neljapäev, juuli 03, 2008

foolish games

The Russian Federation is playing games with the Republic of Estonia. It's not that it's a one-sided game. The Estonians have been taking the bait since 2005.

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves returned from Moscow with a special message for parliament: maybe you should swallow your pride and remove the preamble to the border treaty with the Russian Federation, signed in 2005.

This would be seen presumably as a token of Estonia's goodwill towards Russia, especially since last year's events which made Estonia a household name for riots and cyberwar, rather than medieval tourism and IT development.

This was Ilves' position back in 2006 when he was running for president. He noted, correctly I think, that the preamble -- which references the Treaty of Tartu, signed in 1920 -- was not necessary and that its lack of presence atop said treaty would not threaten the legal continuity of the Estonian state. Estonia's objective was to have the treaty in force, and it was dealing with a very illogical 800-kilo Muscovite gorilla. When he went on television this week, back from his sobering trip to the east, he reiterated his point, which, in turn, set more right-wing lawmakers aflame with discontent.

To remove the preamble for the sake of making Estonia look like it was willing to reconcile its differences with Russia would mean sacrificing Estonia's stalwart principles and, some more populist lawmakers warn, invalidating the birth certificate of the Republic of Estonia.

Unfortunately for them, basically everyone outside of Estonia would agree with Ilves. Changing the preamble would actually have no legal effect, because the documents it references were already passed by the Riigikogu. It is, in all honesty, entirely meaningless whether there is a preamble or not. That is why Ilves is perhaps so willing to encourage this sacrifice.

Anyway, it is unlikely Isamaa-Res Publica Liit or the Reform Party will support such discussions. Now the lawmakers of these parties are unhappy with Ilves, which makes the Russians happy, as they don't like him or his bow-ties much either. It weakens the Estonian coalition, as it draws a wedge between SDE and parts of Reform that don't care that much whether there is a preamble or not, and other parts of Reform and IRL who do care. And since Russia isn't a democracy, they get to maintain their position while the Estonian domestic political debate rages over the preamble to a friggin' border treaty. Is Karl Rove advising the Kremlin on how to deal with its neighbors? Inquiring minds would like to know.

This is nonsense. As a person who lives in Estonia, I can tell you that Russia is using the border treaty to meddle in Estonia's affairs because it has so few other levers to control its neighbor. The gray sanctions hit the transit sector, but most of Estonia's trade is with Sweden and Finland. And, trust me, if Sweden and Estonia signed some legislation, nothing like this would ever have happened because Sweden matters more. My money is in Swedbank; get the picture?

Estonia isn't that important for Russia, either. That is the real reason why the Estonian and Russian presidents haven't met for 14 years. By getting the border issue over and out of the way, Estonia and Russia will have one less contentious issue to discuss with their Russian colleagues. And the less avenues there are for Russia to discuss/meddle with Estonia, the better. Of course, some lawmakers benefit from friction with Russia. And, as much as I respect their principles, we must admit that they are politicians, and the politicians' objective in life is to stay in office.

That revelation, though, begs the question: in what ways does the president benefit from this? He's not up for re-election until 2011. What's on his mind?

8 kommentaari:

Unknown ütles ...

Why any relations with "Russia" at all? What's wrong with no relations with an illegitimate non-country?

Unknown ütles ...

Zhenya the Krishta from Open Republic was Vitaliy Portnikov's guest on Radio Liberty, speaking on the subject (much the same as yours truly would have said had he been asked to). He was brilliant as usual, as evidenced by demented tibloid callers to the program. I guess this is why the Rooskie nazi patriots hate Krishta so much.
I know this is an English-language Estonian blog, and Krishta does not write in English, but take my word--he's among the best and clearest thinking young Estonians who also happens to be fluent in Russian

Jim Hass ütles ...

the failure of estonia to find a positive reason for Russia to care for Estonia's success threatens it continued existence, if things go sour with the. Russian economy after the crash in oil prices. Ilves must see this too.

Unknown ütles ...

Writing on the subject in today's Portnikov says, inter alia: "Но одного Тоомас Хендрик Ильвес понять не смог: он посетил страну чиновников... И в самом деле: зачем России внешняя политика, когда есть нефть?"
"There's one thing Toomas Hendrik Ilves could not understand: He visited a country of bureaucrats... And indeed: Why whould Russia need foreign policy when it has oil?"

antyx ütles ...

remove the preamble to the border treaty with the Russian Federation, signed in 2005.

I wish people would stop swallowing FUD. It's not a preamble to the border treaty. It's a preamble to the bill that would ratify the border treaty. It does not change a single letter of the treaty itself, which is why Russia's hysteria was so ludicrous.

Juan Manuel ütles ...

Estonia has ratified the treaty in good faith and now is up to the Russian parliament to do so. The preamble issue is just a stupid excuse for them to continue messing things up.

The problem with the Russians is that they made up a really stupid excuse. When the America senate does not want to ratify a treaty, they just say it. They don't start talking nonsense about a preamble to a ratification law passed by some foreign parliament.

But does the treaty change the statu quo in some way? There is a border, Estonia has no territorial pretensions as far as I know, neither does Russia, so basically who cares about the border treaty.

I think Spain and Portugal have not ratified one of their border treaties but nobody remembers why, and nobody cares about it any more.

Giustino ütles ...

It does not change a single letter of the treaty itself, which is why Russia's hysteria was so ludicrous.

They became hysterical over Ilves' speech as well. It seems they can turn their hysteria on and off.

The problem with the Russians is that they made up a really stupid excuse.

It's a game. It's a question of "how can we get Estonia to focus on pointless matters while we railroad our agenda through elsewhere." And segments of the Estonian political elite take that bait.

The Russians must know that the coalition parties don't exactly love one another. They are probably trying to exacerbate any situation that would lead to the return of Mr. Savisaar or his surrogates to power.

stockholm slender ütles ...

There is a strange tendency here in the West to credit the Kremlin with some sort of diabolical skill with diplomacy and in furthering Russian interests. The Kremlin? Diabolical skill? As far as I see the country is busy doing what they really know how to do: wasting a great opportunity to build a lasting civil society and a truly functioning and healthy economical system. Instead they close eyes and pretend that it still the 30's and waste their energy income to silly geopolitical posturing.

Should we really breathlessly behold this bunch of incompetents in the middle of their childish pranks? I'm mean shouldn't Estonia be kind of busy with actually worthwhile things?