Estonia needs to adopt a clear position, foreign policy line in political support for Taiwan. The risks and possible cost of such a move are offset by relations with major allies, especially the United States, former Defense Minister Kalle Laanet writes.
Allied relations are not basic trade transactions, nor are they from the tale of Big Peter and Little Peter. Allied relations are like a marriage at its best where chance infatuation or everyday politics is left aside in the name of the longevity of important shared values.
Estonia's national security and sovereignty that depends on it are solid and built largely on allied relations, next to independent defensive capacity. The cornerstone of our defensive doctrine is: never again alone.
The unity of allied interests and the consequent agreement, solidarity consists of supporting each other in all matters, which also has a political and practical side. We need to avoid repeating the mistakes of 1939 and 1940 and realize whether it is more important to be successful in battle or war. That is true also in our attitude toward Taiwan.
Allies can be great and greater. Which is Taiwan? The one larger and several smaller islands that make up the territory of Taiwan are smaller than Estonia by a fifth (ca 36,000 square kilometers), while the Republic of China has twenty(!) times the population at around 24 million.
What unites us, makes us similar? What are our shared experiences, problems and tasks, irrespective of our different cultural backgrounds? We both live next to a gigantic and greedy neighbor.
What is Estonia's problem in connection with Taiwan? In addition to economic interests – for example, we have great potential for cooperation in electronics and IT – we need to make our choices in international relations as a country, and the People's Republic of China, based on its aggressive ideology, has given almost every country in the world a choice between it and Taiwan. If you are a friend of Taiwan, you are the enemy of the People's Republic of China.
Is Estonia, despite its currently favorable international position, strong enough to ignore greater China? A difficult question even for armchair diplomacy.
Here – as everywhere in broader security – allied relations help. Attention and support allies have recently paid Estonia, especially on the background of Russia's mask coming off, has been disproportionate considering our size but favorable. It is directly beneficial and to an extent a reward for Estonia's foreign and security policy and the fact our Defense Forces members, diplomats and other public servants, experts and private sector representatives are top-notch.
Our relationship with the United States crowns our many good and excellent direct and mutual allied relations. We recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of relations.
It is important to remember in practical and everyday activities and choices that relations are always two-way. We cannot just take and must also give. If the Big Peter is so big and the Small Peter so small as the Americans are compared to us, allied relations cannot be weighed in money, with our diplomatic support and other choices, such as participation in foreign missions, more important.
The EDF has no joint military operation with USA today. While this does not mean our relationships is developing cracks, we should think of other ways to strengthen the allied bond besides sending soldiers to risk their lives for shared values.
Estonia needs to adopt a clear position, foreign policy line in political support for Taiwan. The risks and possible cost of such a move are offset by relations with major allies, especially the United States.
Lithuania has set an example here in its foreign policy action, or by supporting Taiwan. It is an important American ally in Asia, and Lithuania's choice has strengthened its allied relationship with the Americans.
It is a concrete display of international behavior by a physically much weaker ally to support a stronger friend. It helps us stand up for human rights and other democratic values in the world, not to mention stronger overall allied relations, especially with the United States.
Kalle Laanet is a member of the Riigikogu Estonia-Taiwan Friendship Group and former defense minister.
Editor: Marcus Turovski