esmaspäev, september 01, 2008

the thin ice

British journalists often come packaged not only with their file of clippings but with individual, ideological worldviews that inevitably bring them into conflict with their fellow countrymen who practice the same trade.

That's why I hesitate to quote two of them in the same blog post, for fear of being avalanched by Anglo negativity. But two journalists, one named Peter Millar, the other Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, both of whom no doubt have loyal readers and mortal enemies, have chosen to view the EU-Russia conflict through the civilizational, rather than values lens.

In yesterday's Daily Telegraph, Evans-Pritchard writes:

The credible Nato line in Eastern Europe runs along the borders of the European Union, from the Baltics to Romania. This pits Russia against a unified bloc of 505m people. Any attempt by Moscow to peel off Estonia or Latvia by stirring up Sudeten-style irredentism among their Russian minorities would be deemed a mortal challenge by the EU's elites.

This is not to criticise David Miliband's impassioned plea in Kiev ... But Nato membership for Ukraine is playing with fire. Some 30pc of the population are native-Russian speakers. The Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are uprisings-in-waiting along Russia's border.

In the Times, Peter Millar makes an even more overt civilizational argument:

For [David] Cameron to equate Estonia and Ukraine, as he did last week, is stupidity. Estonia’s history, language and culture are markedly separate. Forced into the Soviet Union in the second world war, it has also over the centuries been part of Sweden, and ruled by the Teutonic knights. Its language is related to Finnish.

Ukraine is another matter. Its name comes from Old Slavonicu kraju, meaning “on the edge” – in other words, borderlands. We stopped saying “the Ukraine” to make it sound more like any other country. To Russians it doesn’t.

By posting these snippets from these no doubt controversial authors, I do not necessarily endorse them. However, I find it interesting that both employ civilizational rhetoric to support Estonia's membership in the West, rather than values language. There's no reference to democracy or rule of law. Instead, NATO and the EU are conceptualized as civilizational projects.

It's kind of interesting to know what our British friends are reading.

36 kommentaari:

Rainer ütles ...

"For [David] Cameron to equate Estonia and Ukraine, as he did last week, is stupidity."

What is Millar referring to?

Wahur ütles ...

Not so simple.
Culturally homogeneous Eastern Slavic world is a relatively new thing. Original Kiev Rus was oriented to Byzantium, Novgorod had strong Scandinavian influence, South-West was more like a Central-European country. Moscow was youngest offspring, Wild East, far from any other cultural influences.
Moscow and mongols succeeded in killing all these other "Russian cultures" by 15th century, except for South-East that became part of Rzcespospolita and is now known as Ukraine and Belarus.
Last remains of this culture are still strong in Western Ukraine that is culturally definitely closer to Poland and Czech than Moscovian Russia.

McGon_Ireland ütles ...

An opinion from Irish writers. Keep in mind Ireland is typically considered a NEUTRAL country. Now we are attending meetings with the EU about how to punish Russia?

What are the Poles and Czechs doing, playing along with America’s power game?
Life is getting very complicated for the European Union.
For those of us who, in our innocence, thought the EU was a mere economic vehicle which allowed us to indulge in trade and commerce while maintaining national sovereignty, its cover has by now been well and truly blown.
Take tomorrow’s EU meeting in relation to the crisis in the Caucasus. Whoever envisaged that the day would come when the EU leaders - including Ireland- would have to spend a whole day arguing what sort of punishment should be doled out to Russia as a result of its apparent punitive actions in Georgia? Georgia and Ukraine are not in Europe, and EU should stop supporting the US led expansion of NATO! We don't need that hassle.

As the United States ratchets up the stakes by sending another warship to the Black Sea to indulge in a spot of 19th century-style gunboat diplomacy - watch the EU divide down the middle, thanks to American interference, about what to do with Russia. Watch, too, as what Donald Rumsfeld (remember him?) called New Europe attempts to involve the rest of the EU in an anti-Russian and pro-Nato strategy.

In this, the behaviour of Poland and the Czech Republic has been a deep cause for concern. Did we ever imagine when these countries were admitted with such fanfare during the Irish presidency of the EU on May 1, 2004, that they would start playing such a dangerous global game between the US and Russia?

Did we imagine, for example, that they would subsequently involve all of us in the EU in the latest American strategy of encircling Russia by allowing their territories to be used for the new US missile detection system? As Russia becomes an increasingly major player in Europe’s deepening energy crisis as a purveyor of both gas and oil, how extraordinary it is that we have allowed the Polish and Czech governments to damage EU - Russian relations in this way.

Isn’t it time that we pointed out to them that the Cold War is over and that we will resist any attempts to use the EU in any new strategic battle with Russia that the neo-cons in Washington DC want to fight?

