Border agreement to remain shelved

Välisminister Urmas Paet ja Venemaa välisminister Sergei Lavrov allkirjastasid 18. veebruaril 2014 Moskvas Eesti-Vene riigipiiri ning Narva ja Soome lahe merealade piiritlemise lepingu.

PHOTO: AFP / ITAR-Tass / Scanpix

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov clearly implied there is no sense in hoping for the ratification of the Estonia-Russia border agreement in the State Duma as things stand when answering Postimees’ question. Lavrov lauded Finland’s sensible Russia-policy.

Answering Postimees’ question regarding the border agreement during his annual press conference in Moscow, Lavrov resorted to demagogy if not outright lies, Estonian politicians find.

Lavrov initially agreed that when the agreement was made in 2014 it was also agreed, with then Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet and before that during the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee’s visit to Moscow, that the treaty would be signed by the two parliaments simultaneously.

“However, you forgot the main agreement,” Lavrov continued, “that those in power would ensure normal, non-hostile atmosphere in mutual relations. We have complied and have not resorted to verbal attacks against Estonia. We have not detected such restraint by the Estonian government. On the contrary – anti-Russian rhetoric has gotten out of hand. That being the situation, delegates clearly said that society would not understand were they to move forward with the agreement.”

Urmas Paet, who signed the agreement with Lavrov, and Chairman of the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson said that there never was a “normal atmosphere” agreement, and that the claim alone sounds absurd.

“Even if he thinks they made such a deal, why break it by annexing Crimea? Nonsense,” Paet said. “Unfortunately, the one wishing for that atmosphere has done quite a lot to maintain a tense relationship with the West.”

Russia commenced the annexation of Crimea mere days after signing the Estonia-Russia border agreement in Moscow.

“Run of the mill demagogy,” Mihkelson said. “What we agreed with Aleksey Pushkov (State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chairman during the Riigikogu committee’s visit in 2013 – J. P.) is that we would try to ratify simultaneously. That’s it. Nothing else.”

Mihkelson also implied that normal atmosphere with the entire West was ruined by Russia when it annexed Crimea.

The border treaty ratification act passed its first reading in the Riigikogu in November of 2015. Deputy chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee at the time Tatyana Moskalkova said they had forwarded the treaty to other committees for comments some time before that. That is the last news to come out of the Duma concerning the treaty.

Lavrov gave Postimees his version of what “normal atmosphere” means yesterday. “One needs to stop being among three or four activists in NATO and the EU doing everything in its power to lead the said institutions into open Russophobia,” he said.

Lavrov’s praise for Finland was in sharp contrast with his criticism of Estonia’s attitude. It is probable it was not a case of conscious contrasting of Estonia and Finland, however, as Lavrov answered the Finnish journalist before he answered Postimees’ question that was the press conference’s last.

The correspondent of Finnish daily Ilta-Sanomat wanted Lavrov to say who started the 1939 Winter War. The question was inspired by a lengthy article published recently in the Russian defense ministry’s paper Zvezda of how Finland started and was to blame for the war.

Lavrov said that the matter of the Winter War needs to be decided by historians, and that it does not concern diplomats.

He added: “Our relationship is very-very good today!” Lavrov later said that even though mutual relations with Estonia are poor, Russia has a good relationship with the Estonian people.

Lavrov pointed to the TV premiere of a movie about the most important monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church on the island of Valaam in Lake Ladoga on Sunday when answering the Finnish journalist’s question. In the film, President Vladimir Putin, who has a residence on the island, thanks Finland for saving the Valaam monastery and its property.

The island of Valaam belonged to Finland until the end of the Winter War. When the Soviet Union occupied the island, it drove out the monks, who could return only after the union fell apart in 1991.

It was noteworthy that Lavrov said almost nothing about Russia-EU relations during the great press conference.

He only touched on the EU at length once, saying that the European Union’s economic and political interests are subject to US dictate.

It is little wonder that Lavrov did not meet with the foreign minister of Estonia, as the EU Council presidency, in the past six months, even though information available to Postimees suggests such a meeting was proposed on two occasions.