kolmapäev, detsember 08, 2010

the mock outrage

Now that the "secret" contingency plans to defend the Baltic countries in the event of an attack have been "leaked" by Wikileaks and splashed across the pages of most global media outlets, a curious exchange of diplomatic doublespeak is underway.

It goes like this. Officially, NATO does not see Russia as a threat. But if the alliance has drawn up new contingency plans in case of a potential Russian attack on its members, then it does see it as a threat. Or maybe not. Here's Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo to explain:

Commenting on the US Tallinn Embassy cables published by Wikileaks, Minister of Defense Jaak Aaviksoo said neither Estonia nor NATO have reason to consider Russia an enemy. Speaking on ERR radio, Aaviksoo said that drafting plans was a natural part of all defense endeavors. (courtesy ERR)

It's just natural to prepare for an possible attack, even if your neighbor officially poses no threat, though they recently held war games on their side of the border simulating the seizure of your country, right? Well, the Russians are naturally offended by the mere idea that there would be plans to defend Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from an attack. Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to NATO, said that Moscow "must get some assurances that such plans will be dropped, and that Russia is not an enemy for NATO."

What infuriates me about this is how everyone has to tiptoe around Moscow. "Ok, Baltic States, we'll give you your contingency plans, but you must promise not to talk about it." Best not to offend the Russians. They are nuclear armed and unpredictable. We wouldn't want to actually let on that should Russia attack NATO member states, such actions might compel the alliance to come to their defense!

It appears that Russia still has a bit of a Baltic problem. According to their foreign policy, they have a "privileged interest" in the post-Soviet space. As the Baltic countries were once (unwilling) parts of the Soviet Union, that would seem to consign them to Russia's sphere of influence. However, the Baltic countries have joined the alliances of the West and therefore cannot be considered part of such a privileged sphere. I mean, Estonia will adopt the euro in a matter of weeks. Could it get any more obvious? They have left the "post-Soviet space," which would behoove Moscow to treat them like other European countries in the region, Finland, Sweden, and more recently, Poland.

On many levels, Estonian-Russian relations are just as normal as in those other countries. Russian tourists visit Estonia in droves. Cultural relations are humming along. Business relations tend to be good, when the politicians don't screw things up. But that's just it. The key obstacle to improvements in relations is political. A Russian foreign minister has not visited Estonia in the past 19 years! The Russian elite apparently cannot find the will to normalize relations, and yet they demonstrate mock outrage when "secret" contingency plans to defend the Baltic countries are published.

It's almost as if the Russians prefer to use the Baltics as a stumbling block in their relations with NATO.

15 kommentaari:

Lingüista ütles ...

That Russia still has a Baltic problem is, to me, quite obvious, Justin. As has already often been said, it's the same problem that other ex-colonial metropoles have had with their ex-colonial empire. France with the Fourth Republic and then De Gaulle during the war of Algeria was full of similar rhetoric -- "L'Algérie est française", "Ici c'est la France", "Je vous ai compris", "L'Algérie sera toujours française", replaced by "special interests" ("La Francophonie", "Notre Histoire Commune", etc.) and a feeling of anger that their "pupils" would prefer independence instead of "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" inside the French Republic.

Yes, Russia is behaving like a spoiled adolescent. So did France. It's hard to lose your empire. It breaks your heart and makes you more than a little emotional and, well, irrational.

Give it some time. France recovered. Russia will, too. When the next bout of problems (Siberia, the North Caucausus, Tatarstan, etc.) becomes more urgent, people will slowly forget about that. Even the Russian minorities won't matter that much. After all, Russia doesn't complain about the 'de-russification' of Russian minorities in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan now does it?

Lingüista ütles ...

Oh, but about the rest of the world... Maybe that is to be expected. Russia is, after all, a nuclear power. The world also tip-toes around much-less-nuclear North Korea, why not around Russia?

My idea is that if European integration continues -- the Euro coming to Estonia now, maybe to Latvia and Lithuania in 2014 (Dombrovskis is an optimist)

Lingüista ütles ...

... then things should eventually cool off. (forgot to add that in my last comment... I really have to drink more coffe...)

Martasmimi ütles ...

Lingüista ütles...

The world also tip-toes around much-less-nuclear North Korea,

* mostly because they have an aging Elvis wanabe as their President.

Sharon ütles ...

That's just it, really. It's too soon. The Russian Empire was still something to boast about thirty years ago. People still remember being big and strong and powerful. They don't want to think they aren't big and strong and powerful anymore.

Plus, you have to remember that most empires get a bit paternal. They view their "member states" like a father views his teenage daughters.

On the one hand, they want unconditional respect, if not love. On the other hand, they feel somewhat "responsible" for them. If you spoke to the Russians, they would probably talk about the Baltic states as something they (Russia) must defend against other invading forces.

The idea that Estonia might just want Russia to go away and leave them to get on with their lives is probably about as popular as a 16 year old girl telling her possessive/protective father to stop interfering.

The fact that Baltic states might see Russia as the enemy? That the rest of the world might be willing to take their side and "protect" them from Russia? Well, I expect Daddy Russia probably would feel instulted at his daughters treating him so ungratefully.

The fact that he has a history of locking up his daughters "for their own good" and stopping them from moving freely and making friends is entirely beside the point.

LPR ütles ...

Nah, it is just somebody's boring job to draw up all those scenarios. You need to get the next FY budget justified and approved for your ministry/department/commissariat/gestapo what-have you. If I had a that cushy job in Moscow or Brussels or Toompea and all I had to do for a living was to dream up some pull out of your ass war scenarios, I'd do it. Hell yes, I would. It is just a job. Somebody's gotta do it. Nothing personal, just business. If I was Rogozin, I'd say the same BS he is saying. If I needed a BSser for my project, I'd hire him if the price was right. Same with Aaviksoo and the rest of the these characters. It is just a job.