Wahur ütles ...

mcgon, but now try to look at it from our side.
Russia is aiming to restore the empire. That's no surprise, up here everybody new from the start that this will happen. All these balts, finns, poles, czechs live in an "area of Russian special interest" and believe me, knowing this does not give me a warm fuzzy feeling. We
It is very convenient to be neutral, if you live in a place like Ireland.
As for European interest - just lets remind that Europe already sold these borderlands once for peace. Jolly good deal you made! With big European states once again ready to trade, this time for gas, it is rather natural, that we tend to "play along America's power game".

Giustino ütles ...

The EU went and brokered a ceasefire, which the Russian side signed and agreed to follow.

It hasn't followed through on its ceasefire. Therefore, what is the point of having any other discussions on further agreements between the EU and Russia?

If Russia signs one piece of paper and ignores it, what is the value of its signature on other pieces of paper?

Russia committed to a losing strategy in response to Saakashvili's attempt to take back South Ossetia.

It's strategy calls for choking Georgia until Saakashvili is gone. The West cannot support that precedent. It won't.

Russia, let's remember, is not the United States. The US itself could not even create a globally recognized, independent Kosovo. And these jokers think they can do that with Abkhazia or South Ossetia?

So now, following their losing strategy, the Russians are going farther and farther out on a limb to justify their actions.

There was a "genocide" in South Ossetia, they claim. Except no one believes them. Saakashvili's evil regime must go, they demand. Except nobody backs them. South Ossetia is an independent state, they proclaim, except nobody of importance, not even the Chinese, believes it to be the case.

What you are seeing here is the beginning of the total breakdown of the international system. And, yes, it matters, whether Ireland cares or not.

Blaming the Poles or the Czechs is exactly what the Russians want. They want to take advantage of Europe and extort as much money as they can. They already have their tentacles in Europe's foreign policy, which dare not "punish" them for fear of energy cut offs. How long until there is no independent European foreign policy anymore?

Doris ütles ...

It's easy to be neutral when your own safety is not in danger. yes. But it's also a distance thing: there's a difference between knowing that there are, say, 1000 rapes a year in your country and knowing that your neighbour's daughter was raped 15 years ago (but she's gotten over it now and is going on with her life) and having your daughter raped in front of you and you're next. So what if you're a man.

For us here in the borderlands the orks are not a bed-time story for children. Hell, Russia doesn't even acknowledge the Tartu peace treaty of 1920 which is the very basis of Estonian independence (and Latvian and Lithuanian and a safeguard for Polish) which means that according to the Russian "history", the Baltics are still a part of Russia because they were a part of the Russian Empire pre-revolution. so far it's only posturing but....

Anonüümne ütles ...

What if Irish neutrality fails Ireland someday? Right now no aggressor is immediately apparent. The British subjugation of Ireland is a past matter, largely history.

But I am transported into 1939, when the Germans and the Russians ganged up on Poland.
There but for the grace of God go I. Western Europe - having itself failed Poland and a number of others - was thankful to the max when the American cavalry came to the rescue. Eastern Europe was left to the grim mercies of the Russians. Failed utterly.

Go and have your neutrality. Stand by yourself. And do not be surprised if no one comes to your rescue should you ever need help. It is not necessarily the best way of thinking.

I am not writing this to create animosity with mcgon_Ireland. Rather I am saying that in a world where there are many peoples suffering at the hands of others, compassion and civic courage seem to be in short order.

Shall we watch the vulture devour the liver of Eastern Europe - each day a different victim (I'll bet bookies are already placing bets on who is going to experience the next Russian drive-by shooting (the Crimea? Moldova? one of the Baltic States)?

Lest we start awarding a Chamberlain appeasement award, more solidarity with those aggressed against would seem in order.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Another Britsh journalist is coming to Estonia, working for BBC.

"It also has a large Russian population, many of whom don’t want any of it. Where Estonia is now Georgia wanted to be. But is where Georgia is now where Estonia might end up.

I’ll let you know in a couple of days time"
Humphrey Hawksley Blog

Giustino ütles ...

I'll be visiting Sillamäe this week. I'll make sure to assess any signs of impending war.

martintg ütles ...

Talking about the American cavalry coming to the rescue, the USA is calling for NATO to boost Baltic defence:

LPR ütles ...

How long until there wont be an independent Eu policy anymore?

What else?

Well, thinking ahead and looking at the horizon ... I have this extra Aerobed that I was thinking of throwing away ... I think I may need it.

For those relatives from kodueesti who'll manage to make it out on time.

Giustino ütles ...

Who names their kid Humphrey Hawksley?

