ON ONE HAND, some kind of “normalization” with the regime in Moscow is good for Estonia. For over 20 years, Estonia has existed as a kind of gray area in the Russian mind, and much of that time has been spent airing historical grievances (as the Second World War passes into history). Meantime, we get to see how Mr. Putin makes effortless trips to Helsinki without a similar ratcheting up in public anxiety. For him, it’s just biznes.
Kaljulaid is a bit different from her predecessors. Ilves came out of the exile community. Rüütel was a Soviet-era politician. And Meri was the son of a prewar diplomat, who was also deported as a teenager. Kaljulaid, not yet 50, comes with less historical baggage. She can represent her state, because she has spent her entire adult life within in that state. Historical arguments are somehow superfluous.
Remember — this is where Estonia wanted to be. Estonia wanted to become a normal, European nation state. It wanted the Soviet era to fade into the distance and talk of continuity with the country established in 1918. It’s also worth noting that many of the accouterments of independence were established in the late 1980s, that is, before 1991. The restoration of the flag, the reversion to Estonian as the sole official language, the rehabilitation of prewar historical figures: all of this happened before August 1991.
Prior to Putin’s “greatest catastrophe,” Estonian independence was being restored.
As others have remarked, the threat to Estonian statehood is no longer existential. Estonia will not be annexed at some later date, at least under current conditions. However, the specter of “Finlandization” looms. People should be worried about censorship, people should be worried about a media that self-edits so as to not offend “the Eastern neighbor.” That goes for offending local Estonian politicians as well.
What good is freedom, if you can’t really be free?