Estonia painting itself into corner in foreign policy - newspaper

Postimees web site, Tallinn
3 Dec 04


Estonia has painted itself into a corner by joining the Russian
initiative at the UN to mark 8 and 9 May as days of remembrance and
reconciliation. Ruutel will have no option but to go to Moscow, as
invited by his Russian counterpart, on 9 May and, with a bit of luck,
he and the other Baltic presidents will issue a statement to clarify
the significance of World War II for the Baltic states before they
leave for Moscow. The following is the text of the article entitled
"Ruutel cornered" by Erkki Bahovski published by the Estonian
newspaper Postimees web site on 3 December.

In the light of the question as to whether President Arnold Ruutel
should go to Moscow on 9 May or not, Estonia has done quite a lot to
paint itself into a corner in terms of foreign policy. The deadlock
seems quite so serious that there are only weak recipes for a way
out. Evidently the visit is on.

During his visit to Armenia, our president issued an appeal, in itself
a correct one, that Turkey should recognize the 1915 genocide against
the Armenians. There is, however, a "but". If Estonia is fighting
against genocide and crimes against humanity in front of the world
public at large, then why should the Estonian president go to Moscow
to mark an event that continued the genocide and crimes against
humanity on Estonian territory?

On the other hand, Armenia is among the CIS countries that supported
the Russian initiative to declare 8 and 9 May as so-called UN days for
remembrance and reconciliation. The way these days were created is
quite interesting: on 10 November a letter was sent by the Russian UN
mission to the Netherlands, the holder of the EU presidency,
containing a Russian request for EU support for a resolution to this
end to be adopted at the UN General Assembly on a consensus basis.

This is how things indeed went: the EU supported the idea of a
consensus and only Lithuania abstained at the General Assembly, as its
representative recalled that those days in May commemorated the start
of a peacetime Soviet occupation in the Baltic states.

The simple question is: what did Estonia do? The decision was taken on
the basis of a consensus and Estonia, consequently, voted in favour. A
resolution to this end discusses 8 and 9 May additionally not only as
days for remembrance and reconciliation but also in terms of an appeal
to all UN member states to remember these days, or one of them, "in an
approved manner" every year so as to commemorate all the World War II
dead. Is the [Soviet-style] Victory Day returning to Estonia?

Since Estonia at the UN General Assembly supported the Russian
initiative to mark the end of World War II in Europe it would be quite
strange to explain to the world that well, you see, we are not going
to Moscow.

Meanwhile Estonia, which has always been seeking an EU common policy
on Russia, has not simplified its position through Prime Minister
Juhan Parts's visit to Israel. When Parts said that the EU should be
softer towards Israel, he cast doubt on the EU policy hitherto on the
Middle East.

It would now be quite strange to go and seek, say, from France a more
unified policy on Russia. Perhaps, having painted itself into a
corner, a weak way out of the corner for Estonia would be for the
Baltic states' presidents to issue a joint statement to the world
ahead of their travel to Moscow to explain what happened during World
War II in the Baltic states and what the Baltic states' position is on
the war. This, however, would still not be a final solution.