reede, september 12, 2008


I am not sure if you paid attention to this most recent scandal in Finnish-Estonian bilateral relations, but, in summary, it comes down to some comments attributed to President Tarja Halonen.

Halonen told YLE, in regards to Finland's position on the Georgian conflict in the context of Baltic foreign policies, the following:

"It is to the benefit of the European Union as well to have countries that are free of those sort of post-traumatic situations and a country that is relatively cool-headed, matter-of-fact and constructive.

I concur with the assessments saying that Finland positioned itself on the middle ground and perhaps slightly closer to Russia. Finland is not the northernmost Baltic country but the easternmost Nordic country."

It would be justifiable to accuse the Finnish president of a strategy of appeasement towards its large, wealthy, violence-prone eastern neighbor, the Russian Federation. But there is truth in the words of this social democrat, who is decades older than many Estonian policy makers; truth that most people would prefer not to discuss in Estonian political circles.

One truth is that Estonia absolutely does have post-Soviet baggage. How could it not? The second truth is that Finland is looking out for Finland. That is what, as president of Finland, Halonen is charged to do.

There is also a larger truth in Halonen's words. That truth is that Finland creates security for Estonia. The presence of Finnish banks, Finnish industry, Finnish tourists and, overall, Finnish investment, gives the Estonians a sense of security that they might not have otherwise. And so Estonian parliamentarians can raise all the hell they want in relations with Russia, because the blanket of Nordic normalcy keeps Estonia warm and dry.

A lot of people were on edge when riots broke out in Tallinn last year. Some predicted the end of times for the Estonian republic. But I didn't. Why? It wasn't just because of those two NATO planes flying overhead. It was because there is so much Nordic capital here that it would be politically impossible to impose a Soviet-style military occupation on this country again, especially over that controversy.

That hasn't even been an option in Georgia, at least for the moment. Russia's goal was to have a loyal stooge in power in its neighboring country. That is why the Russian objective for Estonia is to create a special relationship with domestic political parties that will basically adopt a Halonen-style policy towards Moscow. In other words, Kekkoslovakia redux.

People might criticize the Halonen line, but Finland is a well-ordered, wealthy country with a diversified economy. Lip service may cost the Finns some pride, but that pride is made up for in capital which, in the end, benefits the Finnish people. The Finns, though, believe they are different, and here is the contrast with the Estonians, who do not see their future through the lens of Nordic exceptionalism. Finns looked at Georgians and saw "them." Estonians looked at "them" and saw "us."

One untruth, though, maybe in Halonen's description of Finland as the "eastern most Nordic country" with regards to its Russia policies. That doesn't jive with the position of fellow Nordic country Sweden on the conflict in Georgia, does it? Wasn't Sweden also pushing for a hard European line? Isn't Denmark similarly friendly to Ukraine and Georgia's NATO aspirations? Finland's stance seems more isolationist than "Nordic." If "Nordic" means being pro-Moscow, then perhaps Finland is not only the easternmost Nordic country, but the only Nordic country, period.

27 kommentaari:

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

We pay intress to those banks. We pay cash to those capitalists. We owe them no more than we owe.

Giustino ütles ...

I don't believe that you/we owe them, but we do benefit from the mostly positive relationship between Finland and Russia. And who spoke at Lennart Meri's funeral? Halonen and Bildt.

It's kind of interesting that Halonen would take a swipe at Estonia, but not at Sweden, which has an almost identical policy to Estonia when it comes to Georgia.

stockholm slender ütles ...

I would be interested to see the whole interview - it was broadcast already last week without any remarkable publicity, and these individual comments were picked by the media later and then presented for the Estonian commentators. This is the classic way these Finnish-Estonian controversies are created. I'm pretty sure the whole tone of the interview was not like that at all. In any case, we do have different historical experiences and should not be so eager to lecture each other. This also goes for those Estonians who only see cowardice behind Finnish caution.

I do believe that we are quietly positioning ourselves for Nato membership (main problem being that it is quite unpopular among the voters). Halonen won't allow for it, but her successor most likely will (and the office might also be stripped of any significant foreign policy powers). Anyway, we shouldn't let these storms in teacups to disturb our close and strong ties. They are much more important than any silly remarks by politicians.

martintg ütles ...

I don't see Halonen taking a swipe at Estonia, rather it seems she was attempting to justify Finland's position. Historically Finland was considered a Baltic country, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact designated it as such. Finland's move into the Nordic sphere was a conscious post-war policy choice.

The problem is, had Estonia stayed silent over Georgia, would it not have seen as tacit acceptance of Russia occupying former Soviet republics in defence of Russian passport holders, and thus an invitation to similar action against itself?

