Medvedev fails to impress

  • 2008-03-05
  • Staff and wire reports

FRIENDS HELPING FRIENDS: British Foreign Minister David Miliband and his Estonian counterpart, Urmas Paet, met in London on March 3 to discuss bilateral relations. They agreed to increase aid spending, particularly spending targeted at improving infrastucture, in Afghanistan (See story below), among other things.

TALLINN - Estonia's  reaction to the election of Russia's new President, Dmitry Med-vedev,  was mixed, characterized by caution. Some hope for the future but also apathy and even derision arises from some quarters. Estonian President  Toomas Hendrik Ilves was suitably diplomatic about the election of Medvedev but he did acknowledge that relations between  Estonia and Russia could be better.
"Hopefully the Russian presidential election's taking place and the new president's assuming office means a change toward improvement in the relations between Russia and the West,  but also between Russia and Estonia,"  Ilves told reporters.

Meanwhile Mart Laar, leader of the Estonian Pro Patria and Res Publica  believed Medvedev, as Putin's officially designated successor,  would continue in the belligerent and antagonistic mode that has characterized Russian foreign policy in recent years. He expected nothing to change now that Medvedev was in power.
"There is nothing to rejoice about for Europe in the choice of Medvedev. Even though attempts have been made to portray him as a pro-Western liberal, nothing will actually change in Russia's policy at least for now," said Laar.
"The peaceful transfer of power from Putin to Putin has thus materialized," he wrote in his political log as reported by Baltic News Services.

Medvedev did have some supporters in  Tallinn. Jaak Allik, a member of the opposition People's Union party in Estonia, praised the election of Medvedev.
"I'm congratulating all my Russian friends on yesterday's choice because against the backdrop of rival candidates Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky Medvedev, indeed looked like dear Jesus on the hill of Golgotha," he  said.
Allik's excitement at the election of Medvedev was not reflected in voter turnout. Only 26,500 of the 100,000 Russians voters living in Estonia voted. This is in marked contrast to the situation in Latvia were 70.35% of eligible voters did so. 

Vladimir Lebedev, leader of the Estonian Association of Russian citizens, blamed the poor turn out on the lack of choice.
Lebedev echoed Laars' belief that the result was a foregone conclusion and that no change was really on offer. He believed that this might have caused voter apathy.
The other candidates were unknown or were from parties that were unpopular or were not to be taken seriously.

Other reasons Lebedev gave for the low turn out were winter weather conditions, despite the fact that this year has been unusually warm in the Baltics.
Lebedev said that when parliamentary elections were held last year people had to stand in the freezing cold for hours on end.
Relations between and Estonia and Russia are not good. 
Relations between Estonia and Russia are not good. Relations took a turn for the worse after two days of riots last April 's following the Estonian removal of a prominent Soviet statue from downtown Tallinn 's left one man dead and resulted in thousands of euros worth of damage.
Many in Estonia blamed Russia for instigating the riots. To make matters worse, a series of cyber attacks launched on Estonian Web sites were ultimately traced back to Russia. Some still accuse the Kremlin of being behind the attacks.

Economic relations have been equally poor as changes to Russian infrastructure disrupted oil and coal exports to Estonian ports. In July, Russian Minister of Transport Igor Levitin took it a step further by announcing that Russia was planning to stop all oil transit through Estonian ports and use Russian ports instead.