Samara summit 9 replies

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MrFancypants Forum Admin

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#1 11 years ago

As you may know there are currently talks between EU and Russia in Samara. I think this is interesting as there are a lot of problems between both sides recently and the tone is changing rapidly, German reporters make allusions to the Cold War every second sentence.

The previous German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, was known to be a good friend of Putin, he was often critized though as he never confronted Putin about the not-so-democratic government of his. The current chancellor, Merkel, made today a first few critical remarks, for example about the opposition not being able to perform demonstrations, but Putin retorted with accusations against recent police-actions against demonstrators in Germany and Estland.

After reading Putin's answers (from a German article), which is by the way rather biased against Putin, it seems to me that the criticism voiced by the EU seems almost hypocritical. What do you think?




Relander

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#2 11 years ago

It's good to see that EU defends Estonia & Latvia from Russian aggression and how Merkel brought up the treatment of the opposition. However overally EU is quite feeble in its criticism towards Russia due to depedency from energy which gets deeper & deeper every year, oil pipe project from northwest Russia to Germany being prime example. Russia has been testing EU's unity for a long time and where as western EU nations would rather see appeasement in relations towards Russia, eastern EU nations want tough against the tough. The importance of EU constitution or its smaller version becomes increasingly more important and so does trans-Atlantic relations which may improve quite a bit after Bush has gone, whether the new president will be Democrat or Republican (though from EU point-of-view, a Democrat would be preferred).

I find the development in Russia even more severe than couple of months ago. When Estonia transferred the old bronze statue of Soviet soldier from its old place to military cemetary, Russia immediately took aggressive stance in official and unofficial level. Youth wing of the United Russia made demonstrations in front of Estonia's Moscow embassy, harassed ambassador and his immunity was violated while the Russian police made only little effort in trying to keep demonstrators under proper control. For example it took an hour from the Russian police tot get demonstrators out from a building where press conference was planned to be held by Estonian embassy where as Russian police has been known to be very effective in dispersing demonstrations of the opposition. There were many demonstrations in Estonia too and which in some cases turned into riots & robberies.

Furthermore, "as coincidence", a Russian energy company closed its rail connection to Estonia due to "maintenance works" and Estonian web pages got under a series of exceptionally powerful internet attacks. A couple of days ago YLE (Finnish broadcasting company) and couple of other pages got under internet attacks as well and yesterday STT (Finland's Information Office, local news service) got under attacks as well. Now this doesn't necessarily say that Kremlin had something to do with these incidents but on the other hand I haven't heard that the Russian police will start investigations concerning these internet attacks.

In addition to that, a couple of days ago the Russian construction agency took control of a harbour area in Kronstadt (an island at western side of St. Petersburg) held by private Finnish-Iceland enterprise "Containerships" by force against official rental agreement. The Finnish employees tried to stop the security men of construction agency but they got removed by force and the arrival of Russian police sealed the deal. As we know harbours are essential part of national infrastructure like airports, highways and energy plants, and they are regarded very important for national security. Remember that Arab Emirate company which bought the harbour services of New York (?) from US company? Holding strategic areas of economy in the hands of the Russian enterprises (like Russian energy companies) is important national interest.

Some could say that this is just "Russian phobia". Not true, but this is how the things mostly are in Russia, it's not a product of anti-Russian western media. No smoke without fire, right?




MrFancypants Forum Admin

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#3 11 years ago

As far as the Estonia-incident is concerned I can understand the Russian reaction, Russians are very patriotic, so obviously it is not a good idea to desecrate graves of people who fought in a war that means so much to Russians even today. With such a large part of the Estonian population having a Russian background this action could even be regarded as not perfectly democratic.

Russian foreign politics are rather agressive in the last few months though and they are obviously not afraid to use dirty tricks to get their point across. The question is wether Europeans should lower themselves to the same level when fighting back or if it isn't perhaps better to find a compromise.




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#4 11 years ago

All though I'm not going to say that Russia is returning to its former ways I will say that they aren't exactly making progress. The other thing that this reveals is one of the weaknesses of the EU. They EU attempts to integrate everyone into a grand union, but there are many differences, especially between East and West, that it makes a lot of people angry. It's not a case of "you can't please everyone" its a case of you can please almost nobody.

