lundi 27 octobre 2008

Some informed information about Georgia

We must hope that urgent diplomatic and economic support from abroad, together with some self-critical reflection by Georgians at home, will yet help this proud, long-suffering people escape the humiliation and the debilitating cult of "innocent martyrdom" that has plagued post-Kosovo Serbia. But the Western media that blindly follow the Georgian nationalist line in discounting Ossetian and Abkhazian grievances—viewing their separatist aspirations as largely illegitimate or a Russian invention and casting the entire conflict as the Georgian David vs. Russian Goliath—serve neither the cause of truth nor reconciliation. And American officials who embrace this simplistic narrative—and who reflexively call for Georgia's rapid rearming and accelerated accession to NATO—risk further inflaming confrontation with Russia to the grave detriment of both Western and Georgian interests.

This is an excerpt from and article "Georgia, the Ignored History" by Robert English, published in the New York Review of Books from Nov. 6, 2008:

dimanche 26 octobre 2008

Two wise Finns about our security?

I remember a conversation in a café in Helsinki about 15 years ago. We were three men, the philosopher Georg Henrik von Wright, the veteran politician, former minister Jan Magnus Jansson and me. We talked about security, and reached the conclusion that both for Finland and Estonia the best, in fact, the only guarantee of security are normal relations with Russia. I still think this conclusion is valid today too, although I am not sure if we Estonians are able to establish such normal relations or have we become prisoners of our own politico-historical rhetoric. It is hard to believe that Russia is really interested in a permanent mini cold war in the proximity of its second largest city St.Petersburg. I wonder whether Moscow could accept the fact that it is perceived as a threat by Estonia, if it can be sure there is no threat to its vital Northwest region emanating from Estonia. Are these two fears, two views irreconcilable or not? This is the question.

Dangerous patriotism

Estonian newspapers tell us that the "nationalist" association ("rahvuslased") in the Pro Patria party supports the idea of introducing Estonian as the only language of education even in the Russian elementary schools. This is a provocative declaration. I cannot but recall and quote two paragraphs from an analysis on the homepage of the Stratfor institute. It's about the leverage Russia has in the Baltic states. Discussing the possible role of the local Russian-speaking population, the author adds:

"Perhaps an even bigger and more diabolical lever that the Kremlin could use is found in Baltic nationalist and neo-Nazi groups. Existing groups like the Latvian National Front and the National Force Union have been involved in violent attacks against minorities, including Japanese nationals and gay rights groups. Neo-Nazi groups in Estonia and Latvia have carried out re-enactments of World War II events and have staged parades celebrating Baltic Nazi units that fought against the Russians in World War II. Although these groups have not launched significant attacks on the Russian population, pro-Kremlin Russophones certainly fit into their target set. If they were to start targeting Russophone neighborhoods, businesses or other interests, this would be a spark that could provoke a Russian excuse for broader action.

Russian intelligence capabilities certainly include the ability to infiltrate foreign nationalistic groups and goad Estonian or Latvian nationalists into creating a justification for broader Russian action. With the trigger primed, the Kremlin could stir up its sympathizers in Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius to create political tension and violence in the Baltics."

Comments are not necessary.

vendredi 24 octobre 2008

Does democracy work?

For me, the American presidential elections are a test. A test of democracy and human stupidity. If the voters really prefer the tandem McCain-Palin, they think that the militant mom from Alaska could lead the world's only superpower, that she is competent enough to make decisions about war versus peace, about manned flights to the Moon and Mars, about missile defence and energy policies. The voters certainly know about the health problems of Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin's chances to take over. If she really is elected, American democracy has demonstrated that it doesn't work, that it is not a political system that can guarantee America and the world the things it really needs. It will be the end of democracy. And we, inhabitants of this endangered planet, must try to find out which political system should replace democracy.

