• 2007-05-09
  • by Frederic Labarre, Rome, Italy
I have had the pleasure of serving as advisor to the Estonian Ministry of Defense on the run up to this country's admission to NATO. I have invested more than two years of my life doing my small part in making sure that this marvelous little country and its people are safe and active members of NATO.

It seems to me however, that the vigilance that the Estonians were well known for has been replaced by complacency, leading to this most tragic of miscalculations, the removal of a statue for the innocent victims of the leaders of a bankrupt ideology 's for the soldiers who are interred where the monument once stood did not ask to fight, and neither did they ask to die for that cause.

Instead, the monument should have been a commons to reflect on the consequences of totalitarianism; Hannah Arendt (born in what is now Kaliningrad), wrote in "The Origins of Totalitarianism" that fascism and Sovietism were really the same thing. What wrong would there be for the Estonian government to articulate a new meaning to this monument as one celebrating the memory of all the victims of Soviet and Nazi dictatorship?
The decision to remove this statue has sparked riots in one of the prettiest and safest of European capitals; it threatens to bring into question the wisdom of foreign investment, more importantly, in my mind, however, is that it brings into question the wisdom of the Estonian people in general. Lest we forget, bloody troubles were sparked in the former Yugoslavia with far less provocation, and for those who might repeat "we are the Baltics, not the Balkans" or who would say "these things don't happen anymore," famous last words!

If this is the Baltics, then act like it, and use your customary measure, caution and common sense. Don't give others an excuse to intervene, because, let me tell you frankly, and this is free advice, the Russians are members of the Security Council, and it would therefore be very difficult to vote a U.N. peacekeeping mission if things got THAT bad, and in case you haven't noticed, the United States will not bail you out; it is difficult enough for them to get extricated from Iraq, it is doubtful they will be willing to come head to head with Russia now. And finally, Estonia should ask itself whether it is more desirable than cheap Russian gas to the EU.

Once you will have the answers to the questions above, then the smart money will be on harmonious relations with Russia, and the development of integrative schemes to avoid the ghettoization of the Russian minority. At the very least, if the monument the latter revere so is the fruit of a bankrupt ideology, then the Estonians should have no problem with the thought that it is merely a piece of junk, and if the Russians want to kneel before it, let them use up their joints.
Otherwise, NATO and EU membership don't only bring guarantees of security, but also the responsibility of membership. Least of all are they carte blanche to stir up needless trouble.

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