Anyway, Estonia is considered the political minnows of the EU, so this criticism over Estonia not keeping its mouth shut seem rather overblown, in my view

Jens-Olaf ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Again, Finland has not 25% or somewhat new Finish members with a different heritage background, they would and could not deal with this. My opinion. And no other Scandinavian country could deal with it without breakup of society. End of comparison. Estonia has to deal with it. Fact. Point.
A Im angry, now. I've read too much support for Putin (Understanding Russia) in german comments on the internet. I am scared. How far will tis go. Even Germany could not deal with this size of immigration/minorities. Should I really add the fuzz about the 20 000 Danish in Schleswig-Holstein we created the last decades. Germany is a 80 million country.

Anonüümne ütles ...

There actually have been (much less prominent) whispers of criticism towards the Swedish line - particularly Bildt's - from some in the Finnish government. They probably just haven't got reported in Estonia as they haven't been deemed interesting enough for Estonian media to report them. They are also balanced by Stubb who is naturally more prominent in any debate on the subject by virtue of his particular ministerial office.

A prominent MEP who happens to be a keen Russia-watcher (Henrik Lax) actually just yesterday said he was disappointed in hearing these voices of critique towards Sweden's position and Estonia.

LPR ütles ...

Golden line: Finns looked at Georgians and saw "them." Estonians looked at "them" and saw "us."

It pains me that Estonians see any connection with Georgians.

What can I say? Maybe more of us should have served in the Soviet Army to develop the proper immune system toward all kinds of "churkas."

Giustino ütles ...

I think that the positions of the countries aren't so different. It's the manner in which they express those positions. Ilves and Bildt express their opinions more robustly. Both, though, have been ignored by the Russians. Have you heard any condemnations of Sweden by the Russians lately?

Anonüümne ütles ...

Actually, yes. The Russians are already pretty irritated by Sweden's stance on extradition of Chechens. They likened Sweden to a safehaven for terrorists a few weeks back, before even the Georgian crisis started.

So, this already 'cold' spell in relations probably has a lot to do with Sweden and Bildt's rather 'robust' reaction to the Georgian crisis.

Jim Hass ütles ...

Baggage is another word for experience. If something is "inconceivable, then stretch your imagination. Senial is unbecomming to your otherwise wise and perceptive blog.

Giustino ütles ...


Soviet baggage comes in many shapes and sizes. Environmental damage, for example, is Soviet baggage. I did not mean "baggage" in a disparaging way.

Giustino ütles ...

It pains me that Estonians see any connection with Georgians.

Well, we should ask, would the Estonians defend the Azerbaijanis or the Armenians with the same zeal? Would we see Armenian flags hanging from the front of EÜS? If they are sincere in their convictions, I would hope so, NATO aspirations or no NATO aspirations.

LPR ütles ...

Sincere Azeris or Armenians?

There is no such thing.

OK, maybe I ma biased. After all, it was me who had to hand combat them in the damn Soviet Army 85-87,

Anonüümne ütles ...

The Finns have a lot more baggage with Russia than they are willing to admit.

plasma-jack ütles ...

inner monologue: saa üle. I know a couple of what you call "churkas" and your racist BS is getting annoying, thraumatizing youthhood or not.

Well, we should ask, would the Estonians defend the Azerbaijanis or the Armenians with the same zeal?

Most probable scenario is Azeri-Armenian war. I have no idea how the Estonia as a state would react. Sadly, it seems to depend on the US position. I hope I'm wrong, yet I can't remember when we last had a diplomatic disagreement with the White House, on any subject.

LPR ütles ...

I do sound out of line, do I? I know. Yet, everything I say, is basically stating the basic facts and well known truths. I do not come up with new stuff.

I am not as creative as ... OK, as some people.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Acting bigoted, even if it's army M.O. ( the US army has it's mooks and towel heads) doesn't make you right, it just makes you a jerk.
Stating that its wrong doesn't make one creative just compassionate.

Giustino ütles ...

Forgive me for going against popular sentiment, but I think the Estonians are a bit blind with regards to the Georgians.

I mean, I am aware of how nice they are as people and what great food they have, but ... I am also aware that they have a big statue of Stalin in Stalin Square in Gori ... remember him, that guy who ordered the deportation of thousands of Estonians?

How Estonian politicians can go to Georgia and just ignore the many streets named after Stalin is a little unbelievable. If it were Russia, they'd have an entirely different opinion.

A little honesty would help us all from time to time.

Unknown ütles ...

