The Russian public relations/propaganda machine is running on full steam, but it reached a new apogee last week when Defense Minister Igor Ivanov told a London audience that Estonia and Latvia were "sources of danger" since such countries "that distance themselves from democratic and human rights norms" tend to "provoke military and political tension."
This is grave language, almost unprecedented, since the minute Baltic states are not only being accused of threatening someone's security, but of provoking them militarily.
This kind of talk couldn't go unanswered, and over the past week, the Foreign ministers Rihards Piks and Kristiina Ojuland accused their eastern neighbor of threatening them and maintaining a Cold War approach to the Baltic region. Ms. Ojuland was particularly bold, describing the Russian propaganda machine as "demagogic."
Not to be outdone, the Russian Foreign Ministry barked back, issuing what may become the most absurd, inappropriate statement of the year: "We would like to stress once again that Russia is far from trying to discredit Estonia... Russia is trying to help this country solve a number of known problems that obstruct its further democratic development and pose a threat of complicating its real integration into a single Europe."
The Russians have an expression: "Khorosho tam, gde nas nyet," which roughly translates as "Things are good where there aren't any of us." Like many contemporary sayings in the Russian language, it is self-deprecating and shows that, despite outward appearances, the nation does have a healthy awareness of its own history. Because for so long almost everything Russia has touched turned out miserably, if not catastrophically; Eastern Europe, the Kiril Islands, the Aral Sea, Chernobyl, Afghanistan, Chechnya...
The country does, of course, have vast scientific, cultural and athletic achievements, but when it comes to society-building, it has no right whatsoever to lecture others. Minority problems? What about the hundreds of thousands of Azeris, Chechens, Dagestanis and other small Caucasian peoples rising in Moscow and St. Petersburg whose rights are constantly violated? What about the rise in hate crimes by neo-Nazi skinheads?
Frankly, the whole notion of Russia "helping" anyone democratize and improve their human rights situation is so patently asinine that it elicits a nauseous feeling. Here is a country where politicians and journalists are routinely shot, where businessmen can be locked up on a whim, where the Kremlin controls all the major media sources, and where young men will go to any length to avoid conscription lest they be send to the Chechen cauldron. Russia tried "helping" the Baltics for 50 years, and we all know how that ended up. No, thanks - the Balts are better off doing things on their own.