Editorial: hey, we’re family

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Photo: Urmas Nemvalts

«It is in the times foreign-politically difficult that maintenance of the bridge with Finland tends to slip our minds and signs of disrepair start to show,» Toomas Kiho, editor-in-chief of Akadeemia (the cultural journal) wrote in Postimees this past fall. «Regrettably, to the backdrop of current crises, the same seems to happening again.»

How true these words ring at the start of the new year. For starters we had the «storm in a teacup» triggered by words of Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja in the Swedish-language Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, and the Estonian official (over)reaction. In hindsight, the article has been explained and polished, but all told it still seems strange how the so-called mainstream Finnish media would published a claim attributed to a minister that Baltic States are not publishing news in Russian. How easy to look and check that, right across the bay, these exist in TV, radio and newspapers, to say nothing about the web. Meanwhile, the Estonian side could have settled the lapse some simple way, issuing the newspaper an objection – and the teacup could have stayed calm.

Probably, it’s the current fragility of the European security situation that forces those in foreign policy into such vigilance towards any misinformation that could evolve into ammunition for hostile propaganda. Hence, probably, the reaction. As stated in today’s Postimees by the columnist Jarmo Mäkelä, the backdrop includes the historical experience of Estonia and Finland including post cold war.

The same goes to explain the seeming brittleness by Finnish leaders when Helsingin Sanomat published internal debates over whether or not to participate at the Estonian-US air force exercises at Ämari Air Base this spring. Promptly, President Sauli Niinistö summonsed journalists for explanations although, in his own words, he did not have much to say really. With an official invitation absent, there’s no stand regarding the invitation, ergo there can’t be any differences – such was Mr Niinistö’s message focussing of the form of the matter.

Still, an oral invitation by the Americans had already been voiced in November. Let’s take note that, in September already, Commander of Estonian Defence Forces Major-General Riho Terras, at the meeting with Finnish colleague General Jarmo Lindberg, invited Finland to participate in the activities of the training centre being created at Ämari. Prudent to let friendly neighbours use NATO infrastructure in Estonia for training – Estonia, as we know, possessing no fighter planes.

The condition of the Estonia-Finland bridge came up in the fall after Finnish President went to Russia to meet Mr Putin, Estonia’s head of state a little while later paid a visit by the US President Mr Obama. A telltale difference, but, then, Estonian-Finnish relations are no derivative of those between Estonia and USA, or Finland and Russia. The relations of Estonia and Finland are so close, so varied and multicoloured that an unfortunate statement by a politician in a newspaper article or overreaction by the other party will not create a lasting crack. Like close relatives around a table. Arguing at times, but hey we are kinfolks.