'An Assurance Speech That Assured': Editors' Reactions to Obama's Keynote


ERR News editors give their reactions to Obama's speech.

Scott Abel, senior editor:

As far as what the crowd thought, as a woman told me going out after the speech, it was an assurance speech and it assured.

But you live in Estonia, too - were you assured?

I myself was hoping for more. There was nothing in the speech that had not already said in another venue. It was almost a series of bullet points about what he thought and what he thought about different issues such as Ukraine, Russia. He made a series of explanations about why NATO is not a threat to Russia and how Russia was harming its own interests but as far as changing the trajectory, more of what is already on the table now. But for the Estonian audience who was there, it was just right.

Juhan-Markus Laats, senior editor:

A lot of people wanted to hear him say something very concrete. He couldn't have said much more that was within the bounds of diplomatic possibilities. Realistically, that's the best we could have hoped for.

Kristopher Rikken, editor-in-chief:

I was reminded what an excellent speaker he really is - focused and paced. It's jarring - hard to reconcile it with all the negativity in the press and social media, at least in my circles and reading material. Maybe Obama had a chance to rekindle some of that pre-first term spirit here. I was glad to see the meet-and-greets take place with the public as well. There was clearly some positive energy being generated on both sides of the security cordon, especially with the kids with their freshly-starched school uniforms.

Not that I'm naive and overestimate the power of a speech, but I'd like not to be cynical, as Obama said. IAbout the main message, if the leader of the free world (and he is still considered to be that) stands up to 1.2 million people and says, with emotion in his voice, that the US will definitely come fight for Estonia if attacked, and if you don't believe that, what do you have?

Stuart Garlick, correspondent:

 Watching the speech back, I was reminded how, though he may now be in the middle of his final term, President Obama remains a fine orator. Looking older and more tired than the man who had shot hoops on the campaign trail in 2008, there is an undimmed gift for winning hearts and minds. If a President's career can be compared with that of President Ilves' friend Bruce Springsteen, his early talk of change and hope was like the magical innocence of "Born To Run," but this speech was like something from "Wrecking Ball," showing more dignity and delicacy than earlier work, and a cheering refusal to go quietly.

After the shambles of Angela Merkel's statement that agreements with Russia mean more than Article Five of the NATO Treaty, Estonia needed to feel the love. After the speech, it seemed on social media and in conversations as if a dark cloud had been lifted.

Actions speak louder than words, but Obama's insistence that an attack on any NATO country would be defended by the whole alliance was something that needed to be said. The speech was not a classic in the Obama canon, but caught a delicate moment, seizing momentum for the West, just as Russia had seemed unanswered by major powers in the propaganda war. It was also a speech for believers in human progress, showing that America remembers the lessons of history, and will not allow Estonia to have its independence taken from it again.

Maybe Springsteen put it best. "If you're looking for love, I'm tougher than the rest".

Watch the full speech here.

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