“The Brussels Diary With Yana Toom”: Estonia Has Missed The Chance To Not Spoil Its Relationship With Russia


The most recent Munich Security Conference took place last Friday via video link. Instead of three days, it lasted three hours. Its main result was the return of the US to the world security system – as a partner of Europe, not as its adversary.

Interestingly, Western leaders talked little about Russia. Moscow and Beijing were given “cues” – for example, Boris Johnson mentioned Navalny – but that is all. The topic of Nord Stream 2 was not raised at all. The head of the conference Wolfgang Ischinger, a German diplomat, complained that there was not enough time to discuss the gas pipeline. The subtlety is clear – no one wants to drive a wedge between the EU and the US now, and obviously Nord Stream 2, which is very much needed by Europe, will come into fruition.

Very few people need to aggravate relations with Russia, and the EU does not need that for sure, especially after Borrell’s disastrous visit to Moscow. And Biden has a host of other worries. Russia was not really even discussed at the NATO summit on the eve of Munich. I think, among other things, everyone wants to return to the Iranian deal that was thwarted by Trump, but nothing can be done on this without Russia.

And what do residents of Tallinn think about the relationship between Europe and Russia?

“What do you think should be the relationship between Europe – the EU – and Russia?” “A peaceful one, of course. I guess. And a friendly one. Both ways.”

“Relationships should always be good between everyone, always. And this could be the case. But ... Russia, too, must show that it wants to have a good relationship.”

“Of course, it could be good. After all, this is what everybody wants. But, unfortunately, I don’t know how to achieve it.”

“It could be! All relationships could be better!” “What would it give Estonia!” “A sense of confidence. Freedom.”

Alas, Estonia has once again missed the chance to at least not spoil its relationship with Russia. A week ago, the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service published an 80-page yearbook, almost all of which was devoted to Russia. Of course, there is no new information there – it’s all publicly available – but on the other hand, this is like an encyclopaedia on Russian life, and even more vividly than Eugene Onegin. Russia and Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, Russia and Armenia, Russia and China, Russia and Africa...

Is it really the case that the relationship between Russia and Africa is our business? It turns out, it is. The Estonian hawks regularly play their role that they once invented for themselves: we are the world’s best experts on Russia as a geopolitical enemy, and we do not miss an opportunity to remind others about it. This role played by our special services is not in the interests of Estonia itself, of Europe or even of the United States – I doubt that the White House needs such assistance. Nobody wants to burn bridges with Russia, and we keep running around with a can of petrol and a lighter. We offer our services, even when they are not requested.

This is an unnecessary activity: the EU is not going to follow the lead of either Russia, the US or China. Brussels, Berlin and Paris clearly intend to negotiate with everyone, including Beijing and Moscow. The role of our hawks does not fit into this; perhaps it is time to come up with another one!