After having read the letter of a group of Central and East European politicians to "the Administration of President Obama" I thought I should write a letter to him too. I somehow suspect that this letter is connected to the campaign of the Republican Party conservatives against the new president, especially against his domestic policies, and in particular, against his attempts to introduce some elements of social democracy into America. As his plans to create a health care system for all Americans. It is easier to attack president Obama's foreign policy, and here, the voice of some politicians from CEE is welcome. I don't know whether they wrote the letter in their own initiative or were inspired to write it by some gentlemen from the GOP. But in any case, I want to say clearly that our politicians who have built their career on confrontation with Russia don't speak in my name. Not in my name. A friend of mine, a former deputy of the Estonian Parliament too, told me that a simple worker in the NATO air base in Ämari had told him that in his opinion we really don't need a confrontation with Russia. I believe many people in Estonia think in the same way. Here is the text of my letter to President Obama.
Dear President Obama,
After having read the open letter sent to you and to your administration by a group of high-level politicians and experts from Central and Eastern Europe including two persons from my own country I felt I must write a letter to you too. While there are many good ideas and propositions in the politicians' letter, there are some disputable statements in it. And there is something in the whole tone of the letter that it is hard for me to accept. In fact, the open letter was a petition to the only global superpower by politicians who have decided that the best guarantee of the security of their nations is becoming client states of the United States of America. Our politicians were asking you, President Obama, not to abandon them, not to forget America's most loyal servants. Such an attitude is humiliating to a citizen of a free and democratic country I really want to be.
The fact that the leaders of most CEE nations were willing to transform their countries into American client steates, became clear when, in early february 2003 a group of CEE foreign ministers signed a letter unconditionally supporting the imminent pre-emptive war of the US against Iraq. This unconditional support for the policies of George W. Bush was a signal to the "old Europe" that the special relationship with the US is more important for the nations of CEE than solidarity with older members of the EU and that they are more willing to take into consideration the American interests than the interests of their neighbours, first of all Russia. This gesture was followed with equally unconditional support by most CEE nations to the governments of Ukraine and Georgia in their confrontation with Russia. The spectacular military buildup of Georgia financed and masterminded by the US couldn't but confirm Russia's conviction that the West, particularly the US are busy surrounding it with a new "cordon sanitaire" of client states eager to support American policies without too much questioning and ready to install on their territories American military bases. This conclusion is nearly inevitable taking into account the history of Russia. It is understood and taken into account in some capitals of "old Europe", but more or less ignored in CEE where instead, politicians engage in rhetoric about "value-based" international relations and military alliances, and where open-minded political analysts are yet to be found.
In my opinion, Europe is nowadays divided by two approaches to Russia: conciliatory and confrontational, embraced respectively by the older members of the EU and the new ones. Both approaches have their strong and weak points. Conciliatory politics can lead to appeasement that has infamous precedents in our continent, confrontational politics can lead to open conflict. It is customary in my part of Europe to ridicule the "old Europeans" for their soft attitude to Russia and even accuse Western European politicians of being either naive or corrupt, and pretending that our leaders have a better understanding of Russia than the French, Spanish of Germans. In fact, some CEE politicians have built up their careers on confrontational rhetoric toward Russia, and it is hard for them to change their attitudes and rhetoric. I would not be astonished, if the letter to your administration were partly inspired by some politicians from the US Republican Party. In any case, the letter can support them in their campaign against your attempts to reorient the US foreign policy. But I am convinced that confrontational attitudes must change, otherwise the tensions with Russia along its western and southern borders is undermining the emerging common foreign policy consensus in the EU. Whether we want it or not, Russia will no more agree being only "an object of international relations" as several years ago expressed a Western diplomat in Estonia. Whether we want it or not, we must take into account what Russia itself sees as its security concerns, and not try to lecture it, to convince it that its policies are antiquated and military buildup in the proximity of its major centers is no threat to its interests. The distance from Estonian border to St.Petersburg is only about 200 kilometers, the Russians cannot forget it, and it would be wise for Estonians and their sponsors not to forget it either.
In CEE, Russia of Putin and Medvedev is often compared to the Soviet Union, even the Soviet Union of Stalin. Geopolitically the former is certainly the heir of the latter, however there are huge differences between them. I am more or less convinced that the present Russian leaders are no paranoics but pragmatists and it is possible to find a common ground with them. But it will not be possible without taking into account their security concerns. The alternative would be a return of a new cold war, of a deep mistrust between so-called East and West, to Russian attempts of sabotaging Western, first of all, American interests in many parts of the world. This would lead to the world becoming a more dangerous place, and sooner or later endanger the security of the CEE nations too. I am deeply convinced that the relations between the CEE states and Russia need a restart as the relations between the United States and Russia. Both are inextricably linked, and a restart, a reorientation of certain aspects of the foreign policies of all of us are unavoidable, if we want to avoid destabilization and desintegration of Europe. I believe that European security must not become a problem for the international relations in the XXIthe century as it has been in the XXth century. There are more urgent crises in other parts of the world that need a concerted effort by the US, the EU, and Russia. It would be very unwise to let the tragic memories from our recent history to determine our policies, to build up a new confrontation in Central and Eastern Europe. I do not believe that stationing NATO troops in the CEE states bordering Russia proposed in the politicians' letter is the best long-time guarantee of our security. Such a move is more likely to lead to more instability, and be counterproductive in the long run. Thus I sincerely hope that you and your administration will not make any steps that would lead to an escalation of present tensions between some CEE states and Russia, that you will not yield to those leaders of our countries who have gained their political capital with anti-Russian rhetoric and servile gestures toward the US. I hope that you will not yield to the pressures of your own military-industrial complex eager to sell weapons' systems to our countries. My deep conviction is that a new cold war, not to speak of a real war, will not be in the interest of our peoples. I believe that you, President of the United States of America, will avoid any steps that would lead to such potentially disastrous developments in our part of the world.
writer, former deputy of the Estonian Parliament