Toomas Sildam: Estonia reached out but Russia did not reciprocate
Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets showed initiative when she requested a phone call with her Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov. The call was necessary – Russia does not want to ratify the border agreement it signed with Estonia seven years ago, Toomas Sildam writes.
It is good that the Estonian and Russian foreign ministers finally talked. Something that had not happened for five years. Neighbors should stay in touch despite differences, as suggested by Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets. Her predecessor, long-time Foreign Minister Urmas Paet added that neighbors need to stay in touch during difficult periods if only to make things easier when the situation improves.
The situation will not improve any time soon though, the call between Liimets and Lavrov revealed.
The initiative for the phone call came from Estonia because Liimets wanted to tell Moscow that Kaja Kallas' government is prepared to move forward with the ratification.
However, Lavrov did not take the news well or say that it should be discussed by the two countries' parliaments. No, he pointed out as a "mandatory prerequisite" of the ratification Estonia clearly dropping all territorial demands against Russia.
Mr. Lavrov, Estonia did that ages ago when you and Urmas Paet signed the border agreement that designated the Estonia-Russia boundary line more or less where it is now seven years ago. Besides, no Estonian government has discussed demanding the return of Petserimaa or Ivangorod (Jaanilinn) for the past 30 years.
This "mandatory precondition" is a far-fetched excuse by the Russian foreign minister.
Lavrov's reluctance to ratify the border agreement he himself signed is also clearly reflected in his words according to which, "Russian wants to see its neighbor (Estonia – ed.) be prepared for returning to normal, non-antagonistic atmosphere in mutual relations."
Estonia wants normal non-antagonistic relations with its neighbors – who doesn't. However, let us try and translate what Lavrov told Liimets in the current situation. That Estonia should not support international sanctions against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine and efforts to maintain the conflict there, should not be publicly concerned over Russia amassing troops near Ukraine's borders, raise the so-called Navalny question etc.
In other words: Estonia would have to alter its recent foreign policy heading, stop supporting EU common foreign and security policy and NATO deterrence strategy, which is when ratification of the border agreement could be considered. Maybe – because, and Lavrov told Liimets as much over the phone in addition to his press release, Estonia would also need to take concrete steps to remedy the situation of stateless persons, stop discrimination of the Russian-speaking part of the population, as well as attempts to expel Russian from the Estonian information and education space and falsify history.
Therefore, we should also not be discussing a universal school system or how the Soviet Union destroyed Estonian independence in 1940.
Good, at least now we know that there is no reason to return to the ratification of the border agreement in Tallinn any time soon.
Estonia reached out its hand but Russia did not reciprocate.
Urmas Paet summed up the matter in a diplomatic fashion when he said that it will take time before the agreement is ratified by both parliaments.
It would also require will to ratify the document instead of making all manner of excuses that have nothing to do with the border agreement, Paet said, adding that, "Tense relations do not support the creation of corresponding will."
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Editor: Marcus Turovski