U.S Ambassador to Estonia Stanley Davis Phillips, who presented his credentials on Thursday, May 31, suggests that Estonia should make active use of the media coverage of the recent cyber attacks.
You have been working as ambassador for about a month now. Are you starting to get used to it?
I don't think I will ever get used to it. But I arrived in Estonia at a very interesting time. I arrived the Friday night that the riots were occurring. The first thing I did with my wife was to drive to the site of the Bronze Soldier to get a feel of what was going on. So the beginning was very interesting.
What did it feel like to arrive in Estonia for the first time in you life at a time when tensions were so high?
I was worried about Estonia; it was going to be our new home. I had heard about the Bronze Soldier in the local media and I was worried about the possible reactions. I am still concerned. The Bronze Soldier is such a strong symbol that still creates emotions for both sides.
Do you feel that the conflict ended in a good way or should the result have been different?
It is difficult to say. The Estonian people have experienced an enormous amount of trauma and the Bronze Soldier question was theirs to decide. Obviously, it was a very difficult decision. Your government has made this decision and we respect it. The whole question is all about democracy and freedom.
Let us now speak about the relationship between Estonia and the United States. It seems to be fantastic. One thing that is on the minds of Estonians is visa-free travel. Do you think we will achieve that soon or that maybe the events of last month can affect the issue in any way?
You have the total support of President Bush and he made that clear during his visit to your country last November. Visa-free travel is decided by Congress and the President supports Estonia in this effort. Travel to the United States is easier than ever. Now one has to come to the Embassy only once to get a visa and 95 per cent of applications are approved.
Have you thought about what you want to achieve as Ambassador most of all?
I have. I would like to help investment in Estonia. I have met with some government officials and told them about my contacts and my experience in America. Today (May 23) I hosted the board of directors of the American Chamber of Commerce, and they are very interested in what can be done. I promised to do everything in my power to make contacts between Estonians and Americans.
Is it only a question of contacts or can something else be done?
There is an idea that I have expressed to them. Estonia has received an enormous amount of press in the world. It has talked about the Bronze Soldier and the siege of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow. But special attention was paid to cyber attacks. The cyber attacks have put Estonia in focus and this is the moment for Estonia to tell its story to the world, especially to America. Estonia should tell the American business community about its great achievements in such a short time and about its big future. Estonia should also consider advertising itself in the U.S. business community.
Quite soon our President Toomas Hendrik Ilves will fly to the United States to meet President Bush. What can we expect from this meeting?
The timing for the visit is perfect and President Ilves will find total support from President Bush. President Bush is concerned about the cyber attacks. Estonia's position is unique in the world's history. They will probably speak about the Visa Waiver Program and the relationship with Russia.
You mentioned the Estonian relations with Russia. What do you think is the perspective of relations between Russia and the United States? There is no secret that there are many problems. For instance, there are the U.S. wish to place a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, Putin's speech in Munich, and Russia's arguments with Poland.
A lot of things have been said. We have to focus on what is really important. The greatest concern that the world has right now is terrorism. Russia, like many European states and the United States, has been affected by terrorism. Russia should understand that the missile defense system is not directed against it, and Russia should be a part of it. This is what the United States and Russia should be talking about in the next few years.
The war in Iraq has lasted for four years now. Americans are growing less and less happy about the campaign. Can it mean the withdrawal of troops?
Iraqis trying to find their independence and their democracy and they are trying to build their country. The current Iraq reminds me of the Soviet Union republics: they were also trying to build their own states. The situation is very difficult and the United States highly appreciates the support of Estonia and other allies.
It still has to be kept in mind that public opinion in America and Estonia supports the campaign in Iraq less and less.
Iraq is trying to transform itself and it is a part of the big picture, which has to be understood. It is very important that the United States completes this mission and the Iraqi people form their government and play their role in the world.
One of the presidential candidates and a member of the Republican Party Pat Buchanan recently stated that it would be an absurd for the U.S. to step into war with Russia to protect little Estonia. Do you agree with him?
(smiling) Pat Buchanan is a noted personality in America, and you can just take him for what he says.
So you don't agree with him?
I really consider him as just one of the many commentators who make different observations all the time.
[Spokesman] Eric Johnson: Pat Buchanan has never been elected to public office; therefore, he doesn't represent the point of view of the United States.
How did it happen that you were offered the position of ambassador?
Well, I was thrilled when President Bush called me and asked if I wanted to become ambassador to Estonia. I was out in a tent in North Carolina where cell phones don't work, so I literally had to go to the payphone and the president called me there. I was ready to accept the invitation right away. In the beginning of the1960's I attended Moscow State University and traveled for two-and-a-half months in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately I didn't get to come to Estonia then but I knew enough of your history.
Did you have any hesitations at all?
No, none at all.
A lot of people have asked me about that and I always say that I am glad to be in Estonia right now. It feels like I'm in a piece of history. Estonia is a very old country and yet a new country at same time.
(Translation of original article by Holger Roonemaa that appeared in Eesti Päevaleht on May 28. Source: US Embassy in Estonia, www.usemb.ee)
U.S Ambassador: Estonia should take advantage of media attention