Estonia’s Russians.Apr 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 30 • By ANDREW STUTTAFORD
"We could have been Bosnia,” said Eerik-Niiles Kross, a center-right Estonian politician, former intelligence chief—and much more besides. He didn’t have to tell me why. Estonians remain haunted by the memory of their doomed interwar republic. It inspired their drive for independence from the Soviet Union, but it reminds them that what was lost can never be truly restored.
The early stages of Soviet occupation saw some 60,000 Estonians killed, imprisoned, or deported (primarily to Siberia and Kazakhstan) out of a population of 1.1 million. Even more escaped to the West. In their place hundreds of thousands of mainly Russian settlers moved in, transforming Estonia’s demographics as they did so. By 1989 the Estonian share of their own country’s population (by then expanded to more than 1.5 million) had shrunk to a little over
60 percent, down from close to 90 percent in 1939.
As Estonia slid towards independence in the late-perestroika era, some 300,000 of its Russian inhabitants voted in a poll organized by a pro-Soviet organization to stick with the USSR. Immediately after the break with Moscow in 1991, there was a strong push for autonomy in Ida-Virumaa, a predominantly Russian-speaking region of the northeast. Russian troops stayed in Estonia until 1994. Meanwhile, the revived Estonian state was operating as the legal continuation of the interwar republic, a constitutional arrangement that denied automatic Estonian citizenship to those who had settled there during the Soviet occupation (or their descendants). The scars of Soviet rule were very raw. Estonia could indeed have become Bosnia.
That it did not owed much to (relative) Russian restraint, a product both of weakness and the comparative liberalism of the Yeltsin years. (A plaque honoring Boris Yeltsin was put up here in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, in 2013; Vladimir Putin will not be remembered so fondly.) Estonia’s Russians also understood that Estonia was headed West, a shift that promised something better than the lawlessness and seemingly perpetual economic crisis engulfing the land of their forebears. What’s more, Estonia’s new Western partners were adding to the pressure for more liberal citizenship laws. This was hard for a people with a dread that they might be the last of the last, but Estonians tend to be a pragmatic bunch: Naturalization has been made easier, although language, residency, and civic knowledge tests remain.
Of Estonia’s “Russian-speakers” (roughly 28 percent of the population), about half are Estonian citizens and some 25 percent are Russian citizens. Most of the rest are “noncitizens” holding what are known as “gray passports,” a status that Putin has denounced as “shameful,” although not so shameful that some of its holders don’t prefer to hang onto it. Unlike either Russian or Estonian citizens, they can travel visa-free to both Russia and almost everywhere in the EU (which Estonia joined in 2004). It is already easy for the children of gray passport-holders to become Estonian citizens. Next year it will be automatic. Not so for those where one or more parent is a Russian citizen (a twist resulting from the interplay of Estonian and Russian citizenship laws). To some, that risks storing up trouble for the future. To others, it involves too few people to be of significance.
Regardless of citizenship, permanent residents can vote in local elections and are entitled to the same social benefits as Estonian citizens, but the sense of exclusion still stings. Unable or unwilling to empathize with the Estonian fear that demography might finish what Stalin began, many Russian-speakers resent being required to apply for a fresh citizenship of the country in which they had lived (and maybe even been born) as full citizens of a now-vanished empire. “What have I to do with Stalin?” asked Valeri Tšetvergov of the Union of Russian Compatriots as we sat chatting in Narva, the most populous city in Ida-Virumaa and the third largest in Estonia.
Narva was a jewel of the Northern Baroque flattened during the Second World War, purged of ethnic Estonians (perhaps 4 percent of its population today), and rebuilt in Soviet concrete and gloom. Divided from Russia by an alarmingly narrow river, it is, along with Daugavpils in eastern Latvia, regularly identified as the next Crimea. “We have had a lot of journalists here,” sighed one local, as we discussed a slew of recent articles about her adopted hometown.
5:29 PM, Feb 22, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former Texas governor Rick Perry is taking on Russian president Vladimir Putin. The possible presidential candidate says that the "peace and security of the world" depends on how America deals with Russia.
Here's what Perry recommends doing to counter Putin's recent aggression:
10:31 AM, Nov 25, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Russians want delivery of their aircraft carrier. They contracted with the French to build it and a deal is a deal. But things are not (yet) so far gone that a NATO country is willing to arm the enemy for a few francs.
11:38 AM, Nov 20, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Europe is experiencing increased, and threatening, intrusions by Russian aircraft and:
NATO war planes have had to scramble 400 times this year in response ... a rise of 50 percent over last year, the new secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Thursday.
3:35 PM, Oct 22, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
During his visit to Washington this week, Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon has spent part of his time criticizing Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, warning about the dangers of a bad nuclear deal with Iran—and highlighting the problems with Turkey.
An ally goes rogue. Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By DANIEL PIPES
Only 12 years ago, the Republic of Turkey was correctly seen as the model of a pro-Western Muslim state, and a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. A strong military bond with the Pentagon undergirded broader economic and cultural ties with Americans. And then, starting with the 2002 elections that brought the Justice and Development party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, first as prime minister and now as president, to power, Turkey dramatically changed course.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:14 PM, Sep 5, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on why you shouldn't bet on President Obama using any muscle on his foreign policy.
No U.S. leadership, no NATO.Sep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By JOHN R. BOLTON
Vladimir Putin’s efforts to establish hegemony over Ukraine may now have reached a decisive point both for the balance of power in Central and Eastern Europe and for the NATO alliance. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko warned on August 30 that Russia’s invasion of his country and extensive aid to pro-Moscow separatists could soon “reach the point of no return,” becoming a generalized conflict. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that “the situation is increasingly getting out of control.”
2:23 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
With the president attending this week's NATO summit in Wales, and the heightened concerns among the organization’s members – especially the newer ones with experience of hand’s-on Russian domination and rule – it might be profitable for our “allies” to consider some facts reported by Gideon Rachman in the
3:19 PM, Jul 25, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
CNBC reports the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Douglas Lute, is saying that
Russia has now amassed around 15,000 troops along the border with Ukraine ... a higher figure than one previously cited by the Pentagon.
With the men, comes material as
U.S. intelligence also indicates that Russia plans to soon provide heavier and more sophisticated weaponry to Ukrainian separatists, a Pentagon spokesman said on Friday.
10:01 AM, Jul 23, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Vladimir Putin does not seem inclined to talk nice and patch things up with the West. To the contrary, he is drawing lines. They may, or may not, be “red." He seems confident enough not to need the modifier.
As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports:
Uprisings in the East, corruption in the West— Ukraine emerges from elections divided and weakenedJun 23, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 39 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
Obama’s floundering Ukraine policy. May 5, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 32 • By JOHN R. BOLTON
The continuing Ukraine crisis raises both a critical “what if?” question and a pressing policy issue. What if, in April 2008, the Europeans had not rejected President Bush’s proposal to bring Ukraine and Georgia onto a clearly defined path to joining NATO? And today, urgently, should we try again for NATO membership?
1:26 PM, Apr 15, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The crisis in Ukraine has not reached the dreaded point where it turns into a shooting war. And likely it will not. So we hear no urgent analysis of things like objectives, interior lines, unity of command, logistical staying power, the durability of alliances, and the other matters that have been the concern of European strategists since the days of Napoleon.
11:01 AM, Apr 13, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, providing Russia with what it considers a case for intervention. As James Marson and Lukas I. Alpert of the Wall Street Journal report this morning: