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Samost and Sildam: Mart Helme forgot one rule of communication

Minister of the Interior and EKRE chairman Mart Helme.
Minister of the Interior and EKRE chairman Mart Helme. Source: ERR

Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) forgot one simple rule of communication when talking to the Estonian government's "plan B" to the Finnish media, ERR senior journalists Toomas Sildam and Anvar Samost found.

Speaking on regular head-to-head discussion show Samost ja Sildam on Vikerraadio Sunday afternoon, Toomas Sildam said that he did agree fully with Helme that new security patterns need to be addressed as a result of present realities. However it was the "plan B" approach which caught people off guard, Sildam said.

"In my opinion, these discussions are completely legitimate. They are legitimate for a minister, they are legitimate for a journalist, analysts, for anyone," Sildam said.

"It's quite normal to talk about what happens when ... But when we read the reflections from Riga and from Vilnius, they were hit by this "Plan B" thing like lightning from the blue sky; they had no idea Estonians were making any "plan B." This is something that Mart Helme could be accused of: Suddenly speaking on behalf of all Baltic States," Sildam went on.

Helme made his remarks quoted in an interview in Finnish daily Iltalehti last week, saying that the Estonian government was preparing a plan B in case NATO's collective defense principle should not work for any reason. Helme said that this would be done in conjunction with Latvia and Lithuania, with Finland also playing a role.

The comments met with condemnation and rejection from several directions, including Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) and foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).

"It seems to me that Mart Helme has thought about this security issue for himself, but at the same time I agree with Jüri Luik that military defense in Estonia is not organized by the Ministry of the Interior," Sildam added.

Anvar Samost recalled what a communications expert had said to his clients, which, he said, fits well with the Helme NATO case.

"When you talk to any journalist, be it at ERR, Postimees, Kroonika or any Italian, Russian or Finnish journalist, always imagine you are standing in the middle of Raekoja plats on a summer's day, with 5,000 people in front of you. You have a microphone in front of you, those 5,000 people will hear everything you say. This makes all communication much easier, as you don't say things that you come to regret afterwards, "said Samost.

"In this case, I think Mart Helme is an older man and an experienced speaker, but he just forgot that simple rule. It's still a bit of a case like when you sit in front of 17 foreign journalists, and you can feel a little more of a big, international man than you really are. you are, and then there comes the desire to this great, international man to present all sorts of airy theories," Samost added.

Sildam further noted that, given Mart Helme's foreign and security interests, he had obviously been thinking about these things. 

"Maybe he has said it in company, maybe with a member of the government. And when Finnish journalists were talking about security, I have a feeling somewhere that Mart Helme opened up some sort of memory or story-box, and recounted the whole tale again," Sildam said.

"It was probably something like that," Samost concurred.

The original Vikerraadio segment (in Estonian) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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