svētdiena, 2010. gada 26. decembris

Junior Nordics in the making

Here is a comment to a blog entry The best Balt will be Nordic posted on Economist.com on 22 December 2010.

Estonia will be labelled as “Eastern Europe” only geographically. (..) officials and inhabitants prefer their country to be described as “Nordic”, distancing it from the less successful Balts. To rub in the difference, Estonia has joined a group of countries bailing out deeply troubled Latvia.

Meanwhile, Latvia is shaping a course towards the Kremlin. On December 19th, for the first time since 1994, a Latvian president paid an official visit to Moscow. Valdis Zatlers met both President Dmitry Medvedev (the meeting lasted for 40 minutes longer than was planned) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Lithuania (..) is drifting towards the autocratic president of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka. 

K.S. Economist.com
If it is the fiscal surplus during some most recent years before the global financial crisis, not the soft stuff of the history, mentality, etc., that now allows Estonia to join the euro that qualifies Estonia as Nordic, then Latvia is bound to become Nordic practically in no time, say by 2014.

Obviously, it's not the euro that does or doesn't make Estonia Nordic. To the same extent, the visit of President Zatlers to Moscow and certainly not the extra 40 minutes of President Medvedev's precious time that do or don't make Latvia drifting more towards Russia or less Nordic than Estonia.

It's the identification. The Estonians seem to have many reasons to believe they are just as Nordic as the Finns who themselves used to be Baltic some 90 years ago, after which, in the 1930s the Finns changed their mind, changed their flag and proclaimed themselves Nordic.

No doubt, Estonia, if Nordic, is destined to become a junior one for a rather long while, until the other elder brethren, such as Sweden, Denmark and Norway, the "viking" Nordics, award Estonia with an "official" membership or this elitist club. Acknowledged by someone or not, Estonia has all rights to identify itself with whatever it wishes to.

And I'm sure Latvia is as Nordic as its neighbours, Estonia or Finland. This is only a matter of taste, what features of your history, culture, mentality or everyday life you would put on the forefront. Estonia shares the language part of its identity with Finland, while with Latvia it shares the past 800 years of its history and its culture.

As far as the Estonian loan to Latvia is concerned, if I'm not mistaken, Latvia is exactly considering not getting the Estonian contribution disbursed.

Still, the very fact of making a lot available for Latvia if it decides to raise it, is extremely laudable and was greatly appreciated in Latvia as an honourable gesture of solidarity which it most certainly was.

I mean that it was not an act of snatching an opportunity of egoistic self-promotion at the expense of a "deeply troubled neighbour", because if this in a some weird way might just for a second appear closer to the real reasons of getting so much attention to the would-be loan to Latvia, then one must admit that the Estonia's political elite is hardly more mature than their peers in Latvia or Lithuania, or anywhere else in the post-Soviet realm.

On drifting towards Moscow. Although I am personally not in favour of the latest move by President Zatlers, it is a general belief in Latvia that this visit is a huge contribution to building pragmatic relations with Russia. I'd say this should rather put Latvia closer to the Nordic model of dealing with Russia without demonising and alienating it.

Finland is of course the best and classical example. But not only. Still, Finland is a leader, an ice-breaker in many ways, simply because it depends on relations with Russia due to its geography. And due to the same reason, the Baltics (or the junior Nordics if you wish) are very much advised to follow exactly the Finnish example.

I'm sure Estonia's envious of Latvia's progress with Russia. But Estonia had a particularly unpleasant incident in a very recent history. With that in your luggage, any Finnish- or Latvian-style progress with Russia doesn't seem feasible at the moment. I guess Estonia is maybe an inch closer to pragmatism with Russia than Georgia that has just had a real war with Russia. Having said that, I don’t believe much in pragmatism with Russia.

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