That's not to say the EU isn't a good concept, just that in it's implementation it suffers from a lot of what the UN suffers from.




Relander

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#5 11 years ago
MrFancypantsAs far as the Estonia-incident is concerned I can understand the Russian reaction, Russians are very patriotic, so obviously it is not a good idea to desecrate graves of people who fought in a war that means so much to Russians even today. With such a large part of the Estonian population having a Russian background this action could even be regarded as not perfectly democratic.

However it doesn't justify what rioters or Russian government did and I don't think democracy has anything to do with the decision of relocating the statue. I see Russia's reaction as creating new threat images for Russians & getting them firmly behind the current administration in Kremlin rather than as sincerely angry reaction without any other thoughts.

The question is wether Europeans should lower themselves to the same level when fighting back or if it isn't perhaps better to find a compromise.

I don't think so but what the EU must do is staying firm though open for cooperation with Russia and strenghten the relations with the USA.




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#6 11 years ago
Relander;3693516However it doesn't justify what rioters or Russian government did and I don't think democracy has anything to do with the decision of relocating the statue. I see Russia's reaction as creating new threat images for Russians & getting them firmly behind the current administration in Kremlin rather than as sincerely angry reaction without any other thoughts.

That's the problem, relocating the statue should have been part of a democratic process, instead it was carried out without regard to the opinion of Estonians with Russian origins, which lead to demonstrations that turned violent. I don't know why you regard all this as something planned by the Kremlin, it seems to me that this affair is an attempt of the Estonian government to gain popularity by exploiting anti-Soviet sentiments and it also seems obvious that Russia had to react strongly to such a provocation.

I don't think so but what the EU must do is staying firm though open for cooperation with Russia and strenghten the relations with the USA.

I don't think it is possible for the EU to uphold the principles it believes in and stay friends with both Russia and the US at the same time. Maybe things will get better with different Russian and American governments though.




Relander

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#7 11 years ago
MrFancypantsThat's the problem, relocating the statue should have been part of a democratic process, instead it was carried out without regard to the opinion of Estonians with Russian origins, which lead to demonstrations that turned violent.

So you suggest there should have been referendum about relocating these statues? Or do you mean that the decision should not have been made at all due to Russian minority? It's true that Estonia could have handled the issue more sophisticatedly but the reactions were out of proportion.

I don't know why you regard all this as something planned by the Kremlin

I don't say this issue is necessarily planned by Kremlin. It's more likely that the statue issue was just fortunate for Kremlin to strenghten nation's unity and boost the popularity of current administration. If the issue would be planned by Kremlin, I wouldn't wonder: many suspicious and alarming things have happened in Russia in last couple of years.

it seems to me that this affair is an attempt of the Estonian government to gain popularity by exploiting anti-Soviet sentiments and it also seems obvious that Russia had to react strongly to such a provocation.

Sure it's seemingly fine from Russian, short-term perspective to react strongly on statue issue but it still doesn't justify violent riots or humiliating a diplomat & offending his immunity. Russia is testing EU's unity here and how far it can get without serious consequences but this isn't beneficial for the EU nor for Russia: instead of confontration, we need open dialogue, cooperation and compromises but it can't be the EU that in most cases "give up".

I don't think it is possible for the EU to uphold the principles it believes in and stay friends with both Russia and the US at the same time. Maybe things will get better with different Russian and American governments though.

I disagree, I see good relations with the USA and Russia in the same time as possible and it needs to be possible: the EU needs both countries. However I think that in the current situation where Russia acts like the toughest kid in the sandbox, "we" need to deepen the dialogue & cooperation with the USA as well: depedency on Russian energy is alarming and the USA can act as counter-force for Russia together with the EU, forcing it to closer cooperation & democracy development than today.

Now this seems like old Cold War confontration but like said: we cannot be flexible just by ourselves, it's good to have a second partner to check out our back and persuade the other side to reconsider its stances. It just happens that the EU is still quite weak organization when it comes to consistent & credible foreign policy and the constitution crisis doesn't make its position any better, on the contrary.




MrFancypants Forum Admin

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#8 11 years ago
Relander;3693999So you suggest there should have been referendum about relocating these statues? Or do you mean that the decision should not have been made at all due to Russian minority? It's true that Estonia could have handled the issue more sophisticatedly but the reactions were out of proportion.

