonian government foolishly allowed the Soviet Union to station troops in Estonia. Hundreds of thousands of troops were brought into the country as the crisis in Europe deepened. In June 1940, the Estonian government was driven from power by "demonstrators" that seized Tallinn's police stations, parliament, communications etc.

The solely Communist government was proclaimed and requested to join the Soviet Union, where it was accepted in August 1940. Military officers and government officials from the legitimate government were rounded up and deported by the Soviets, most being executed in Estonia and in Russia in 1940-42.

However, the Communist government did not last long. In 1941 the Nazis took Estonia, and Estonia was incorporated into "Ostland" - its province that was supposed to include also Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus.

As the Nazis retreated in September 1944 however, Estonia's prime minister, Juri Uluots, formed a new government, one that was still recognized by the international community. As the Soviet's reinvaded Estonia in the fall of 1944, the new ministers fled. Most were captured and executed. But Uluots and others escaped to Stockholm, where a government in exile was set up, not dissimilar to DeGaulle's French government in England in the early 1940s.

This government in exile remained until 1992, when the prime minister in exile, acting in duties of the president, presented his credentials to the incoming Estonian government.

The Russian Federation does not accept the continuation of the Estonian government. In their mindset, the Stalinist history, that Estonia willingly joined the USSR in 1940, and the old government was dissolved. It's worth noting that the exile government was recognized by the international community. But it may take a long time before Russia "purges" itself of its Stalinist myth making.

kolmapäev, juuni 22, 2005

Borders, New Yawk, and Jaanipäev

Well, it looks like the Russian Foreign Minsitry decided that it doesn't want to ratify the treaty, because they are a) excessively paranoid about land claims and b) didn't get to control every sentence in it.
The treaty explicitly does not link the referenced documents in the preamble to the border agreement. The Estonian Foreign Ministry reiterated this point today by stating:
"The Estonian government did not tie the ratification of the border treaties with any additional annexes that would allow presenting new demands and neither did the Riigikogu when they supplemented the bill."

Poor Eestimaa. They thought that Venemaa would actually understand their highbrow legalisms.
But the Russian Foreign Ministry decided today that ratifying it would be impossible.
Perhaps the Estonian foreign ministry needs better translators?
Readers of Postimees seem to be happy with the situation. Some commentators seem to think that Russia just wants to show its strength, and their are pleased that the Visa situation for Russians entering the European Union will be further complicated.
As for New Yawk it's just work, work, work. In fact, I'm supposed to be working now. But Ii have no time for 'me' so I have to take it where I can.
In Estonia this week is the week where everybody eats a lot of sausages, burns a lot of wood, drinks a lot of beer, and has a lot of unprotected sex.
That's right, its Jaanipäev. What holidays do us New Yawkers have like that? The Puerto Rican Day Parade? Sha, r-i-ight. As if.
The ultra-right-wing Wall Street losers that run this city of capital would never be into allowing the peons a day a whole week off to celebrate being alive. No. It's get back to work, lick Michael Bloomberg's boot. Downtown Brooklyn might be a sh*thole, but West Side Stadium, the Olympics - these are New York's priorities. And where are the Democrats? Behind in the polls.

teisipäev, juuni 21, 2005


Well, the word out of Venemaa is that they'll probably ratify the border treaty anyway. As written in the Russia Journal, the "most trusted news source in Russia," Sergey Mironov, chairman of the Federation Council, said that Russia must ratify the treaty wihout any reservations.
The article however does say that Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920 "has lost effect." This is interesting because Mironov didn't say this, and no source in the article maintains this. It just appears as a factual statement. This is how "journalism" works in Russia.

The Tartu Treaty established the statehoods of Finland and Estonia. The "elected" Communist government that requested to join the Soviet Union in June 1940 was never recognized by the international community. Instead the old government remained in exile from 1944 through 1992 in Stockholm, Sweden, and returned to power in 1992. That's what happened and what has been recognized.

The state border line was redrawn after the war with Finland in 1944 as well. So this border treaty essentially represents the end of the Cold War. That is why it is so important.

esmaspäev, juuni 20, 2005

Estonia Ratifies...and Russia Balks...

The Riigikogu ratified the border treaty with the Russian Federation today, passing the resolution 78 - 4. Res Publika had originally refused to vote until a preamble was added that mentioned the occupation and annexation of Estonia in 1940 and 1944 by Russia's predecessor state, the USSR. However, the ruling colaition disagreed with that idea.

A compromise was drafted that claimed that the current Estonian republic was the same republic that was declared in the Treaty of Tartu in 1920. The 'occupation and annexation' claims were dropped because the Estonian parliament knew that the Russian parliament would object to these claims and thought it fruitless to pursue recognition of this historical wrong when they could just as easily get their border treaty signed.