dimanche 19 octobre 2008

Может быть нам повезло

Почти все эстонские политики выражают уверенность в том, что членство в НАТО наше крупное достижение и сильно укрепляет нашу безопасность. То есть уменьшает возможность российской агрессии и увеличивает нашу способность протоводейстия такой агрессии. В том же духе наши политики поддерживают членство в НАТО Украины и Грузии, считая, что и это было бы нам в пользу. Теперь, к огорчению нашим и другим политикам в восточной Европе, канцлер Германии Ангела Меркель выражала свое несогласие с том, чтобы украинцы и грузины присоединились к НАТО. Я думаю, что решение госпожи Меркель спасет нас от действительной опасности российской военной активности в прибалтийском регионе. Есть болшая разница между медведем в лесу и медведем, загнанным в угол. Как убедительно объясняют эксперты по геополитике и стратегии, если Украина присоединится к потенциальным противникам России, Россию невозможно защитить конвенциональными военными силами. Членство Грузии и Украины в НАТО для России нечто иное как завершение ее окружения недружественными государствами, членами могущественного военного аллианса. Если таковое сбудется, России останется либо сдаться либо предпринять самые отчаянные шаги, чтобы изменить ситуацию. Например попытаться достичь смены режима в одной или нескольких прибалтийских странах с помощью "активных мер" включая например несимметрические действия военных или полувоенных формировании на территории этих стран. Прибалтика -- слабое звено в натовской цепи и очень вероятно, что Россия этим воспользуется, когда считает, что новый натовский "санитарный кордон" угрожает ее безопасности или просто свободе действий. Если все же Украина и Грузия останутся вне НАТО, Россия не будет чувствовать себя окруженной и вероятность силовых действии в Прибалтике сильно уменьшится. Антироссийская риторика наших политиков Москву не очень волнует, есть у нее заботы поважнее. А этому мы можем только радоваться.

samedi 18 octobre 2008

Shootings in Finland

Finland that wants to remake and repolish its image in the world has unhappily been on the front pages of European papers for its American-style shootings. Twice have young students opened fire on their schoolmates, killing several of them and then committing suicide. Now has a teacher shot his wife, their two children and himself. One reason of this could be the fact that rifles and other weapons are more accessible in Finland than in most other countries in Europe. But couldn't there be a psychological factor too? I remember the ideas of my friend, the Finnish writer Johannes Salminen who thinks that there are some inherent tensions and hidden conflicts in the modern Finnish society. There is very little urban culture in Finland, as most of its people are only first- or second-generation towndwellers. They have preserved many features of peasant psychology, but at the same time the Finnish towns are remarkably dull, there is little of the relaxed, lively urban atmosphere we can see even in neighbouring Sweden and Denmark, not to speak of older European cities. The praised finnish modern architecture is not very humanе, it has created masses of concrete boxes for people who would need a different, softer, not so thoroughly designed and planned environment. The Finnish towns and townships invite you either to leave for a trip to forest or lakeside or to drink. And Finns are heavy drinkers. And, as we see now, sometimes trigger-happy too. I don't feel at home in the well-planned finnish towns. I could even say that there is too much architecture in Finland. I understand the rich Finns who try to spend their old age in places where there is not much architecture in the modern sense of the word, in Italy, Spain or Provence, in buildings that were built in the traditional way, in towns that came into existence little by little, without any central planning. Or as it is said too -- where there is more architecture without architects.

jeudi 16 octobre 2008

Kommentaari häötäse diskussiooni

Netikommentaari omma aolehih diskussiooni är häötänü. Kommentaariumih ole-i inäp määnestki asist juttu, üts sõim ja tänitämine inne. Tõtelidsemba inemise taha-i inäp kommentaare kirotada, nii jääski tuu ulle ja ullikeisi tüümaass. Kaho om, netikommentaareh võissi just kõrralikku arutamist ja diskutiirmist olla, a põrõhõlla omma ullikese tolle võimaluse ärki võtnu. Ja nii elämi nigu nõuka-aol, ku asju õigehe es arotada. Piässi ütski aoleht olema, koh egä poole meelega poiskene vai mehekene päse-i kirotama, koh saassi asju rahulikult kaalu ja arutada. A ole-i viil säänest lehte Eestimaal.

mercredi 15 octobre 2008

Defending the Baltic States?

My feeling is that the three Baltic states are more important for Russia than for any other big power or bloc of states, including the NATO. For Russia, this region is a buffer zone helping to defend Russia proper. Historically, the most serious adversaries of the Russians in this regions were two former big powers -- Sweden and Poland, but neither of them has now any chance of confronting Russia for its influence here. And Germany is also not a player in this game any more, having lost its bridgehead in former East Prussia. Thus, if there is a really serious confrontation between Russia and "the West" in some form, the Baltic states are most probably too difficult and costly to defend. Even the Wehrmacht command understood this and decided to abandon Estonia to defend Central and Western Europe. The decision to evacuate Estonia was probably taken by the military before they could convince Hitler of its necessity. And, as we know, Hitler considered the Allied invasion in the West a bigger threat than losing territory in the East. Although he was never happy with retreats anywhere. The result was that a big German force was encircled by the rapidly advancing Red Army in Curland and remained there until the capitulation in May 1945. To cover their retreat, the Germans mobilized local men and used a motley force of SS-volunteers from Scandinavia and Western Europe who succeeded in slowing the advancing Red Army until the Wehrmacht had evacuated most of their personnel and heavy equipment. Then, the local foot soldiers were just left alone with no hope to stop the Soviet forces. My feeling is that such a scenario can well be reenacted in future too. The Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians must keep this in mind.

