Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Eagle and the Small Birds

As the Second World War drew to a close, the representatives of the big three Allied Powers, the UK, USA and USSR, met to discuss the form of world that they wished to see in the aftermath of the conflict. Churchill spoke: "The eagle should permit the small birds to sing and care not whereof they sing."

This vision of respect for small powers was quickly dismissed by Stalin, who intended nothing but a relationship based on force.

Putin has the same realpolitik view of the foreign relations of the Post Communist Russian Federation. He has bullied Georgia and Moldova, when they stand up to Russia- expelling Georgian nationals, and harassing those Russian citizens of Georgian heritage, in a racist display of xenophobia encouraged from the Kremlin. The violence in the North Caucasus has continued- with UN observers even being forced from neighbouring Ingushetia.

However, the latest display of threats against Estonia is a direct challenge to the West.

At the end of the day, although Prime Minister Ansip's government in Tallinn may be criticised for the clumsy handling of the removal of the Soviet War Memorial to the military cemetery, the fact is that Russia deliberately sent Nashi thugs to Tallinn to stir up violence. The Russian government, through dubious meetings between their diplomats and the ringleaders of the violence was clearly giving tacit support to criminal elements. At the same time, they encouraged violence against Estonian diplomats in Moscow, and the violent attacks upon the Estonian Embassy. Likewise, they sanctioned the cyber-attacks against Estonian websites.

These are the actions of a regime that does not care about the rights of a nation that suffered much under Soviet occupation. Estonia lost one third of its population and the despoliation of its economy at the hands of KGB thugs. Estonia has every right to move the controversial statue- but Putin, as the heir to Stalin in the Kremlin, still regards the destruction of the Soviet Prison of nations as "the greatest geopolitical disaster of the twentieth century"- so while most of us regard the collapse of Soviet power as a liberation, in Vladimir Putin's world, it was a disaster.

The abject failure of the West, especially Germany, to condemn the increasingly authoritarian and brutal regime in Moscow is giving many Europeans nightmares. It was a German-Russian understanding in 1939 that undermined the security of Central European and prepared the way for the Second World War. The democratic, Federal Republic of Germany has a duty to speak out in defence of its European Union and NATO ally- the fact that they have not has already been noted in Moscow.

If the small birds are not given freedom to sing, then the democratic ideals of the West will be undermined. The brutal realpolitik of Russia is challenging the West- in Estonia, in Moldova and soon in Kosova, where Russia seems set to veto a comprehensive settlement that will allow independence. Estonia is a test case, and if the West fails, then the outlook for freedom across the world may start to look grim indeed.

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