14 agosto 2008
Estonia's President Says Georgia Crisis Has Changed Everything
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves flew to
Tbilisi in the middle of Georgia's war with Russia to stand with four
other leaders of former communist countries in support of the Georgian
people. RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel asks him why he feels
such a personal commitment to Georgia's efforts to become part of NATO
and the EU, and how he views its struggle with Moscow.
President Ilves, you took the trouble to travel to Tbilisi and show
solidarity with Georgia in its moment of crisis. Why do you personally
feel so strongly that Georgia's problems are your own, and the world's
Toomas Hendrik Ilves: On a more philosophical level,
we cannot have a repeat of what happened in '38, when Neville
Chamberlain returned declaring peace in his time and, after all, so
what if a small faraway country about which we know nothing is
dismembered. Certainly that was the beginning of the conflagration that
I think on a more realpolitik level, the assumptions
that we have held since the end of the collapse of communism in the
Soviet Union, which I would call the post-'91 settlement, the basic
assumption is that whatever happens inside Russia it will not return to
its former ways of invading other countries. That is a very fundamental
assumption which affects everything we do, NATO planning, everything.
That assumption has collapsed and I think it will take a generation to
get back to the point where we were in the beginning of August where we
thought, OK, we can have all kinds of words but we will never see an
invasion on the part of Russia.
RFE/RL: Many ordinary
Georgians have expressed disappointment to the press that the West did
not offer them more help in the hot war that they just fought. Did you
hear the same while you were in Tbilisi and, if so, how did you respond?
I did hear that and I would say that there are a number of factors. One
is that very unfortunately Georgia was not offered the Membership
Action Plan in the Bucharest summit of NATO and as I said then, and I
say it now, that decision was interpreted as a green light to do what
you want with Georgia. And I think those that blocked [the offer] bear
some responsibility in what ensued.
But the other thing, of
course, is that the West is slow to react. I mean, these kinds of
things take a little while to sink in. Once it sinks in, usually the
West acts rather forcefully. If you look at the reaction of the United
States right now, it is very forceful. I think they, just as we, were
taken aback by what happened and it took everyone a while to realize
that the paradigm had shifted completely.
French-brokered plan for cease-fire offers five points, including
future nonuse of force and withdrawal of troops to their previous
positions. Is this an adequate starting point for calming this crisis
and getting back to negotiations over Georgia's frozen conflicts, or
would you see a need for more conditions imposed on either or both
Ilves: If you just invaded with 10,000 troops
and almost a thousand tanks, then withdrawing to the previous borders
with that amount of military hardware, I don't think is a good way to
start. I think it has to be more concrete. The troops have to leave
Georgian territory and we need to ensure the territorial integrity of
RFE/RL: After this incident, do you think the EU
will harden its stance toward Russia and move perhaps more toward the
Eastern European members' perspective of Russia and away from that of
France and Germany?
Ilves: I think it's inevitable. To
kind of [reiterate] a statement I read the other day -- I think there
is actually a very pro-Russia, Russophile coalition inside the European
Union which places good business relations above European values of
human rights, democracy, and so forth. And I think that this will be a
point of contention in the future.
However, I don't see such
an accommodating stance on the part of the "realist" camp, to which I
think we belong. We saw that Poland and then Lithuania did cave in on
the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement discussion, due to heavy
pressure. I don't think that is going to happen again when similar
issues come up. As I said, the previous paradigm is over and dead; the
most fundamental assumptions have changed.
observers might say that this Georgian-Russian fight again highlights
the difference between two orders being constructed in Europe. One is a
shared space, marked by shared institutions where an agreed political
and economic framework works to maintain peace and prosperity -- I am
thinking of the NATO/EU space. The other is a space marked out only by
its previous history and where powerful states have spheres of
influence and relations are unregulated -- I am thinking of Russia and
its neighborhood. Do you see the European continent, if you permit the
expression, in these terms and is that why you give so much attention
to what goes on in the East?
Ilves: That's a long
question to simply answer with a yes. I see it from a slightly
different perspective. What I would actually say is that Europe is that
area which is defined by interlocking interests, fundamental freedoms,
and so forth. And Europe is defined by that, and what doesn't have that
is not Europe.
As an analogy: Koenigsberg was the heart of
Europe. Kaliningrad has nothing to do with Europe. The same
geographical space. Joseph Joffe in a recent piece, and clearly also
Robert Kagan, have pointed out that what we're dealing with is a very
19th-century hegemonic approach to things on the part of Russia today
that makes it very difficult for them to really understand and interact
with what we call Europe.
And Europe finds it also difficult.
I mean, if on the one hand you have a kind of authoritarian, bullying
petrostate flush with lots and lots of money and then you have a Europe
that doesn't really understand the use of force involved or believe in
that kind of politics but does believe in money, I think we have a
dangerous mix. But basically brute force, power, and buying politicians
-- as we've seen, unfortunately, at the highest levels in Europe (credo che il riferimento sia ad un ex Cancelliere tedesco accomodatosi successivamente davanti ad un piatto di lenticchie al desco della Gazprom) -- is
not compatible with the Kantian "perpetual peace" assumptions of the
| inviato da houseofMaedhros
il 14/8/2008 alle 20:3 | |