Two-and-a-half targets for Estonian foreign policy

  • 2005-07-13
  • By Karmo Tuur
There have been many articles that, after joining NATO and EU, Estonia has somehow lost target of its foreign policy. I myself have written that our foreign policy should be innovative rather than responsive. All these calls are right, but it is really rare that, together with calls for "improvements and enhancements," something particular is offered. This article does not intend to produce anything new but rather concentrate the ideas from different foreign policy discussions.

Why two-and-a-half targets? To be fair, the idea is not original 's it has been borrowed from the Americans. For years now, the United States has had a standpoint that they should be ready to participate in two major and several small conflicts coincidently. We probably do not have any intention to fight a war on our own; however, such reasoning appears well-grounded. It is never effective to put all your eggs in one basket. By our two main targets/directions, there should always be left time and resources for solving smaller-scale, but not necessarily less challenging, tasks.

First, the most important. In the first position we should probably put what is closest and important to us 's i.e., our own neighborhood. Avoiding conservative patriotism, not looking only at our doorsteps, we should draw a line 's the optimal one should be the region of the Baltic Sea.

Baltic and Nordic cooperation networks, Nordic Dimension, Council of Baltic Sea States 's these are only a few examples of instruments that can be used to stand for the national interests (the national interests should stand behind each policy, as well as foreign policy). Estonia has used these instruments only modestly, yet the potential for Baltic Sea cooperation has been considered to be one of the best in Europe.

What innovations could we offer? Honestly, nothing super extraordinary. But it seems to me that developing the idea of the Northern Dimension, almost abandoned by the Finns, could be useful. Co-opting it with the European New Neighborhood policies options, Poland's ambitions to create the Eastern Dimension, as well as the U.S.A.'s new North European initiative (e-PINE), Northern Dimension could become an interesting option.

Here, it is most important to involve the northwestern part of Russia in this kind of cooperation. I know it sounds naive: Russia does not wish its regions to have special status cooperation with "near-abroad countries." Russia has also shown its unwillingness, in the framework of new European Neighborhood policy, to become one of many European neighbors. Russia prefers bilateral strategic partnership. But for us it is not important, even not manageable to cooperate with all of Russia, but foremost with its northwestern part.

Secondly, a bit further target. The second target needs to be our participation in ulterior, but still important regions. We can not be expected to considerably contribute to solving Middle East or Indo-China regional problems, but we should at least be informed of problems there. As developments there can in the long term perspective influence Estonia. We definitely could participate in these kind of hotspots, but in the role of students or small partners.

For us it is important to take part in stabilizing- and development programs for CIS countries. Many of those countries have chosen the path of democratic and western integration, and they need our support and experience. We are trusted and 's most importantly 's well understood in these countries. Not because of language skills, but because we have gone through the same developments, we can share our experiences better, than representatives of the so-called "stable societies." For example, Estonians teaching in Georgia have told me how locals ask them "to share how things are really handled."

Only it is not very innovative. As our participation in those projects is expected anyway, we can get more as an initiatory. For example, the long discussed opening of an Estonian embassy in Georgia.

Third, the half one. The third option to make foreign policy active is to participate in those distant crisis regulation and development programs. We have to be there, even if our contribution is a symbolic one. Participation will gain us an invaluable bonus: First, in the form of excellent training and experience both to participants and institutions, and second, the reputation as a trustworthy and adaptable partner.

So, as one can see, the biggest problem is not to verbalize the targets but to offer innovative solutions. In some cases, where every concrete goal seems hard to reach, such innovativeness makes it easier on the whole. Our innovativity could just be in our activity as a partner 's in contrast to the possible reluctance as an ally. Every area of any problem concerning our possible interest and/or abilities should be handled as a challenge. We should verbalize a standpoint and offer a possible solution.

In the end, foreign policy has no other goals than prime protection of our national interests. By being active we can do that better, definitely. Two-and-a-half directions is the quantity that we can manage.

Karmo Tuur teaches at the University of Tartu, department of political science and works at the Academic Research Center for Baltic and Russian studies