Referendum sounds good to me, even if the outcome would be a relocation it might have calmed things down a bit because people would at least get the impression that there was a chance to do something about it. I don't agree with the reactions either, but I think given the circumstances there wasn't much else to be expected. A large part of the Estonian population is Russian and Russians have a much stronger relationship to the "Great Patriotic War" than most other Europeans, simply because an incredible number of Russians died in that war.

I don't say this issue is necessarily planned by Kremlin. It's more likely that the statue issue was just fortunate for Kremlin to strenghten nation's unity and boost the popularity of current administration. If the issue would be planned by Kremlin, I wouldn't wonder: many suspicious and alarming things have happened in Russia in last couple of years.

I agree that the current Russian government is rather manipulative, but any other government would have reacted strongly as well in such a situation.

Sure it's seemingly fine from Russian, short-term perspective to react strongly on statue issue but it still doesn't justify violent riots or humiliating a diplomat & offending his immunity. Russia is testing EU's unity here and how far it can get without serious consequences but this isn't beneficial for the EU nor for Russia: instead of confontration, we need open dialogue, cooperation and compromises but it can't be the EU that in most cases "give up".

Those actions weren't taken by the Russian government though, they were only tolerated to an extent, which was predictable given the patriotic mindset of their population. I agree that this whole thing isn't beneficial to anyone, hence Estonia shouldn't have started it in the first place.

I disagree, I see good relations with the USA and Russia in the same time as possible and it needs to be possible: the EU needs both countries. However I think that in the current situation where Russia acts like the toughest kid in the sandbox, "we" need to deepen the dialogue & cooperation with the USA as well: depedency on Russian energy is alarming and the USA can act as counter-force for Russia together with the EU, forcing it to closer cooperation & democracy development than today.

Now this seems like old Cold War confontration but like said: we cannot be flexible just by ourselves, it's good to have a second partner to check out our back and persuade the other side to reconsider its stances. It just happens that the EU is still quite weak organization when it comes to consistent & credible foreign policy and the constitution crisis doesn't make its position any better, on the contrary.

I think countries like Russia and the US don't really have "friends", they only have interests. Just look how Bush and his fellows treated the French and German government once it was apparent that they wouldn't go along with every military action suggested. Or how quickly German/Russian relations went from good to frosty when the new German chancellor made a few remarks about human rights. The US and Russia have so many completly opposed interests that a cooperation with both of them at the same time will be difficult. Especially as long as the EU doesn't manage to agree on an issue internally, like the problem with the missile-shield in Poland demonstrated.




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#9 11 years ago
MrFancypants;3694072Referendum sounds good to me, even if the outcome would be a relocation it might have calmed things down a bit because people would at least get the impression that there was a chance to do something about it. I don't agree with the reactions either, but I think given the circumstances there wasn't much else to be expected. A large part of the Estonian population is Russian and Russians have a much stronger relationship to the "Great Patriotic War" than most other Europeans, simply because an incredible number of Russians died in that war.

Not that I agree with the Estonian fever to cut relations with Russia, but a huge number of Germans also died in that war, would you expect the Dutch to have monuments glorifying the German war machine in the middle of Amsterdam even if you wanted them to? Please consider the fact that you Germans didn't damage the Netherlands remotely as much as the Soviets did to Estonia.

Some Russians may want the USSR back, but unfortunately those days are forever gone, so they really should remember they currently no longer are in the position to decide against the will of the Estonian people.




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#10 11 years ago

Huffardo;3694191Not that I agree with the Estonian fever to cut relations with Russia, but a huge number of Germans also died in that war, would you expect the Dutch to have monuments glorifying the German war machine in the middle of Amsterdam even if you wanted them to? Please consider the fact that you Germans didn't damage the Netherlands remotely as much as the Soviets did to Estonia.

Some Russians may want the USSR back, but unfortunately those days are forever gone, so they really should remember they currently no longer are in the position to decide against the will of the Estonian people.

I'm not trying to defend the Russians, just to explain why they act the way they do. I am strictly opposed to patriotism because it's really not worth the trouble if you ask me :) I can understand why the Russians are angry that western nations are venting their frustrations about Soviet occupation by belittling the sacrifices made by people who died before the war was even over. But then again I hardly care wether this statue is in the center of a city or somewhere else, it's a bit sad that people can get so worked up over this.