Mihkelson's wedge

Marko Mihkelson, a conservative Estonian parliamentarian, has commented on President Tarja Halonen's upcoming visit to a Finno-Ugric folklore festival in Russia.

"The fact that the Russian president has invited the Finnish head of state and Hungarian prime minister, but not the Estonian head of state, to a Finno-Ugric festival in the Mordovian republic next week should be a clear signal to our partners in the European Union to turn down the invitation," Mr Mihkelson wrote in his blog, according to [the Baltic News Service].

Mr Mihkelson feels the Finnish and Hungarian leaders would undermine EU solidarity if they attended without the Estonian president.

"The Russian president has of course purposely left the Estonian president out of the list of invitees to see whether a wedge could be driven between Finland and Hungary and Tallinn."

The blog article is here in its entirety (ee). I don't understand Estonian with any reliability, so I'll comment only on the translated bits and pieces.

Undoubtedly Russia treats Finnish leaders differently than Estonian leaders and this festival invite is yet another sign of it. Nevertheless, it's difficult to see how the visit hurts Estonia. Consider what will happen. Will Halonen and Putin put out a joint statement to the effect that Estonians should never have moved that damn statue? Hardly. Will Halonen promise to support Russia against Estonia's interests inside the EU? I consider it unlikely. Halonen and Putin will probably discuss some bilateral issues between Finland and Russia. Halonen will say something suitably considered to express her concern over the treatment of Finno-Ugric minorities in Russia and Putin will give a bland response. The only effect all of it will have is that maybe, if we're lucky, the Mordvins and Mari will feel like they have friends abroad - friends who can't do much of anything to help them, but friends nevertheless.

As for EU solidarity, my understanding of the concept is that it's supposed to mainly apply in EU decision making, not in the bilateral relations between members and non-members. It can't really mean that if one EU country has poor relations with some country outside the EU, everyone is supposed to follow suit. To pick a hypothetical example, let's say that some leftist foreign minister with a peace sign on his lapel and a scraggly beard offends the Americans so that they refuse to have high level meetings with said lefty's bosses. Does that mean that Estonian leaders should refrain from meeting with Americans? I don't think so. You might argue that this is different because in some sense the Estonians should have been invited to tag along, but as far as I can see, there isn't a practical difference between attending this festival and any old meeting.


egan said...

Moravia? You're making this up aren't you? This is a website about Mordavia. This is another one.

It's some kind of RPG thing she's going to. Maybe they'll get a new slogan?

'Finno Ugric languages, the way smelly beardhammer geeks communicate.'

Ari said...

Egan wrote: 'Finno Ugric languages, the way smelly beardhammer geeks communicate.'

Yeah, pretty much.

For the record, the correct English name is apparently Mordvins, not "Mordvans" as I originally wrote. I offer my apologies to all Mordvins in the audience.

Giustino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Giustino said...

I agree with you, but for a different reason. I am inclined to see Russia's views towards Estonia as still grounded in the Stalinist era -- they are a "trouble" population -- so I don't see any gesture solving that way of thinking. This latest rebuff is a challenge to the idea of Estonia as a state. They still view it as a rebel province. They call it the 'Tallinn government'. They suck.

But instead of clamouring for Russia's attention and recognition, Estonia should just give up for awhile. How much do we really care about attending this festival in Russia? How much should we really care about Russia period?

Estonia has tried to 'level' with the Russians on too many occasions. The ball is in their court. Rather than heading to Moscow to hang with Finno-Ugric speakers, the Estonians
might as well take a trip to visit Sarkozy instead. Build relationships where there are opportunities. Build relationships that matter.

You posted the Lavrov letter here yourself. The guy is positively mad. Putin is no better. You are not going to have a good relationship with those guys no matter what Tarja says or does. Those boys are Stalin's children. Only their children can change things in Russia. Not Tarja.

So in a nutshell, fuck them. Why would Estonians want to travel to crappy old Russia anyway. the service is poor, the visas are expensive, and the road to Vladik is paved with bones.

Aapo said...

Ah, good old Mordavia - I remember that one. The land of rusalki, vampires and Baba Yaga. Finno-Ugric names have always stimulated people's imagination in a way no Latin based poofiness can ever stimulate. Siete tutti stronzi.

As for Putin, guess what he'll do next? He will invite some pro-Kremlin Russian speaking politician to represent Estonia. I remember him using the same trick two years ago, when Kaliningrad celebrated its 750th anniversary, and he of course invited his best buddies Schröder and Chirach but no Poles or Lithuanians - until the very last moment, when sent he rung up one Russophile Lithuanian minister to join the party.

Estonia has tried to 'level' with the Russians on too many occasions. The ball is in their court.

With this thought I can only agree. The relations between the Baltics and Putin's Russia have shown so many times that when you take a step back, trying to create more space for conciliation, Russia only takes a step forward. So better to just sit and wait, and in the meantime find your friends from elsewhere.

Ari said...

Giustino, if by a good relationship you mean something akin to what Finland enjoys with Sweden or Estonia or Norway, then the relationship with Russia isn't going to be like that as long as Putin's crew are in power. But that doesn't mean that the current relationship can't worsen or that Halonen shouldn't work to maintain it. Superficial politeness is better than open hostility.