Liimets: If Moscow wants to send strong signal, it recalls its ambassador

Former foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center).
Former foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

If Russia wants to send a strong signal to Estonia, it can recall its ambassador among other diplomats, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday that it is telling Russia to halve the number of personnel at its embassy in Tallinn, which requires 13 diplomats and eight technical staff to leave the country, bringing the Russian embassy to the same size as the Estonian embassy in Moscow.

Liimets told ERR that the deterioration of diplomatic relations with Russia began during her term as foreign minister under the previous government.

"From the start of the war, it was clear in Estonia that fostering diplomatic relations with Russia and relations between the two countries was impossible, and there was a desire to reduce diplomatic representation accordingly. And, as we recall, Estonia took the first step in the spring by expelling diplomats who, in our opinion, were not engaged in diplomatic relations but were compromising Estonia's security. Then we closed two consulates general in Estonia, thereby further reducing Russia's diplomatic representation in Estonia," the former minister said.

"Clearly, if Russia is waging a major war against a neighboring country, it is impossible to foster any kind of normal diplomatic and cultural relations, the kind of activities that a big diplomatic network would be used for. And this is basically why the previous administration made these steps in the spring," she added.

The previous government failed to make decisions about the establishment of the principle of parity, despite a desire to do so, Liimets continued.

If Russia decides to react to Estonia's request for parity, Liimets said, a new solution will be necessary.

"In diplomacy, it is customary to make concessions; nevertheless, if there is a proposal to have diplomatic representatives on a parity basis, we would have an equal number of diplomats in each other's countries. If further disproportionate retaliation occurs, the situation is no longer one of parity and diplomatic negotiations will need to continue to achieve a new balance between the countries in terms of representation," she explained.

Liimetsa said that Russia is certainly keen on keeping the most useful people in Estonia, but at the same time, Russia could also decide to invite its ambassador home.

"Russia is certainly keen retaining its most qualified professionals in Estonia. It goes without saying that if Russia wants to send a strong message, it will recall its ambassador. As a result, new developments and scenarios will emerge in the future. If Russia does not take such a decisive step, it may choose other diplomats whose functions are not currently the most useful to Russia," Liimets said.

"In such cases—we are not talking about friendly relations here—it is clear that the goal is to make the other country as uncomfortable as possible, and it is reasonable to assume that they will consider the functions, professions, experience and talents of diplomats in Estonia before making a decision. However, it is entirely up to Russia to determine its response." Liimets said.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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