Putin’s Border Treaty Will Outshine Sochi Criticism ({{commentsTotal}})

Toomas Alatalu
Toomas Alatalu Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Toomas Alatalu, a historian and former MP who is now a member of the Social Democratic Party, says the signing of the border treaty between Estonia and Russia will overshadow the criticism leveled at the Sochi Olympics.

I began my journey home on the morning of the Olympic games from the freshly reopened John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw there. Namely, during my two-week tour of the Caribbean islands, English-language TV channels told me nothing except for how bad things are in Sochi. However, posters inviting visitors to Sochi were hanging in the half-empty airport.

In other words - the US offered both negative as well as positive information. Back home in Estonia, only negativity looked back at me from every media outlet. The picture became even more startling once I found a news item on 24 January about Foreign Minister Urmas Paet being invited to Moscow to sign the border treaty on 18 February. From a foreign policy standpoint, this should have signified a turning point, but the real barrage was only beginning - everyone was falling over each other to demand that Prime Minister Andrus Ansip canceled his planned trip to Sochi.

It is a good thing that all this will end with the signing of the Estonian-Russian peace treaty - a border treaty between two states can indeed be called that - during the Sochi Olympic games. In other words, a political event, which suits the idea and traditions of Olympic games, will take place - something that hasn’t occurred for a long time and something that Vladimir Putin will naturally exploit. What an achievement: not only are the Olympics held in Russia, but the organizer of the party and its neighbor will finalize their relations during the games!

It is obviously a great contribution to the theory and practice of international relations and sets an example. It also provides Putin with an excellent opportunity to rehabilitate himself for starting a war on the opening day of the 2008 Beijing Olympics by invading Georgia. It is worth remembering that back then, Kremlin slyly called it “peace enforcement” (prinuzdenije k miru).

This time, there was no enforcement, but Estonian diplomacy was tactically outplayed once again.

The ratifying process for the 2005 border treaty, rejected by Moscow, began again on 9 October 2012. It began under quite hazy circumstances, because a group of Estonian MPs were guided by the statement Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made to a student, that is to say, clearly indicated that we’re in a great hurry to sign the treaty. In any case, the end result is fitting, considering the way the process began: Estonia’s lot was only concessions and following a scenario forced upon it.

From the very beginning, the Estonian side tried to make it look like the new signing could take place in Tallinn. Actually, it was naive because except for the first Russian-Chinese border treaty (2004) and the Russian-Azerbaijan border treaty (2010), Moscow has signed all its treaties at home.

Since the signing did not happen in late last year, we had to use our logic to deduct when the superpower would like to attempt it. The reality is that the entire European Union and the rest of the world welcome the signing of the Estonian-Russian border treaty during the Olympic games and it will set a great example for future games.

Since the behavior of all Sochi critics looks rather sheepish once the moment arrives, then perhaps it’s time they calmed down.

The article is a translation originally published on 14 February on uudised.err.ee



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