Weekly: Will Estonia's next leader match Kallas' digital diplomacy talents?

Kaja Kallas arriving in Kadriorg, seat of the President of Estonia.
Kaja Kallas arriving in Kadriorg, seat of the President of Estonia. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

While Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) may be embroiled in an ongoing scandal relating to her husband's past business activities, she still stands out in a positive way for her ability to use online communications, social media and in particular Twitter, journalist Hannes Rumm notes in a piece for weekly Maaleht.

An Estonian journalist working in Sweden once noted the inverse proportionality between the foreign policy ability of the Swedish prime minister and his domestic performance, a comparison, Rumm argues, which can be applied to Kaja Kallas today – whose foreign policy achievements may be second only to those of Mart Laar, prime minister 1992 to 1994 and again 1999 to 2002, but whose domestic woes were partly his undoing.

One thing Laar did not have when he was prime minister was Twitter, or X as it is now known, and the accompanying "Twiplomacy," or diplomacy via that social media channel – and the extent to which a person pays attention to social media, their presence there, and how effective that presence and the accompanying image is.

Qualitatively speaking, authenticity is key in "Twiplomacy" Rumm argues, citing U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy as good examples of this.

Also useful is an ability to speak to the people – as evidenced by a Tweet sent by former U.S. First Lady and presidential candidate Hilary Clinton in exhorting then-Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin to "keep dancing," at a time when the latter was facing pressure at home over public perceptions of a comparatively eventful social life.

Meanwhile Kaja Kallas' successful digital diplomacy is down to the fact that first, she often has something important to say, and second, she knows how to express her thoughts in a way that attracts attention – as evidenced by the numerous major international media titles on whose web pages she has been an ever-present since, and even before, the current war started.

This places her alongside Estonia's two Twitter-savvy ex-presidents, Kersti Kaljulaid, and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Rumm says.

Additionally, tweeting naturally can be done at any time of the day or night at virtually no cost – this gives leaders of small countries in particular the opportunity both to emulate and to have an impact on the leaders of larger nations, the Maaleht piece argues.

Conversely, the heads of state of both China and Russia did not make some lists of the 50 most influential people worldwide last year, despite the size and budget of the states they lead and likely in part due to a very different take on PR and online communications.

The piece also ponders on whether and to what extent Kallas' successor, whoever that may be and whenever they might appear, will also match her nous for digital diplomacy.

A sample tweet from the prime minister's official account as of today, Wednesday, is below.

The original Maaleht piece (in Estonian) is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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