Martin Mölder: Emotions need to be cooled

Martin Mölder.
Martin Mölder. Source: Maili Vilson/

We need an agreement to avoid unseemly political opportunism. The war must not be used as a pretext to adopt unrelated policies as it works to undermine unity and trust. War and refugees must not be used in the service of political goals, Martin Mölder finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

If all European countries did as much for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees as Estonia has, considering its size, the situation might be quite different today.

We have reason to be proud of ourselves. But we should refrain from admiring our own navel for too long. The aid we've given will not help us solve the problems this war might still cause. We have done much considering our size, while a lot remains undone and must still be achieved. There are difficult choices ahead.

We knew that the virus would subside through recovery and vaccination after the initial shock of the coronavirus crisis wore off. Even if the government lacked clear and longer-term plans, it was less of an issue than it was made out to be. The war in Ukraine is different. If we fail to take appropriate action now, it will reach us sooner or later. In truth, it already has, while it can come a lot closer still.

We need to do everything in our power to make sure Russia fails in Ukraine. We can no longer think of Russia as an inconvenient neighbor. It is a country that would very likely seek to destroy the Estonian people and state if given the chance. We must not give it that chance.

We do not know how far this war will go, how many Ukrainians will be forced to leave their country and how many will not have a home to return to. It is our moral obligation to help them here and in Ukraine.

But in doing so we must also take care of ourselves and our society. We need to give serious thought to the place Ukrainian refugees will have in our society and how it will affect its cohesion. We will probably be able to handle a few tens of thousands, while hundreds of thousands would be a disaster for Estonia.

Attitudes concerning our relevant preparedness were clearly inadequate before the war. And the clearly insufficient integration effort of the Russian-speaking population of past years is manifesting more clearly. From education to tolerating Russian propaganda in Estonia.

Did we only now wake up to realize that a considerable part of Estonia's Russians is under the bloody wing of Russian propaganda? Or that a lot of Russian youths brought up in Estonia and their teachers cannot really speak the official language? We can consider ourselves lucky that refugees from Ukraine will likely not have such a hard time adjusting to their potential new homeland.

There is the danger of a very complicated national triangle forming in Estonia. Firstly, Estonians who are not united themselves and usually tend to find themselves in one of two camps. Next to them, we have the Russian minority that is subject to Russian influence. And on top of the former two, a growing refugee community that will initially lack a political voice but will affect the other two groups and their relationship.

Even though everyone is equally worried about the war, Russians living in Estonia sport very different attitudes to Russia and its war with Ukraine. Russia is not perceived as an existential threat that should be punished or subjected to sanctions, with opinions on Russia's military activity in Ukraine also differing considerably. Willingness to help Ukraine and welcome refugees also varies to a considerable degree. These differences will not disappear unless we recognize and address them.

The Estonian state needs as much push as the private and tertiary sectors. More even, as the government is meant to lead in crises, instead of looking on and hoping they will simply pass. Bureaucratic thumb twiddling and ideological blinders should be left in the past.

We need an agreement to avoid unseemly political opportunism. The war must not be used as a pretext to adopt unrelated policies as it works to undermine unity and trust. War and refugees must not be used in the service of political goals. They should be left out of the political arsenal.

Emotions need to be cooled. We do not have to feed domestic front lines with contempt and hatred boiling over on both sides.

For a long time now, more zealous members of several parties have been competing over who can scorn and hate the most. Who can find the most creative and "humorous" way of belittling their adversary or think maximally in terms of prejudice. Emotions have retired common sense and the principle that one's adversary must not be understood and can only be condemned rules the day.

This is perhaps the most difficult time heading into elections since 1992. The cost of living, war in Ukraine and threats for our own security, the influx of war refugees that has the potential to comprehensively change the makeup of the Estonian population, the energy crisis.

There are no signs to suggest that these problems or their effects are going anywhere in the coming years. Retiring our sense and allowing emotions to run rampant, we will not be weathering these crises as well as we could as a people.

Let us take care of our society and country to be able to defend ourselves and help others in the best possible way.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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