Criticism of Lithuanian foreign policy by Marko Mihkelson was echoed by the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) analyst Kadri Liik who said Lithuania should perhaps not be set as an example. “I would recommend taking a look at how much of Lithuania’s behavior is mere symbolism and how much of it is carefully considered policymaking. If we wanted to affect the situation in Russia or Belarus, it should be done differently,” Liik found. “A human chain from Vilnius to the border of Lithuania – yes, it was noticed. But what did it change in Russia or Belarus? I think nothing at all.”
Liimets’ style is in clear contrast to Reinsalu’s, with the former sticking to her administrative area, while the latter frequently meddled in legal and social affairs.
“Two very different people,” Mihkelson said. “A lot depends on the person, how visible, approachable and credible they are. Every person chooses how to do these things. Liimets is a professional career diplomat who has gone into politics. And it shows in her conduct.”
Karin Laup Lapõnin, former diplomat, executive manager of Eesti 200, said that Liimets is pursuing the same balanced, dry and traditional foreign policy favored by foreign ministers before Reinsalu, mostly from the Reform Party.
She said that while Estonia lacks an active foreign policy to allow it to jump over its small shadow, Reinsalu’s corresponding efforts were not half bad. However, said efforts remained somewhat chaotic and uncoordinated. Because he was not a foreign policy expert before becoming minister, he did not know the background of quite a few things that caused him to shoot from the hip, Lapõnin suggested.
Criticism according to which Estonia lacks an understanding of our role, goal and calling in foreign policy permeates the entire political spectrum, running from Eesti 200 to the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE). “We have adopted the role of a back marker. It is lack of a principled narrative, how we justify our existence on this tiny patch of land in Eastern Europe, what are our actual interests toward which we make diplomatic efforts,” MEP Jaak Madison (EKRE) said.
Madison describes Liimets as a convenience minister. Government circles hope Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) can compensate for Liimets’ shortcomings. Madison recalled an interview Kallas gave to BBC a few weeks ago. “Most people in the UK listened to the interview that made one want to hold one’s head and scream for help. If a journalist asks the premiere of a country how they plan to develop national defense and security considering the nearness of Russia and the only thing they are told is NATO Article Five, it is hardly reassuring in terms of [Kallas’] ability to represent Estonia on the highest international level and run the government in crisis situations.”
Existential questions concerning the future of Estonian foreign policy might also have been sparked by Alar Karis being elected the country’s next president. Foreign policy background was considered an important quality for the next head of state who is to follow Lennart Meri, Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Kersti Kaljulaid. Karis does not have direct foreign policy experience. That said, experts Postimees talked to believe that having headed several universities, met with diplomats and traveled for research, Karis should be able to perform as president.