esmaspäev, juuli 17, 2006

Who do you believe?

We get two newspapers every day here in our office in downtown Manhattan - one is the New York Times and the other is the Wall Street Journal. Though its editorial teams inhabit the same New York space of gorgeous, nighttime skylines and exhaust-filled dirty air, the opinions of how to deal with the Russian Federation, as well as most international situations, varies greatly.

However, both the Journal and the Times have been pretty much on the same page concerning Putin and promoting democratic reform in Russia. But that doesn't mean people are of one mind on Russia. On the contrary there's a heated debate going on in foreign policy circles concerning the RF. For example, there are those out there in the conservative media, like John Hall in this recent Washington Dateline piece, that say that Estonia could be in growing danger of losing its sovereignty.

Rather than deal with the EU as an entity, Tunne Kelam fears, the Russians have decided to pick off individual nations and dictate terms for energy needs.

As for Estonia, Russians have begun to put this country's small, privately owned railroad in a squeeze, working with left-wing politicians in the Estonia's government to either de-privatize it or sell it off to a coalition of Russian-owned firms backed by its oil industries. The effort apparently is aimed at getting more favorable rail rates for oil shipments to the Baltic.

So far, the American manager of the property is holding his own. But Kelam said Russia policy is "officially hostile to the Baltic states" and he is even hearing rumors that the Putin government has discussed ways to begin moving Russia's border back, roughly, to the boundaries of the old Soviet Union.

That's some scary stuff, right? I can see it now. Edgar Savisaar standing in Tallinn like Johannes Vares-Barbarus before him, holding out his hand to the new boss, allowing Vladimir Putin to kiss as many Estonian boys on the belly as he wishes, making a Russian language exam the ticket to gaining Estonian citizenship, and tearing down all of Estonia's bogs and forests to make way for oil pipelines....Oh God, what a nightmare...

Some, like the Wall Street Journal last weekend, say we should be tough on Moscow to prevent that from happening...

Throughout President Putin's six years in power, a conceit indulged by Western leaders has been that the Russia of strong growth and the Russia of creeping authoritarianism are different places. Russians themselves are told to sacrifice freedom for stability and prosperity. Both are dangerous illusions. For Mr. Putin's governing approach undercuts the very gains he will advertise this weekend. As the world stood by, Russia has become a danger to the West, to its neighbors and not least to itself.
Now would be a good time to recommit resources to election monitoring and democracy building. Awakened by January's gas war, the Western Europeans can lend a hand for a change. The new Russian middle class will appreciate and, one day, may take advantage of this engagement. Now would also be an ideal moment to prop up the fledgling democracies in Georgia and Ukraine that are feeling the heat from Russia and put those countries on a track to joining NATO.

At the very same time The Nation warns that the Russia of today is far more preferential to the possible Russian bogeyman of tomorrow, a genuine enemy:

Washington has to abandon the triumphalist conceits primarily responsible for the revived cold war and its growing dangers. It means respecting Russia's sovereign right to determine its course at home (including disposal of its energy resources). As the record plainly shows, interfering in Moscow's internal affairs, whether on-site or from afar, only harms the chances for political liberties and economic prosperity that still exist in that tormented nation.

It also means acknowledging Russia's legitimate security interests, especially in its own "near abroad." In particular, the planned third expansion of NATO, intended to include Ukraine, must not take place. Extending NATO to Russia's doorsteps has already brought relations near the breaking point (without actually benefiting any nation's security); absorbing Ukraine, which Moscow regards as essential to its Slavic identity and its military defense, may be the point of no return, as even pro-US Russians anxiously warn.

That sounds similar to what Putin said last night. Christ, the guy goes to bed thinking about Estonia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged Estonia to solve the existing problems with Russia calmly and “without hysteria”.

“Only then we will be able to begin interaction and gain benefits, especially [with] such a small country like Estonia,” he said.

“I wish that some complicated issues which we have inherited from the past were not politicised and that agreements were being implemented,” Putin told reporters shortly before midnight on Sunday.

By saying this, the president meant, among other things, the border agreement with Estonia.

The problem with many "big stick" policies is that they often backfire. One can even look now to Israel's strikes on southern Lebanon with the fear that instead of inspiring the Lebanese to root out Hezbollah, they will instead - by virtue of Lebanese casualties - provoke the Lebanese to aid Hezbollah in retaliation to Israel's strong line.

But then there is the tragedy of appeasement - the duped confidence of Neville Chamberlain and the Munich agreement of 1938. "Peace in Our Time"? Yeah, right.

So which will it be? Which op-ed head knows what's going on? Is it Isamaa's Tunne Kelam and the rumors of a reformed USSR controlled by the one man in Moscow? Or is that just a political ploy to score more votes and outside support for conservatives in Estonia?

Will the "leftists" in Estonia - KESK and ERL - wisely smooth things out with a resurgent Russia or will they just bow to their former masters like loyal canines?

And is there a logic of the middle in all of this, or is this just another annoying dilemma of "for" versus "against"? This is the torture of the present. Trying to plan for a future where all sources of information have multiple interests - most prominently, their own.

6 kommentaari:

Anonüümne ütles ...

It was a good read. It's funny I had the exact same idea this morning about Savisaar being the Vares-Barbarus of today when I was reading "Hääletu alistumine". I just hope he will never have the chance to "do the Hacha" on Estonia.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Yah, scary us with the concern about resources! Germany will sell the needed wind mills, or even Denmark, and then Russia: Shut up. 'Hold sheften' The positive coming out of this primitive threatening is Al Gore will get a voice.

Giustino ütles ...

This is why politics is so much "fun"

Ta meenutas, et Reformierakonnal, Sotsiaaldemokraatlikul Erakonnal ning Isamaa ja Res Publica liidul on riigikogus 65 häält ning presidendi valimiseks parlamendis on vaja 68 saadiku toetus.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Sigh! Just politics. Some German fits here: 'Den Ball flach halten'. Translation into English: Keep the ball low. ;-)

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Estonia has linked here statehood to Europe and Nato already. Putin can say anything he wants, it doesn't really matter.
The only country which is left in between (from the West) is Ukraine.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Don't know if you have seen those. Quite witty IMO.