About azers and armenians - I recall it was abot 18 years ago in a summer camp in Estonia, where Armenian children were spending theire summer holiday - it was after a big earth quake in Armenia, when we all donated clothes and money and toys to Armenia and tried to help.. Okay, I remember the way the Armenians (and not the children, no, the supervisors!) spoke about Azers - those dirty muslims!!! We, Armenians, are normal people, but they, they are muslims, you know, they are dirty...

Heh. And they truly were different - we were playing soccer, and one of the Armenians, not a boy anymore, a young man actually, of age like 17-18 or so, just attacked one of our boys, much younger and smaller, just slammed him... And I know, that my brother had to fight with Georgians in the Soviet Army, too - the Georgians were more aggressive against guys from Baltic countries then the Russians.

But - my brother doesn't hate Georgians or Georgia for something these guys in the Soviet Army did to him. He baught a bottle of gergian wine and prayed for Georgia, when Russia attacked. We have to remember - we have our own idiots here in Estonia too. People, who are speaking of "churkas" and "white power" and are harrassing people of different origin or cultural background.

Actions of a person cannot be blamed upon a nation or a country. So, I must confess, in the summer camp some other Armenians were really friendly and nice :) and I'm glad that we see "us", not "them". There is too much this "them"-mentality in the world, anyway. By the way - did somebody just accuse Estonians of thinking only about me, me and me? ;)

Jens-Olaf ütles ...


I thought the same about the statues. Will Georgia be able to join european institutions or NATO, maybe yes. But before are the 'criteria', you know, and hopefully not with Stalin on central places.
The Hungarians have thrown parts of Soviet memorials into the Danube river two years ago. Estonia has seen tension with Russia about a similar issue.
And then Stalin... .

Ain Kendra ütles ...

Have been there. Have seen the Stalin-related statues and visited the museum.
And actually, I feel that if germans (or austrians) would like to have Hitler's statue in the central square somewhere - let it be. Until they start to have demonstrations there and telling us how good and smart guy he was and how he liked children. As for historical persons, we even may think about statues on not only mass murderers but also criminals. Btw, everything depends on the angle of view. Many of politicians can be seen as mass murderers. History is just a set of facts. The rest is literature.
Just the question is that we have to see separately the persons and the ideologies related to them. Maybe we need certain time-barrier, some generations between?
You cannot just keep your eyes closed and this way forget the evil. Like child at night.

LPR ütles ...

Bigotry? Aw, don't get too deep on me, please. I am that annoying guy the movie theatre who talks back to the charcters on screen and makes annoyingly sarcastic comments.

When you came to cry, I came to laugh. So keep on shushing me.

Giustino ütles ...

I don't think the Germans would erect a statue to Hitler because he embarrassed their country. They still suffer for it, wherever they go.

Rein Batuut ütles ...

Again, it's a shame you don't speak or read Estonian, but Mihkel Mutt discussed in today's Postimees how Esto-Russia relations differ from Finno-Russian relations. One clever thing he said, was something like this: those, who have just got back from concentration camps are always louder towards the aggressor because they have the (what you called) "baggage" or the experience of the atrocities, while those, who never had to suffer or experience that, keep their mouth shut because they are afraid the same might happen to them. Mutt, of course, talked about Estonians and Finns, respectively.

Ain Kendra ütles ...

Well yes, i said that IF the germans or austrians etc - i don't care. Separate story is that we don't believe they'll do that.
Concerning now again Gori and Stalin, as locals told us - he is/was just a historical person. Good or bad? Who cares (well, we actually do)? It does not make him less historical.
Well, parallel from another article. Everyone knows churches. Big ones called Cathedrals as example. Which contain a lot of statues of god? Jesus? But how many of you, dear readers, have been in Nõmme, in von Glehn's park and seen the statue there? Glehni kurat.
Again, good or bad. Who cares. History or art. Just statue. Sometimes is even good to have statues for evils. Just to remember how bad they were.

Giustino ütles ...

Here's one point where Mutt and I agree:

P.S. Soome välisminister Alexander Stubb väitis nädalavahetusel seoses vajadusega uue idapoliitika järele, et Soome prioriteet ei peaks olema liitumine NATOga, vaid Põhjala. Paraku on Põhjala eeskätt geograafilis-kultuuriline ja emotsionaalne mõiste. Riigid on liiga erinevad.

Kui viiest kolm (Taani, Norra ja Island) on NATOs ja Rootsil oli alliansiga külma sõja ajal tihedad kontaktid (millest üldsus ei teadnud), siis milleks luua veel mingit lahjemat «Põhjala sektsiooni»?