Russia and Estonia: Young Experts’ Dialogue

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Pattern of Relationship: Sleeping with a Hedgehog, isn’t it?

On October 16-19, 2012, Baltic-Russia Youth Forum took place in Tallinn, Estonia. It gathered representatives of Academia, NATO political bodies and young experts from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russian Federation.

During two days the participants discussed the most difficult aspects of the relationship between Baltic States and Russia. One of the most interesting panels was devoted to discussion of ‘Present and Future Co-operation between NATO and Russia’.

The young experts were suggested to take part in a special workshop devoted to underlining the basic problems of Russia-NATO relations and finding solutions to them. Public Initiative ‘Creative Diplomacy’ was presented at the forum by Liubov Yaroshenko, the Executive Director of the Organization.

Upon the completion of the Forum, Liubov Yaroshenko shared her impressions about the event:

It is always very difficult to draw any conclusions at the end of young experts’ meeting from the side of Baltic States and Russian Federation. One can easily be called to have prejudices against one or the other party. Being Russian, I will definitely look upon the findings from a Russian perspective. Might be, this short list to remember will help future politicians or young experts that would decide to deal with the Baltic States case.

Firstly, it seemed to be that ‘to be at home in EU and safe in NATO’ is not enough to feel secure from Russia’. ‘A little relationship as possible but this is not possible’. This ‘seemed to be’ funny phrase simply made the opening ceremony of the forum. Be aware, the negative images are still there!

They embrace the fear of Russian expansion deeply rooted in the existing asymmetric interdependency and, for sure, collective memory of the past.

As mentioned by one of the guests invited to the Forum unfortunately neither politician nor sometimes experts want to exploit the well-tested diplomatic tool. History is something for historians, let’s talk about practical matters.

Secondly, what is really on the practical level? Prices for gas contracts. Russian minorities and their integration into Baltic States’ societies. Russia – NATO anti-missile defense system cooperation. Probably, the eternal question of democracy-building in Russian Federation. In each case Baltic States have something to say.

Re energy issues, asymmetry seems to be over-whelming and whether Baltic States want or not, they cannot do anything with it.

The integration of Russian minorities into Baltic societies is the mission to be completed, and if it is really completed, that would a different world. But unfortunately at the moment there are no structural factors that can promote reaching this goal that could guarantee for many years a model image of Baltic States within the EU and would definitely change the framework of relationship with Russia.

Russia-NATO anti-missile defense system cooperation is the sample of the greatest rhetoric ever heard. The one or the linked one, to be or not to be, that is the question? Definitely not the one, and then you can read between the lines: ‘we won’t be happy about it since we’ve entered NATO to be secure from Russia but not to have something common with it’.

And finally, does more democracy within Russia would mean a different and less imperial foreign policy? Is this the reason why the issue of democracy and human rights is constantly brought up to the table by Baltic States?

The fact is that projects’ thinking is part of a genetic code of Russian Federation simply due to is territory, geographical location, history and resources available, no matter whether one wants it or not.

Unfortunately at the moment the attitude towards Russia constantly repeats the paradigm: ‘If we don’t see somebody working against our state from the side of Russia, we simply don’t see it!’

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