lundi 13 octobre 2008

"Die Kindchengestalt" of Konrad Lorenz in Estonian Politics

Mart Laar is probably the best-known and appreciated Estonian politician in the conservative circles in the West. He may even be more popular abroad than at home. Why? I think that as he has not much concrete things to do in the West, he can there charm his colleagues with his childish look, his happy smile, the smile of a boy he suddenly is brought into limelight, applauded and praised for his good behaviour. As far as I can remember, Margaret Thatcher once told that Estonia was the best pupil in the post-Soviet school. Well, Laar is the model schoolboy in this school. And at least part of his popularity can be connected with his image that could well serve as an illustration of the famous idea of Konrad Lorenz: that we humans (and possibly other mammals too) are influenced, our caring instincts are roused by some features common to most little mammals -- human infants, kittens, lion cubs, bear cubs... I doubt whether a leader of a big country could profit from his/her Kindchengestalt, but for a leader of a tiny nation such features could be useful. As for his/her nation in some points of history. 

El Emeth -- God of Truth

A small Torah commentary.

There are believers and non-believers, and for some religions, belief and non-belief are most essential things. For Lutherans, our salvation depends on our belief. It's different in Judaism. Here, we must keep in mind, that Truth can be more important than God. God is the God of Truth, and in such compound words the second word is the "lord", and the first word is the "servant". God is the God of Truth, not vice versa. Truth is truth independendly of God, but God is God because he is dependent of truth. As the angels Gabriel, Ariel, Uriel and others are angels, messengers of God, carrying some of his attributes, e.g. Uriel is the angel of divine light, God himself is a god of truth, he carries the truth. And as it is written in Thillim -- Psaumes (XXXI, 7), the author gives his spirit into God's hand, into the hand of God of Truth.

As God is the God of Truth, our attitude to Truth is more important than our attitude to God. If we deny or don't accept the Truth as it is, if we try to hide it, to ideologise or theologise it, it is no more a truth, and it is idolatry, deviation from the truth. If our truth makes it impossible for us to believe in God, it is a lesser evil than to try to remodel the truth in such a way that there is a place for a God in it. The God of Truth can well be the God of an atheist, but not a God for somebody who is afraid to accept the Truth of his existence or non-existence.

dimanche 12 octobre 2008

USSR inside USA

Following the republican campaign in the US, I cannot but remember things I have followed in my childhood and youth. I mean Soviet anti-American, "anti-imperialist" propaganda. Both are strikingly similar, at least the Republican conservatives and the Christian Right remind me of Communist ideologists, commissars and politruks. Yes, sometimes there is no big difference between fanatical Christians and fanatical Atheists. The world view of both of them is Manichean, built on the idea of an irreconcilable war between the forces of Evil and Good, ideas originating in ancient Iran. For a true Soviet citizen, a "Soviet believer" there were no compromises, he/she had to be uncompromising in his/her fight against imperialists, fascists, nationalists, cosmopolites, etc. He/she had always to be vigilant to discover the enemy ploys, to unmask him. And every rude word was good for the enemy. Because this enemy was an offspring of the Devil. And a good Christian cannot have any contacts, make any deals with the Devil. This is the point. There are adversaries, opponents, even enemies with whom you can make war, but also make peace. But you cannot make peace with an absolute enemy, i.e. with the absolute Enemy who is the Devil, Satan. There is the age-old battle between him, the Prince of darkness, and God of light. Once it will end with the final victory of the Good. This is what the radical Christian right wing believes and this is quite similar to what the radical Bolsheviks believed. They too believed into the last battle that will liberate mankind... As far as I know, there are similar tendencies, similar politruks and fanatics at work in the Islamic world, professing an as uncompromising battle against the Devil and his forces, the Americans, the Zionists, the unbelievers, the false believers as did the Bolsheviks. An uncompromising, merciless battle with lots of bombs exploding in marketplaces, many heads with godless ideas in them cut off, many rockets fired at enemy mosques and churches.

I am more or less an atheist with a strong interest for religion and theology. I can very well communicate and socialise with people who believe in God, communism, liberalism or whatsoever. But I cannot communicate with people believing in Satan's existence. I think I have proven that if you believe in Satan, then you can believe in anything and often also do anything, commit nearly any crime... I grew up in a society where we had to believe in Satan, in the absolute evil of American imperialists and their henchmen (although most of us didn't believe). And I have the feeling that such beliefs are becoming stronger in the US. It makes me feel uneasy.

