Opinion digest: How can Estonia shed its reputation as a frontline state? ({{commentsTotal}})

The first British soldiers of the NATO battle group arrived in Estonia on Friday night. March 17, 2017.
The first British soldiers of the NATO battle group arrived in Estonia on Friday night. March 17, 2017. Source: (Siim Verner Teder, Karl Johanson)

In a recent opinion piece in Postimees, Propastop, a blog maintained by Estonian Defence Forces volunteers, listed suggestions on how Estonia could shed its international reputation as a frontline state.

Journalist Mikk Salu wrote in Eesti Ekspress in January about the reputation that Estonia had developed abroad, and so the writers of Propastop deided to consult with coworkers of theirs who were communications experts about whether and how Estonia should work to change this reputation.

It was worth bearing in mind, the piece pointed out right away, that the topic of the threat of war was not associated strictly with Estonia, but rather part of the broader geopolitical situation involving wars in Georgia and Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea — which have in turn triggered the boosting of defenses and seeking of help from the rest of Europe and NATO.

The piece also noted that the objective of Russian propaganda was to paint these measures taken by Estonia and other Eastern European countries as aggressive; to claim that the motive behind bringing NATO troops into these regions of Europe was to attack Russia. "This message is aimed both at both domestic Russian listeners and also at people living in Estonia who remain in the sphere of influence of Russian media, attempting to generation opposition to the state governments where they live," explained Propastop.

The authors of the piece said that Estonia must strongly emphasize — first and foremost to consumers of Russian media — the fact that Estonia’s own defense investments as well as the bringing in of allied troops was strictly for defense purposes and illustrate the fact that a potential offensive against Russia was out of the question both practically and politically.

For reaching those who do not follow Estonian media, the authors proposed using informative advertisements. "Why not display posters in Ida-Viru County towns depicting a friendly allied soldier together with a Russian-language text reading, 'Honestly, we do not intend to attack Russia!'" they suggested, adding that the posters could include a website where the defensive value of allied presence in Estonia is explained in simple terms.

Informational materials for foreign media

While the association with an attention-grabbing keyword was not necessarily a bad thing — as e-Estonia was utilized as a driver behind strengthening cybersecurity, so could the frontline narrative be used to as an impetus for defense-, communications- and integration-related projects — the authors noted that web-based informational materials explaining Estonia's defense situation, its broad-based defense model and the role of allied soldiers in the country needed to be compiled for the use of foreign journalists, adding that this information should surely include local press contacts and an archive of photo and video material.

"Once again we arrive at the fact that Estonia does not have a central state organization which would address the issues outlined in this post and implement solutions," the piece highlighted, finding that the creation of an organization involved in proactively shaping Estonia's image was necessary.

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This opinion piece, originally posted on Propastop.org, a website maintained by Estonian Defence Forces volunteers that is dedicated to exposing anti-Estonian manipulation, falsehoods and propaganda, appeared in daily Postimees (link in Estonian).

Editor: Aili Vahtla