Estonian-Russian relations – the last ten years
Estonia’s attitude toward Russia after independence was characterized by an idealistic expectation – yet one firmly entrenched in the idea of continuity of statehood – that our great neighbor to the east would renew itself morally and that relations would rapidly normalize in the spirit of mutual reward and good-neighborliness.
Thus it came as a cold shower that Russia, led by the Yeltsin administration, hailed by the whole world as democratic and reform-minded, set out on a tack of accusing Estonia of discriminating against local Russians and escalated a bilateral issue into a propaganda war waged internationally.
The weakness of Estonia’s positions in Russian relations has been deepened by our policy of ignoring Russia, starting in late 1997, according to which disputes could be solved quicker and more favorably for Estonia through EU integration. The extent to which this policy has been deceptive was perhaps best demonstrated by Russian vice-prime minister Valentina Matviyenko’s visit to Tallinn as part of the IGC. Magnanimously and without saying when, she promised a border treaty, an end to double tariffs and the return of Republican-era president Päts’s regalia – concessions that may be propaganda points scored for Moscow, anyway – and repeated all of the demands that we have heard for years in the areas of citizenship, language and religion, and adding the somewhat newer demand that Estonia refrain from prosecuting Soviet war criminals.
All but ignoring Russia for years, Estonia has let the EU do its talking for it, and we must realize that Brussels expects certain things from us vis-à-vis Russia that we would never agree to if we had a more antagonistic policy. Since we have demonstrated our willingness for concessions in the past, additional ones are now expected from us.