Kaljurand: Global politics ruled by club law

Marina Kaljurand
Marina Kaljurand Source: SDE

Former foreign minister Marina Kaljurand, MEP and member of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) has been invited to join the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. Is the world governed by the strongest always being right? "I have to admit it is," Kaljurand says.

"It came as a surprise when I received a letter from the UN secretary general [Antonio Guterres] toward the end of last year and was later told I was expected to contribute to designating new threats, including cyberattacks, cybersecurity but also provide the Eastern European dimension," Kaljurand said.

The board is made up of 15 experts from Indonesia to Namibia, including former Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström.

"The secretary general asked us to concentrate on nuclear weapons, arms control, cyber threats, protection of people to give him options of what the UN could do in the complicated international situation," Kaljurand said.

She emphasizes that the world is no longer dominated by two centers of power – USA and Russia – there are more players involved in global security and insecurity in the 21st century.

If U.S. President Donald Trump urged European allies, Russia and China to drop the Iran nuclear agreement on Wednesday, Kaljurand believes there is still hope for the deal.

"The Iran nuclear agreement [2015] was a major diplomatic victory for the EU. It has given International Atomic Energy Agency experts access to Iranian nuclear facilities and an overview of their nuclear activity," Kaljurand said. "I do not know how much trust is placed in the U.S. during talks for a new agreement in a situation where we know President Trump pulled out of the previous deal mainly because it was the work of the previous administration, because it was negotiated by Obama and because Trump believes he can get a better deal."

Kaljurand does not believe the deal is dead. "I believe it can still be kept alive. While Iran says it no longer holds it to be binding, it has done nothing to violate the agreement's core provisions. The European Union should be a more active participant. It is not an opportunity but an obligation for us, as is trying to broker Turkey-Syria relations."

Talking about the January 3 crisis when USA killed influential Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad that was followed by an Iranian missile strike on U.S. military bases in Iraq, Kaljurand said she is not convinced the targeted killing was fully in accordance with international law and the principle of an attack to ward off immediate threats. She said that she has not seen the "overwhelming evidence Trump is talking about and only revealing to a few people."

Commenting on the goals of Estonia as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Kaljurand finds that we should not abandon value-based foreign communication and should proceed based on international law.

"It is important for Estonia to follow international law, value the world order that it upholds where we know the rules, what's permitted and what isn't. It matters to all small countries," Kaljurand emphasized.

"In a perfect world, everyone would follow every rule, but we are not living in a perfect world, also domestically where we can see rules broken on daily basis," she finds.

Asked whether the strongest is always right, the former foreign minister and experienced diplomat said she has no choice but to agree.

"As much as I hate to admit it, I must. And looking at who are changing and shaping international law the most today, the answer is the major powers," Kaljurand says.

Commenting on a remark that Estonian governments have avoided critical notes when it comes to USA as an important ally and have in no way questioned the killing of Gen. Soleimani, Kaljurand says that Estonia could be bolder in demanding explanations from the U.S.

"USA is an important ally, but if we criticize Iran, we could be bolder in saying we have questions regarding the killing of Soleimani," Kaljurand agrees. "We can go even further and say that as allies, we would have expected the U.S. to coordinate its actions. This is not the first time they have taken unilateral action. A recent example is the decision to pull troops out of Syria. There have been other examples. Yes, perhaps we should be bolder there, but that does not mean our allied relationship would become second rate."

Marina Kaljurand worked as a diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1991-2015, serving as ambassador to USA and Russia and a non-resident ambassador to Israel for example. Kaljurand has graduated from the University of Tartu law faculty and has a master's degree in international law and diplomacy from the Tufts University in USA. Kaljurand served as foreign minister from July 16, 2015 to September 9, 2016.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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