Estonia & Russia (8)
Archived Articles 04 May 2007  EWR
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I am not just worried. I am cross.

First I am cross that the Russians think they can blockade any country’s embassy like this. I remember our vigil for Politkovskaya — it had to be across the street from the Russian embassy in London in order not to get on their nerves. Russia always insists on the most pedantic interpretation of the Vienna convention when its diplomats (and "embassy officials") get caught drunkdriving, shoplifting etc. But when they want to throw their weight around — against a country that has already suffered so hugely at their hands in the past — then they ignore all the rules and just go ahead.

I am cross at the Estonian government too. I asked Ansip when he was in London — a couple of months ago — "Are you really sure you want to do this? You have no diplomatic support abroad; it is incredibly divisive at home." He blathered on about extremists, public order etc. I asked him "Can you name one politician in any other country who has come out in public support for moving the statue". He couldn't name one.

What makes me so angry is that these nitwits take Estonia's hardwon reputation for granted, rather like the decadent children of first-generation immigrants do with their parents' hard-earned fortunes. Do he and his colleagues have any idea how long it took to persuade people that Estonia was a proper country? That the language and citizenship laws were justified? That the economic boom was real (and not just "smuggling")? That NATO and EU membership was justified? And because of all that credibility in the bank, he feels he can go and squander it, just to get a few extra votes for his ex-komsomoltsy.

I am cross with parts of the Estonian media for their casual treatment of another asset built up so painfully over 15 years: harmony between people of different backgrounds. The "honest" coverage, implying that the "Russians" have shown themselves in their true colours, as habitual looters and hooligans, is outrageous.

I am cross with Savisaar for exploiting the riots in one way, and cross with his opponents for trying to make him the scapegoat for the whole thing. I can see a danger that Estonia becomes another Poland, leading with its chin in fights it can't win, alienating its friends and delighting Russia.

Should Ansip resign? Probably. I like the guy personally, but this is a disaster. What stays my hand is the feeling that if the bronze soldier hadn't been the provocation, the Russians would have found another one. The way things are now with the Kremlin, it was only a matter of time before the storm broke.

I am cross with the looters, of course. The Estonians have treated the Soviet-era migrants with incredible generosity, restraint and patience. What an outrageous way to behave! I am cross with the local Russian-language press, which as far as I have seen has failed to publish pictures of the looting. I am cross with the Russian elite in Estonia which has not condemned the riots.

I am cross that when there is so much going on that is really important, both in the region and the world, everyone is wasting so much time about what is in the end just a rather bad statue. I am really, really, cross with the feeble response from the EU and NATO. Why the **** can't the EU ambassadors come round to the Estonians and show some solidarity. I bet if you had 24 ambassadorial limos pushing their way through the crowd of Putin-jugend the police would take a bit more action. Why not call all 24 Russian ambassadors in the other EU capitals in to receive an identical protest? And do the same in the other G-7 countries. Talking of which, Russia’s membership of the G8 and Council of Europe should surely be on the line now.

With the exception of Estonia's president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who has said and done all the right things, this is a story of grotesque self-indulgence, mixed with appalling moral cowardice.

Who will put Humpty-Dumpty together again?

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