McGon_Ireland ütles ...

hey petka and others, please do not assume I am one of these neutral Irish types... I would be happier if we were in NATO to be honest. The point I was trying to make was that EU countries should not be used like pawns in part of a larger US foreign policy initiative. I think the EU needs to distance itself from the USA and the total mess the last 8 years have been for the USA. It is very obvious that saakevilli(sic) expected FULL USA NATO EU military support by trying to force control in South Ossetia. Now how do you think he got the impression we would all send military foces there? He got this idea off someone? Someone who knew that russia would have the excuse it has wanted for a LONG time to go in an occupy Georgia to "protect" its citizens, most of who only got russian passports in the past 3 years. waiting for this moment. It was very foolish of saakavali and has GREATLY damaged any chance Georgia had of getting into EU and NATO.
So just to say this again to clear my position. I live part of the year in Estonia and love the place and the people and would fully expect a full military reaction from NATO if russia dared invade any soerign EU / NATO border. I would also expect the same protection from the EU if it happened in Ireland of course! However, in countries that are NOT in EU or NATO I don't think we should be threatening russia over. Yes I emphasise with Georgia and Ukraine but the situation is not the same as the baltic situation from 1945 - 1991. not the same at all.

McGon_Ireland ütles ...

100% agree with this too by the way...

In Brussels, Mr Volker said Nato was firmly committed to defending the Baltic states from attack because, unlike Georgia, they were signatories to the alliance’s Article 5, which guarantees defence of one ally by all the rest.

Nato must, therefore, send signals in the area of military “planning and exercising” that it intends to help shore up the Baltic states.

“Those countries are members of Nato; so if there is any attack on those countries we will all respond,” Mr Volker said in an interview with the Financial Times.

“They are feeling a little rattled by seeing Russia use military force to invade a sovereign, small neighbouring country. We need to send signals to shore them up a little bit.

“We will have to make sure . . . that the Article 5 commitment is realisable not just as a political matter but as a military matter too.”

Wahur ütles ...

Hey. Trying to provoke a bit.
Russia has declared loud and clear, that they are all about spheres of interest. So lets play that game.

It is up to Europe and Americans to decide, what we are ready to leave Russians and what we want to keep/get to ourselves. I do see remarkably strong support in the West to the idea that Ukraine (and Georgia, for that matter) could be left to Russians while almost everyone is firmly declaring that they would be ready to die for Baltics.

Honestly, this sounds really absurd from the pragmatic point of view. If we look at it very pragmatically then three Baltic states are lovely, tiny, thoroughly unimportant part of the world. While Ukraine would be The Thing - huge market, huge resources, country that would add significantly to the power of Europe, if handled successfully.

To me it seems, drawing the line between Baltics and Ukraine should make no sense for Europeans and giving up on Ukraine would The Most Stupid Thing of a Millennium.

Rainer ütles ...

"Who names their kid Humphrey Hawksley?"

Engelbert Humperdinck, perhaps?

Rainer ütles ...

to plasma-jack: a complete and not-so-funny hoax. Ida-Virumaa my foot...

Rainer ütles ...

PS I stand corrected - it actually is kinda funny once you think of it.

Giustino ütles ...

What is the story with that? All I have read so far is a repeat of RIA Novosti's story.

LPR ütles ...

G, read this. Have Epp translate it for you.

Unknown ütles ...

Was I dreaming or was there a new post here and now it's gone?

klx ütles ...

that post was not under eu or nato protection... and now it is gone.

martintg ütles ...

Giustino did mention he was visiting Sillamäe, now this happens:


LPR ütles ...

Good piece:

plasma-jack ütles ...

Everybody is suddenly into linking, I see.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Hei, need some explanation, what kind of joke is this? RIA Novosti:

'Meanwhile, residents of the republic claim that the "bourgeois" Estonian government has sent a "squad of relatives of Estonian Nazi SS veterans" to regain control over the breakaway territory.'

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

plasmajack, who did the paintings and why, there is only a discription to each but no background

plasma-jack ütles ...

Russian schoolkids, I guess.
As an Estonian proverb goes - "Lapsesuu ei valeta" or
"A kid could tell no lies"

plasma-jack ütles ...

The second picture is titled: "General Nogovitsyn exposed a Georgian spy in a press conference"

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

OMG,the soviet farmer story already hits the news lines of 'serious' media like Denver Post.
I really need some info, who did this?

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

O.k., maybe funny, the farmers, but an example how Estonia might lose a more severe media war.

notsu ütles ...

Hey, Plasma-Jack, this pictures thing was a joke - do you really believe that Pravda would have an edition called PDRS?
The original edition is here:

plasma-jack ütles ...

Si non è vero è ben trovato

Wahur ütles ...

Good lord, has everybody lost their sense of a humour? I mean, even if this picture stuff was somewhat believable, then this ENSV was so absolutely clear hoax I cannot understand how anyone could have swallowed that. I mean, if I was RIA Novosti editor who ran this story I would not dare to show up to my workplace anymore...

plasma-jack ütles ...

You were assuming that Russian media had sense of humour when "near abroad" is involved?

Wahur ütles ...

Well, considering that:
I must take back my previous post.
I n the light of this whole story looks quite a bit different. I really thought that some Estonian jokers were behind it.