Saturday, May 26, 2007

Estonia-Russia: Maskirovka Demasked?

Strange rumours come out of Moscow these days. Indeed, would one believe in all gossip on the current power struggle in Russia, the world as we know it would be transformed. It is obvious that competing politico-financial interests are producing an increasingly incoherent and incomprehensive political landscape for the upcoming 2007-2008 elections. This is especially true when it comes to effects on foreign policy.

A recent rumour coming out of Moscow relates to the crisis between Russia and Estonia over the removal of the Bronze Soldier from central Tallinn. According to unofficial sources, some forces in Moscow were preparing a political initiative towards Estonia prior to the crisis to permanently defuse the explosive issue of this old soviet war monument. Thus, Moscow would actually have been preparing to offer Tallinn participation in moving the Bronze Soldier on the 9 May Soviet Victory day, provided that Russia would be allowed to play an active role in such a ceremony. Some people even claim that the Russian Ministry of Defence had ordered an honorary military guard company to train for such an event.

What an Estonian source claims happened - based on the same rumours - is that the Estonian government got wind of the Russian plans, and that Premier Andrus Ansip therefore opted for a quick removal of the Bronze Soldier. Ansip would thus have won over Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who had previously opposed removing the monument. As the argument allegedly ran, letting Russian troops once more march on Estonian soil, especially in connection with a Victory Day ceremony, would simply have been unacceptable to Estonian national sentiments. Still, actively refusing a Russian offer to - once and for all - defuse the Bronze Soldier issue between the two countries, might have proven even more difficult for Estonia in the European and international contexts. Tallinn might then have earnt a reputation as an unconciliatory state on the margin of Europe. Accordingly, these rumours hold that the Estonian government decided to remove the Bronze Soldier in good time before 9 May, in order to preempt a potential Russian initiative, as described above.

Well, rumours are not always to be believed, and this time they seem too fantastic to even consider being true. Still, the example serves to illustrate how hard it is to deliberate on current Russian policies to draw any credible conclusions. Also, the same or similar rumours are echoed both in Russia and abroad. Perhaps, the recipe should be to follow the example of the French satirical magazine Le Canard Enchainé, and start any discussion on current Russian politics with "Le Canard Enchainé ne dit pas, que..." - The Fettered Duck does not say that..." - thus safeguarding against being fooled by mere rumours. Then, at least one would be on the safe side in not believing all that comes out of Moscow these days, and at the same time not completely writing everything off as desinformation. The world is surely becoming an increasingly strange place, and hopefully rumours like these might amuse someone.

Note: The term "maskirovka" refers to the art of deception in soviet intelligence and military operations.


Mait said...

Well, that'd explain why Russian Embassy refused to participate in the moving process as observers. Oh, and the Fettered Duck definitely does not claim that Estonian government decided to 'defuse' the situation as it did due to much more massive protests being organized for 9th May by said Embassy and it's local contacts.

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Mait,

Well, as I wrote, one should not put too much trust in rumours. It is only fun to see all the fantastic gossip going around these days.