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Margus Tsahkna: The foundations of peace are laid on the front line

Margus Tsahkna.
Margus Tsahkna. Source: Minister of Foreign Affairs

In his address ratifying the Tartu Peace Treaty, Jaan Poska rightly said, "Let us taste peace, but also maintain it and increase our military strength." Peace can't be taken for granted and its foundations are laid on the front line, writes Margus Tsahkna on the occasion of the Tartu Peace Anniversary.

This year, on February 2, it will be 104 years since the signing of the Tartu Peace Treaty, which is one of the most important symbols of our statehood and a major triumph of Estonian diplomacy.

104 years ago, Estonia was not alone; victory in the War of Independence came with the support of the Allies. In the same way, the international community is now supporting Ukraine. Ukraine is not alone. But, as in the Estonian War of Independence, it is also based on the will to win and a clear goal.

At a time when the aggressor is waging a bloody war in the heart of Europe against the peaceful self-determination of Ukraine, it is timely to look back at the lessons of the Tartu Peace Treaty. Looking back at the Tartu Peace Treaty, it is clear that its principles are still relevant today.

First, any peace plan builds a foundation for future generations. Many people today are eager to settle for peace at the first opportunity. Jaan Poska's teachings are relevant here: not every appeal for peace is genuine, and our adversaries do not take our love of peace for granted.

Poska's words are true today: the foundations of peace are laid at the front. The outcome of the violent war on Ukrainian soil will determine Europe's security and directly affect our way of life. What is at stake is nothing less than the international order based on democracy, human rights and European security, which has protected our way of life.

Second, it was not accidental that Poska knew the laws of Soviet Russia better than those sitting across from him. As a small country, we still cannot take anything for granted but must continue to make maximum efforts. In other words, you have to run a marathon, where you have to be able to accelerate at the right moment.

Third, the economic question: no less important was the 15 million rubles in gold from the gold fund of the decaying Russian Tsarist state, which helped the young republic of Estonia get back on its feet after the War of Independence. Even now, Russia has an obligation under international law to compensate Ukraine for the terrible damage it has caused. At the Foreign Ministry, we are working to hold the aggressor accountable for war crimes and to use Russia's frozen assets to rebuild Ukraine. This is the only way to ensure justice and peace, and Estonia is leading the way.

Our past has taught us that freedom is the foundation; it gives us everything else. It is better to live in a world ripe for freedom. Standing up for freedom means not only believing in a better tomorrow, but also working every day to build a stronger rules-based world order, better protection of human rights, and more inclusive decision-making.

The Tartu Peace Treaty, like any other treaty, established rights and obligations. In his address ratifying the peace deal, Jaan Poska rightly said, "Let us taste peace, but also maintain it and increase our military strength." Peace can't be taken for granted. It is our responsibility to ensure that the peace that follows is secure and egalitarian. That was Poska's definition of peace. It requires never-ending effort.

The Treaty of Tartu (Estonian: Tartu rahu) is a peace treaty that was signed in Tartu on February 2, 1920 between the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia, ending the 1918–1920 Estonian War of Independence. In the treaty, Bolshevik Russia recognized the independence of the newly established democratic state of Estonia.

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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