The preamble reads:

Proceeding from the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia proclaimed on 24 February 1918, as it is stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, from the Resolution of the Republic of Estonia Supreme Council of 20 August 1991 "On the National Independence of Estonia," and from the Declaration of the Riigikogu of 7 October 1992 "On the Restoration of Constitutional Power," and keeping in mind that the Treaty mentioned in Article 1 of this act shall, in accordance to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, partially amend the state border line established by Article III Section I of the Tartu Peace Treaty of 2 February 1920, shall not influence the rest of the Treaty and shall not determine the treatment of bilateral issues not connected with border issues.."

Pretty clear if you ask me. But Russia, who asked that Estonia sign the treaty first, now has more problems. They are unhappy with the treaty because it mentions 1918, and if one does some thinking then, it de facto acknowledges the occupation and annexation.
"I don't think the border treaty, in the form in which the Estonian parliament ratified it today, would be acceptable to Russia," said Mihail Margelov, who chairs the foreign affairs committee in the Duma's upper house.

What is going on here you might ask? Why would Russia not want to ratify, really? It's not that hard to sign. You have a meeting, raise your hands. You vote. It's ratified. The other way - bringing in advisors, creating more diplomatic intrigue, more empty threats about "goose eggs" and "donkey ears" - that's more difficult to do. So why go through that, when you can ratify the treaty and go back to your Dacha for the summer a happy parliamentarian?

As I see it, it can only be about two things - money or pride. I think it's both. This is a very acceptable document to ratify, but Russia is worried about two things - admitting ins ome fashion that it occupied and annexed Estonia in 1940, and being liable to compensate all of the people who lost their property, livelihoods, and lives when the occupation commenced.

However, this diplomatic game has backfired for the Russian Federation.
The egg could have been on Estonia's face. They could have made Estonia look weak, and unfit for the ranks of the EU. If the nationalists in Isamaalit and Res Publika had decided that they should push the occupation issue further, then Estonia would have looked bad and unreasonable (ie. like Latvia.) However, since their treaty doesn't really push the issue, it is the Russians who are caught looking ridiculous with egg on their face. They seem irrational (which they are).

If the Russian parliament is unhappy that's their problem. They are the ones who requested that Estonia sign the border treaty first.

reede, juuni 10, 2005

Just sign it...

Estonia's newest government, led by Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who took over the reins from Juhan Parts' government in April, seems to be one of the more mature governments I have witnessed in my fling with the Republic of Estonia.
My guess is that because the coalition, which is made up of the Reform Party, Center Party, and Estonian People's Union, were accidental rulers, not exactly linked by a common mission statement, they have been forced to fall back on the boring business of representing the Estonian people's interests, rather than their own.
One of the better products of an alliance that includes such odd ministerial fellows like Economic Minister Edgar Savisaar and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has been the signing of the border agreement with Estonia's eastern neighbor, Russia, on May 18.
Paet has urged the Riigikogu to approve the treaty before the nation's lawmakers break for the summer. The second reading, and probable vote, will come next week.
There have been a few elements in the government, most prominently Isamaalit (Fatherland) that wish to make claims for the territory annexed by Soviet Russia following the Second World War that included the Petseri (Pechory) district, as well as some territory on the otherside of the Narva River.
However, Estonian President Arnold Rüütel, in a surprisingly candid interview with Postimees on May 24, said that Estonia essentially has no real use for the Petseri district and the land on the other side of the Narva river.
"Kui arvestada Petserimaa ja Narva-tagused alad kokku, elab seal umbes 40,000 venekeelset inimest, Setusid aga umbes 500."

Basically, there are only 500 Setu (an Estonian-related Finnic group living in the Petseri district) so it makes no sense to claim land where an overwhelming majority of Russian nationals live. Ansip has also promised that the government will help Setu families relocate within the Estonian border.
And while it may sound grossly nationalistic, it makes sense that Estonia would renounce its claims to that land de jure, because the government doesn't need to be responsible for integrating 40,000 more people (in a country where 29 percent of the total population - including Russian citizens living in Estonia, some 7 percent - are Russian speakers) into Estonian society.
"Making sense" may be an even better slogan for Estonia than "Positively transforming." Let's hope that next week, the Riigikogu makes the right choice, and inks that border deal with Russia, so the two countries can move forward in their relations.

laupäev, juuni 04, 2005


I am a bit jealous today because I am really having an itch for a trip that gets me out of the US and back on Estonian soil. I won't be there until July, yet somehow I feel two weeks there just aren't good enough.

I saw a blog from my old pals the Law Firm of Davis and Mansfield that chronicled their trip to Eesti Vabariik aastal 2004 - when I wasn't there - and that really pissed me off.

'Why are they there, on my Raekoja Plats,' I demanded to know? But from their well-sauna-d, Saku-happy grins came no reply. Just jealousy greener than Lahemaa National Park.

This truly sucks dear friends. From this day forward, I shall plot my return.

Sun sets on Hiiumaa, Estonia. August 2003. Posted by Hello