esmaspäev, oktoober 06, 2008

eesti maine

Last month's exposure of Herman Simm, former head of the security department at the Estonian Ministry of Defense, as a spy has prompted Estonians to ask themselves important questions, the most primary being, of course: how will this affect our image?

Marko Mihkelson [an IRL member, blogger, and member of the Estonian Golf and Country Club], argued that the exposure of Simm showcases the ability of Estonia to catch those engaged in espionage within its ranks. Therefore, the spy scandal is good for Estonia's image, not bad.

Jaak Aaviksoo [Minister of Defense], reassured his constituents meantime that the spy scandal did not make Estonia a pariah for NATO. Estonia's image as a positive transformer was secure.

There are other questions, though. Aleks from All About Latvia asked me, "how could an Estonian betray his country" by allegedly selling secrets, including classified NATO information, to Russia?

Margus Hanson, the former Minister of Defense, who was sacked over a lost briefcase containing classified information in 2004, first asked himself, "Did Herman Simm [or his wife, Heete, also arrested] steal my briefcase?" and then perhaps asked himself, very quietly so that nobody could hear, "Could this help me get back into national politics?"

I personally wondered why Herman Simm, should he be guilty, would trade classified information that affected the security of the nation in which he and his family lived to a historically aggressive country for ... more land in Estonia.

According to media reports, Simm spent the proceeds from his espionage on buying up properties all over Estonia; properties that have now been seized by state authorities. A farm in Ida-Virumaa here, a cottage in Harjumaa there. It was prime real estate for saunaing and root vegetable cultivation, but little else.

These options, though, are available to most Estonians, poor and rich. So, why did he do it? Greed is probably one factor; but the thrill of just doing it may be another. As Bill Clinton said about the Lewinsky scandal: "I did it because I could."

But what of Estonia's reputation? Well, I think that Estonia's reputation overall is good. That's because Estonia benefits what I would call the likability factor. In spite of their national aloofness, people think the Estonians are cute and their culture is worthy of perpetuation. They visit Estonia and when they return to their homes, they tell great stories about its old city or its islands or its university town.

But in terms of the current Estonian government, I am not sure if Estonia has the greatest reputation. A deeper analysis of the reasons for that perception are for another blog post, however.

6 kommentaari:

Wahur ütles ...

Ask Alex back - does he really-really believe, that there are no high-level Russian spies among Latvian political and military elite?

LPR ütles ...

Talking with Latvians I get a sense that they are very worried that their country is run by Russian interests. Nobody trusts nobody in Riga anymore.

Unknown ütles ...

Jesus, Võrno's gotten old.

Aleks ütles ...

Ask Alex back - does he really-really believe, that there are no high-level Russian spies among Latvian political and military elite?

We've had our own spy-spats. If my memory serves me right, Latvia expelled two Russian diplomats for, you know, engaging in activities beyond their diplomatic status. It also happened at the time when the bilateral relations appeared to have warmed up. But it was interesting that a similar could happen in Estonia, the country we much admire here in the south. Perhaps, undeservingly so. We should join the Estonian Skeptic Society, perhaps, but even that organization is so un-Latvian.

I went to a police protest rally this weekend. A couple of hundred police officers demanded higher wages in response to the government's decision to freeze wages. Two old men were arguing over ... Russians and Latvians. One short gray-bearded man said that Latvians sold everything off to Russians. The Latvians don't own much any more in their own country, he said. I found it interesting that at a time when we're jumping off a cliff and passing by falling Estonia in terms of economic development, we still fight over Russians and Latvians. Almost 20 years since our independence, we still don't appear to understand the free market where you have to be able to compete. Protectionism, i.e. defending Latvia's interests in business against Russians, isn't going to work. Besides, it appears to be too late now. Latvia has been indeed the most friendly toward Russia of the Baltic three.

Unknown ütles ...

Well, I happen to know a person who suffers from schizophrenia. Knowing him, I must say, if the stories about Simm being mentally unstable are true, I can see the reasons... It's not the money, it's just a small benefit of it. No, it's the thrill and the feeling, that you are a part of something really "big". I have heard my friends' fantasies - he's like the ruler of the Universe, everything is related to him, he is turning the wheel of history, and of course - there are people trying to harm him everywhere.

It might just be that some peoples' spirit is not strong enough for a job like Simm had - I mean, if you have a tendency to have fantasies like that and maybe some genetic background for mental instability, a job like that might just be too much... Maybe?

And maybe he's just a common crook. There are people like that everywhere. I personally know Estonians who don't give a damn about their country and would probably sell it for a certain sum of money... Their philosophy seems to be - there is nothing more important then my OWN well-being, and for them the words like independence are just another word - well, one needs to eat and drink and go to toilet for time to time, so don't come to tell me about independence or honesty or traditional values or some other like that... I think, you can find people thinking like that everywhere, don't you agree?

By the way, Estonians are so concerned that Finnish and Swedish entrepreneurs have bought a lot of land and enterprises in Estonia :) "They are selling off Estonia!!!" they scream. But most of these people are doing nothing to stop those "bloody foreigners" - THEY are selling their land to these businessmen (in order to get money for vodka and beer), and THEY prefer to lay on bed and fantasize of getting rich with no effort at all (by winning in lottery, for example, or taking part of a TV contest..) So, nothing new here - always blame strangers for your own faults.

Triin ütles ...

I don’t think Estonia’s reputation is good. Estonia doesn’t exist (for most of the world).
keep writing your blog :)