Rein Batuut ütles ...

It might not be entirely emotional, as the Baltics GDP is 6.7% that of Russia's. As Russia acknowledges that its own GDP growth is based on limited fossil resources and that the Baltics' isn't, they might see the Baltics as a significant potential asset. But I agree that the passing of time is our best friend here.

Serial_ ütles ...

I don't believe that Russia has intentions to test does article 5 applies or not. Also Nato can't afford to let Russians to know does article 5 applies or not, because this is the basis of Nato treaty. For (utopic) example, Russia attacks Nato country. Nato has to respond now, otherwise all Nato agreements will become void and after that Nato will just stop existing and no one knows or even wants to know, what that can bring.

Actually, I still think that Russians knew about it before, because fact about nato plans was mentioned in press already some while ago. It wasn't a surprise to anyone, even to Russia.

Serial_ ütles ...

Oh, one article what was linked in Eesti Päevaleht commentaries

If you cannot understand Russian, then Google translator Russian-English is enough for this.

moevenort ütles ...

"paranoid manicacs" that´s even how us-diplomats described the behaviour of politicians in Estonia. No one should forget that Estonia´s government in 2008 with Sakaschwili in Georgia supported a freak how is as undemocratic as Putin himself. Georgia under Sakaschwili is anything else than democratic. So when I know the bacgkround of the 2008 crisis including the Estonian offer to send some volunteery units to support Sakaschwilis war efforts, the German refusal of defence plans and the american description of the "manicas" in Tallinns government are quite accurate.

btw: I know Georgia quite good. Have been living for some month shorty after Sakaschwili took power there. I know quite well what I am talking about when I call him an undemocratic freak.

Giustino ütles ...

So when I know the bacgkround of the 2008 crisis including the Estonian offer to send some volunteery units to support Sakaschwilis war efforts, the German refusal of defence plans and the american description of the "manicas" in Tallinns government are quite accurate.

For some reason, the Estonians took it upon themselves to defend Georgian national interests (even though Georgia is as far away from Estonia as Basque Country - when's the last time the Estonian government voiced concerns over political issues there?). There is a part of the Estonian elite that could be called "Georgiaphiles." It is interesting that such levels of support are not found among Georgia's real neigbors: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia.

That being said, the Russians played on Saakashvili's character flaws, constantly provoking him until he finally reacted. And nobody could do anything to restrain Russian provocations because they refused to internaionalize the situation. It's the equivalent of the school bully constantly bumping into you, tripping you in the hallway, waiting for the day when you finally hit back with your fist. And once you lay a hand on him, he has the right to do whatever he wants ... I mean, you started it.

As for the 2008 defense of the Georgian government though, there is a good reason for this: if the government in Tbilisi had fallen, and there would have been a total Russian occupation with a Russian-backed government set up by Moscow, it would be a way for Moscow to set up a precedent for occupying other countries the same way.

It was in the interests of all countries that have once been under Moscow's thumb to prevent that from happening. I think most Western leaders have admitted the Georgian government's mistakes in that conflict, but believed that the preservation of the current political configuration is necessary until a new, more democratic one is born.

Efforts by the Georgian opposition to remove Saakashvili from power have not been successful. So who else is going to run that country?

By the way, it wasn't the Estonians who negotiated the ceasefire: that was the much maligned French. It was Sarkozy who told Putin the West would not accept a Russian occupation of Georgia. And he listened to Sarkozy.

Estonians can criticize that agreement, but they must know that their foreign ministry certainly couldn't have put a stop to the war in Georgia.

But here, one has to ask, why wouldn't the West accept a Russian occupation of Georgia? Is it because Saakashvili, as flawed as he is, has opened his country up to a dialogue with the West? In this case, at least, his presidency can be called a success.

Unknown ütles ...

moevenorts posts are sort of like braindead copy-paste texts from regnum.ru His texts lack any self-criticism whatsoever, pure propaganda and lies. A'la Estonian volunteers to Georgia to support the "war effort". Nevermind the fact that Estonia sent humanitarian aid workers to the conflict. At the same time Russia sent "humanitarian aid" with tanks and bombs. And of course he ignores the US embassy cables that clearly lay it out that Russia was responsible for the war.

PS! I found a picture of moevenort online.

Unknown ütles ...

Let me get this straight, Russia holds the biggest wargames since the Cold War known as "Zapad-2009", which culminates in a nuclear attack on Poland and and invasion of the Baltic states, and these guys are now "perplexed" that NATO has drawn up plans to to defend Poland and the Baltics? Are these people drinking too much vodka?

Lingüista ütles ...

Nobody says Russia is behaving 'rationally', kalev. As I said, it's more like a spoiled adolescent slowly getting used to the idea that he can't play with his old toys anymore.

A good question, Justin: why wouldn't the West accept the occupation of Georgia? Probably because the fall of the Soviet Union had been seen as a 'happy ending' to the Cold War, and this occupation would help undo this feeling. I don't know it for a fact -- but I think if the Russians tried to occupy, say, Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, there would be a similar reaction. OK, the fact that Georgians are Christians and in appearance quite European-like did help; but something that looked like an attempt at reverting the 'happy end' of the Cold War would probably get some muscles moving in the West. Or so it seems to me.

Simo ütles ...

Just to throw something into the mix: http://www.thetrumpet.com/index.php?q=6260.4720.0.0
A bit sensationalist but food for thought.
I found this via a search of the said headline so please excuse that it comes from a religious organisation. I don't make a habit of reading this column.