Estonian President Lennart Meri was awarded the title “European of the Year” at a ceremony on March 23 in Paris. In his address on the occasion, Meri pointed to three old notions, “long dead in Europe, but which live on in Russia” and affect its foreign policy. These are, first, that neighboring countries are inherently dangerous, second, that only an insecure neighbor is safe for Russia, and third, that neighboring countries’ attempts to increase their own security amount to undermining Russia’s security. This logic, Meri observed, has historically been a motivating factor behind Russian expansionism. And this logic, alongside authoritarianism and corruption, constitutes “Russia’s malady, dating back centuries… the hindrance on the path toward reform.”
Meri cautioned Europeans against “underestimating Russia’s immense historic inertia,” which–he noted–is now compounded by the Soviet legacy. He predicted that post-Soviet Russia will need two generations to recover from the effects of totalitarianism, and advised that Europe must in the meantime not flinch from its task of growing stronger by enlarging the European Union and NATO (BNS, March 24). Meri’s address may well have reminded his listeners and readers of one of the grand traditions in the field of Russia studies–that of the Baltic states as a source of insights into Russian conduct and finely tuned observation post on Russian developments.
LATVIA’S WAY FOR KAMALDINS ALL THE WAY.