Wednesday, May 23, 2007

David Triumphant

Estonian foreign policy is inevitably a David & Goliath affair. From our position in the EU we do work with small countries that - well, want to be us, basically. But most of the really important things our diplomats do are relations with our allies, usually the US and the big EU countries, and the enemy-apparent, Russia.

Giustino mentions an idea which I think should be embraced - an Estonian version of the British Council or Goethe Institute or such; tasked not so much with promoting language study or cultural exports, but with generating public goodwill towards our country. There is already a tradition of Estonian Houses as community centres. If Hemingway was right, and indeed in every port in the world you will find an Estonian, the resource is ready to be called into public service.

Estonia would very much like to be like Switzerland - just friendly enough with its neighbors to not be involved in any of their conflicts, otherwise left alone; "we'll take your money, but please don't move here". Of course objectively this is impossible - Estonia will always and inevitably be aligned with some major force, and all it gets to do is choose the one it fancies more. Exporting counterpropaganda and actively developing goodwill around the world is an important task.

However, and in conjunction with the Russia crisis, I think people tend to underestimate the Estonian government's ability to manipulate others. The way to make Europe care about Estonia's security is to make Europe worry about Russia's aggression. Take the border treaty debacle: with the benefit of hindsight, we might come to the conclusion that it was a great diplomatic victory for Estonia, provoking Russia into a hysterical, unreasonable response. And it's the same with the Bronze Soldier mess: if we give in to the conspiracy theory, logical analysis suggests that Estonia pulled off a major coup, forcing Russia into a move necessitated by internal issues, which in turn left the EU with no choice but to call the Kremlin on it.

Estonian politics are small country politics; small countries cannot afford ideals. They have goals and purposes, and their primary purpose is preserving the nation. Ideals are something you sacrifice a lot of human lives to defend. In Estonian foreign policy, the ultimate goal of ensuring the security and prosperity of the country must be pursued by the sneakiest of means. The fact that Estonia is not a significant military power or economic contributor to the EU budget does not mean that Estonia's diplomats and policy chiefs are not successful. They just go about things in a slightly different way.

Russia is in the habit of making threats from a position of weakness; we must convince the EU and NATO that Russia must never be allowed to come into a position of strength.


antonius said...

Antyx, are you sure the purpose of a state is to preserve the nation? I'd say country itself doesn't have any purposes, it just exists as a piece of ground inhabited by a community of people. It can refer to nation or state. The main purpose of the state IMHO is to let some people dominate over the other on one hand and to cumulate the contribution of every member in order to reach the goal.
But I'd like if Estonia could be like Switzerland, unfortunately it will take really long time to build up the state such way.

Giustino said...

The state is the "board of directors" for a particular company. Obviously Estonia has its own directors (Ansip is a perfect metaphor here) and wants to run its own "business" without foreign interference. The state's mission therefore, is to generate a profit (increase in standard of living) for all its shareholders (citizens).

So? said...

Pray tell me how you plan to keep Russia from a position of strength.

antyx said...

The main purpose of the state IMHO is to let some people dominate over the other on one hand and to cumulate the contribution of every member in order to reach the goal.

Estonia is too small for any sort of dominance to work, at least for any length of time. I take this as a good thing.

The state's mission therefore, is to generate a profit

This is true, but it's way up there on the Maslow pyramyd - the state needs to ensure its own security as a prerequisite.

Pray tell me how you plan to keep Russia from a position of strength.

The point rather is that we don't have to. We get someone else to do it for us.

In this case, the key is the fact that Russia needs Europe's money more than Europe needs Russia's gas. Europe can buy gas elsewhere; if Russia's economy isn't sustained by ever-higher fuel prices, the country will collapse. The entire economy as it is now, and the social, infrastructure and military developments, are built upon a foundation of exporting raw materials for the highest bidder.

So? said...

Actually it's the other way around. Gas and oil are the only true hard currency. Everything else is a commodity. (Even the so-called high-tech economy, much of which isn't). If hydrocarbons were so easy to come by, the US would not be wasting it's young in Iraq right now. Russian economy is slowly getting off the oil-and-gas dependency. Though it will take another 5-10 years. That excess capacity that allowed the Saudis to crash the oil price in 1985 and bankrupt their competitors simply does not exist anymore.

Jens-Olaf said...

Still a few days and I will live in Korea. It's all about Korea there whether you live in the North or the South. Everybody knows that it is not Japan not China not the USA and not Russia. Yes there was a war in Korea and Russian soldiers were there too.
'I'd say country itself doesn't have any purposes'.
This sentence nobody would understand in Korea. It was conquered by the Mongolians by the Chinese, by the Japanese and others. Even the first contacts with US Americans ended in violence. And that makes me feel like in Estonia. Switzerland is not the option. Assimilatiation or integration in Korea, maybe. But for the next years I will be THE GERMAN . That's for sure.

antonius said...

Sorry, but I've been misunderstood telling about the state. I didn't mean Estonia in particular, it's one of the points of view on the state in it's general meaning. Thou the state as a mechanism of a suppression of a personality in the name of needs of the entire society.

space_maze said...

I have some mixed feelings about the equivalent of the British Consule thingy. On the one hand, it sounds like a great idea, obviously. Russia is trying to create a wide array of completely nutty clichees about Estonia, and it would be great to have some fact mixed in with that.

On the other hand .. not to be defeatist, but in a direct match of resources, I don't think Estonia can beat the Russian propaganda machine. What seems more hopeful, though, is to let the Kremlin expose its meddlesome hypocracy with as little effort as possible. I do think Estonia has been doing okay with this so far .. though some of the nonsense that's come from the east could get a whole lot more publicity.

I find it hard to imagine an equivalent of the British Consulate concentrate on publishing data on Russian stupidity though. It would hardly come over as mature and professional.

But I do think that this is what is of primary importance for Estonia. Estonia is "too small" and "too far" for most people in central Europe to really care about it, its history, its culture, its language, or anything. But all of Europe gets nervous when they see Russia acting like a raving mad-man.

So what can we do to give Russian stupidity more publicity? I honestly don't know.

space_maze said...

.. though considering how utterly painful it can be to fight the Russian propaganda machine (I don't think I will ever get used to being called a Nazi for defending a country's right to exist. I actually do find it highly insulting to my character and my principles.) .. I would not mind people getting payed for the kind of shit-diving so many of us do regularly out of the goodness of our hearts. It would only be fair. :P


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