Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tainted Border Treaty With Russia that Would Be Simply Equivalent to Treason*

Mart Helme, Chairman of Conservative People's Party of Estonia,  former Ambassador of Estonia

* 1) free translation of the article from Estonian to English by the blog auhtor
   2) all additions or comments by the blog author are in the brackets
//Full Article in Estonian: ...//

Estonia has cornered itself in border negotiations with Russia, since the very beginning in 1994. Back then, our Prime Minister Andres Tarand suddenly (during a visit to Helsinki, Finland), said that Estonia is willing to unconditionally and entirely remise the regions  (5.2% of country's territory) that remains under Russian control, but by Tartu Peace Treaty (of 1920), and even (word-by-word) by the current Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, belongs unambiguously to Estonia.

Fallacious beginning 

Regrettably, and by very "unstatemanlike" manner, not to mention the grave lack of diplomatic competence, Tarand did not add any conditions in exchange for the assignment. Not even requirement to recognize the legal continuity of the Estonian state by Russian Federation, neither about the matter of compensating resources   (shale, wood, sand, gravel, clay, arable land) on the assignable territory, nor the future of status and property of legitimate Estonian citizens from this area. He did not even raise the matter of abolishing double duties with Russia - nothing at all. Unfortunately this was only the first "wrongly-buttoned buttonhole in the jacket" - as it was later followed by the negotiations in the same illogical manner.

Giving away even more 

The next government  (of Tiit Vahi) followed the same tainted path, and in response to allegations of Estonia's territorial claims (by Russia), swore "hand on the Bible" that Estonia has no territorial claims to eastern neighbor whatsoever. Again, without even raising any questions (about the illegitimately annexed territory, the legal continuity of Estonian state) or presenting any prerequisites for the assignment. In that way they reached to the initialling package of the treaty in 1999, with outrageous price of assignments plus extra assignments - shifts of boundary line towards Estonia 1) on Lake Lämmi and Lake Peipus, 
2) on the Narva River, 3) plus about a thousand square kilometers of water spaciousness on the Gulf of Finland (as before World War II the sea border was not existing)  - fully under the Russian dictate. The latter was only recently brought up by Juku- Kalle Raid, a member of the IRL parliamentary fraction.

Dealing with mistakes

The foreign minister (Urmas Paet, then and now) is right when he says that he signed the same documents of 1999 in 2005. As I had participated the negotiations personally, I honestly knew, how bad treaty we had resulted due to external pressures (alluded threats, as we could not otherwise enter the European Union and NATO), and totally incompetent and short-sighted political leadership. Therefore I was sincerely happy when Russia withdraw his signatures from ratification documents in the spring of 2005, after Estonian parliament had added the preamble about Tartu Peace Treaty. This meant that in the new situation in 2005, where we were already members of the EU and NATO, we had finally the opportunity to "turn back the clock", and have a completely new starting point for (fair, mutually respectful and fully legitimate)  negotiations.

"Perfect" example of  Latvia

Unfortunately, the wrongly-buttoning of the jacket continued. And even though the proverb says that a wise learns from a stranger, and stupid from own mistakes, the Estonian diplomacy in this case proved to be worse than stupid. After all, we have an excellent example of how the settlement of the border issue even by completely unconditional assignment does not offer the slightest odds to improve relations with Russia. An example here is the Letts.  Russian-Lativan border agreement (in 2007) ceded a significant part of  "birth county" of Latvia - Latgale. Russian-Latvian relations have now reached a state, however, such that Moscow already urges Russians in Latvia to carry out the non-citizen parliamentary elections and the creation of parallel authorities in many regions of the Russian minority, including Riga. What sort of chaos that would bring to Latvian national politics and its relations with Moscow, is not too difficult to predict. Similarly, that for the purpose of avoiding the escalation of conflict, our Western allies would instruct Latvia to further concessions to Moscow's demands.

Lacking mandate

Thus, the claim as border treaty would remove obstacles from Estonian-Russian relations, is in the best case just extremely naive and wishful thinking. Nevertheless, "wrongly buttoning the jacket" has a central issue,  which has been only very poorly addressed so far. 

Namely - none of the Estonian government has actually had mandate for the assigments. Since the border negotiations have been carried out on the conditions that are conflicting the Constitution from the very beginning (in 1994), all the initiatives in this regard are in fact illegitimate.

I should not be understood wrongly - I'm not referring to a declaration of war on Russia, I'm not even talking about those areas otherwise brought into the composition of the Estonian state. I'm talking about the lack of mandate that can only be given to the government by referendum. Without referendum (and pursuant change in the constitution) the treaty should be treated as treason. In addition to the causing material and moral of harm to the state and its people.

To avoid this, we should just be patient, until some future governments in Russia will be democratic and respectful to neighbors, with whom to conclude fair, mutually beneficial and legitimate treaty. It can only be made with the mandate received from the people of Estonia by referendum. That would be necessary prerequisites to have fair and honest, so called win-win solution.

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