My grandfather, headmaster of a small country school, lost his job in 1903. He had told his pupils that we humans are descendants of apes, and he had shown to his class pictures of these apes. Somebody among the students' parents had informed the authorities. He had a serious talk with the inspector of schools of the Tzarist ministry of education, and as my granddad was a very straightforward and honest person, he told that he couldn't tell his class anything but the truth and the whole truth of science. Then the inspector told him politely that he should find for himself another job. What he did, becoming a successful businessman.

I think how many such teachers can we now find in the American Bible Belt. How do they solve their problems when confronted with some fundamentalist young-earth-believer from a school board. I dont know. I would like to know.

jeudi 9 octobre 2008

On Moral Rights

To be very concise. There are certain things certain people have no moral right to deny to others. We Europeans have no moral right to say that Israel has no right to exist. And the members of the biggest organization of unmarried males in the world -- i.e. the Catholic Church has no moral right to say that the women have no right to use contraceptives or turn to abortion.

mercredi 8 octobre 2008

La chose la plus importante?

Peu-ā-peu je commence ā comprendre que la vie et la mort ne sont pas d'une importance si capitale que nous ne le croyons. Il y a une chose plus importante encore. Et c'est ... le sourire. Ou bien le rire. Le culte de la vie et de la mort dans la culture chrétienne et post-chrétienne est une triste erreur qui n'a pas rendu impossible ni l'inquisition, ni les massacres ā Verdun ni le Holocauste, mais a rendu presque impossible d'aider les gens qui ne veulent pas continue de vivre une vie devenue pire qu'un cauchemar. Et notre abolition de la peine capitale et l'interdiction de la torture (qui l'a souvent rendu simplement plus sophistiquée) sont ā part annulées par notre résistance irrationnelle et obstinée ā l'euthanasie. J'ose mème dire qu'il nous faudrait aider les autres à vivre ou à mourir, s'il le veulent, mais il faut le faire d'une telle manière qu'ils puissent vivre ou mourir en souriant.

samedi 4 octobre 2008

Three languages

In politics, we use three distinct versions of language. There is the language of diplomacy where such terms as "territorial integrity", "non-interference in internal affairs", "sovreignty", "human rights" are used. Then there is the language of propaganda. Here we can hear phrases as "unprovoked aggression", "democracy", "freedom", etc. And there is the cold language of (geo)political realities where we talk first of all about national interests, raisons d'état. In the former Soviet zone of "chasse libre" the use of these languages is seriously flawed. Some politicians even seem to believe that the main language is the language of propaganda, and are creating a manichean picture of the evil dictatorial Russia confronting the free and democratic West, first of all the "New Europe". The problem is that there are very few people in our countries capable and willing to explain things in the realistic language of geopolitics. Formally we have a centre of defence policies in Estonia, but unfortunately even they tend to use mostly a more rational-looking language of political propaganda, defending mainly the US propagandistic stances, and, in its own way, the American interests. We have to switch to US own sources, e.g. to Stratfor, to understand what is really going on. The US have never wanted a strong power emerging in Eurasia, be it one state or a bloc of states. And the enlargement of NATO and support for anti-Russian forces in the former Soviet bloc states are a means to contain the possible rise of Russia. But this de facto continuation of the containment policies once formulated by George Kennan were not accompanied by a credible build-up of armed forces. Thus, when the US ground forces are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Georgian president Saakashvili (who was the only one generously armed by the US) behaved very irresponsibly, Russia used its window of opportunity and taught Americans and their clients a lesson. Some Russia's neigbours seem to have learnt it well, and what we shall probably see in near future is a rapprochement between Ukraine and Russia. I have very little hope that the Estonian politicians will even change their anti-Russian rhetoric or that they are able to see clear in what is really going on in the world. But without such a clear vision, any reasonable politics is impossible. What is possible, and what our politicians practice, is more or less blind adherence to US interests and the US political propaganda. As we can see from the fiery rhetoric of Mme Kristina Ojuland, our former minister of foreign affairs.

A Cold War Recollection

As a kid, I had not much to read, thus I read nearly everything I could get in my hands. Including a lot of Soviet propaganda literature, mostly published as belles-lettres. From one of them I still remember some verses:

Enne valimisi Truman andis sõna:
ainsat neegrit enam võlla ei või tuua.
Pärast valimisi lahti laskis mõna:
nüüd vaid paarikaupa tohib neegreid puua.

Before the elections Truman gave his word:
not a single negro can be brought to gallows.
After the elections he let loose a talk:
From now on you can hang negroes only in pairs.

The original Estonian is as clumsy as my English.

After all, the world has changed a lot. The book was published about 1950.