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EST Baiting RUS

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 3 months ago

Estonia: Baiting the Bear

Stratfor: Global Intelligence Brief. 27 Apr 07

 

Summary

 

The Estonian government arrested some 300 protesters

April 27 during the removal of a Soviet monument

commemorating the end of World War II. For the most

vulnerable member of the NATO alliance, the action

is not so much waving the flag as it is testing

the winds.

 

Analysis

 

A Soviet-era monument called the Bronze Soldier,

located in downtown Tallinn, Estonia, was dismantled

the night of April 26-27, despite the protests by

some 500 ethnic Russians. The Russian Duma and

Foreign Ministry immediately responded, calling

the action "blasphemy" and "disgusting." The Duma

recommended Russian President Vladimir Putin

immediately sever all economic and diplomatic

contact with Estonia. The Estonian government

plans to exhume and remove the remains of Soviet

soldiers interred under the monument as well

for reburial in a cemetery.

 

Estonia sees the monument, constructed during what

Estonians call the "Soviet occupation," as a

lingering sign of Russia's overbearance. Yet, of

the three Baltic states, Estonia is the one that

tends to have the best relationship with Moscow

and prefers to keep the lowest profile. This

raises a question: Why dismantle the Bronze

Solider now?

 

Controversy over the statue is nothing new; it

has been simmering ever since Estonia achieved

independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russia's biggest holiday -- the celebration of

the anniversary of victory in World War II, a

conflict in which at least 20 million Russians

died -- is just around the corner on May 9.

After 15 years of relatively harmless sniping,

it seems the Estonians have chosen this precise

moment to step on the Kremlin's most sensitive

nerve.

 

That might be precisely the case.

 

On April 26, Putin gave his state of the union

address, in which he essentially lambasted

everything the United States stands for. For

Estonia, such a speech is the equivalent of an air

raid siren.

 

Aside from Luxembourg, Estonia is the smallest NATO

member, and none is more strategically exposed. If

Russia is about to go on a strategic tear, no one

faces the prospect of more suffering -- and more

quickly -- than does Estonia.

 

But rather than cowering in silence, the Estonians

might have struck upon a rather interesting strategy:

Test the waters to see just how real this Russian

change of tune is. After all, if it is real, it is

best to know soon. And if it is just rhetoric

for public consumption, it is best to continue

with business as usual without developing an ulcer.

 

By this logic, no matter how much Estonia's actions

annoyed the Russians, those actions are not of a

magnitude to make Moscow rapidly shift its entire

military strategic and foreign doctrines. But

dismantling the monument will force the Russians

to show at least some of their cards.

 

Whether or not the Estonian strategy is truly to

tell the Russians to "Put up or shut up," the world

will know the Russian mind very soon. Estonia

provoked the Duma and the Russian Foreign Ministry

into their expected responses and, in doing so,

placed the issue squarely on Putin's desk. His

response will be Russia's policy.

 

It is a response Putin will weigh very carefully.

While the Kremlin thinks of Estonia as an

ungrateful, malcontented speck on its western

border, it is an ungrateful, malcontented speck

that also happens to be a full member of the

NATO alliance and the European Union. The former

grants Estonia the nuclear umbrella, and the

latter means any economic sanctions against

Estonia would immediately draw retaliation

from all of Europe. If Putin is going to call

Estonia's bluff, it will not be a simple

overreaction -- it will be a calculated move

that will have repercussions far beyond a

mere stump of broken rock in a Tallinn

traffic circle.


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