Magic door opens
Today one of the big goals of Estonia's foreign policy - becoming a full NATO member - comes true. There is reason to be happy yet at the same to look into the future with anxious precaution.
If 10 years ago someone had said that Estonia would become a full member of NATO, he would have apparently been considered insane, or an irresponsible political dreamer at the very least. However, the dream has come true.
Let's be honest, though. The NATO we are joining now is not exactly that one in which the bravest of us in the beginning of the 1990s planned to take Estonia to. The end of the Cold War and especially Sept. 11 have modified alliance development. NATO now acts outside its borders, and its means are used in the fight against international terrorism.
At the same time NATO still is an organization that offers collective security to its members. One can see the guarantee for peaceful and stable development of new democracies from NATO. The security vacuum that emerged in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union is filling up.
All that should not irritate Russia, which has recently made threats in address to the Baltic states. The Baltics, in turn, have the responsibility not to take a vengeful path in its relations with Russia, but to demonstrate, for example, a constructive approach on the NATO-Russia consultative council.
Cooperation, not opposition to Russia, is an effective supplement to Estonia's security. But of course we remain naive by thinking that Russia, in the beginning at least, will acquiesce to the new reality.
At this point we have to make it clear to ourselves that being in NATO does not only mean accession, and that history does not end here. NATO gives stability, but our contribution should not fade.
Grapes for Russia even more sour
Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Chizhov [on March 25] in Brussels agreed to apply the EU-Russia partnership agreement unconditionally to all 10 new EU member states, although for months Russia has threatened not to do so if the EU didn't comply with Russia's demand for a change in the "status of Russian-speakers" in Latvia and Estonia.
On the same day, Russian Defense Minister Ivanov announced that the deployment of NATO fighter planes on the territory of the Baltic states would not threaten Russia - it's not "a real force." Just a day before Russia's Foreign Ministry's spokesman had said that "the military potential deployed" in the Baltic states "is of direct concern to Russia's security," but in the beginning of March Putin's adviser Yastrzhembsky warned NATO that Russia "would not tolerate" alliance soldiers and armor "whatever the presence" in the Baltic states.
Moscow has always behaved like Aesop's fox that, unable to reach the coveted grapes, concluded that they were probably sour. (Or, to paraphrase a classic Russian expression "if you're not allowed it but really want it, then you can have it" - if you want it but really are not allowed to have it, then you no longer want it very much.) It will always covet the Baltic grapes, even though they will be quite sour EU and NATO grapes.
Aivars Ozolins, March 26
The kicks that Rolandas Paksas, who still formally occupies the post of president, delivered to the people last week opened the eyes even of those who up until now savagely defended him. But Lithuania is not under threat just because of its politically compromised pilot. Even First Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Ceslovas Jursenas, whom it would be difficult to accuse of Russophobia, has called Yuri Borisov "the tip of the iceberg" while not denying the possibility that he is backed up by powers opposed to Lithuania.
The weekly Jane's Intelligence Digest recently published an article that identified Paksas as the most important example of Russia's attempts to regain influence in its neighboring state. Alex Standish, editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest, gave an interview to Lietuvos Rytas in which he confirmed that Borisov, Paksas' largest financial sponsor and a Russian citizen, had before [the scandal] been a known figure in Western intelligence structures, while Almax, the Russian consulting company that aided Paksas, is closely tied to Russian intelligence.
According to Standish, a failed impeachment against Paksas or a re-election of the compromised president would mean a political indictment for the Lithuanian state. "Of course, there will be no talk of blocking membership in NATO. However, the threat will arise that you, practically speaking, will be shoved into the second class of membership," commented the editor.
It appears that even our country's membership in NATO and the EU cannot prevent Russia's attempts to recover its influence in Lithuania.