Opinion digest: Time to return to discussing serious issues
In a stinging opinion piece in published in the daily Eesti Päevaleht, member of the Riigikogu Eerik-Niiles Kross (Reform) condemned the Estonian media as well as the country’s elites for their obsession with what he sees as pointless topics, while disregarding the last few weeks’ unsettling developments concerning Russia.
Kross pointed out in his piece that over the last few months, Russia had stirred up trouble with the West wherever it was given the chance. It had bombed hospitals in Aleppo, as well as schools and humanitarian aid convoys. It had vetoed a UN resolution to end the killing of civilians in Syria. It had broken off, continued, and broken off again its negotiations with the United States, while that country’s political elite was busy with its presidential elections and not paying attention to what was happening abroad.
Russia moved its Iskander missile system to its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad on Oct. 7. Iskander could deliver nuclear warheads to any target within 500 to 700 km, including Berlin, Warsaw, Stockholm, and Poland and the Baltic states in general.
Kross pointed out that Russia’s demands had taken on the nature of an ultimatum, including not only dropping economic sanctions, but compensating Russia for the damage done by them. It wanted NATO troops out of Eastern Europe, it was no longer ready to continue its plutonium disposal agreement with the U.S., and it had brought its S-400 missile systems in Crimea to full alert. And the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov was now on the way to the Mediterranean.
Russia’s military activities along its Western borders were a cause for concern as well, Kross wrote. On a single day last week, Russian state TV showed two ballistic missile exercises, one of which taking place on a nuclear submarine. Also on Russian state TV, citizens were instructed how to find fall-out shelters should “Day X” arrive, and demonstrated the siren sounds they would hear in case of war.
Kross also pointed to the fact that the Kremlin handed a bill to the State Duma to change military service law to increase the military’s readiness to “respond to current challenges abroad” and quickly raise troops in case this was necessary.
Several Western capitals had noticed that the families of Russian diplomats as well as in some cases the diplomats themselves had been transferring to Moscow. On Monday last week, the governor of St. Petersburg had issued a decree to guarantee 300 grams of bread a day for every resident of the city in case of war.
All of this didn’t necessarily have to mean that Russia was getting ready for war, Kross stressed. But tensions were higher than ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. A large part of what Moscow had been communicating could at least in part be seen as a psychological attack.
Perhaps the lack of interest of the Estonian media and political elite in these developments could even be seen as a good reaction, Kross opined, though at the same time the zeal with which the country went about dragging down its leaders and destroyed its belief in itself and the trust in its institutions was irresponsible.
Kross called on journalists as well as politicians to pause and take a good look at the topics debated over the last few weeks. All of these supposedly important matters were not important at all, and the hype that had developed around them was weakening everyone’s resistance, clouding their judgment, and destroying much needed trust, Kross wrote.
Siim Kallas’ disappointment and the Reform Party’s supposed internal battles, the Center Party, state support paid to President Ilves’ country home, President Kaljulaid’s staffing decisions, all of these topics had to seem completely idiotic to anyone able to see beyond the rim of their morning beer, Kross opined.
“In the coming times we will need Siim Kallas as well as Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Jüri Luik, Allar Jõks, Marina Kaljurand, Kersti Kaljulaid, Kadri Simson, and everyone else who is capable, we also need a healthy media, brains, and confidence. This is the last chance to change gears, listen calmly, discuss what matters, and start building up instead of tearing down. Build bridges and trust. What is needed are cleverness and cold-bloodedness, not cowardice and stupidity,” Kross wrote.
Kross’ opinion piece was published in Eesti Päevaleht on Oct. 16 (link in Estonian).