Raul Rebane: No such thing as organic war

Raul Rebane.
Raul Rebane. Source: ERR/ Hege-Lee Paiste

If we want to improve our national security and be better protected by NATO, Estonia needs to grow not just teeth, but fangs. And this cannot be done without sacrifices, Raul Rebane finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

I decided to title this comment, "There is no such thing as organic war." It comes as a reaction to a situation, on the backdrop of the Ukraine war, where we think that we can go on living just as we have. I am convinced that we cannot.

It is rumored that tiny Lichtenstein once procured a cannon from Krupp only to find that it cannot be fired inside the country as the shell would inevitably land abroad. While Estonia is 280 times the size of Lichtenstein, we also cannot test fire our modern weapons as we have no agreement on whether we can expand the training grounds at Nursipalu.

Radio and television programs and articles have in recent weeks analyzed how grand national projects tend to fail in Estonia. Electricity is good, while wind farms are bad. Fast train links are something we want, while Rail Baltica progress is painfully slow, with many still opposed to the whole thing.

A slogan to describe Estonia, then, could go something like, "Fire closer, go slower and stock up on candles!" Rein Sikk recently opined in a Vikerraadio daily comment that the blame lies squarely with negotiators who are clearly incompetent. But I believe the phenomenon to be too universal to allow pinning it all on officials. A look in the mirror wouldn't hurt.

The nearness of [general] elections makes things even more complicated. According to Bismarck, people never lie more than during a war, after a hunt and before elections. Party-political instincts take over before elections and everything that core voter groups care about is either permitted or banned as appropriate.

[Opposition leaders] Martin Helme and Jüri Ratas have now joined the anti-Nursipalu camp. What they suggested on "Reporteritund" amounts to nothing short than shelving the expansion. Talk of alternatives, finding uninhabited forests and empty patches of sea is just electioneering. And they know it. A look at the map quickly reveals that there are no eastern seas, while that is where we need defense in Estonia.

Now, a few words on change in general. Estonia is living a period where everyone is promised a lot while change is held back because a part of people like that. The theory is that roughly 50 percent of people initially say "no" to any proposed change. During debates that can span years, it is possible to turn that "no" into a "yes." But not for everybody. Around 15 percent of people will fight until the last.

The first instinct is to avoid or postpone rocking the boat. That is not difficult to do because every great change means giving something up, which in turn is difficult to do. Estonia's experience very much suggests that a period of calm development, which is what we have been in for some time, makes it almost impossible to get great things done.

But the Ukraine war has now ended this still life, and it clearly cannot go on the same way. Shells fly and people die in war. There is no such thing as organic warfare. If we want to improve our national security and be better protected by NATO, Estonia needs to grow not just teeth, but fangs. And this cannot be done without sacrifices. It is easier to do if we're doing it for ourselves. We have our own country that needs to compensate people for their losses as best it can. We have seen worse times.

Allow me to add a personal dimension. Our family farm on my father's side that had been around for over 300 years in the village of Pruuna-Kõrve found itself in the way of the Aegviidu Polygon expansion in 1953. The occupying army swallowed the entire village, with next to no compensation offered. My family was scattered. While I have never lived there, memories remain as centuries of uninterrupted family lineage make for a powerful emotion. The only things left there today are an underground cellar's stone arch and a spruce almost a meter in diameter growing where the living room used to be.

Things are different today. A close relative kept their land in the same area during the Soviet era. Their family was planning to turn it into a home where they could spend their retirement, while this idea got in the way of a recent training grounds expansion. After hesitating for a long time, they decided to give in and take the compensation. This was enough to invest in a home in a new place, not too far from there. Considering the circumstances, my relative now believes it was the right call.

Every story is special and full of emotion. My proposal is to take the topic out of the populism zone for the duration of elections. Let the government do its job, conduct negotiations and make offers to the 21 homeowners currently living in the Nursipalu expansion zone. Let us come back to it once everyone has been made an offer.

It is possible that we will see the number of opponents reduced considerably. Perhaps the government will also come up with better argumentation to prove how the expansion can help local development. Plenty of money and people would be going to the area.

And if that doesn't work either, there is nothing for it. If we can't do it ourselves, we must place our hopes in God, allies and Putin. Perhaps we will come to his senses. But how many of you would be willing to take that bet?


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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